The other day, I was excited to find myself with a sliver of free time. I’ve been wanting to share more skincare and hormone health tips on Instagram, but it keeps getting bumped to the bottom of my very crowded to-do list. When I realized I didn’t have any immediate fires to put out, I thought, “Yes! I can finally record a new reel.”
Then, I looked in the mirror. It was late afternoon and I hadn’t even washed my face yet. I didn’t have time to catch up on my skincare routine (needless to say, a necessity for a skincare company founder) and shoot a video, so I pushed the Instagram plans to the bottom of my list once again.
I know I’m not the only one who feels like life is completely overwhelming right now. I am pouring every minute that I can into my young company while also trying to be the best mom and partner I can to my family. I have set the boundaries that self-care culture has told me will be the cure to all my scheduling problems, and still, I feel like I’m failing at everything. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
As I’ve started to think about my own life, I have grown increasingly frustrated with the dichotomy that Americans — and especially women — face. The rise of hustle culture in the 2000’s has turned into an era of burnout that has left women with one black-or-white choice: hustle so hard to achieve “success” that you don’t have time to even breathe, or drop out entirely. I applaud women who choose to be stay-at-home moms because that’s what they truly want, but it seems like more women are getting pushed into one option or the other because achieving balance in our current work culture is impossible.
The problem isn’t you or me – it's our society. Yet, the onus lands on us as individuals to create the boundaries that we are told will save us from burnout, to do the work to push back against ridiculous requests and expectations, and to “find time” for the self care that will solve the epidemic of stress. But none of that is truly possible. To be successful at most jobs – not just to survive them, but to build a career and thrive – pushing back and creating boundaries isn’t an option. You are either available 24/7 and willing to say “yes” to every request to prove you are a valuable team player, or you are left behind.
I don’t think hustling in itself is a bad thing. I learned from watching my parents at an early age that hard work is important. I have been proud in many ways of identifying as a hustler in my life and career. The problem is that hustle culture makes it seem like going full out towards a goal is a choice rather than what it really is: a requirement of living and working in our current society.
Recently, my husband and I went to a counseling session to try to figure out how we could stop feeling so burned out. The New York therapist listened to us tell her about our lives and her only response was, “Wow, you guys are really busy.” It was validating, but also annoying. The problem is that I don’t know how to be less busy — I need help!
Clearly, I don’t have my own life figured out, much less know how to fix this gigantic problem. But my hope is that if we start sharing our stories and having these hard conversations with our bosses, our coworkers, and each other, we can start to band together to change these societal expectations.
Women shouldn’t have to give up their ambitions or to choose between their families and their careers. We should be able to enjoy well-rounded lives without being killed by the constant hustle…and we should definitely be able to find five minutes each day to wash our faces.