A meme has been passed around for years that says something to the effect of mega-star Beyoncé having the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has, so get out there and get busy hustling. Here’s the thing: we really don’t.

Time poverty is a problem, and it’s not always a matter of prioritizing what’s important, what should wait and where our ambitions lie. Many feel the pinch to get more done in a day with less time and minimal assistance to do it all. Stretched thin and over scheduled define more Americans than not, especially women. Minutes and hours are not divided equally: never have been and never will be. Like money, time is something certain people have more to spare. Those who have extra moments in the day have more privileges, rights and luxuries, whereas many others struggle just to maintain the seconds on the clock. It’s the chronic feeling of never having enough hours, yet the demands continue to pile high.

The Juggling Act

For some women, work-life balance is nonexistent. Yes—again—we all have 24 hours in a day, yet constraints exist on our time and resources that make it impossible for us all to use them in the same manner. No two people have equal hours to do everything they desire in a day and—believe it or not—that probably holds true for Beyoncé too. But let’s be honest: A single, hourly wage-earning mother of three will struggle to achieve everything that needs to be completed in 24 hours more than someone in a higher income bracket who has a support system and the monetary means to make it happen.


According to a recent study, women take on the majority of unpaid labor at home, are the go-to parent and the one who keeps all household motors revving at full octane. Working overtime, daycare drop offs and pick ups, errands, laundry, bill payments, appointments, wait…someone wants dinner? Any discretionary time is gone before it can appear on the calendar. The choice becomes to cut back on hours, leave the labor force entirely or try to do it all: family, work, sleep, repeat. There is no time for leisure or downtime because there is no time, which leads to burnout and, sometimes, a breakdown of relationships. Some women do not have the luxury of quitting their jobs or cutting back on hours: it’s not a choice.

Heavy Burdens

Inadequate wages and steep pay gaps are often faced by women living at the poverty line. Hourly jobs and late afternoon or overnight shifts subtract time in their lives for friendships, family time or being an active member of their communities. Planning ahead is not always possible because many hourly workers receive their schedules only days in advance. Many are the sole support for their family, so taking time off for a meeting at school or being active in a women’s group is not in the cards. For these women, it’s not about being a better steward of their time because there is no more time. They cannot “hustle” three more hours of productivity out of thin air. They are doing their best to get by with what’s allotted in their day.

The Wellbeing Effects

Self-care is not a term many women with a lack of time can imagine or entertain. There are zero margins in their fractured days to journal or read, let alone get out for a walk or schedule a routine doctor’s appointment. Many women who work several jobs also rely on fast and easy meals, making nutrition and cooking at home a rarity. As women, we often tell other women to simply reach out when they are in need, lean on their network of friends or get more sleep and things will seem brighter in the morning. These are not always viable options when there is no support system to be had. As a result, doctors have seen women’s health risks increase. High BMI numbers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety all have the potential to appear when the stress of schedules becomes too much.

How to Move Forward

Society tends to forget that we are human beings, not wizards who can magically eke out a few more hours in the day. Setting priorities and making sacrifices to achieve goals is understandable when you have space in your schedule to do so. Not everyone can “make it happen” and “just do it” when their circumstances dictate otherwise. Passing judgment and shame onto those struggling doesn’t help. People need support systems because we all are dealing with something. There’s a woman right now who considers one more day sober to be a win. Another is thankful for not being laid off today. One of your neighbors may have been up late trying to figure out how she’ll keep the electricity on for one more night. Our measuring sticks are all different when it comes to defining what time spent in a day looks like. If we can recognize and redistribute even a tiny portion of our time to help someone in need (or consume our own days differently), that slight shift can make a big difference.

Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, Food and Labor Research Center, Deloitte Global 2021 Report and Harvard Businesses School 

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