'Victoria Beckham's work ethic is major - but she shouldn't have to risk her health for it'

victoria beckham
Victoria Beckham's work ethic shouldn't be copiedgetty images

Victoria Beckham might just be the definition of a boss. Ever since she won a place in our hearts as Posh Spice, the singer-turned-designer-turned-beauty-mogul hasn’t stopped grinding. Her work ethic – and the success it has brought her – is undeniable, her determination is laudable.

But… it needs to be said that her latest confession on being a slave to the grind shouldn’t be cause for celebration. In fact, it ought to serve as a reminder to us all about the importance of a healthy work-life balance, whether you’re a celebrity or not.

Speaking to Grazia ahead of her 50th birthday, Beckham revealed how she recently injured herself by refusing to take a break from work, even going so far as to ignore her doctor’s advice of resting up to aid her recovery.

Beckham, who hurt her foot in the gym in February, revealed she “basically re-broke it” when she continued working in Paris. Although she did eventually say yes to an orthopaedic boot and mobility aid, Beckham continued to prioritise her work.

“It was so swollen so I just wheeled around on that in Miami for three weeks,” the designer shared.

“It was great social content as well for me, just basically taking the mick out of myself. It was either get my foot off the ground or get surgery. And surgery does not fit into my schedule,” she added.

So, on the one hand, we’re glad to hear Beckham is doing okay (she’s now back to wearing proper shoes), but also… um. We have questions?

How is it that Victoria Beckam can’t make time in her schedule for surgery? And, if she (a woman with seemingly endless resources of support) struggles to maintain a work-life balance and put her health first, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Being able to take an extended period of time off work when you’re ill is a privilege – even though it shouldn’t be – but it’s also easier said than done in our insanely busy world. And even if you are eligible for statutory sick pay, resting up can be tricky if there are others relying on you to get a job done, be it as an employee, as a parent or as an unpaid carer.

It seems despite being a celebrity, Beckham isn’t immune to the pressures that come with being a working woman (and mother) either.

The designer has previously admitted to being a workaholic, telling once telling The Guardian: “I get quite obsessive about work. I don’t stop, I have a lot of trouble sleeping. I am a real insomniac.”

She’s also acknowledged the privilege she enjoys, noting that she can ask for support – but that she often finds it difficult to accept any help. “What I am learning to do, and finding really difficult, is delegating. I am a control freak and I like to do everything myself. But the truth is, I am in a position to have help,” she said while chatting with The Times. “I am incredibly lucky that I am the boss, so I can say ‘I’m coming in late because of sports day’. Some mums can’t do that, and the key is to not beat yourself up about it.”

To be clear, the last thing we want to do is have a go at Beckham for continuing to work against medical advice; it’s her choice after all – and it’s one that many other women have likely made in the past too. But I wonder if the reason why this happens to so many of us is rooted in a fear about what could if we do take a pause to prioritise our own wellbeing?

If Beckham takes a step back from the beauty and fashion industries, both known for being ever-changing, or leaves the spotlight for a time, a place known for always favouring the next new thing, will she become old news overnight?

In this capitalist, patriarchal society of ours, it’s a sad truth that women are exhausting themselves, running, dragging and hurling themselves up the hill to keep up with the expectations of others. And even then, despite the effort, we are still punished. Take the motherhood penalty as just one example of another way many women are penalised for taking a career break, regardless of whether or not they’re famous.

Research shows that by the time a woman's first child is 12 years old her hourly pay rate is likely to be 33% behind a man's.

Then there’s the fact women are more than twice as likely to have to quit their job due to unpaid caring responsibilities. Meanwhile, 63% of women living in mixed-sex households are still doing more than their fair share of the housework, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey.

No matter your occupation or status, there’s so much work and additional responsibilities that women are far too often expected to shoulder, and, even if you realise you need a break, it can be difficult to take one.

In worst case scenarios, the result is a cycle of stress, burnout, and ill-health.

The solution is complex, change is needed across society. But what’s clear is on top of all the other things we have going on, there is ample work that needs to be done when it comes to how we look after our health while managing other duties – and when women do take a pause, they need to be supported in that.

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