May 30, 2023 | Rome, Italy


By |2018-03-21T18:32:46+01:00June 1st, 2008|Lifestyle Archive|
Then there was the question — somewhat more crucial — of the language I'd use with my kids.

ecently, the topic of childbearing and rearing has bombarded us in a big way. Seems like ever since Fabio and I announced our engagement everyone wants to step into our future. When will we have children? How will we raise them? Parents, cousins, friends (even people we’ve just met) insist on the same questions: “Will you be a stay-at-home mom? Will you work part-time? What language will you speak to them in? Will you get a babysitter?”

To be honest, Fabio and I hadn’t really considered any of these things, at least not aloud until the matter came up in marriage preparation classes some months ago.

Surprisingly, our answers were pretty much on the same page.

I didn’t see myself being a “stay-at-home” mom and neither did Fabio. Not full-time at least.

Don’t get me wrong, I know and admire stay-at-home mothers for their hard work and dedication. After all, it’s a full-time job.

But Fabio and I agreed based on our personalities that it would definitely be better for me to get out of the house to avoid me driving him crazy and to hold onto my “identity” and “independence,” as he likes to put it. Plus, living in a city as expensive as Rome almost every family these days needs two paychecks each month.

Italian friends and family members have admittedly tried persuading me to stay at home.

Fabio’s cousins began by reciting Italian laws that protect the “working mother.” They felt it was their duty to give me hints on how I could beat the system by cashing in on “sick days” that entitle both mother and child. Then of course there’s the “family doctor” (medico di famiglia), the one you need close at hand to issue “fake doctor’s excuses” for paid work absences, another perk of motherhood.

Then there’s the issue of who will stay at home with our “future” baby (no, I’m not pregnant) when we can’t.

My parents are in Miami and future-in-laws conveniently a looong train ride away. So who’ll stay home when we’re not?

Italians pose the question in the tackiest of terms: “Will you hire a Filippina? An Italian? A Peruviana?”

Frankly, nationality hadn’t crossed my mind when I thought of a babysitter. Being qualified and trustworthy were the only credentials that seemed of primary value. It hadn’t occurred to me that there were layers of built-in nuance and cultural prejudices.

“Oooh but there is a difference,” one woman told me stridently. I do know several Italian mothers who insist on keeping their children under the supervision of Italian tatas to ensure their children speak Italian and “not some strange language.”

God forbid they turn out to be bilingual thanks to their tata!

Then there was the question — somewhat more crucial — of the language I’d use with my kids.

English for me, I said. I’d speak to them in English. I had no doubt. They’d have their father and his family for Italian. Fabio’s mother objected mildly. She said she’d heard of case studies in which children raised in bi- or multi-lingual households later suffered from learning disabilities because they weren’t sure of their primary language.

Right, I’d like to see those studies.

Thankfully, none of this is a problem just yet.

Oh yes, did I mention we’re not ready to have kids?

When my neighbor Biaggio (he lives directly in front of us) learned this awful truth the other day he nearly had a fit.

“What do you mean you’re not ready to have kids?” Biaggio howled.

Well, I replied, we’d like to get married first. Then, after a year or so, maybe we’d start thinking seriously about it.

“Who cares about marriage? You really think that matters?” he asked.

Um yeah.

But there was no stopping him, who had his own take on the situation:

“You know, you’re not getting any younger Nicole,” announced Biaggo. “Just look at my wife. She’s tired and looks it. We should have had our son sooner, that way she’d have more energy and be a young beautiful mom like you could be.”

Um, Ok buddy. Tone it down or she’s gonna hear you and open up a can of whoop ass on you. And I might join her.

About the Author:

Nicole Arriaga wrote features and a column ("Bella Figura") between 2004 and 2012.