Of myths and Italian families

Of myths and Italian families

Thirty-eight minutes a day, and not a minute more, is the time Italian fathers spend with their children and look after the home, earning them the rank as the worst dads in Europe, according to a recent study conducted by P&G and Social Issues Research Centre. The

Thu 29 Mar 2012 12:00 AM

Thirty-eight minutes a day, and not a minute more, is the time Italian
fathers spend with their children and look after the home, earning them the
rank as the worst dads in Europe, according to a recent study conducted by
P&G and Social Issues Research Centre. The good news is that today’s
Italian men are more present on the domestic scene than the previous
generation. However it is still the women of the family who manage the
household and juggle the needs of children, work and elderly parents. Indeed,
the average Italian mother has only 41 minutes of free time each day.



Joining the Italian men at the bottom of the class for
Europe are the French fathers, who also manage just over half an hour of family
time per day. The study reveals the model male partners ready to do the
washing, help with the kids’ homework and read bedtime stories are northern
European men. The Danes clock in at 64 minutes of family time per day.
Surprisingly, Greek men also spend just over an hour each day with their little
ones, compared to the five hours a week that Spanish and German fathers
dedicate to children and chores.


The free
time mothers might have for themselves each day varies. Women from European
countries with the most serious economic problems have the least time to
themselves: only 29 minutes of free time in Portugal for example, compared to
69 minutes per day in Finland. Just behind the Italian mothers with their
average of 41 minutes per day, are Spain and Greece with 39 minutes. However,
41 percent of the women surveyed claim to have more free time than their own
mothers. But two percent say they have the same amount of free time their
mothers did and 36 percent feel they have even less time than did the previous


previous generation still plays an important role in today’s family life.
Eighty-one percent of the women said they turn to other mothers for advice when
problems arise in the home; 44 percent to their own mothers (who could imagine
raising Italian children in particular without the ever-present role of the
Italian grandmother or mother-in-law?); and 37 percent to fellow mothers. Only
32 percent said that they turn first to their partner or spouse for help, while
8 percent prefer advice offered by social network sites on the Internet, the
study reveals.



What do the women say?

Of the 10,000 women from the 13
different European countries interviewed for the study encouraged to spill the
beans on their partners, the English mums were happily flying the flag for
their men, with 98 percent declaring that they are the best at helping with the
children and in the home-a statistic that challenges the Italian stereotype of
the typical British man spending a good few hours tending to several pints of
beer in the local pub with work colleagues before arriving home expecting a hot
plate of ‘meat and two veg.’ For example: ‘He’s actually very good with the
kids,’ said Lucy from London, ‘and three times a week has the meal ready for
the whole family when I come home from work.’


When asked if
they think the study’s findings are a fair portrayal of their other halves,
Italian mothers in Florence gave varied responses. Andrea, a married working
mother with a teenage daughter asked, ‘And where exactly are these 38 minutes?’
Carlotta, however, didn’t agree: ‘I think that’s a bit harsh. There are also
the different paternity rights in Europe that play a part here. My husband
works in Rome during the week, but when he is at home he totally pulls his
weight with our son and the housework. I remember my own father hardly doing a
thing!’ She adds, ‘Women in Italy have always been the central figure of the family,
and bringing up children would be pretty impossible without the help of our own
mothers. As to my free time per day, this normally starts after 9pm in the
evening … and I’m lucky if I stay awake for 41 minutes!’


And what do
English mums in Italy have to say about their Italian partners? ‘He’s certainly
amazing on an Italian scale (I keenly observe other households and count myself
fortunate). He cleans, washes and wipes dishes, floors and children’s gloopy
messes to hygienic perfection and knocks off work early on a regular basis for
nursery school pick-ups etc. And packs the dishwasher brilliantly. And runs a
mean wash through the machine. Can’t sew to save his life though!’ says
long-term Florence expat, Suzi Jenkins.



Related articles


Tomorrow’s Leonardos: the United States and Tuscany

The U.S. Consulate in Florence was established exactly 300 years after the death of Leonardo.


Florence Cocktail Week is served

Building on the success of previous editions, Florence Cocktail Week returns this May with a celebration of dressed-up drinks. Organised by Paola Mencarelli and Lorenzo Nigro, the event, which runs from May 12, will feature masterclasses, roundtables and tasting sessions.


The genuine Florentine article: Cuoiofficine

Cuoiofficine is a unique contemporary leather firm established in Florence by brothers Timothy and Tommaso Sabatini. Elevating their artisanal expertise to a leather business for modern customers, the siblings blend ...