The eyes of the world are now looking toward Rome. We recently watched with baited breath to see that white smoke coming out of that chimney as Rome announced a new pope.
But let’s talk about the real head of the Italian home. The Nonna.
Nonni are the Italian grandmas. They run everything in the home from the guests who enter to the number of servings of spaghetti alla caprese on your plate. (If you want the real-deal Italian food, make friends with a nonna!)
Part of the wonder that is the nonni is their ability to not only raise their own kids but also assist in raising their grandchildren. With one hand they stir that miraculously healing, herbaceous tomato sauce while using the other to bounce a child on their hip. They are part of the army of older family members helping the younger generation to juggle work and family during this downturn in the economy.
In Italy, 68% of all children under 10 are looked after by their sweet nonni when they aren’t in school or with their parents. But it’s not just a matter of babysitting–42% of 25 to 34 year-olds live with their parents. So the nonni are helping to raise their grandchildren while also helping to pay the bills (along with the assistance of the nonno, or grandpa, of course). These stalwart and wise women are practically superheroes!
The Italian iron-clad family ties are what hold these younger families together and keeps them financial afloat. They compensate for a welfare system that isn’t extensive enough to meet all the needs of the population. And it’s working! Last year, Italy spent less than half as much on child care and pre-primary-school services than France, the U.K., Denmark or Sweden.
The nonni are the saving grace for their grown children and have significantly limited the impact of the recession with love and a steaming-hot helping of hand-rolled gnocchi.