Many working parents live in a world of shifting schedules, constantly changing demands on their time and a routine of running around. It's made all the more difficult when our children return to school and extra-curricular activities ramp up.

What can we do? Short of throwing our hands up in the air, it takes the flexibility of a contortionist to keep up with the never-ending demands of our children's lives. But achieving work/life balance once the school year begins is not impossible; rather, it takes planning, creativity and the courage to ask your boss to give you some latitude.

Here are some ideas:

Tweak Your Hours

Take a good, hard look at your schedule. Look again. Think about the amount of work that you do and when you are most productive. Is there any room for flexibility on the hours you work? Would it be beneficial for you to be at the office an hour earlier, giving you an opportunity to leave work earlier, avoid rush-hour traffic and pick your kids up at school or attend their sporting events? Is the opposite true? Would beginning work an hour later give you more flexibility to get your kids where they need to go in the morning?

Make Your Case

Once you've determined if your home life could benefit from a schedule alteration, develop your pitch and take your argument to your boss. This is just like pitching a client, albeit one that you deal with on a day-to-day basis. Explain to her how you would continue to be productive by shifting your hours. Also explain to her how important your home life is to you and that a happy employee is a more successful employee.

Schedule Your Time Wisely

If you only get two weeks of vacation time a year, schedule it wisely. Study your children's schedule and see if there are peak periods of activity where a day or two off from work would eliminate the need for after care or would free you up to be at an important event.

Work at Home

Would your employer allow you to work from home? Do you have work that could be done remotely? Even a single day working from home would create more flexibility in your schedule.

Lean on Me

Have you explored carpool options for school? How about asking a family member or trusted friend to help you get your kids to after-school activities? There is help out there, especially when many parents face similar challenges and might also be looking for help. If you can create a routine with multiple parents pitching in, it might truly ease your burden.

Cut Back

Is there an area of your life where you can cut back to free up more time for family activities? Can you get by without that part-time job? Could you eliminate one night at the gym to spend time with the kids? How about giving up poker night with the guys? You must weigh your priorities.

Get Creative on Schedules

Finding and maintaining a routine is the most important element of a successful schedule. Is it best to work on your child's homework assignments as soon as they get home from school rather than waiting until after dinner? Is everyone in your family an early riser so there's 30 minutes in the morning to tweak their work? Maybe you need to create a larger window of time on the weekends to explore their homework and discuss what projects are due in the week ahead. The best thing to do is establish a schedule and stick to it.

Staying in Touch

Working parents might have challenges maintaining a relationship with their child's teacher. It can be downright impossible to attend parent-teacher meetings or to pop in to school for an update on your child's progress. If you are serious about keeping in touch with the teacher, see if he's comfortable with you emailing him questions every week or two. Also, consider asking if a morning chat at school when you drop off your child is acceptable or work to discover another time that is best for both of you.

Be Honest

If you fear that your work schedule will intrude on your ability to attend important school or extra-curricular activities, start talking to your child about it now. Explain to them — in terms they will understand — about the demands placed on your time and why your work is necessary for the family. You can reiterate your concerns throughout the school year when these issues arise. You can also work harder to keep in contact throughout the day to let your child know you're thinking of them, even though you cannot be at the event in person.