It was one of the frequently asked questions during my conversations at the IACCM-IESEG conference in Paris in October this year.
My respond was: “Well, it’s quite a complex issue that goes far beyond cultural aspects. To give a comprehensive answer, you need to take into consideration diverse elements like the access to child-care facilities or whole-day schools offering meals, official tax state policy, attitude of the society, family structure, and, of course, the individual mindset…”
However, the major factor this case is the attitude still largely shared by the Swiss society that raising up children is the responsibility of the family and not of the state.
Having arrived in Switzerland in 2012 and becoming there parents, my husband and I had to deal with challenges we had not known before. I consciously focus here on being « parents » and not on « motherhood », because we both had to face the new reality. Despite the fact, we moved to Switzerland due to his excellent job opportunity.
Subsequently, we had to redefine our roles that ever since have been in a continuous process of adjusting to the professional life of both of us.
Nevertheless, there are some positive sides of being an expatriate woman in Switzerland, especially when you come from a more progressive country in the terms of maternity leave and professional careers.
The first point is that if you have different mindset and understanding about gender roles, it makes you less exposed to the local society pressure.
The second and even more encouraging point is that there is a positive, though slow, evolution in the Swiss society towards gender equality and the re-entering the professional life after maternity break. I can see it watching my Swiss neighbours, especially those from the younger generation. Moreover, it finds its official confirmation in the rising number of schools and municipalities offering out-of-school child-care.
To conclude, as an Intercultural Communications Trainer I often use examples of country sayings. They reveal a lot about our cultural identity and our cultural configuration.
My favourite one is “Każdy jest kowalem swojego losu” that can be translated: “Man is the master of his own destiny.” (Of course, we should go here beyond the literal meaning.) Although it is hard to say to what extent it depicts my personality versus the way I was brought up, I’m strongly supporting this folk wisdom because I believe it is true if we are courageous enough to leave every day our comfort zone.
For further reading I kindly refer to the following article that appears just in time to support my explanations.