‘Shark Tank’s’ Barbara Corcoran Says Having A Work-Life Balance Is A Myth

Barbara Corcoran of ABC’s Shark Tank knows plenty about the balancing act. Between her real estate empire, reality show, various appearances at events, and family life with her husband and two kids, Corcoran has a full plate.

Over the years, the Shark Tank star has expressed that having the perfect balance between work and home is unattainable. She has learned to take a different tack when striving for an even keel between her family and career.

“Shark Tank’s” Barbara Corcoran | Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Television

Motherhood required a change

Corcoran famously built her real estate empire from the ground up with a $1,000 loan, later selling it for $66 million in 2001, according to CNBC. When she launched her company, Corcoran found that being in charge came naturally. “I took to management like a duck to water,” she said. “It was in my blood.” 

Now the mother of two kids – Tom, 25, and Katie, 14 – Corcoran previously shared that the birth of her son and requirements of motherhood motivated her to sell The Corcoran Group.

“All my top salespeople [at the Corcoran Group] were nut jobs and I was their mother and their shrink. They needed me constantly. The moment I had my son, I realized I couldn’t be the best at both,” she told The Cut in 2018. “I had an infant, and I was breastfeeding, and I was 46, so I was an old mom. I started thinking, how do I exit?”

Corcoran shared that if she hadn’t had children later in life, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to launch her empire. “You know in hindsight, if I were to have had children earlier, I could have never built the Corcoran Group. You’re too divided,” she said. “I put 500 percent into my salespeople; they were the queens and kings of the universe… I adored them, and they adored me back, and that’s why we did so well in the end. But once my son entered the equation, I knew I couldn’t do both.”

An unattainable goal

Previously covering the topic of the ever-elusive work-life balance on her iHeartRadio podcast, “Business Unusual,” Corcoran stated that she doesn’t think it’s something possible to attain. “It just doesn’t exist,” she said of the idea, according to CNBC. “I searched for it for the first 40 years of my life and then gave up — and I’m a lot happier for it.”

The reality star feels the needs on the work and home front can be too difficult to meet on a consistent basis without eventually falling behind on one side.

“It’s like chasing the holy grail,” she said. “How do you feel a sense of control, like you’re not drawn out and split? You have your family at home … [and] you have your family at work — your colleagues, the people that report to you — you want to take care of them [all].”

The art of compartmentalizing

Despite her demanding schedule both personally and professionally, Corcoran eventually discovered what works best for her. “I found that the best way to juggle the responsibilities was to clearly divide my attention and time between work and home,” she said. “So when I’m at work, my husband Bill wouldn’t dare call me and the kids don’t call unless they’re dying.”

The same rule applies to her colleagues for when she walks in her front door at home. “Phones and emails today are huge distractions,” Corcoran said. “And so when I walk into my home I plug my phone into the hallway and don’t touch it until I’m walking out the door in the morning. I give my kids and husband 150 percent of my time then.”

Though the real estate mogul has found success in this method, she admits it’s never perfect and her strategy may not work for everyone. Now with a teenage daughter at home, Corcoran sees how difficult being a working mom is in today’s fast-paced professional climate.

“It’s much harder. Here I am again, in business for myself and even worse, being the talent — so I’m the salesman and the manager, and I have a young daughter,” she said. “I never feel like I’m doing enough for her. I second-guess myself every day of the week.”

The Shark Tank investor realized that wherever she is, that’s where her energy and focus must be given. “I’m out to grow two strong children and a business that makes a difference and is hugely profitable,” Corcoran explained. “Now that I know that work-life balance will never exist because they both pull on the same person for attention — me — I strive to be 100 percent present with my family and friends when I’m with them and 100 percent present when I’m hustling at work.”

Corcoran’s strategy is definitely worth giving a try!