Combining work and family life is central to women‘s participation in the labour market. Work-life balance has been a key objective of UK and Dutch policy since the 1990s but policies created at the national level do not always connect with the day to day experiences of women juggling caring and domestic responsibilities with paid work. Using qualitative data from a European Social Fund Objective 3 project the paper explores women‘s lived realities of combining work and family life in the UK in comparison to the Netherlands as a possible ‗best practices‘ model. We argue that women in both countries experience work-life balance as an ongoing process, continually negotiating the boundaries of work and family, and that there needs to be a more sophisticated appreciation of the differing needs of working parents. Whilst policy initiatives can be effective in helping women to reconcile dual roles, many women in both the UK and the Netherlands still resolve these issues at the individual or personal level and feel that policy has not impacted on their lives in any tangible way.