I am usually the last person to categorize heaps of people into nice neat little boxes. I am not the stereotypical, woman, American, mother, or wife- and my guess is that you don’t exactly match any stereotype either. Most Italian mothers are not the stereotypical “Italian mom”. We all have special and intricate life stories that have brought us to where we are today. We are unique individuals first.
I have lived in northern Italy, not too far from France, for about ten years now. I became a mother here and sometimes I confuse the newness of motherhood with the newness of this culture. It’s not easy for me to figure out exactly where I fit, especially because Italy is as diverse as people on this planet. Each region has its own traditions, food, dialect, and not surprisingly, way of parenting.
Traditions in Greece, France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and North Africa (to name a few) make up people’s stories.
Still, as I sit on the rocky beach with my two young children, walk the aisles of the supermarket, and listen to other mothers at the park, I can’t help but think, “That is so Italian!” when I hear certain phrases or see certain behaviors.
Do you feel like taking on the persona of an Italian super mom? Here’s how real life Italian moms do it..
- Call your child by saying, “amore mio” (my love), “tesoro” (treasure) and “gioia” (joy) and mean it.
- Monitor what and how much your child eats with great care. If your child enjoys what you cooked that day, you can sleep at night. If your children say that they are not hungry, you wonder what horrible illness they must have or if something is bothering them emotionally.
3. Let your 5 year old have a sip of wine mixed with water.
4. Accept and embrace the fact that your children will live with you until they get married and start a family. Who is rushing things anyway? Besides, you need people to help you take out the trash and make sure there is enough wine in the house.
5. Make your own delicious tomato sauce for your pasta. It is tastier and way better for you than the store-bought kind. Cut up your own garlic and onion, toss it in the saucepan in a little olive oil, then add either canned or fresh tomato paste or pieces, a dash of salt, simmer and you are done.
6. Keep your children’s necks nice and warm when outside. Dress all of them with coats, hats, blankets- and don’t forget scarves. Even if the sun is shining and it’s not that cold, there could be a draft or sudden burst of cold air while rounding a corner. Cold air is very dangerous in Italy. It can cause a wide range of childhood and adult ailments. Read BBC’s article How to Avoid getting ‘Hit by air’ in Italy to learn more.
7. Keep your house spotless. Making your bed is just as important as brushing your teeth. Iron everything. If you have really little kids who make cleaning impossible, turn the T.V. on, tell them to leave you alone, or call your parents or in-laws (who live down the street and can easily walk to your place) to come over and entertain the kids.
8. Stop working two months before your due date and don’t go back until three months after you give birth.
Even if you have a different plan, Italian law mandates this obligatory maternity leave. Or extend your maternity leave for 6 more months and still get paid 30%. Enjoy your baby and get breastfeeding started. If you do decide to go back to work during your baby’s first year, take advantage of the two hours a day that you are allotted for breastfeeding.
9. Nurse without a cover (you don’t even know that nursing covers exist) and enjoy the encouraging smiles and people who say, “I remember those days. Time passes so quickly.”
10. You love your children with all of your heart, mind, and soul, and you cannot imagine life without these little beings poking their noses into your face, under your skirt, and over your phone.
Wait, that last one was every mother, everywhere.
We all love our children in primal, special, and sometimes unfathomable ways.
We just have different ways of showing this love. The mother-child bond goes beyond culture, beyond language, beyond pasta or wine-at-what-age. It’s what we all have in common and it’s what makes this world continue to go round. Italian or not, we are all human, and we all have our own stories.
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