I wanted to write a little about the experiences I had observing Italian family life during the time I spent as an English teacher to the children of two different families. I talked to the mothers about some of the stereotypes surrounding the Italian family life so let’s establish whether or not any of them are actually true.
The old movies present Italian families as huge, often with more than six children but in more recent times Italian families have become much smaller, often with two to three children. The structure of the Italian family has changed a lot since the traditional model depicted in films. In the past Italian families, especially those of the South, were made up of a lot of children and often the women did not work. The two mums that I worked with assured me that this was no longer true! They had taken some time off work to be at home during the early years of their children’s lives but said they couldn’t wait to get back to work after their children were old enough. The social revolution has also changed the concept of the family unit itself resulting in new types of families made up of single parents, unmarried couples, divorced parents, couples without children and same-sex couples. All these models are very far away from the stereotypes we see in films and read about in books!
One thing however that I think is quite true and will not change any time soon, is the close-knit ethos of the Italian family. They still spend a lot of time together and typically try to gather to eat in the evening and share the days events (without the television on!). Not only this but there are still strong family ties between members even when they create new family units. For example, the children’s grandparents would visit often, especially in the evenings and would stay for dinner, would help to look after the children whilst the parents cooked. I really liked this element of family life, the families were so close and it was nice to see such a huge influence from an older generation on the lives of the younger ones. Heirlooms of the traditional family can still be found in the modern day model but all in all I think the image below of 20 dark-haired, olive-skinned members of the same family sat around the table eating pasta on an evening is long gone!