From Passive Overwhelm To Confident Leadership - 5 Minutes On The Sofa With WHM Club Member, Annie Mark-Westfall
Last week I chatted with WHM Club member, Annie Mark-Westfall, and learned how she’s establishing a sense of balance at home, how she’s redefined what it means to take care of herself, and why it’s important to speak more honestly and openly about the challenges we face as working mums. Annie is the first to feature in a series of interviews with fabulous women like you who know that it IS possible to develop themselves and their careers alongside being the parent they want to be, and are determined to do just that!
Tell us about yourself
I am an American transplant, raising my 1 and 3 year old children in Berlin, together with my American husband. I work for an NGO, and my employer moved us here from New York City two years ago. I consider myself lucky enough to be leading my dream life! When not working or spending time with my family, I enjoy writing, reading, chatting with other women, and trying to recover some lost hobbies, such as travel.
Why did you decide to join The WHM Club?
During my year-long maternity leave last year, my boss/mentor left my organisation after 9 years of working together. I came back from leave to a new team and somewhat of a new role. I needed to reclaim my position, and re-establish myself and my expertise within my organisation - while still adjusting to our new life as a family of four. Although I was loathe to admit it, I found myself really struggling. On paper, everything was perfect - I work from home, flexible hours; my job is challenging and rewarding; my husband is supportive, and my kids are healthy, happy little wonders. My growing anxiety told another story, though. The promise of learning how to balance work and family life, was incredibly appealing.
What’s the best thing you’ve got out of The Club so far?
Besides no longer having a feeling of overwhelm? I have a new definition of what it means to take care of myself. Before I joined The Club, I thought that reading 20 minutes a day and getting a hot shower was enough “me time” - even if those things only happened on a “good” day. The Club has taught me how to recognise my different layers or aspects of Self, and that each of those various needs should be met. I have learned that prioritising my family above all else does not have to come at the expense of all else.
I always knew that in theory, but never knew what it looked like in reality. It was really helpful to meet and speak with other WHM Club members who take good care of themselves, and can be my role models in that regard. I now understand why my life looked so good on paper, but still felt like “too much.” Just coming to this awareness has been very freeing, even if I still have some work to do.
What’s the one goal you are working towards right now, personal or professional. that excites you the most?
All my goals are really exciting for me, and I have a nice mix of personal and professional goals. Some of the smallest things have had a surprisingly large impact for me - like cleaning my home office and establishing a better To Do system.
But the one goal that has been most transformative has been, “Establish a sense of balance at home.” This is obviously a huge goal - but guided by Melanie, I have broken this down into manageable chunks each month. Last month, for example, it was, “Establish a new chores system.” My husband jokes that this was really code for asking him to take on more work. And it is certainly true that he has taken on (quite a lot) more at home. We have also worked together to identify what areas of our life require change, in order for both of us to feel happier and more in control. We realised that we needed to give ourselves permission to spend some time away from family. As expats without extended family around to help with the kids, I think this is a common struggle. But last month, both of us spent weekends away - he went to Poland with friends, and I went on a yoga retreat (led by a fellow WHM Club member). We both came home feeling refreshed, and vowed to take time for ourselves more often. Six months ago, this seemed impossible.
What are some of your struggles, for achieving work-life balance?
Some days, it feels like everything is a struggle! And other days, everything is a breeze. Probably all mums and women can relate to that, but I am in this period of really high highs and low lows. On the hard days, I can tend to forget the big picture, which is why it has been so helpful to have focused goals. My marriage takes a backseat far too often, which is something we are really working on - especially now that we are past that critical one year mark with our daughter. We have recently found great babysitters, which is a game changer.
What traditional advice doesn’t work for you?
My job affords me some serious flexibility, which is both great and challenging. I work from a home office, and I work several evenings a week, after my kids go to bed. I absolutely love it! It took me a while to accept that, because people usually tell me that I should find a work space outside the home, or schedule things so that I have evenings off. But this set up works really well for me, my work, and my family.
What is one thing that you keep coming back to, in thinking about work-life balance?
This stuff is really freaking hard! For a long time, I felt like the right answer was out there, if I could just be or do more of…whatever it was that I wasn’t doing enough of. It felt like something must be wrong with me, having all these privileges and yet still not living this breezy, easy life that society somehow depicts. We need to allow ourselves to speak much more honestly and openly about the challenges we are all facing.
The WHM Club is an all-in-one solution to transform your working mum life. Together with other amazing women on the same journey as you, you will find new ways of thinking and turning the very real constraints of motherhood into specific strategies to lead a more balanced, fulfilling and happier life.
Want to unleash your working mum superpowers?
You can find out more details about The WHM Club including how it works, what you’ll get each month and what other mums have to say about The Club, here.. The closing date for new enrolments is 19 November 2018.
Here on the blog we offer insights and tips that will empower you to create a career and life that works for you wherever you are in your parenting journey.