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"All Things Considered" is one of National Public Radio's best-known programs and airs on more than five hundred radio stations nationwide. As executive producer, Ellen Weiss, 41, must make constant decisions about which stories to cover and how to beat a 4 p.m. deadline. If the program ever makes an error, Weiss takes the blame. "Even if it wasn't my mistake, if it got on the air, I'm responsible," she says. Weiss always has a back-up plan so that if one story doesn't pan out, she's still prepared. But when several events happen at once, or if a story is as unpredictable as the presidential election, Weiss uses one strategy to cut through the chaos: "You have to have the confidence to make a decision and stand by it," she says.
Outside of work, Weiss, a mother of two, relaxes by focusing on her family. "Playing and hanging out with my sons is a great destressor," she says. "You can't obsess about work when you're with your kids. It doesn't matter if you're an executive or a brain surgeon. They make you focus on the moment, so you forget what happened that day." That's why she has strict rules about her time off. "I don't work weekends -- those days belong to my kids," she says. "And vacations are sacred."Ask for help.
With five teenagers in the house -- quintuplets Ben, Samantha, Meredith, Shannon and Bevin -- Roz Helms knows the next several years will be challenging. Even so, Helms, 41, an elementary- and a Sunday-school teacher, ran for a local public office last spring, and the family has hosted foreign exchange students for the last eight years.
How does Helms stay sane? She relies on two essentials: organization and support. A huge wall calendar tracks all the children's activities -- which, during the school year, include basketball, choir, Girl Scouts, soccer and youth group -- and keeps her mentally prepared and helps her prioritize. In the summer, Helms keeps the list to a minimum by signing the kids up on the same swim team. "Summers are my downtime, too," she says. "I can spend time with them and watch practice, and not have to drive to dozens of activities."
Friends and family also help. Her husband, Ron, a restaurant manager, tackles the morning routine so that she can start the day without rushing. Her parents and neighbors help carpool and root for the kids when sports events conflict. The extra support gives Helms an emotional boost. "There's nothing wrong with asking for help," she says. "It's like recruiting your own cheering section."
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