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Childcare for working parents

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 18 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:170
  1. Rhona MacDonald (rmacdonald{at}
  1. BMJ

    In this week's BMJ soap opera (see career focus p s23), Penelope Millstone, the pregnant, workaholic medical senior house officer, is arguing with her general practitioner husband, Giles Millstone, over whether she should work full or part time after their baby is born. Giles wants her to “concentrate on motherhood” but consents that she can work part time “once the baby is old enough.” Penelope is adamant that she wants to work full time as she plans to have an academic career. Sound familiar?

    So what resources can help families in this situation? The Daycare Trust ( for one. This charity states that it promotes “high quality affordable child care for all.” It provides detailed information, facts, and figures. For example, in its publication Childwise (which you can download) it states that 40% of big employers say that childcare problems prevent female staff from returning to work after maternity leave.

    How different from the Swedish situation where life is made so much easier for parents. For example, after the birth of a child, parents can draw parental benefit for 450 days to stay away from work and look after their child. The English version of all the benefits Swedes are entitled to can be downloaded ( It is a real eye opener.

    To be fair, the British government is trying to bring about some changes for doctors through the improving working lives campaign, (, which includes childcare provision. Seemingly, “by April 2003, all NHS staff should have access to a childcare co-ordinator who will be able to provide them with childcare advice and options,” says the Improving Working Lives for Doctors policy lead (

    Of course, there are many private companies in cyberspace touting for business, such as the American where members (you can join free online) have access to a mine of information and a chance to ask crucial questions such as: “Do you give your childcare provider a gift for the holidays? And if so, what do you give her and how much do you generally spend?” Not being a member, I couldn't access the answer. Sadly.

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