“Hey, Mom” Talk with Alexandra Hochuli

May we introduce?

Alexandra Hochuli is co-CEO of KIMI Krippen AG, one of Switzerland’s largest crèche networks. Together with her colleague, she manages over 400 employees. Previously, Alexandra held various leading marketing positions at international corporations. She is also the mother to a son. 

How do you organise yourself to juggle your two roles?

My son goes to daycare for three days and to the grandparents for one day. I work 80 percent and my husband 100 percent. We both take care of our son. So far, it has always worked out that one of us can make arrangements if the other is running late or has special events coming up. We use the time with our son very well and try to be present. To be honest, we also work a lot in the evenings and at night. That suits us as “nightowls” and if no one can disturb us, we are much more efficient. Of course, the time for ourselves suffers as a result.

How come that you’ve decided to have children and a career?

I always wanted to have a family. Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed until quite late. But it’s also important to me that I can continue to use my knowledge and experience and not be a stay-at-home mum. That’s not a job for me. I appreciate working with fantastic people, advancing projects and creating new things. That’s what drives me and gives me energy for everyday family life. I’m also good at organising time off when only the family matters.

What are the biggest challenges for you as a “working mom” in everyday life?

The biggest challenge is the daily schedule. Everything has to be organised, but there still needs to be enough room for flexibility. And in an emergency you have to know who can support you. A network of family and friends helps here.

To what extent is compatibility an issue in your role as co-manager?

Actually, mainly professionally. We are very committed to the compatibility of family and work. Whether at KiMi or in our association KiQ.
I appreciate it very much that I am able to work in such a job in this season of life. But that’s mainly due to the good organization with my husband and the people in my professional environment who put the confidence in me to handle this. For me, however, compatibility is not a constant issue; it simply works.

How do you handle it when being a boss and being a mum get in the way of each other? How do you decide which has priority?

There are clear times for and with my son, as well as for my work. But my son and my family always come first. That was also the case before I was a mum. I am lucky that my work is not time-dependent and that I can also plan to work in the evening.

What is your ideal workload and why?

For me, 80 percent is ideal at the moment. In a few years, I can well imagine working 100 percent again. But everyone has to know that for themselves. Financial independence is important to me, and I’m also a very active person who needs the exchange and cooperation with other people to recharge my batteries.

As Co-CEO of KIMI Krippen AG, you know your way around the childcare industry. What are the biggest challenges for parents and daycare centres? Where are the gaps in compatibility noticeable?

The biggest challenge is above all financial viability. Daycare centres need to make a profit to absorb fluctuations and make investments. Unfortunately, these are very low in our sector. This is where good management is needed. It is the same with parents. Extra-familial childcare still costs a lot of money today. The costs are mainly borne by the parents – even in the case of associations or foundations. Parents are faced with the decision of whether they can afford that both partners continue to work. Subsidies are granted depending on the municipality and income. However, the income limits are usually quite low. We also observe a change in flexibility. Especially due to the new working models, parents need more time flexibility in childcare. Unfortunately, this contradicts many pedagogical concepts. The children should be looked after regularly, actually at least two days per week (but this depends on the child). There are core times so that pedagogical work can be done with the children. This in turn is important for the child’s development and the necessary early childhood education.

What can companies do to effectively support working parents?

As long as there is no other solution, it is most effective to support parents financially. The financial burden is unfortunately very high and is an important criterion for the decision for or against supplementary childcare as well as the amount a parent can work. Flexible working hours are also important, so families can organise themselves well and are less burdened with time stress. This promotes motivation and increases efficiency.

How do you live compatibility?

For me, it’s part of life to be there for the family, to be involved and participate thoroughly with work, and to allow yourself some time for yourself every now and then. The balance is not easy to find, but it is important. The compatibility of family and work is particularly close to my heart. Women and men should still be able to pursue their careers despite having a family, if they want to. This requires money and flexibility. A lot still needs to be done here in Switzerland. With the current developments, political initiatives and discussions in various committees, I have high hopes that there will be positive developments in the near future and that important workers will continue to be available to the national economy.

In the series “Hey, Mom”, “Hey, Dad”, working parents speak openly about their experiences and challenges as working parents and give insight into how they personally reconcile child and career.