The Mother of All Balancing Acts

You don't have to choose between a briefcase and a diaper bag. Here are proven strategies toward a more rewarding work and family life.

to herself. Still, she manages to make time regularly to unwind. “I used to get my hair done every other weekend with my daughters and get my nails done (which she has since given up),” she recalls. “Now, I frequently go to the local park and take walks while my kids ride their bicycles.” Once in a while, she and her husband, Frank, also make time to do things by themselves, whether it’s dinner and a movie or a weekend away.

Nature walks and beauty treatments are great ways to replenish your inner and outer resources at home. But self-care should also extend to the office. Most times, it’s as easy as uttering a single word. “When we’re overburdened, it’s often because we neglect to say no,” says Dominguez. Setting boundaries teaches people how to treat you and prevents you from taking on more than you can actually handle.

Planning out your day is another way to alleviate workplace stress. “Taking work home unnecessarily or staying very late at the office takes away from your personal and family time,” says Iris Randall, president of New Beginnings Training Resources, a management consulting and training firm in Danbury, Connecticut. “Learn how to manage your time to accomplish what you need to by the end of the day.”

When it’s possible and feasible to do so, isolate yourself so you can really concentrate on what you’re doing. This may mean not taking any phone calls for a couple of hours, closing your office door or telling your co-workers that you’re busy. Cutting down on interruptions will help you meet deadlines. When you leave the office on time, you’ll not only have a sense of accomplishment, but you will be able to enjoy your time at home. “Ease the burden at work, and you’ll have
more time and energy to devote to your family,” Randall says. In other words, when at work, focus on work; when at home, focus on home.

Tip #2: Build a village to help withthe kids
Another big challenge in the work/family equation is finding dependable childcare. “Most parents’ arrangements self-destruct because they don’t prepare for worst-case scenarios, such as the baby-sitter getting sick,” says Douglas, who also penned The Unofficial Guide to Childcare (Macmillan General Reference, $15.95). “It’s absolutely necessary to have a bulletproof back-up plan to which you can turn.”

Traditional childcare services, such as that provided by live-in nannies, baby-sitters and day-care services, are effective, “but they can also be expensive,” Douglas reminds us. Thus, they may not be the best options for those on tight budgets. Luckily, they aren’t the only ways to make sure your children are taken care of when you or your spouse aren’t home.

If the “village” theory is valid, why not create your own? See if friends who are at-home moms would agree to take care of your children while you’re at work in exchange for nonmonetary compensation. For example, you could watch a friend’s children so she and her spouse can spend an evening alone together. Seek

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