Home expat life Raising Multicultural Children: The USA Versus Italy

Raising Multicultural Children: The USA Versus Italy

written by M.E. Evans March 12, 2015

If you follow this blog you already know that my husband, Francesco, and I are talking about having children. For those of you that don’t come here often, you should know that it scares the holy shit out of me. Like every couple thinking about having children, we have a lot to think about. And since we’re multicultural we have some additional things to consider. Here’s my list of things that I’ve been considering/worrying about. Not in the order of importance. Actually the opposite of that. I really just like to delay the things that are less amusing because I avoid my problems.

*Talking about raising kids in Italy really makes some expats crazy pissed because they think that Italy is flawless and maybe it is perfect for them. I get it, people want to defend their decision to raise their kids in the US.  But just a warning, if anyone is a dick I’ll change their comments to say something about how they can’t stop eating cat turds or something equally as hilarious to me.

  1. My vagina. Goddamnit, I like her. But, I did call around to all of my married male friends with children to ask about their wives vaginas and they all said, “Dude, it’s totally the same.” And I was like, “Okay but define the same.” And one friend screamed, “You are fucking crazy! The same means the same! As in it’s the same size and looks the same as before. You need therapy. Er, more therapy. Stop worrying about your vagina!” So that’s the blessing and the curse of having mostly male friends. They can fill you in about their wives vaginas but then they get an attitude when you ask them if they took measurements. This is the problem with testosterone. They hate measuring things.

  1. My ass. I’m basically built like a Baboon. Any weight gain goes directly to my ass and saddlebags. My boobs never grow. I don’t gain weight all over like those lucky women who are like, “Oh, I gained 20 pounds,” and you can’t even tell because of the fat kind of goes everywhere, even to their earlobes and elbows. If I gain 1 pound my ass becomes dangerous when I make sharp turns. Size isn’t important but the thought of having to buy all knew pants sounds really hard. Trying on pants is actually work and it makes people sleepy. At least it makes me sleepy. And dressing rooms have terrible lighting. What’s up with that?

3

. Wine. Don’t get all judgy, if you’re one of those “normal” people who aren’t a borderline alcoholic. How am I going to go an entire year (or more) without drinking wine!? How do women do this? Please, I need to know.

  1. Where will we raise our kids? Italy or the US? It might sound like an easy decision, I know a lot of people who are screaming, “Italy! The culture! So relaxing! Oh my God you idiot, there is no question!” Italy is lovely, there’s no denying that but she has her flaws just like the US has flaws. Every place is flawed. So which place is less flawed in the areas that matter to me. A pros and cons list? Shall we?

PROS ITALY

  • Italy is pretty. I’m a visual person and I prefer the way that cities like Florence look. It’s just visually inspiring. What a pretty place to grow up!
  • Children study a lot of things in the free education system that is comparable to private schools in the US like Latin but it’s free. Free is nice. Although it’s excessive in theory and can lack applicable real-life education.
  • Our kids would be really good at soccer.
  • The crime rate isn’t outrageous. Probably no school shootings. Although it’s becoming more common for young boys to murder their young girlfriends in fits of jealousy in Italy so…hmmm. No, I still think Italy is safer. As long as our daughter doesn’t date a psycho.
  • People love kids in Italy. It’s easy to do adult things with the kids around because people aren’t insane about overly protecting kids from people smoking and drinking and adult conversation.
  • Kids can go into bars. This is both a pro and a con maybe.
  • The lifestyle can be more relaxed but this isn’t necessarily true. Many factors influence stress levels (money, etc).
  • Way more vacation time.
  • Really tight friendships and a close family unit. Not as great for me since my in-laws and I aren’t buddy-buddy.
  • Great food and quality food culture (although the mafia is destroying the environment and produce is becoming increasingly toxic).

CONS ITALY

  • Sexism. While misogyny is rampant in the US, in my opinion, it’s a lot worse in Italy. The sexism in Italy is very much like 1950’s sexism and I can’t even tell you how many times people have said, “you can’t because you’re a woman,” to me. Until moving to Italy, I only heard that line on the playground between 5-10 years old. As a grown ass woman, apparently, there’s a lot I “can’t,” do. The severity increases depending on the region and it’s less so in like Milan and the worst in the south where my kids would spend a lot of their time. How bad? I’ve had people say, “if my girlfriend did what you did, I’d smack her in the face.” I’ve also been told, “if you want to be a good mother you need to learn how to cook and look pretty.” And “learn to be okay with your husband flirting with women, it’s good for his pride.” The media in Italy doesn’t help either and more or less depicts women in only two archetypes: The whore or the saint. I’ve had friends with daughters leave to avoid it. This is a big deal to me.
  • Religion. My in-laws are extremely religious, so our kids will be exposed to a lot of ideas that I don’t agree with like that God pushes down little girls who lie. Yeah, that’s a thing in our family. Also, I’m worried that because we won’t raise our children religious that they’ll be outcasted. Francesco thinks that our kids will feel left out. That makes me sad because I grew up as an outcast in Utah because my family wasn’t Mormon and didn’t go to church and people were really mean to me. That’s the last thing I’d want for our kids because it was pretty sad and terrible.
  • I don’t have any kind of baby support network in Italy. Most of my friends have left the country for economic reasons. I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving my children with my in-laws because of the “Jesus will punch you,” thing, but also because we disagree on parenting styles. They’re all for beating the shit out of kids and I’m less into punching babies.
  • Economy. The economy in Italy doesn’t seem like it will have pulled together anytime soon. Even when it’s at its peak there aren’t many job opportunities and companies severely underpay their employees. An engineer with a Ph.D. basically makes the same as a McDonald’s employee. Yeah, true story.
  • I would be a terrible mom according to Italian standards. I wouldn’t be rising at 5 a.m. to make pasta and I’d let my toddlers roll around in the mud.

PROS USA

  • You can make what you’re actually worth which is nice. Then you can save money, take vacations, and live without being on a constant budget.
  • I have a strong support network of pretty amazing friends.
  • The hospitals are slightly less scary. I’ve been to a gyno in Florence and that was fucking terrifying. Although, statistically, way fewer women die in childbirth in Europe than in the US. So…
  • Everyone we know is fairly progressive so our kids would have a great network of other progressive friends to play with. We wouldn’t have to worry too much about exposure to beliefs or ideas that make us uncomfortable.
  • Mexican food. Well, diversity in general. I like the idea of our kids growing up in a diverse place where everyone is different.
  • This could also be listed as a negative but the US really pushes ambition and there really is a “can-do,” attitude that I love. It’s hard to be optimistic in Italy because the people’s hopes are trampled by the corrupt government and limited job opportunities.  I’ve talked with some pretty damn cynical twelve-year-olds in Italy.

 

CONS USA 

  • You’ve got the money but no vacation time to enjoy it.
  • Crime. A lot of places in the US are extremely violent. It has a high rate of violent crimes. So, so many psychos in the US.
  • Protestant work ethic. I love the ambition but don’t like the constant pressure to perform. It’s so stressful.
  • Frat kid culture. It’s a small number of kids but still, ew.
  • Food quality is so low and there is sugar in absolutely everything.
  • Education is expensive. Although, in the US they focus a lot on applicable skills which is nice. Italy is a lot of theory and all of my Italian friends complain that when they started working they didn’t have any of the necessary skills to thrive for a few years.
  • The selfish, individualistic mentality is just depressing. There’s a lot of loneliness and I really think that the lack of importance of friends and family can cause depression and anxiety.

So that’s my pros and cons list at this moment. I’m sure that list will change, grow, or shrink as the weeks go on. If you want to weigh in on this I’d love to hear it.

  1. The last thing I’m worried about is actually the most important. Will I be a good mom? Will I be selfish? Will I have the energy to keep up with them? Will I be able to care enough but not too much in all the right areas? Will I still love them if they grow up to be a libertarian? (Just kidding, my sister is a libertarian and I still love her).

I’m close to my parents but for the most part I kind of raised myself in a lot of ways (which is probably explaining a lot right now…right?). My parents were young and made typical mistakes that teenagers make but those “typical,” mistakes heavily impacted me in both good ways and bad. It’s always been important to me, if I ever were going to have kids, to be ready.  But I’m aware that there is never a right time and nobody ever feels totally ready. And who would be? I mean, it’s kind of a big deal and totally weird (have you ever seen a zygote? Evil seamonkey!).

In the meantime, I’m watching everyone around me trying to learn from their mistakes, or from the things they’re doing right. I’m analyzing, googling, and terrifying my husband with statistics and videos of childbirth. Naturally. The whole thing is scary and I can’t believe that people just have kids. HOW DO YOU DO IT!? I need your secret.

I’m trying not to sound too crazy. I’m just trying to be logical. Weighing pros and cons and trying to write it out instead of being anxious while Francesco and I try to make some decisions. Lists are always helpful. Who doesn’t love a good list?

Go ahead and put your thoughts in the comments below.

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