Simple Ways to Stay BalancedFour Real

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"How do I balance my work, my family, and still have any time for myself?" It's the age-old mother question, but it can be done! The trick is to find your passion—the one thing that you know you need in order to stay a little saner so you can be the best mom you can be. Whether you work outside your home or are a stay-at-home mom, here are a few ways these moms stay more balanced and in control of their lives:

■ Five-minute family pickup brigade. Susie Morrison, a mom of two from Rancho Mirage, California, uses a simple tip once a week that gets all family members involved and instantly cleans the house. Each family member (Dad included) is assigned a room or area and given a broom, vacuum, or dust rag. Mom sets a buzzer for five minutes, and everyone runs off to clean things "spick and span" before the timer goes off. Susie swears it's the perfect way to quickly put the house back in order before going to bed or if a guest is to arrive.

■ Lock the door. Shellie Spradlin, a mom of three girls from Kentucky, offers simple advice that works wonders for her: "Every once in a while I go into my bedroom and lock the door." The mom simply switches off the lights, turns on a CD of sounds to drown out the stress (her favorite is "Spring Rain" because it's so calming), and lies on her bed for five minutes. "It's just heaven," she says, "and just those few minutes is enough to get me energized to go back and face whatever awaits me."

■ Exercise with toddlers. Heather Poropat, mom of a seventeen-month-old, Madeline, from Chesterfield, Missouri, knows that working out keeps her more balanced, but she still felt guilty taking time away from her child. Her solution: she found a few other moms to exercise together with, along with their toddlers. "This way there is no guilt in working out" and being away from your kids. Heather explains, "This is also a great way to meet other moms and get parenting advice." The ladies plop their kids into their strollers, head to the park each morning, and hang on to their strollers to help them keep their balance as they do their daily lunge stretches. Each also carries a CD player with speakers to play as they exercise. And the music selections couldn't be more fitting: nursery rhymes their toddlers love. "Five Little Monkeys" is perfect for doing jumping jacks; "Hickory Dickory Dock" has just the right tempo to accompany their high steps. A great side benefit is that their kids seem to love the daily outings, too. The toddlers smile and sing the songs in their strollers as their moms get in shape.

■ Have a date night. Elizabeth Wright, mom of three-year-old, Trinity, from Indiana, found herself frazzled trying to juggle home and career. She also knew that what really keeps her balanced is being with her husband, but she just couldn't seem to find truly uninterrupted time for the two of them to be together. So they made a pact that every Saturday night would be "date night." They hire a baby-sitter and go out to dinner or a movie-alone. Elizabeth's husband, Kevin, explains, "When I was growing up, we all sat at the table and ate as a family. That's not always how it is now, so we decided it was important to make that time for us."

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