Finding Work-Life Balance Despite 18-Hour Days
Words: Jamyla Bennu as told to AdeOla Fadumiye
Visuals: Erika Salazar
Running a successful beauty line requires long hours, but it shouldn't come at the expense of your family. Oyin Handmade co-founder Jamyla Bennu explains how she balances work and home in her own words.
"The light bulb did not turn on until 2008: That was the year we began hiring employees to support Oyin Handmade.
"My husband Pierre and I discovered we had a problem when we could not create free time or remember what we enjoyed doing when we had free time. We had been working together 12 to 18 hours a day for five years.
"I don't recall how or when workaholism raised its ugly head. Our goal was to be financially independent and to be able to have time for the things we've always wanted to do. During the course of growing Oyin Handmade, we had our financial ups and downs, but we had an intense motivation to build independence for ourselves. We approached everything through our work lens. Ironically what led us to the kind of freedom we desired also led to working endless hours, and slowly we forgot what we wanted to do with that freedom.
I don't recall how or when workaholism raised its ugly head.
"Pierre and I are well matched, but working such long hours and days made it easy for us to get off sync. We missed each other, and sometimes it would feel like we were just passing by each other. We had to learn to stop and ask each other, 'What is going on here? It's been a minute since we hung out. Let’s fix this.' We had to experience those moments, go through them, and then work our way back. They helped us realize that work/life balance was important in order to grow our relationship and to parent our children effectively and lovingly.
"Our children Osei and Sadat have also been a strong classroom and the most important lesson on this journey. There is a lot you cannot put off when it comes to raising children. I could not say, “Hold off a second, person with a dirty diaper, while I complete this deadline.” I had to prioritize for my children, and for my health. I had to be realistic about my human capacity; I have limited time and energy, and overworking affects my relationships and my parenting. The work will be there, and it is not going anywhere. I can either stay up until 3 a.m. and be less effective tomorrow, or invest in my wellness and have a more effective day.
"Oyin Handmade was born out of a creative impulse, but it has grown because of daily dedication and grind. This grind has the capacity to grind us down if we are not careful. We have built up our business team, and we are working to re-introduce space into our work and personal lives. The first step was to figure out my priorities; I had shifted the focus. I had to recognize that other aspects of my life were important, and move energy away from a single-minded focus on one kind of work. An action step we implemented in the past few months is to have a work from home day once a week; a full day off if we can manage it. If either is impossible, we make sure to get an irresponsibly long and leisurely lunch together. This has been helpful for restoring a sense of mental health and for flourishing our creative thinking.
Our children have been the most important lesson on this journey.
"Learning has been gradual, and I am still learning. Pierre and I work together to keep ourselves in check—we encourage each other to get some rest. We are better at seeing workaholic tendencies in the other than at seeing it in ourselves.
"We are currently working on building an infrastructure to support all the aspects of our lives that are important. We do not live close to either of our extended families, and we don't have a lot of support particularly in the area of childcare. Building up a structure to provide more leisure time both with our kids and without them is the next big priority."
Read our interview with Jamyla Bennu to learn more about her motherhood and career journey.
Do you have a career story you'd like to share with us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.