Sofia Hjelmstedt - A Balancing Act: Work Life and Childcare Among Parents of Children with Cancer

Hello and congratulations to your PhD,
People at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health and others are interested to know a little more about your work.

Sofia Hjelstedt
Sofia Hjelmstedt

What is your thesis about?

My thesis is about the socioeconomic consequences affecting parents after a child is diagnosed with cancer, with particular focus on the impact on the parents’ ability to balance their work life with the increased childcare demands. In the first two studies, we used national registry data to analyze how a child’s cancer diagnosis impacts parents’ sick leave and division of childcare leave, compared to a group of reference parents. In the final two studies, focus group interview data were used to analyze how parents balance work and family when caring for a child with cancer, and what facilitators and barriers they identify for the ability to meet financial needs and return to work.

Which is the most important key result? 

A child’s cancer diagnosis has a large impact on the parents’ ability to balance work and family responsibilities, way beyond end of active treatment. Despite continuing extensive childcare demands and impaired health among parents, the understanding from others decrease with time. In order for parents of children with cancer to achieve a sustainable work-life balance, there is a need for an improved and coordinated support that involves all major stakeholders, including the primary healthcare, the social insurance agency, employers and occupational health services.

Is there something else you would like to add? Maybe something that surprised you during your PhD student journey?

Being a PhD student may have been challenging at times, but it has also been very rewarding. The parents I met were very eager to share their experiences and contribute to the research on this topic, and I felt a great responsibility to do them justice.

How can this new knowledge contribute to improve women’s and children’s health?

Parents should not have to choose between work and family, and it is of great importance that they can care for their ill child without having to sacrifice their own health, economy or career. This thesis have identified where there is room for improvement in the support for childhood cancer families regarding socioeconomic matters, which could improve the life situation of both parents and their children.

Thank you very much Sofia and good luck in the future. 

A Balancing Act: Work Life and Childcare Among Parents of Children with Cancer