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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.

    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.

    I let Grammy lend a hand.

    When we first had kids, we hired a nanny, but she wasn't the ideal solution: It became a struggle to get her to the house early enough — and when she ran late, Kevin and I would have to make the tough decision of whose schedule was more important on that day so one of us could go to work on time while the other waited at home with the kids. And when the nanny called in sick, we were at a loss.

    So, four years ago, when my then recently widowed mother began talking about how she was having trouble filling her days, I had an "a ha" moment and suggested she move closer to us. That way, we could all spend more time together and she could be another person here to help out.

    My mother agreed, we snatched up a house for sale on our block, and she's been an invaluable help to our family ever since. The only way Kevin and I are able to leave the house so early — before the kids are even awake — is because Grammy comes over, helps them through their morning routines, and takes them to school. Then in the evenings, around 5:30, we all head over to her place for dinner. The kids set the table and I help with cleanup, but we leave the cooking to Grammy! She likes to make traditional dishes like potato pancakes and corned beef and cabbage. She's a lifesaver.

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