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A Balancing Act: Working and Caring for a Child with Cancer

Background: Parenting a child with cancer creates numerous additional care demands that may lead to increased difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities. Still, there is limited knowledge of how parents cope with both parenthood and paid work after a child's cancer diagnosis. The aim of the study was to explore mothers' and fathers' experiences of balancing the dual roles of work and parenthood following a child's cancer diagnosis. Method: Nine focus groups with in total 32 parents of children with cancer in Sweden were conducted. The data was analysed using qualitative content analysis. Results: Three categories were identified: Shifts in the importance of the parent role and the work role, Influence of context and conditions on the balance of roles, and Long-term unbalance of roles. Parents expressed an increased appreciation of time spent with family, but also emphasized the importance of work to counterbalance the sometimes overwhelming parenting demands. The pre-existing financial situation, work situation, and employer behaviour were important factors influencing the parents' ability to balance work and family. Traditional gender roles influenced how couples divided responsibilities and reflected on their experiences. Mothers and fathers were also met with different expectations, which highlights the need for the healthcare to consider their communication with caregivers. Importantly, the parents expressed how the child's illness affected their ability to balance work and family for a long time, while the understanding and support from others had steadily declined. Conclusions: Enabling parents to care for their ill child without sacrificing their own career is of utmost importance, and future research should focus on identifying which factors facilitate for parents to achieve a sustainable work-life balance. 

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Journal of Child & Family Studies
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