A decline in the number of young people entering the UK labour force has led to growing interest in the recruitment and retention of women workers. As yet the child care needs of school age children have not been addressed. Using interview data the strategies mothers employ to meet their work commitments outside of school hours and during childhood illnesses are described. Although mothers remained the main carers of their children, they frequently depended on unpaid help from relatives. These informal arrangements were sometimes complicated and potentially vulnerable. This dependence on informal support networks has a range of policy implications.