I  worked in a job where I liked my boss. I was appreciated, and they matched my 401(k) contributions. I wore silk blouses and pink suede pumps. So why would I leave the comfort of my 9–5 career to build a business from scratch, wearing a syrup-stained t-shirt, with two toddlers at home?

I did it for the same reason that 40% of new entrepreneurs are women. I was desperate to create a healthier work/life balance and revoke my membership to the ‘grind culture.’ I want to see my kids more and still have a successful, fulfilling career. I also want to make coffee for myself, the way I like it.

I had accepted membership to the ‘grind culture’

It was 7:30 am, and I had just dropped my daughter off at daycare. I was 7 months pregnant with my son racing through downtown traffic to get to my office in time to make coffee. Yes, to make coffee. Not for me, but for the other staff. There was a meeting in the morning, and part of my ‘job’ was to make sure enough coffee was made, and the mugs were hung delicately on the rack next to it. I remember blankly staring at the walls as I put the industrial-sized filter in place for the coffee brewer. Standing in a flowing maternity dress, I realized that I was in a contemporary reflection of a 1950’s workplace, making coffee for a board meeting that was 95% male.

That was when I realized that no matter how much I was appreciated in my job, no matter how fast I responded to emails or how above and beyond my projects were, it was never going to move fast enough for me. It was never going to be the career that would give me what I needed: balance. I saw my future self rushing back and forth between daycare, a parking garage, and an office. Office, back to the garage, daycare, and finally home. Why was I doing this to myself? To my daughter? So I can make people coffee? Show my face at a meeting where I’m neither seen nor heard?

I wasn’t just grinding at work — I was bending over backward at home. A 2019 survey conducted by the PEW research center showed that mothers with children 18 years old or younger were more likely than fathers to say they needed to “reduce their work hours, felt like they couldn’t give full effort at work, and turned down a promotion because they were balancing work and parenting responsibilities.” Why are we forced to sacrifice our sanity in the name of family/work-life balance?

Since 1972, the share of women-owned businesses has skyrocketed 813%. For many women, carving out our place in the workforce — proving to others that not only are we capable, but we’re also deserving of every dollar and promotion that our male counterparts receive — has come at a cost. Unfortunately, we’ve accepted membership into the ‘grind culture.’

I was commuting, grocery shopping, dishwashing, and never-ending to-do listing my way into a burnout, all for the sake of proving my value to my employer, myself, and my family. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. The reason I subscribed to the ground culture in the first place was that I knew I could. I’ve always been ambitious; it’s in my nature to commit and give 110%. I knew that if I got to work early, made the coffee, turned in assignments before the deadline, and completed helpful tasks that weren’t even part of my job, I would be rewarded. I knew if I did the laundry, made dinner, washed the dishes, and read a hundred books before I tucked the kids in, I would be the best kind of mother. The rewards were a ‘thank you and ‘you’re doing great!” Okay, thanks. But the Return on Investment wasn’t matching the effort I was putting in. I was working harder, but my salary was stagnant, not to mention I was burnt out.

I was on autopilot, moving through days without feeling present in them. For three years, I lived those days on repeat. Then, when the 2020 Covid pandemic hit, I was forced to pay attention. With the auto-pilot disengaged, I could finally see an opportunity to do things in a way that provided more balance. I thought about what got me excited to wake up in the morning — the ‘rise and shine’ instead of the ‘rise and grind.’ Instead of thinking about what my employers wanted from me, I made a list of my strengths and passions — writing and working with people — and I put those things to work for myself. I walked away from the ‘grind culture,’ and chose to create a content writing business built on decisions I make, with goals that support my family’s future, and it feels great.

I’m not crazy (and there’s evidence to prove it)

In January of 2021, I joined Location Rebel Academy, where I learned how to build a writing business from the ground up. Slowly, I followed the steps in the courses and joined an ‘accountability group with other creatives. I began the terrifying process of telling people about my new business and sought advice from local writers, which is how I found my beloved mentor. I wrote a few samples for my website about things that were important to me, like women’s health and financial planning. Shortly after, I started landing writing gigs. Since January, my project rates have increased from 0$ to $150.

In the months I’ve grown my business, the ROI is much higher than it was in my 9–5. When I put in the effort based on my strengths, I’m rewarded with more projects and income. When I go the extra mile for a client, I get paid for it. If I take a class to learn something new, it directly benefits my business. I can charge higher project fees because I have a new skill. What I put in, I get out.

But it’s not just me. From 1997–2004, women-owned businesses grew 28% faster than privately held companies. It shows that when we exit the 9–5 ‘grind culture’ and unequal or unfair working conditions, we open ourselves up to use our strongest business skills, contribute to the economy and our families, create jobs for others, and pay ourselves what we’re worth.

Since I started my business, the positive effects have snowballed:

  • I feel more comfortable speaking up with clients or editors because I know my stuff — it’s my business, after all
  • I am happier since I removed unnecessary hurdles and found a career I love
  • I am more creative because I can work during my most productive hours, use my business strengths, and do something that feeds my soul
  • I’m less resistant to change or uncertainty because I have more control over my life
  • I have more energy because I’m sleeping better
  • I’m taking better care of myself — I never knew I would like lunchtime workouts so much
  • I help people directly using the business ethics I approve of
  • I grow my business and hourly rate at my own speed (warp-speed)

I make my own coffee now

I wanted to impress the successful people in my life, and in turn, spent my time resisting my strongest attributes and the thing that made me get up in the morning — writing. Simply making my own coffee is proof I’ve come a long way from the 9–5 grind. I’ve worked my butt off to get to where I am. I am a bad-ass, and I’ve revoked my membership to the ‘grind culture.’

It’s not that I don’t care about people. If you need help making coffee, I’ve got you. I make a damn good pour-over. The point is that the work I do is fulfilling to me in more ways than any office job I’ve had. Every minute I spend being productive directly contributes to my family or my business. My kids love that I see them more; I love that I see them more, and that’s invaluable to us. I work directly with clients who appreciate all of my efforts. They appreciate my amiability, my prompt turnaround times, my reliability. They show they value me by paying me what I am worth, based on rates that I’ve determined.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. I don’t want to glorify the flexible WFH lifestyle because it’s hard in its own right. But I thrive on the challenge because I’ve set my own goals, draw from my strengths, and achieve my ambitions.

A new work culture for my modern family

The modern family also has to work around school schedules, doctor’s appointments, and holidays, which under no circumstances will ever line up with a traditional workday. My kids were at daycare longer than I was at work because of the commute. I needed a non-traditional workday so I could balance time with my family, so I built it. I built a day around what’s most important to me — my family.

The modern family represents a growing number of women in the workforce and men doing their fair share of the laundry and dishes. That’s our modern family. I’m not sure what yours looks like, but the point is that it’s yours and no one else’s.

I’m showing my kids that sometimes the best path is the one you create. You can take paths others have forged and learn so much along the way, but when you create your own path, you’ll know how capable you really are.

Leaving my 9–5 career certainly wasn’t the easy choice. My workload isn’t less; it’s challenging on a new level — an elevated level that is insanely intriguing and motivating to me. Some days owning my own business is very hard, but I know the effort goes straight back into my growth. Every day I get to choose between the pink suede pumps or the syrup-stained t-shirt; it doesn’t have to be one or the other. The goal wasn’t for my life to feel easier, per se. It was so my life could feel like mine.