Grace Bonney is the founder and CEO of Design Sponge, a wildly popular design, décor and interiors website that’s been dubbed “Martha Stewart for millennials”. The 35-year-old is also the author of In the Company of Women, a bestselling collection of career inspiration and advice from a diverse range of kick-ass female entrepreneurs.
The 100 successful businesswomen who appear in Bonney’s book range from tattoo artists and architects to ceramicists and chefs, and are based all over the US. They include women of colour, LGBT women, and differently abled women. Some began their careers not in the States but in Latin America, Australia or Africa.
Despite these differences, however, Bonney began to see commonalities between these women emerge over the course of her conversations with them. And one of the most noticeable things they had in common? None of them really believed in the concept of a work-life balance.
Bonney elaborates on this in a recent episode of entrepreneurship podcast So Money.
“I think the biggest sort of eye opener for me was realising that almost all of these women had in common the idea that they had given up work/life balance, because I think that it’s a concept that doesn’t – it is not rooted in reality,” she tells podcast host Farnoosh Torabi.
Bonney continues: “I think that life and work are constantly in flux, and the market in which we’re all working is constantly in flux.”
Crucially, Bonney isn’t saying that women shouldn’t take any time out for themselves if they want to be successful. She is, however, emphasising that women who aspire to be and do everything all at once will likely be disappointed.
Because for most women, after all, it’s simply not possible to be an entrepreneurial powerhouse and a domestic goddess and have a thriving social life all at the same time. To put it simply, something’s gotta give.
“The idea that you could ever sort of achieve this perfect stasis place is just unrealistic,” says Bonney. “So many of these women who had been in business for a long time really had kind of let that concept go, because they saw it as a very unrealistic expectation that I think women in particular feel has been placed on them.”
It can certainly feel as though women struggle with the idea of a work-life balance more than men. A 2014 study of more than 1,000 people found that nearly 80% of women had never heard a successful man talk about juggling his career with his life outside work (although interestingly, this didn’t mean that men didn’t feel the same pressure to ‘do it all’ – they were just less open it).
Rather than beat themselves up for not attaining that mythical work-life balance, Bonney advises female entrepreneurs to focus on celebrating and absorbing themselves in their career successes.
“You really just need to do it and not look back,” she says, “because you’re better off for it.”
Images: NBC, Instagram/Design Sponge/Grace Bonney