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How to Cram a Life into Your Crazy Schedule

How do you give enough to your job and your kids (without cutting out important stuff like, say, sleep)? Steal some ideas from REDBOOK reader Debbie Mielewski.

I make the most of flex time.

I'm lucky that at Ford you can work anywhere from two days per week to full time, as long as you get your job done; some departments even allow you to have a job-share partner. Both times I came back to work after giving birth, I had a two-day schedule, which eventually bumped up to four days. When Tate was 7, I started up full time again.

Ford also has what they call core hours, which means that everyone must work 9 to 3; then each worker can "flex" the rest of her hours based on what's most convenient. Because I want to be able to spend part of the day with my kids, I wake up around 5:30 a.m. so that I'm on the job by 7. It's an early schedule, but it lets me leave work early so I can pick up my kids from school.

Then I get to savor the entire afternoon with Tate and Tara. Sometimes we head to the park, play on the swing set and climbers, and just enjoy the sunshine and air. Other times the kids have friends over. Both of our children are very social, and Kevin and I love having our house be the neighborhood hang-out spot, so we encourage it by always having snacks and juice boxes on hand. I feel, the more the merrier! I get a kick out of watching all the kids run around the house, playing tag or spy or hide-and-seek. I never dreamed it would be possible to work a full-time job and still have these experiences with my kids, but it's working out!

Kevin and I connect in the car on our commute.

My husband and I don't have much time for date nights. During the week, it's not uncommon for us to have to work late to meet a deadline, so we usually trade off — I'll stay at the office and he'll head home to be with the kids, or vice versa. And if we do get out on a Saturday night, it's to squeeze in a trip to Costco, which can be fun but isn't quite dinner and a movie. So we've found a different way to connect: On days we know we'll be working the same hours, we ride in one car. The commute is long — 40 minutes each way — so it's the perfect opportunity for us to hang out. We like to pick each other's brain about our work projects; he's a computer modeling guy, and I'm more of a hands-on experimentalist, so it's helpful to get each other's perspective. We also share a passion for mid-century furniture and collect lamps, so we talk about pieces we've spotted on Craigslist. Our commute is a solid chunk of time when no one else is talking to us or asking us for anything, and we really enjoy having that time to ourselves.

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