Female entrepreneurs everywhere are bombarded with PR-friendly messages like “Create the life you want – on your terms!” and “Thrive in work AND in life”. The promises of creating your own work hours, growing a business with joy and creativity, and achieving a healthy and happy work-life balance encourages women everywhere to quit their jobs and become entrepreneurs. One thing all of these messages forget to remind us is that all this is possible – with a shitload of hard work.
There seems to be this common misconception that “working for yourself” means that you set aside a few hours each day to work on “your business” and the remaining hours are filled with blissful pleasures like spending time with your family, enjoying an impromptu yoga class, and taking long hikes in the woods. I’ve recently been met with raised eyebrows from friends and acquaintances who are surprised when I don’t have time for them or other commitments.
I’ve been saying “No” more often but only because every “Yes” has been given to my new business venture. My priorities are business first, pleasure second – and that’s that. There’s no way around it right now, and sometimes it’s because I’m on a roll and have a million ideas and thoughts that need to be put to work right away – and other times it’s because I’m so overwhelmed by everything and am struggling to catch up with the all-encompassing to-do list that comes along with birthing a new business.
I’ve been given a lot of advice lately. A LOT. Most of it comes from a good place. Most of it comes from women. And most of it tries to guilt me into stepping back from my business endeavours to focus on my family, my home, and my husband (who I also don’t see because he’s helping me as much as he can after his own work hours). I get where these women are coming from, and I know that they mean well – I promise, I do!
So much so, that I’ve been working on “quality time” with the kids, rather then a large quantity of time. Simply put, I try to make sure that the time we spend together is worthwhile and memorable. And although date nights have all but vanished, my husband & I might sneak away to an impromptu lunch date when we’re in the same area.
But there’s one thing that bothers me about all of this… If I were a man, would I feel the need to justify my business ventures? Would I be stressing the importance of quality time with the kids? Would I be ensuring people that I’m taking care of myself? Do men worry about their work-life balance?
Short answer: No.
Be it traditional or societal values, but men don’t seem to have to rationalize their business choices to anyone. If a man has to be away from his children for business, or if he’s working night and day to start a new business endeavour – that’s okay. That’s more than okay! But if a women prioritizes her business efforts before everything else, it feels wrong. There’s this need for balance between family, home, and work life.
But when you’re starting a business from scratch – there is no balance. You can’t sugar coat it. There is no 8-hour day, not even a 4-hour day – it’s 20-hour days of designing a business you are going to love. It’s hard fucking work. And no one else is going to do it but you. My to-do lists are huge – every. single. day. I squeeze in coffee breaks with friends, I make dinner time with the family special, but I am working my ass off, and I absolutely love it.
The balance will come. The ability to work short (but efficient) hours will come. The days where you work hard and play hard will come. But not right now. Right now is the time for effort. For hard work. For pushing yourself outside of your boundaries. For making yourself uncomfortable. For doing things you never thought you’d be able to do – and doing them well! It will not be easy. You will burn out. You will be exhausted. But in the end, you will be satisfied.
So please, when you’ve stumbled upon yet another life or business coach’s website that praises being an entrepreneur for the work-life balance, be sure that somewhere in the fine print there’s an acknowledgement that: