“Hustle hard, girl.”
“Real women hustle hard.”
“Stay focused, stay humble, always hustle.”
“Good things come to those who hustle.”
These are the phrases that clutter my newsfeed and appear on dozens of trendy boutique t-shirts across the nation. Typically cute and glittery, they are meant to inspire action and purpose.
We live in the era of the work-at-home mom. Momtrepreneurs are staying up late, waking up early, and hiding in the dark closet to sneak a few minutes of quiet so they can listen in on a training call or connect with a potential customer. Confession: I am one of these moms. Or at least I used to be.
I have major adoration and admiration for these moms who desire more for their families. They refuse to take life lying down. These women are world changers, and these women are game changers. Creative thinking, multi-tasking, and problem-solving are just a few of their many talents, and they put these talents to work while juggling a crying toddler in one arm and a smartphone in the other.
These women are seriously amazing. But they can only hustle for so long.
The Hustle Can’t Last Forever
Rewind to four years ago. I was the owner of a start-up natural food store and quickly rising to become one of the top distributors of the network marketing company I am affiliated with. I also considered myself a stay-at-home mom. HA!
I worked hard. I worked really hard. Late nights and working naps were my norm, and I lived on coffee to give me the energy to do all the things I needed to do. I was told regularly, “I don’t know how you do it!” I would beam with pride, knowing that I was, indeed, doing a lot.
The exhaustion really didn’t matter that much. I was grateful for a new sense of identity and purpose. No longer was my life solely ruled by dirty diapers and hungry tummies. I finally got to have adult conversations (what are those?!), and felt like I was providing a meaningful, profound impact on my community. The hustle was worth it.
Until it wasn’t.
After a few years of operating at maximum capacity non-stop, I realized I needed to slow it down. My body was suffering from the neglect, my kids were yearning for their mom, and my calendar was desperate for some white space. I didn’t quit my gig as a momtreprenuer, but I significantly slowed down my pace. Then a funny thing happened: I found myself cringing every time I saw the word hustle. I couldn’t figure out why.
How could a word that once inspired me to greatness make my skin crawl? Why did this word suddenly make me feel less-than, inferior, and like a complete slacker?
Hustle, I Quit You
Months went by, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of uneasiness surrounding that word. I actually began to work with a life coach (that’s a whole other blog post) as I tried to come to terms with what exactly I was supposed to be doing in my life. Through our conversations, she gently pointed out to me that I seem to have this all-or-nothing way of viewing life. I realize that my default mode is “go big or go home,” and I simply don’t know how to do life with only one foot in.
It finally clicked. I had been telling myself a story — a very wrong, inaccurate story.
Somewhere along the way, I had created a paradigm in which there were only two types of people: hustlers and slackers. I realize this belief isn’t reality, but it was my reality. If I wasn’t going 90 miles an hour every waking minute, I felt like I wasn’t giving it my all, and I felt guilty about it. And feeling lazy while I was sitting on the couch watching Moana with my kids is completely ludicrous. That right there is IMPORTANT WORK. No one should ever — I repeat, EVER — feel guilty for investing in their children!
Hard work? Sign me up!
Random late-night cram session? Count me in.
Live the hustle life? I’m. Out.
Hard Work and Hustle Aren’t Synonymous
Working hard is in my bones. It’s just who I am to the core. That being said, there is nothing left in me to be a hard worker when I am burned out, constantly saying yes to others and no to myself, and repeatedly doing things because I think I have to (and not because I want to). THAT is what hustling looked like in my world.
I decided to look up the definition of this word that seemed to be causing me so much stress, and I couldn’t stop laughing when I read the first entry.
hus·tle: (verb) force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction.
Hard work has a rhythm to it. There is a balance that is woven in, and there is stability to it. It’s something that looks good on you, and a way of life that brings you joy. It isn’t forced, and it certainly isn’t hurried.
I can handle hard work. I can’t handle hustle.
If you are a momma currently living the life of the hustle, I honor you. I know you are working hard, and you are likely doing so with the heart of creating real and positive change for your family. Just know that the day may come when you can’t hustle any longer, and that’s okay.