So many things keep us occupied these days. Work. Family. Friends. Your own goals and projects, and let’s not forget the ever elusive finding time to just relax and recharge. How does one strike a balance?

I RECENTLY WROTE AN article for my blog asking why it’s so difficult to find balance and happiness in life. That post was born out of my own frustrations trying to juggle all the disparate elements of my own existence. Too often, I feel like I’m running to catch up, and too rarely am I able to relax and reflect.

“How do others manage?” I wondered, and thus, the inspiration for this photo essay was born. I immediately began contacting other families and parents I know through Twitter. Some are traveling full time. Others are well respected writers. Others are business entrepreneurs, chefs and teachers.

I’ll admit, I half expected to hear pithy, cliche aphorisms about how you too can manage your life if only you follow these clear simple instructions. What I found instead was true, solid insight and advice that brings perspective and perhaps the acceptance we need to find order in our chaotic schedules. Not just for parents, but for anyone seeking harmony between the many parts of our lives.

1

The Vogels in southern Colombia

The Vogels -- @familyonbikes -- can be seen stopping on the Panamerican Highway in southern Colombia. Nancy and John gave up their jobs teaching to travel the length of the Americas by bike while homeschooling their two boys. You can read more about their travels at their website Family On Bikes.THEIR TIP FOR BALANCE: When you live a simplified life on the road, balance comes naturally. We wake up. We pack the bikes. We ride. We eat. We sleep.

2

Christopher Elliot at Disney

Christopher Elliott -- @elliottdotorg -- is National Geographic Traveler magazine’s reader advocate and writes the syndicated column The Travel Troubleshooter.HIS THOUGHTS ON BALANCE: Balance? What's that? In an always-on world with its 24/7 news cycle, I'll settle for staying afloat. But if you want to try to find balance -- not saying you will, but you can try -- you have to block off the time and announce your plans to the entire family: "We're going to SeaWorld on Saturday! We'll ride one of those pink Flamingo boats out on the lake!" Then, if something comes up and you try to back out, they'll put you on a guilt trip that makes the terrifying Kraken rollercoaster on the far side of the park seem like Disneyworld's It's A Small World. Word to the wise: Don't disappoint a two-year-old. Or her brothers. Ah, balance.

3

Paul and his son camping

Paul Sullivan -- @paulosullivano -- is a writer, author and photographer specializing in music, culture and travel. He lives in Berlin with his girlfriend and 20-month-old son. You can read more about Paul on his website. He is also a contributing editor and Matador Network's editor-at-large.PAUL'S TIP FOR BALANCE: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

4

Mom, kid and dog all ready to go

Julie Schwietert -- @collazoprojects -- blogs about parenthood at www.9mos.wordpress.com and about the writing life at www.cuadernoinedito.wordpress.com. She's a new mom and the managing editor of Matador. Here she is at the airport. Mom, kid, dog and luggage. What more do you need?JULIE'S THOUGHTS ON BALANCE: Balance? Muah huah huah! No, seriously. I'm pretty sure I'm never going to feel like I've achieved balance (there's too much I want to do to fit into one life), so I try hard not to pursue balance as a goal. I do that by not setting rigid rules for myself or my family. For example, I just read about someone who has a rule about turning off the computer at 8 PM. That's nice, and I'm glad it works for them, but that doesn't necessarily mean it works for me (especially because I work with people in different time zones) or that I have to adopt that as a rule in my own life. I also quit trying to impose impossible expectations upon myself. I just do the best I can. Oh, and one more thing: I have an extraordinary husband who handles all the dirty details of life: eating, cleaning, laundry, and the like. That's the real secret!

5

Jenna with her kids

Jenna Park -- @whimsyandspice -- has been working as an art director and designer for over 13 years. She and her husband Mark run a Brooklyn confectionary called Whimsy & Spice that was founded in 2008. You can catch them daily on their blog, sweet fine day, which chronicles culinary, family and New York City life. Read on to the next photo for Jenna and Mark's ideas on how to maintain balance in family life.

6

Mark taking a walk with his kids

Mark Sopchak -- the other half of Whimsy & Spice --has been working as a pastry chef in the NYC restaurant industry for over 12 years. HOW JENNA AND MARK KEEP THEIR BALANCE: How do we find balance between our working life and family life? After nearly 6 years as working parents, first with a freelance business and jobs, and now with our own confectionary business added to the mix, we are still trying to figure it out. 1 kid became 2, and with each age comes its own challenges and needs. You feel like you figured out how to handle the 2s, but then they turn 3 and turn your world upside down, and so on. I think the key for us has always been to just go with the flow and take each day's challenges one by one. As business owners, there are no boundaries between home and work life - one often flows into the other at all hours of the day, so we've stopped fighting it and let our lives become what it is. Some days have better balance than others, but we always make time to drop and pick up the kids from school, eat dinner together as a family and spend some quality time with the kids a good few hours each day.

7

Lea on her balcony in Dubai

Lea Woodward -- @leawoodward -- lives a location independent life and founded the Location Independent Network to help others manage successful careers while traveling. This photo shows her working hard on her balcony in Dubai. She just left Dubai to spend a few months in Thailand. All the while, Lea continues running her online businesses with her husband Jonathan. She has just launched a new site with parents specifically in mind, www.LocationIndependentParents.com.

8

Playtime with Mali

Even with her busy travel and work schedule, Lea makes time to play with her daughter.LEA'S TIP FOR FINDING BALANCE: Finding balance is an interesting one.I've found recently that it just requires making the decision to balance whatever is out of balance and then doing it...and then seeing what the consequences are and living with them. Not always easy but sometimes necessary.

9

Debbie with her children at a Seattle Storm game

Debbie Dubrow -- @deliciousbaby -- created and runs Delicious Baby, a website dedicated to making travel with kids fun. If that wasn't enough, Debbie is also one of those responsible for Passports With Purpose, a raffle fund-raiser currently working toward building a school in Cambodia, complete with clean water, vegetable garden and a school nurse.In this photo, she enjoys family time with her kids at a Seattle Storm game..DEBBIE'S ADVICE FOR CREATING BALANCE: I don't know any parent who has an easy time balancing the different areas of their life. Instead I try to focus on making sure that I spend the bulk of my time doing things that I either truly enjoy or that contribute to my goals. When one area starts to take over too much, I sit down with my schedule and figure out how to rearrange things and where to cut back.

10

Jamie and the family in San Francisco

Jamie Pearson -- @travelsavvymom -- was in Belgium in a hotel dining room when her then 3-year-old daughter threw up. In the mortifying moments that followed, she caught the vomit in her cupped hand, called to the waiter for help, and was (eventually) handed a single paper napkin. Most parents can relate to such a situation, and if they can't, they will eventually. Thus the idea for her website Travel Savvy Mom hatched, and she went about creating a website where parents can find kid-and-family friendly hotels worldwide.JAMIE'S WORDS OF ADVICE: When I was growing up my mother often told me that I could be anything and everything I wanted, just not all at the same time. This is the best advice I ever got.In addition, she has three points for all traveling parents: 1) Never leave home without peanut butter, 2) No child is too big for a stroller, and 3) Bring plenty of new toys—$50 for three pounds of plastic crap will seem like the deal of the century at 3am in a London hotel.

11

Allison with her daughter

Allison Nazarian -- @AllisonNazarian -- is a well-known writer, author (OneMinuteCopywriter.com) and consultant who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, with her son, daughter and Black Lab. Read Allison’s truth at www.AllisonNazarian.com. WHAT ALLISON SAYS ABOUT FINDING BALANCE: I first became a Mom 12 years ago this month. I was and still am what you might call a Control-Freak-Type-A-OverAchiever (I’m in Recovery). I thrive on order and organization and things that are smooth and predictable and controllable. So when my first child was born, you can only imagine my utter inability to make heads or tails of my life. I was overwhelmed and definitely not in control. I was a mess!I went on to spend years judging myself and my mothering abilities. I was never good enough. Or I worked too much. Or I was not involved in school enough. Or I should have made more nutritious dinners and snacks. Or I should have spent more/less time helping with homework. Or I made a mistake in “forcing” one or the other to do a project themselves instead of taking the easier route and doing it for them (happens all the time ... Parents, you know who you are!).Until, finally, somehow, I realized I was already good enough. I just stopped the constant attack. I was already everything they needed. Even though I make mistakes or curse in front of them or get fast food more than I should or tell them they are on their own with the math homework, I am a great Mom. Just this year, I became a single Mom. My kids’ Dad and I are great friends and great parents together. Being married does not a great parent make, and I resisted my natural urge all year long to feel any guilt or beat myself up over the divorce. We are still a family and always will be. And in the end, the constant quest for balance is more the same than different.So I am human and messy and imperfect. And I bet you are, too. Yet I am an awesome Mom. And I bet you are, too.

12

Horsebackriding with Lila

Leigh Shulman (that's me!) -- @thefutureisred -- spent the last three years traveling with my husband and daughter. In this photo, we went horseback riding in Cafayate, Argentina. It was a five hour ride, and Lila chatted happily away the entire time. You can read more about our travels on my blog The Future Is Red.MY TIP FOR ACHIEVING BALANCE: I've come to the realization that no matter what, there will always be something more, something else, something different. Worry doesn't help. It only makes you less likely to enjoy the moment.Aside from that, the best advice I ever got about parenting also relates well to finding balance and in many ways ties in many of the ideas and thoughts of these other parents. Try something. If it doesn't work, try something else.