BEING a parent is never easy. But, being a mum, worker and footballer at the top of her game training twice a week and playing for the country’s best-known women’s club must be even harder.
And that’s the every day demands Doncaster Rovers Belles defender Lyndsey Cunningham has to face after the top level footballer had her baby back in October.
The 20-year-old is now back on the field representing the borough’s top-flight football club in the Women’s Super League - and she’s doing it all whilst working part-time in a sports centre, commuting and caring for little Reuben during the most crucial moments of his life.
Lyndsey has an extremely supportive partner in Reuben’s father Daniel Harkin, 29. The proud dad works during the week and takes care of their first-born at whenever she is playing or training.
With the women’s summer football league in full-swing, the tough-tackling defender who transferred to the Belles from childhood club Nottingham Forest in 2010, has used the time away from the field to get her son into a daily routine.
“You just have to be organised enough so that you can do everything, it’s hard work but I love it.
“It was difficult at first but Reuben is such a good baby that we soon settled into a routine. It’s been a bit of dream really.
“I had Reuben whilst the football season was over so I haven’t missed the matches luckily. It’s fallen into place quite well and it’s just now a case of getting used to everything and back into the swing of things in terms of training and playing.
“Daniel is really good with Reuben and with the hours he works it goes really well for us because we get to spend as much time as possible with Reuben. It’s important that at least one of us is always there with him.”
The Belles battler has a fantastic support unit in her family and also those involved in the Keepmoat Stadium-based club.
With Doncaster team-mate forward Becky Hall also a mother playing for the team and representing her country, Lyndsey has advice and guidance at hand if ever she needs.
Football is a big factor in the Cunningham-Harkin household and it’s a sport that Reuben is already enjoying despite his infant years.
“At the moment Reuben watches football on the TV, he really seems to enjoy it. I’m sure he’ll be getting involved in the sport in someway because we’re a big footballing family. I can’t wait for the days when he can regularly come and watch me play. That will be brilliant,” said his proud mum.
“It is hard to leave him when I go to matches there’s no doubt about that, I do really miss him. At first it was a strange feeling but he is such a good baby.”
The women’s summer league is a huge opportunity for Lyndsey to get back into the England frame as well.
Having represented her country at under-19s and under-20s level where she made an appearance at the World Cup, as well as trained with the under-23s side, Lyndsey is on the right track to netting a regular place in the full international set-up.
“I’m keeping an open mind about England, I would obviously love to play for them and get selected again so it’s just a case of playing well this season and doing everything I can to be selected,” said the England under-19 European Championship runner-up.
With the women’s game now televised and shown to millions of viewers live on sports channel ESPN, Lyndsey believes the sport can only continue to grow and is heading in the right direction.
“I think the Super League can only be a good thing for the women’s game. It’s slowly building up and with games televised on ESPN, it can only get better,” she added.
“It is a lot different from the men’s game. The money is certainly different but I absolutely love it and can’t wait to see how we do this season.”