We do not all “have as many hours as Beyoncé”

Beyonce has help that I don’t have, writes Bobbi Dempsey.
Beyonce has help that I don’t have, writes Bobbi Dempsey.
Image: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
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We all have the same amount of hours as Beyonce. This fashionable phrase looks great on a trendy t-shirt or embroidered on a decorative pillow. But as a woman with a working-class background, I find it downright insulting.

The point of this axiom, as near as I can tell, is that we all have 24 hours in the day, and therefore we should all be able to accomplish the same number of impressive, exciting things as [insert name of VIP or celebrity]. If we fail to achieve such boast-worthy accomplishments, we must be lazy slackers. We should be ashamed.

What this philosophy doesn’t account for, however, are the legitimate reasons that some people cannot achieve as much in a day as one of the most famous women in the world.

Working-class folks don’t have an entire troop of nannies, assistants, cleaning people, trainers, and assorted other miscellaneous support staff who keep our lives running while freeing up large chunks in our schedule that we can then use for social activities and other luxuries.

A few years ago, I was working 12-hour shifts at a local paper bag factory—while pregnant with my second son—and I needed to rush home immediately after my shift so that my husband could head out to his own job. I survived on few hours of sleep each night, and every waking moment of my day was spent working, caring for my toddler, or trying to keep my house in livable condition. It wasn’t a matter of “how badly you want it.” At that point, I desperately wanted (and often needed) a nap, a shower that lasted longer than three minutes, or a haircut that I didn’t do myself at home. None of those things were possible, however, given the nonexistent free time in my schedule.

Years later, I won an all-expenses paid trip for two to Vegas. It was someplace my husband and I had always wanted to go (and still do). Unfortunately, the timing could not have been worse. Neither my husband nor I had yet earned any vacation time from work. Plus, we had three kids under six years old and no childcare (we still worked opposite shifts). So, with great reluctance, I had to turn down the free trip. Trust me, it wasn’t that “I didn’t want it bad enough.”

Saying you don’t have time or claiming to be “too busy” is also frequently used as a less embarrassing alternative to admitting you don’t have the money or resources to do something (no matter how badly you may want to do it). You never know what’s going on in people’s lives—and if you come at them with a shaming attitude, you likely won’t ever find out, because nobody is going to open up to someone who treats them in that way.

I do appreciate the sentiment that we all get just 24 precious hours in a day, so we should be judicious about how we use them. But having spent virtually all my life in a poor or working-class existence, I know that choosing to do things we’d enjoy or that might even improve our quality of life isn’t a luxury everyone can afford. At least, not on a regular basis.

I think even Beyonce herself would tell you she is fortunate to have many advantages and resources that most of us mere mortals lack.