Today I’m meeting Eleftheria Raisi , Elef, in the comfort of my own home, offering her a cup of tea while making sure my little one is busy with his father.
I don’t know Elef very well. We met during some PWG events and I always had a fascination for her. Sophisticated and elegant, she has this calm aura surrounding her which makes me feel comfortable. She has a very corporate profile, making a career in the cosmetic industry. In my quest of finding working mothers to interview, I saw some similarities with my own path. I start the interview by asking about her origin, and already from her first words, I see I have a very interesting lady in front of me.
She was born and raised in Greece, with some Lebanese roots, grown up in a mixed culture family in which when speaking they were using four languages in one sentence, whereas herself speaks 4 languages and understands 6.
Elef is born to be an open-minded soul. She tells me it was her childhood dream to come and live in Switzerland because her father used to make business trips to Geneva and when he was going back home he was always telling her about the mountains, the lakes and the valleys of this country. She grew up with the image of a beautiful place in her head and as soon as she had the opportunity, she knew she would like to move here.
Elef: “ Moving to Switzerland was a common goal for us. We were fascinated by the nature, the safety, the structure and the financial stability this country offers. But due to our careers in Greece, it took us a while to move here. When the economic crisis started hitting Greece, it was clear for us that we had to accelerate our plans. I found a job in Zurich and we moved shortly after our second daughter was born.”
The family organisation
I’m interested to know how her working style and family organization are different from Athens to Zurich.
“The first thing I had to adapt to was the lunch break. In Athens we work from 9:00 until 19:00 or very often even later without a lunch break. Here, the lunch hour is very important and everyone disappears from their offices somewhere between 12:00 and 13:30. It was only after I adopted it into my daily routine that I understood how healthy it is to have even a 30 min lunch break. Child care is also so different. In Greece, it’s easier to find solutions. Either a nanny at home or daily childcare, which lasts the whole day until 18:00. In many cases there is even a “school bus” bringing the child at your door. When it comes to elementary schools however, the children finish between 13:30 – 15:00 and no lunch is served at school. Which means that the family must either have a nanny at home or the grandparents are helping out. I was very surprised to find out that in Switzerland most moms work part time or stay at home. I was almost an exception in my office, being a mom and working 100% .”
Of course I am not surprised. There are not many countries where moms can choose and afford to stay at home or work part time, Greece is not one of them.
“I was surprised to figure out how family friendly country Switzerland is yet full-time working moms unfriendly. It took me some time to understand it. Such a contradiction: this country is so family oriented with parks at the lakes for kids, zoos, museums and playgrounds everywhere. But I feel like the system and the culture in Switzerland have remained a bit more traditional when it comes to working moms. There is definitely room of improvement.”
Elef decided to put her daughters in a private school primarily, because it was more flexible and could adapt better to her and her husband´s working hours. Even among the parents at school she is one of the rare moms working full time.
“The biggest challenge are some extracurricular activities. Even though most of the activities take place at the school, there are some that are taking place outside such as ice-skating or swimming classes. The school sometimes asks for parents’ participation for help. Most of the moms do help and I have to pick only 1 or 2 activities in the year and rearranging my working schedule accordingly. Sometimes my daughters ask why I cannot participate more often, but they know it is because I’m working, so they don’t push too much.”
My fist question here is: do the working fathers also rearrange their working schedule to join those activities? Elef, laughs.
“I don’t think so… very rarely if it happens. Mostly moms accompany the children…”
Ah! And here we go again. Why is that? Fathers are also able to join ice skating afternoons or walks in the forest with a group of children, no?
The role model
Interestingly enough, Elef´s husband works from home and he is more in charge of their girls than she is. Still, she is driving them to school every morning while commuting to her office.
“This is the girls’ time. I love it. The three of us chatting in the mornings in the car. And what I love the most is when I ask them what they want to do as grown ups and then they say “I want to become a mom like you!” which implies they want to have a husband, children and a work life like me. I’m the role model for my girls. This makes me feel proud andgives me the energy to continue my journey.”
And I smile. She looks so happy when she says it and I can only imagine how she feels when her little girls are saying it. Become the role model for your own children, is the best reward a mom can ask for.