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Balancing career and family

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Life in the fast lane

Moms really are super, aren't we? But how do seemingly do-it-all working moms give it all while both working and raising kids? We asked real moms (including author Allison Winn Scotch) for their tips on furthering a career while raising a family.

Working mom with daughter

Ever wonder how other moms do it? The activities, responsibilities and needs associated with raising great kids, along with the pressures of having a job, can make you feel stretched ultra-thin. But some moms seem to just breeze through it all. They seem to have found the delicate balance -- the one that relies on a few basics: planning, scheduling and discipline.

Bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch, whose latest book, The One That I Want, hit stands earlier this month, says that, even though she works at home as a writer, she has a die-hard work schedule. "I make no bones about it. I have a babysitter, and my oldest is in school from 9 to 3. With the help of my babysitter, I really treat my job as a job," says Scotch.

Her typical day involves dropping her son off at school, running errands, writing fiction in the morning, breaking for lunch and playtime with her daughter, then back to work for the afternoon. When the evening rolls around, she stops working, makes dinner and spends time with her kids.

As for her husband, Scotch says that she and he have a standing nightly date for dinner together. "We almost always have dinner together at 8 o'clock, and we catch up on each other's day. Sometimes that may be it. It sort of keeps us involved in each other's lives," says Scotch. The couple also tries to get out a few times a month.

So, how else can you find your balance? Here are a few tips.

Balance tip: Focus with a routine

For the work-at-home set, distractions (everything from the phone to the newspaper to the nightly news) can wreak havoc on productivity. The antidote for this problem is a solid routine. "I think this is very important when working from home: I have a very established routine. Because of that, I am not easily distracted. My TV is not on," says Scotch.

Moms who work outside the home can harness this for all the kid-related responsibilities they have, as well.

Balance tip: Cook ahead

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You have to feed your family every night, but that doesn't mean that you need to cook every night.

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Whether you work at home or outside of it, this tip will help you streamline your day. "I cook at least four to six meals [on Sundays] [and] make enough for leftovers and bag lunches so I can have my evenings free to spend time with my 9-year-old daughter and husband. I usually make a stew in the crock pot, make some pasta, turkey, sauce, steak, rice, two roast chickens, baby potatoes and mixed vegetables. It saves time and money. After a long work day, it is great to come home and just heat up something, make a salad and sit down in just minutes," says Eula M. Young, mom of one.

Balance tip: Schedule together time

Young also is a proponent of scheduling time with her loved ones. "I balance motherhood with making time for my daughter. We have a mother-daughter day each month: We go to the movies, go out to lunch in the summer, or I take a vacation day and we go to the park, zoo or some place fun. My husband and I have a monthly date night when we get a sitter, go to the theatre, a movie, out to dinner etc. It is very important to make time with the people who are most important to you," she says.

That also works for Amy Metherell, aka The Original Coupon Coach, who works outside the home while her husband is a stay-at-home dad. "Just like I have a schedule for work, I schedule time for those other important aspects of my life. For example, once per week, I schedule some time after work to spend time with each of my two kids by themselves. Then I carve out some time to spend as a whole family (usually on the weekends). After the kids are in bed, my husband and I spend some quiet time watching movies and talking a few nights a week. The remaining nights, I take some 'me' time," says Metherell.

Balance tip: Stay in the moment

How many times have you checked your BlackBerry while the kids play at the park, or phoned daycare to check on the kids midday? Sure, these seem like OK ways to balance, but a lot of moms find greater satisfaction by being single-focused. "My life balancing act is summed up like this: Be where you are. So Zen, I know, but it took a while to really live it. At home, I am supermom, and at work I am super PR lady. I don't fret about my kids at work, and I don't fret about my clients at home. I give 100 percent to what I am doing so I know that, when I leave to the next activity, I gave it my all, and I can completely focus on the next thing," says Julia Zunich, president of Z Group PR and mother of four.

Balance tip: Get some downtime

No one can keep going, going, going without some time to unwind and recharge. So, remember to take that time for yourself. For Scotch's part, she turns to exercise and TV. "I am pretty diligent about exercising. It really helps my stress level. I try to get out and go for a run," says Scotch. As for TV, she says that she likes good-quality television. "I give so much of myself during the day, so for an hour a night, I don't want to be challenged by anything."

more tips for career moms

How to save on child careQuick dinners for working moms12 Quick hair tips for working momsWork-from-home ideas for stay-at-home moms

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