Why I’m Shedding My Guilt about Struggling with Work-Life Balance

The Wild Word magazine
5 min readOct 2, 2018

By Annie Mark-Westfall — LETTERS FROM BERLIN

This month I joined a professional network of English-speaking working moms in Berlin. We have accountability partners, online seminars, and a Facebook group where we share our biggest wins and worst struggles. It is the type of group that I once scoffed at, but today it is my lifeline to my sense of Self. It is the group that will help Annie get her groove back.

During our seminar last week, our coach led us through six steps to finding work-life balance. We answered several questions along the way to define our values and priorities, and establish a vision of what balance looks like.

As someone who invests probably, definitely too much time in self-reflection and self-development, I breezed through the questions. What are your top values? “That’s easy,” I thought to myself. “Family.” What drains your energy the most? “Also easy. Family.”

Our coach then moved along to Step 5: identifying ways to spend more time on your values, and less time on the things in life that drain your energy. I stared at my paper and the word “family” in both columns. Uh oh.

When the coach asked who wanted to share, I raised my hand to describe my confusion. But the more I spoke, the more I felt exposed as a whiner. A privileged whiner. When I mentioned that my husband shares household duties and daycare pick-up/drop-off, people murmured how lucky I am. So I rushed to finish, and retreat to my silence again.

On paper, I have the perfect set up. I work from home, flexible hours, and my husband and boss are both incredibly supportive and understanding. I love my job, my children love their daycare, and my husband and I have carefully, mindfully crafted our dream life here in Berlin. Our children are healthy, happy, and my marriage is strong. Nothing about our life is perfect, sometimes by a long shot; but on paper, it is pretty damn close. So why is this all so hard?

We immigrated to Germany precisely to find balance. To build a life around our family. We bask in the public policies that make this possible for us — the free daycare, the socialist subsidies, the plethora of playgrounds, classes, and children’s museums. I spend as many hours…