Everyone will talk about how problems in the workplace abound for women in business: day-to-day discrimination, the fight to secure funding for endeavors they’re passionate about, and queen bees buzzing about waiting for other girls to succumb to burnout.
Each workday is a statement against sexism and a delicate balancing act — one that every woman who’s made any headway in business has learned to take in stride.
What no one will tell you is that when women entrepreneurs leave the office, the struggles don’t stop. They just follow us home. And no one ever tells you what happens there.
Here are three real-life struggles of being a business woman that no one’s likely ever stopped to talk to you about before:
The Struggle to Take Care of Ourselves
Do you still remember what it was like working within the system? Fourteen-hour workdays, skipping meals, ignoring minor illnesses, substituting espresso shots for sleep?
Surprise! Being self-employed doesn’t let you off that hook. Working at home takes away the rigid workday structure you have in the office, and that’s generally a great thing — until it isn’t.
When you’re your own boss, your time is yours. You sleep when you want to, wake when you want to, eat when you want to… and the challenge is finding the discipline to marshal all that want into a healthy day-to-day schedule. How many of us have surrendered to the comfort of working in our pajamas in our own bed, completely absorbed in our work until we look up and realize it’s 3 AM and we’d forgotten to eat dinner?
Saying no to your boss at work can be hard. But you’ll find that saying no to yourself can be much harder. After all, it’s your own dream and not someone else’s you’re building, so shouldn’t you be hustling your best?
True, but if you’re going down that path, consider that the respect you’d extend to someone else’s health is also the respect you should extend to your own.
Sometimes it’s taking a five-minute break away from your computer to rest your eyes. Sometimes it’s choosing to put your work down an hour early so you can slow your mind down before bed to get better sleep. Sometimes, it’s leaving until tomorrow what you don’t absolutely have to do today. And spending that time doing something radically different from work that can recharge you.
Taking care of your needs first isn’t self-indulgent, it’s an investment in manpower. As Michelle Hart of the Huffington Post says, “When you ARE your business, you can’t afford to let yourself go.”
The Struggle to Maintain a Social Life
Finding room in your schedule for your friends when you can’t even manage to eat three meals a day on time can be a tall order in itself. Even worse, when you actually do wrangle the time to hang out with people, you can’t even guarantee that socializing is going to be worth it.
Conversation topics, like your priorities, may have drifted oceans away from those of your friends who live according to the nine-to-five. They might say you’re lucky, you might think they have it better. And the night ends with each of you envying the other but without either side really understanding each other. Yikes.
In addition, when you meet new people and they find out you have your own business, it can be grating when you can practically see the gears turning in their heads. How much money do you make? Did you bring a free sample? If I buy from you, will you offer me a discount because we’re “friends”?
It’s enough to make you wish you spent your Friday evening liking everyone’s Facebook photos alone at home instead.
When it comes to fielding insistent work questions when you’re supposed to be having fun, smile. Resist the urge to do anything but — you’re still representing your business even while you’re out as yourself, after all.
If you’re not in the mood, just give a brief explanation of what you do, and if they want to seriously inquire about business with you, say you can talk further on Monday when you’ve got all your resources on hand. Otherwise, redirect the conversation back to the present.
For friends who can’t seem to see what you see in running your own business, it might be nice to stay away from shop talk and use friend time solely for the things that bond and relax you.
Or if you’re feeling persuasive, take the open dialogue as an opportunity to show others how rewarding it is to chase your passion. Who knows who you’ll inspire to follow in your footsteps!
The Struggle to Find Worthy, Long-term Love
As a woman independent and confident enough to blaze a trail for your own business, you may well exhibit lots of alpha qualities. You’re strong, capable and you don’t actually need a man to be successful. But hey, you’re still human and want someone warm to come home to at night.
Your instinct might lead you to hunt for a mate as driven and forward as you are (read: an alpha male), but research shows that alpha-alpha matches clash because alpha males see successful women as jeopardizing their masculinity, bringing out insecurities and power struggles in the relationship. Yet another thing you don’t have the time for!
So what’s a strong, capable woman to do? One proposed solution: if you’re an alpha female, look for a beta man.
Leave the stereotypes at the door. A beta male is, as Dr. Sonya Rhodes describes them in her book The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match, “a man who is just as comfortable changing nappies as making a presentation at work”.
Beta men are intelligent but not in-your-face, and they don’t feel the need to have pissing contests with other men or women to feel successful. They’re sensitive, responsible and don’t feel any less masculine in covering tasks traditionally assigned to women. As such, they ease the female burden of juggling work and home responsibilities, making them better candidates for long-term stability.
Instead of trying to put your unstoppable wave of ambition in the same room with another man’s raging storm of testosterone, maybe you should seek someone who ebbs and flows with you in natural balance. Someone who is supportive of your dreams alongside his own, isn’t needy, and won’t be threatened by what you achieve.
(Or you could always just date another awesome woman. But that’s another story.)
The Real Juggling Act
Trying to navigate the murky waters of your personal, social and love lives is no picnic on its own. And it’s especially tough for a business woman who has to deal with the expectation that she needs to have it all, all the time, or else she has nothing.
Truth is, there will be days when you’ll have to give up one side to prioritize the other, but the trick to not feeling guilty is to remember that each shift in the balance is only temporary, and you can just as easily tilt to the other side next time.
Put it this way: balls being juggled don’t all stay up in the air at the same time. The talent of the juggler lies in keeping each ball moving through this cycle through precise timing and skill at knowing when to keep a ball in hand and throw the others to gravity’s mercy.
The key is to remember that having it all, all the time, is an expectation, not one you’re beholden to meet and certainly not a true assessment of how successful you are — at business, and as a woman.
Meet the Author: Micaela Pimentel
Micaela is a happily married Filipino mother to three wonderful little daughters, ages: 8 years, 5 years, and 4 months old. Her daily life is a struggle between being the Executive Content Director for Project Female and deciding who gets to watch television next. She specializes in creating and editing content for female empowerment, parenting, beauty, health/nutrition, and lifestyle. As the daughter of two very hardworking people, she was brought up with strict traditional Asian values and yet embraces modern trends like Facebook, vegan cupcakes and the occasional singing cat video.