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By Michelle Welch

Balancing work and family life

I used to think I was the only parent who struggled with the battle of finding enough time to work and enough time to spend with my kids. After all, an absent parent is a bad parent no matter the reason, or so all of the "Perfect Moms" have told me. I would find myself in tears at the end of the day, depression slowly taking control of my life because I just could not achieve a good balance. In our world, it takes both parents working in order to financially care for your family, so staying at home has never been an option for me.

It seemed hopeless! It was absolutely impossible to wake up and get the kids ready for school, eat a healthy breakfast, pack them in the car and tote them to school, rush to work for 8-10 hours, rush to the day care to pick up the kiddos, drive home and get homework completed, prepare and serve dinner, give baths, dole out three kisses per kid, tuck them into bed, spend time with my husband and get a healthy seven hours worth of sleep each night. Even with my husband's help, I was never able to fully get a grip on it all. In my mind, I was the worst mother in the world.

About two years ago, I decided I had to come up with a plan. I could not let this be my life – our life. I wanted better for my children and my marriage. I found a few tricks that worked wonders in my life.

Trick 1: Meal prepping

Saturday and Sundays where my days off. So I would wake up early on Saturdays and prepare a week's worth of dinners for the entire family. I even started making menus, printing them off and putting them on the fridge for the family to review; if they wanted something extra or different, it was their job to prepare it. The younger kiddos usually had no interest in doing so. This gave me a tremendous amount of time in the afternoons during the after-school rush hour to get homework and studies done before bedtime. We found we usually had enough time to play a family game, or go outside and play tag as a family.

To prepare, I would usually find meals that could be frozen and easily placed in the oven or Crockpot to cook as we spent our family time together. They would be placed in an airtight bag with the day of the week we planned on eating it written on the front in sharpie, then placed in the freezer until we where ready to consume it. There are so many recipes online that we never get bored from the same meal.

Trick 2: Utilizing friends and/or family

I cannot believe I did not think of this next tip sooner. It suddenly occurred to me that friends and family with kids of the same age going to the same school were likely struggling the same way my husband and I were. We created a ride-sharing system; we developed schedules of who would would take the kids to school and when and who would pick them up and when. It has worked like a charm and has helped alleviate a lot of stress and provide more time for all of us.

Trick 3: Work from home

My husband found a job in his field making the same amount of money working from home. Though most online jobs still require a set schedule, this has saved us tons of money in gas and other expenses. Also, we have not needed day care as much simply because our kids are old enough to be self-sufficient and care for their basic needs for the hour they are home after school before I get home.

If you are stressed and cannot see any way out, please try these few easy methods. I can assure you that there is hope. And most importantly, you are not alone.

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