Meeting the demands of career and family is a challenge for working moms and dads. Get ideas to create the right work-life balance.

Less than 60 years ago, 56 percent of U.S. households had only one parent working outside the home, leaving the other parent to manage the home and family. Today, with only 33 percent of households in that situation, achieving a work-life balance is a challenge for many. And not only are there more working moms and dads now, they are also working longer hours than in previous decades. That adds up to less time for the kids and family life.

With busy careers and seemingly endless family responsibilities, from cleaning the house to preparing healthy meals and carting the kids around to their activities, it's easy for working parents to become overwhelmed, stressed out, and wondering if striking the right work-life balance is even possible.

Work-Life Balance: You Can Have Both!Samuel Gultom and his lovely mom's
Rest assured, working moms and dads, a happy family life and a successful career can be yours simultaneously. Here are some simple guidelines for working parents who want to reduce stress and maximize their time and energy.
  • Be realistic about what you can accomplish. You can't get everything done in a day. Prioritize what's most important and schedule everything out over the coming weeks. Your daily routine needn't be back-to-back tasks; instead, make sure it allows for at least a small dose of downtime.

    "Having a schedule is crucial. Routines help children transition and with behavior problems. They also help parents with time management," says Arlene Kaufman, director of Temple Trager Preschool in Louisville, Ky., and a mom who has found ways to balance a hectic life and career. Her advice: "Take time for yourself — whether it's a bath, reading a book, or working out."

  • Learn how to say no, even at work. To achieve a healthy work-life balance, working moms and dads often have to make difficult choices as to the responsibilities they can't take on. "The most practical preventive approach is to know your limits. That means saying no to things that you might want to do or that are otherwise important, like chairing a fund-raiser. Too many parents get involved in too many things. You need to set limits at work, even if it means slow (or no) advancement. Decide how much you can travel or work late, and stick to it," says Scott Ries, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.
  • Evaluate how you spend your time. Once you have a good schedule in place, you can sit back and "relax" by focusing on whatever you are involved in at the present moment. "For instance, when at work, work; when at home, pay attention to family members. It may be difficult to pay attention to the 50th consecutive game of Candyland, but children know when you are 'present' and when you are distracted," says Ries, who recommends reading Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, a book that outlines some ideas for maintaining a work-life balance.
  • Ask for help. What's a family for, after all? Working moms in particular shouldn't stress themselves out over cooking dinner or cleaning the house all by themselves. To help find that essential work-life balance, delegate some work to your spouse and kids. Household chores can take less time and be less stressful when the whole family contributes. Also, consider hiring someone to help you with cleaning or babysitting a few hours a week. If finances permit, treat yourself and your family to dinner out or takeout occasionally.
By acknowledging that you're human — not an automaton — you can set som
e healthy limits on your schedule that will keep you from spiraling out of control, something both your family members and your co-workers will appreciate. Achieving that work-life balance is within reach.

STORY : Parents' Poverty, Not Deaths, Lead To Flooded Orphanages

Indonesian Parents Forced To Give Up Kids

Yulianto's parents are still alive, but the 13-year-old has spent half his life in an orphanage. Looking down at the ground, he quietly explains why: His mom and dad are too poor to feed him and put him through school.

Yulianto is far from alone. A major survey of Indonesia's child care institutions released this month found orphanages flooded with children separated from their parents not by death, but because of poverty.

"I just want to be with my parents, even if it means I cannot get an education," said Yulianto, who like many Indonesians uses a single name.

The study by the U.S.-based charity Save the Children and the Indonesian government was the first detailed look at children's homes in the country. It surveyed six provinces and analyzed the legal and political issues facing the institutions.

According to the report, up to 500,000 of Indonesia's 85 million children live in institutions, one of the highest rates in the world. Of those, 90 percent still have one or more parent alive.

In the 36 homes surveyed, the children spent much of the time when they were not at school cooking, cleaning and looking after younger children because the institutions were under staffed.

Staff quoted in the report were not worried about this, saying the children were receiving free food and education and would almost certainly be working in the fields or helping their parents if they had remained at home.

"The staff are about managing children, not providing care," said Florence Martin, a child protection adviser with Save the Children in Jakarta. "Institutions think their purpose is providing education, so children's needs at the psychological level are not on the agenda."

The survey found government policy was in part fueling the surge in parents giving up their kids.

As part of efforts to combat poverty, the government has for five years funded orphanages based on the number of children they register. The aid has led religious and social organizations to establish new institutions and existing homes to actively "recruit" children, the survey found.

As evidence, the survey pointed to a dramatic rise in the number of orphanages in Indonesia - as many as 8,000, up from 1,600 in 1998.

"If you wanted to be mean, you could say running an institution is a pretty good business," said Martin. "When you've got 10 children coming out, you need to find 10 children to come in."

The report says most children have little contact with their families - perhaps a brief visit home once a year - because they are too poor to travel. Some institutions discourage relationships between children and their families because "it is believed the moral guidance children get in institutions would be weakened by contact with parents," Martin said.

Yulianto lives in the Parapattan Orphanage in central Jakarta with 65 other kids. The home encourages families to visit, but many parents say they cannot often do so because they lack money and work long hours.

The buildings are clean, but signs of wear and tear are everywhere. Paint peels from the walls and grass grows up between cracked concrete flooring. In the yard, boys use sandals to bat plastic balls over a shredded net.

The report makes it clear that the parents give up their children because of poverty.

World Bank figures show about half of Indonesia's 235 million people live on less than US$2 a day. Martin said the soaring prices of staple foods and a recent 30 percent increase in fuel costs would surely lead to more parents giving up their kids.

"I know my children are angry with me, but I try to convince them that is the best choice for us," said Tinor Niang, a 38-year-old noodle vendor who brought her two sons to Parapattan nine years ago.

"As a mother I want to take care of my children but I cannot be selfish. I want the best future for them, so I have no choice but to leave them."

Almost all of Indonesia's children's homes are privately run, many by Islamic organizations in this majority Muslim country. Nearly half operate on less than US$10,000 a year, the report found.

Makmur Sunusi, director general for social services and rehabilitation at the Welfare Ministry, said the government was aware of the problem and was looking at ways to help poor families without breaking them up.

Farm laborer Noldi Jacob held back tears explaining why he left his children at Parapattan.

"The economic situation is getting more difficult and I cannot depend on my brothers and sisters to pay for my children," he said. "As a father it pains me to admit that I cannot finance my children, but I believe this orphanage can guide, love and teach them."