The Lie of the Work-Life Balance when Starting a New Business


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:


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19 thoughts on “The Lie of the Work-Life Balance when Starting a New Business

  1. I love this! I just recently did a post on the topic of calling a SAHM an actually “job” position. It is so hard as women to find this balance in today’s society because we are held to much different standards as far as career and home life. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I LOVE this post! It is so true—nothing worth having comes easily! I have really been struggling with this lately and this post was a well-deserved breath of fresh air. It is so nice to know I am not the only one that let’s guilt creep in from time to time. I just need to keep my end goal in sight… It will ALL be worth it one day.

    So glad I found you! You’ve got yourself a new reader for sure. Your blog is my kinda style. Please stop by mine and say hello as well—I love making new blog sisters!

    Take care!

    1. Thank you so much for this lovely comment! It’s a HUGE struggle to balance everything, because there is no optimum balance – sometimes all your attention goes to work, sometimes to friends or family! You are not alone!

  3. This is great, and spot on!! I hate.. and have fallen into the trap.. of “work your own hours – make money” and you are right they don’t tell you that it’s hard work and a lot of time invested.

    Great job on making it work for you.. and being honest about it!

  4. Starting a business from scratch is HARD. It’s so hard. It’s time consuming and I often joke that i quit my 40/hr week job to work 80/hr a week. But it’s so true. I work my ass off to do what I love. It’s hard but I’m happy.

    1. I love hearing this! This is the truth – work hard and be happy! Not frolic on a beach all week and work one afternoon!

  5. Yeah Hello- I live here for 3 years, I write about this forever, even wrote a book about it and you are the first Vancouverite mother it seems who finally ‘agrees ‘ with me: There is no balance when you start your own biz!
    Who came up with that nonsense anyway?
    Modern life coaches who want to stress the importance of…?
    Life/biz balance only exists only in the heads of others who haven’t raised a family and a new start-up without the help of a nanny, au=pair , massive trust fund, a huge support system and other great help!
    Thank you!

  6. This is great and so true! I suppose at some point the entrepreneurs who are dishing out these pearls of wisdom about work-life balance conveniently forgot what it was like in the beginning before all the “bliss time” was possible. 😉

  7. I love this– it’s so, so true! Some of my friends think that just because I work for myself from a home office that I can do anything I want during the work day and they expect me to ditch work to spend time with them because hey, they’re “free” too during the day! Working for yourself takes so much more self-control than punching in at an office managed by someone else. I have found it so hard to explain to people that I really do need to show up at my office every day and be there for the duration of the day, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t value their time or friendship, lack spontaneity, over-work myself, etc, it just means that I value my commitment to my calling.

  8. We have always believe that one of the most important things in life is to teach your child or children a good work ethic. Our daughters are amazing and have reached so many goals. We are so proud of them – thank you!

  9. My husband and I work for ourselves and I know that the hours can be long and we both feel guilty when we are not working, it can be difficult but be enjoy it

  10. Thank you for this article… I agree, success comes with a high cost and a lot of work. And its not just the female entrepreneur, but the female professional in general. There are days where I feel like I have to work twice as hard, be twice as smart, and kick more ass than my male colleagues. It’s frustrating.