The Meeting Place – A Lesson in Socialization from Italian Moms

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I have always admired the way Italian families socialize and live. When I was working in Toronto, as a childless, working class manager, I often noticed the “Starbucks Mommies”, as I called them. Almost all were fairly young (under 45 is young for me!), first time moms who would come either alone or in pairs to have a coffee in the Starbucks. I remember once getting into a conversation with one of them about why she came to Starbucks, she said  it was a way for her to stay social while on mat leave, get out of the house daily and grab a coffee in a nice environment with couches and enough room for a stroller. Even though she would arrange to meet another mom for coffee, if her “date” bailed at least she could still grab a cup, use the wifi and hang out.

 

I know there are more opportunities for stay at home moms, or moms on mat leave to socialize in North America, however, I think what is missing is a relaxed social meeting point without a “mommy and me” class tied to it.  It’s great to go to a mom and me yoga class, painting class, museum date etc., but sometimes you just want to head out of the house, go somewhere and just meet by chance.

For a country with such a low birthrate, Italian kids are literally everywhere. Go to a restaurant any day of the week and there will be kids! Grab an aperitivo and there will be kids! Go for a post-dinner cocktail and there will be kids!

 

Italian parents don’t create socialization problems for themselves, they see their kids as an extension of themselves and so they accompany them everywhere.

 

New Mom Aperitivo Style in Cesenatico

While in Cesenatico, a small historical port town on the Adriatic Coast in Emilia Romagna, I passed a “bar” and noticed this new mom.

 

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She was sitting there alone, having her cocktail and looking absolutely fabulous.  It was aperitivo time in Italy, between the hours of 6 and 8 pm, when people usually go for a drink and snack before they head out for dinner.  She is from Cesenatico and didn’t have any plans to meet anyone that evening, but she knew there would be a good chance of running into someone since this was where they often go.

This was her hangout before she had a baby, and now at 4 months postpartum this is still her hangout.  What changed?  Nothing.  Instead of changing her social habits she kept them, so instead of removing herself from her group of friends she is still a part of them.

Does this mean she can do everything she used to do before having a baby?  No.  It just means that if she wants to dress-up and go for a drink she can, without feeling inappropriate and unwelcome.

 

What She Wore

This new mom was looking so incredible!! This is what I ‘m talking about when I say that Italians never seem to buy into excuses that they can’t find time to dress up and look nice even as new moms.  They just do!

 

Makeup, painted nails, already back in shape with perfect hair….in Italy at 5 months postpartum most women look as though they never even had a baby! They keep the bar raised and make parenthood that much more difficult for we North American folk who find ourselves here and hoping to stay in yoga pants for two years !

 

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She wore a leather jacket, leopard printed dress and those big chunky black sandal shoes that are so incredibly popular everywhere.

 

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The North American Social Dilemma

This TED TALK by James Howard Kunstler, really had me thinking about why I was unhappy in North America.  In Canada there is such a negative connotation attached to “socialization”.

Teenagers “party”, university and college students “party”, singles “party” … and married couples?  Couples with kids?  What are they supposed to do? BBQ?

It’s as though as soon as you hit a certain age or stage in your life, you social experiences become restricted to things you do at home and not in a public space. In Italy this doesn’t happen.  Sure you are welcome to have a BBQ, however, you are also welcome to go for a walk at 9 pm and meet in the Piazza for a beer while your kids run around together.

 

I’ve often heard Canadian ask “what’s with Italians letting their kids go crazy?” !! That must be exactly what people think!  But it’s not about letting their kids go crazy, it’s about not socially punishing the parents.  These kids grow up in all kinds of social situations and learn right from the get go, how to hangout, how to enjoy company and not be “bored” and that “date night” can happen, even with the kids around!

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and….

 

            Now onto YOUR style…

 

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  • Porcelina

    That’s one stylish new mom! She looks so happy too. I’d hate to suddenly find myself house-bound and cut off from my social circle if I had kids, I think it’s really important to continue a social life. And it’s one thing that I love about Europe – the kids go everywhere with the adults, they learn how to behave in restaurants etc. Everyone’s welcome to socialise however they want, whenever they want. We can be a bit insular in the UK, mind you, I don’t think the weather helps!! Thanks for hosting again, hope you’re having a fab week x

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    • I’ve always thought that WEATHER is key! It is one of the main reasons why in Canada you don’t take kids out too late, because it is just too cold (and dark), and at the same time the reason kids are out late in Italy, because it is so hot till the late evening. Weather has such a huge impact on social habits, good observation.

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  • ADA

    What a fun, sassy rocker mamma. I love her mini skirt and those open booties. =)

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  • Thanks so much for the feature! 😀

    I think it’s nice to still do the same things you did pre-baby, but there’s definitely no pressure! Some days with a baby it’s a challenge just to get dressed never mind get dressed up and go somewhere, haha! I liked putting in a bit of effort getting dressed pre-baby, so I like doing that post-baby too, but for other mums they find doing something else more important 🙂 And with a baby you prioritise to find time for what works for you 🙂

    Thank you for the link up!

    Away From The Blue

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    • EXACTLY, this is the mind set I had at the beginning, but there’s no cultural space for that here. It is as though getting ready should be a given!! The poor gas man that comes knocking on my door at 10 am on a Wednesday when I have no intention on leaving the house….. only HE knows how I really dress!

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      • haha I’m glad I live in Australia then! There have been days I’ve been so unwell yet needed to go to the doctors – I can rock up in my trackie daks and not get judged! 🙂 Got spit up on by baby at a mother’s group meeting one day – the other ladies told me I didn’t have to rush home as they had also been covered in something that morning, so we were able to stay a little longer. It’s nice to know looks aren’t everything, i can imagine it’s a lot of effort to look perfect all the time!

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  • Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom

    Another great post, I love these where you feature people on the streets! So fun and you are braver than me! 🙂 This new mom is very stylish and such a cutie! I LOVE her boots! Do you send them the link on your blog after you’ve published? Just wondering if they ever ask for it? I remember being on maternity leave and I took a lot of walks with the baby in the stroller. I walked and walked all over! It was a nice break for me and my baby (at the time) would take a nice long nap!

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

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    • I never guarantee that their picture will be on the blog (I have at least 20 moms I haven’t posted yet because of time constraints), but I do mention that it will usually be in a few weeks and on a Tuesday. I have cards I give them will all my info if they ask, but surprisingly many don’t !!

      Street style blogging in this way is still pretty new here, and most are happy with the compliment of having their pictures taken.

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  • That is one stylish mama! I love her boots! I think it’s great that the adults bring their kids with them to socialize. There’s no need to stay home where there are so many kid friendly places around.

    Jill
    Doused In Pink

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    • I wouldn’t exactly call them kid friendly! There are hardly any change rooms in Italy, spaces are small, load, smoky etc. It’s just that parents refuse to only bring there kids to IKEA (pretty much the only place with a changing space!), so they just live life normally and deal!

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  • Similarly, Lithuanian moms continue to socialize and kids accompany families everywhere. I’m so happy about this! Also, that new mom looks gorgeous! I hope that I can bounce back that fast!

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  • She looks simply gorgeous and I love her style! Such an inspiration. I love how you approach strangers with amazing style – brave girl! Thank you for the feature, Angie!

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  • That 4 month postpartum mamma looks better than me on my best day. She’s so stylish. One thing that I really liked about Malaysia was people’s willingness to just hang out and talk at a restaurant for hours on end. That doesn’t seem to happen in America. The restaurant wants to turnover the table as many times as possible, so there’s no concept of having the table for the night. I’ve heard it referred to as the 3rd space (1st is home, 2nd is office, 3rd is the public hangout place).

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    • VERY good point. “turn over” doesn’t exist really in Italy. The table is yours for the night, and screw anyone who is giving you the evil eye for it!

      Very interesting about the “3rd space” and so true, that is exactly how things are perceived here as well, whereas in North America we seem to stop at two spaces. Or perhaps the gym/grocery store / church is the 3rd for many people.

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