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.

out neighbors you trust whose schedules allow them to watch your children on a moment’s notice in case of emergency. And, of course, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from willing family members. “It’s also a good idea to hook up with co-workers who are working mothers. Maybe the methods they use will work for you, too,” suggests Douglas.

Though McFarlane’s marital situation didn’t have a happy ending, she was still smart to enlist the help of family members. It turns out that the Teaneck, New Jersey, resident has had to rely on them even more as a result of the divorce. “I have an hour-long commute each way to work,” she says. “Sometimes my father or other relatives will take my children to school and pick them up afterward. If they have afternoon activities that I can’t make it to, my brother or sister will take care of them and any transportation arrangements.”

Tip#3: Increase quality time by sharing the household load
Yvette Mouton has no problem doing the household chores in her San Antonio home. That’s probably because she doesn’t have to do them alone.

Mouton, a federal attorney, and her husband, Charles, a physician at the University of Texas Health Science Center, have designed a system that splits the chores 40-40 between them and leaves the remaining 20% to their two boys, ages nine and 10. For example, Charles, 39, has already taught their oldest how to mow the lawn. “Their helping out not only helps us greatly in keeping things organized around the house, but it will enable them to take care of themselves when they’re older,” says Yvette, 40.

Both are active in preparing their children for school and extracurricular activities. But Yvette particularly treasures the extra time the whole family spends together-even if it is during a cleanup session. “We turn on music and work to the beat,” she beams. “It’s really a bonding experience.” It also relieves the pressure on her to do the “woman’s work.” “Because everyone pitches in, I’m not resentful that I have to clean up behind everyone.”

In the case of family time, quality is absolutely as important as quantity, says Gerald LeVan, founder and managing director of the LeVan Co., a family business consulting firm. “Parents need to be tenacious about making the time to foster family relations,” he says. “But they must also decide that family time is an inviolate space that cannot be interrupted.”

This means turning off the television and letting voice mail pick up telephone calls during family activities. “I like the concept of daily family meals, even if it sometimes only includes the spouses,” says LeVan. He suggests that you can create this special time in more nontraditional venues as well. If you share your commute with your spouse or children, “turn off the radio and have a conversation.” Get everyone in the house together to sit down and design a budget and schedule specifically for your family-time activities.

Be aware, however, that this may require adjustments in your schedule.

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