Latinx Families Are Learning To Leave Hustle Culture Behind

Hustle culture affects many Latinx folks due to an engrained mindset that is common in immigrant families. Here's how today's generation is learning to set a new example for their kiddos.

working mom with child

Do you ever feel like you just aren't doing enough, even though you've spent the day going above and beyond for your job or your household? Does even the briefest moment of rest give you pangs of guilt? Do you think to yourself, "I really should be doing something right now!"? Then you might be experiencing hustle culture, also known as burnout culture or toxic productivity.

Society as a whole is feeling the heaviness of a culture that glorifies hustle culture. And while it effects a large swath of today's breadwinners, it has a high propensity to affect those in Latinx households more than most.

Hustle culture is when your career, side jobs, or obligations become such a focus in your life that you let the important things like self-care, family-time, hobbies, and health go right out the window. And with the pandemic, things have only gotten worse thanks to the blurring of boundaries that come with working from home. A study by FlexJobs and Mental Health America (MHA) found that 37% of people are working longer hours and 75% claim that work-related stress is affecting their mental health.

"Immigrants, first generation, and second generation Latinx were already embodying the 'hustle culture' mindset and behaviors well before the pandemic. Immigrants and their offspring are very practiced at juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, working long hours, and working multiple jobs all while pursuing their education," says Dina Olivas, licensed clinical social worker, Latina mental health practitioner and clinical director. "Often due to financial circumstance, immigration status, and the arduous task related to moving to another country, immigrants learn very practical and useful coping skills which includes long workdays and multi-tasking—they know how to hustle because it's a matter of survival."

Today, the harder you work, the more you are celebrated. And in time, your work becomes your identity. In fact, fully devoting one's self to pursuits of success is seen as a positive, even though it can have negative effects on mental and physical health. It's not uncommon to see children and grandchildren of immigrants also embracing the tenacity and work ethic of their elders because they learn these family norms and value being industrious and contributing to the greater good.

"I was raised by a single mom who was a Mexican immigrant. So, she had no choice. She had to hustle and work all kinds of jobs to survive. I guess for some, not having to hustle can be a luxury, that's the way I see it, or at least having that choice to make. I'm first generation, first to go to college and beyond," says Lorena Vazquez, founder of Vazquez Law. "I have that hustle mentality engrained in me because I did not grow up wealthy. But I choose to hustle because I see my position as one of privilege that many don't currently have, so I hustle to grow as a person and to succeed in my profession."

On top of everything else, modern technology feeds into hustle culture making us available 24/7. Then, the prospect of filling empty time with the potential to make more income from side gig ventures like Uber, DoorDash, Etsy, and other flexible jobs makes hustling even more addictive. Taking time to one's self is seemed as wasteful or selfish. And at the office, workplace perks like happy hours, free lunches, and dog friendly offices are just hustle culture in disguise because they actually make employees spend extra hours at work.

Hustle culture may be hard to shake but many Latinx are trying their best to frame their lives in a different way. "I do not glorify this mindset. I hustle but I also do not like to work 24/7, I cherish my downtime and time with family, and if that means I won't be making millions, that is perfectly fine," says Vasquez.

For some, modeling the hustle culture that they witnessed as children has become the center of their identities. And yet it all comes with a downside. "My parents modeled the idea that there's always something to do or something to be done. Now that I'm a mother, I feel this to my core," says Priscilla Bloom, freelance journalist and editor. "Sometimes I end up pushing myself too far and suddenly I'm working late nights and/or weekends, missing on time with my family or with friends, all because I feel like I need to keep hustling."

Irina Gonzales, a writer and editor living in Denver, Colorado remembers the emphasis her family put on hustling from day to day to succeed.

"I very much grew up with the hard-working immigrant mentality. My Cuban dad worked 3 jobs when we first came to the U.S. and my mom worked 2 jobs. This continued for a long time until they were able to start a real estate business. They've become successful since then, but hard work is still revered in my family," says Gonzales. "These days, I try very hard to fight my internalized beliefs of needing to be the model minority and that hard work is all you need. I've learned that there are many systemic issues that make it difficult for many of us to 'hustle' our way into a better life. Sure, my immigrant parents became successful but at what cost?"

So, are there ways to combat hustle culture? "It is helpful for Latinx people to be talking about what work/life balance and self-compassion looks like," says Olivas. "Self-compassion includes self-kindness, accepting our humanity, and using mindfulness; all of these will help in building realistic boundaries and attending to our personal needs and accepting the fact that you can be a good employee while attending to your own needs; they are not mutually exclusive." Remember, it will take practice. Hustle culture has been engrained into us for decades.

For some, the pandemic created a safe space to take stock of work/life balance. We realized that it was in fact possible to be just as productive (if not more) from home without the commute and constant oversight from managers and coworkers. So, when you feel the inner urge to hustle—whether it's for more money, more prestige, or more anything, take a set back and ask what the cost is to you as a human being. Hustling may not be all it's cracked up to be.

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