Family.

29 Mar

When my girlfriends and I were sitting in the Barcelona airport for our seven-hour layover a few of the girls decided to write bucket lists.  Lists full of venturesome things that they want to do before they die. Each of the girls had long lists full of adventurous things that they wished to complete. One of them wanted to join the Peace Corps, one wanted to see the Eifel tower, and the first thing on another girl’s list was to save an endangered species. While they quickly ran off their lists of things that they were hoping to do I was silently sitting there trying to come up with things that I wanted to do. I always had thought of myself as someone who was always up for an adventure, and loved trying new things- but for some reason nothing action-packed or exciting was rushing into my mind. The more their lists ran on and on I listened and thought about how I had either already done what they were saying, or had no interest in ever doing it.

The more that I thought about my list I started to come up with things; though my things were nothing like jump out of a plane or live in a tent for a whole summer (yuck!). The things on my list are not spontaneous or wild; in fact they could almost be considered boring.

I want to get married, and have kids, and I want to send my kids to college so that they can graduate without loans, I want to have a good job, I want to have close relationships with my family, and of course I want to have a dog. I am too young for all of this right now- but just sometime in the future. Don’t get me wrong I would love to go see the Van Gogh Museum in Holland or go scuba diving in the Great Barrier reefs, but if these things don’t happen I will not feel like I failed in any way. The more and more I thought about the things that I pictured in order for me to consider my life to be a virtuous one; the more I realized that they all pertained to family.

The importance that Italians place on family is without question my favorite part of Italy. Though the present day dynamic of an Italian family has changed from what I have always pictured it to be, it still feels like tradition and family play much more of a role in peoples day to day lives here than they do in the United States.

The marriage rates in Italy are down, birth rates are down, and divorce rates are up. People are just not getting married as much anymore because of the idea that not only is divorce time consuming, but also emotionally detrimental. This as well as the fact that the Italians even do partake in divorce was a huge surprise to me. Also, as with Americans, traditional family roles are changing within Italy today.

When I used to picture an Italian family, I would picture the women in the kitchen cooking, children were running around playing, and the men sitting in the other room watching TV and relaxing. This is no longer the case in today’s Italian society. Families are becoming much smaller, and often times the women are at work while the men cook. I am not sure what about the first picture makes me so happy; maybe because when I was little I was one of the little kids running around playing while I watched my grandfather sit in his favorite chair with all of my uncles around him, as my grandmother and all of my aunts and mother sat in the kitchen cooking a large meal for everyone. I am not sure. But I do prefer to think of families like this. I know I might sound ignorant, and may be every feminist’s worst nightmare but I do prefer the traditional family roles to the newly evolved ones. I think that there is importance in tradition, a certain structure that comes with it, and an even bigger importance on making sure that family traditions are carried on throughout different generations.

Even though times are changing in Italy people still seem to hold on to the idea that family comes before anything more than the idea is held onto in the states. Families stay close together (in many cases live right down the block from each other), communicate often, work close to home, and never go more than a week without seeing each other. It is unheard of to leave Italy for a better job offer in Spain for example, because the increase in salary is not what would be taken into consideration. It would be the distance from your family.

While I do wish that the US were still more tradition based today, I do think that we have valid reasons for not being as traditional. People in the US are more career oriented; maybe even more ambitious if you will. Italians work to live, Americans live to work. While in my opinion we simply do not make enough time for family, it could also be argued that we work harder to provide a better more comfortable life for our families. I am not saying which is better because in my ideal world we could have both. But I don’t think it is possible. Also, one of the main things that I love about the US is the diversity within it. In fact, it is one of the things that I miss the most here. However, I do think with diversity comes lose of tradition. It is impossible to have both. Because with diversity comes compromise. I am not sure which is more important, I guess you just have to do your best to find balance.

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One Response to “Family.”

  1. Remy in Argentina March 31, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Hi Amy, I wanted to commend you on your profound insight of Italian family life- super interesting! Additionally, I see a lot of what you’re saying here in Buenos Aires, where almost half have Italian heritage; NOTHING comes before family! And yes, I agree with what you said about how we’re more “career-oriented” in the States. That’s a direct consequence of being the strong capitalistic country we are; however, alos like you said, it’s neither good nor bad, just different. Kudos do your “boring” bucket list as well. Do whatever makes you happy. However, I’d recommend that you do sky dive once- I promise you won’t be disappointed! 😉

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