An American Mother in Italy | 10 things I did not see coming

Giving birth and raising children on the Italian riviera has been wonderful at times, depressing at times, and always surprising. 10 things that I did not see coming are..

1. The Aerosol Machine. I think that this is called a nebulizer in English. With my first baby's first cold, I was encouraged to waist no time in purchasing one to have at home. You put a little saline solution in it, place the mask on your baby's face, turn it on, and out comes a mist that the baby inhales. If the baby is really congested and sick your pediatrician can prescribe a few drops of a bronchodilator or cortisol medicine, too. As you can imagine, babies and toddlers just LOVE sitting still with a mist mask on their face. In Tennessee we might use an air humidifier for the room, but I never saw a home nebulizer until I became a mom in Italy.  

2.  Strangers and friends letting me know that they care a lot about my back when they see me carrying my babies. "Every time I see you you have your baby in that... thing. How is your back holding up? Aren't you tired?" Oh I'm just fine.. thanks for.. your concern.. I guess. I am very tired but it's not because I'm carrying my baby. It's because I have a baby.

3. No one is at the park at noon. Several times I thought that the park was actually closed. But, no, everyone is just home cooking and eating.

4. VEDI CHE CADI! I hear people say this to their kids all the time.  It literally means, "Look you are falling!" But I think that it could be better translated as, "Watch out, you're gonna fall!" I'm still trying to figure out how this phrase is helpful. Usually the kid doesn't fall. And the parent has to eat their words. Or the kid falls and I can't help but think, "would that child have fallen if his parent hadn't said YOU ARE GOING TO FALL?"

5. Cookies for kids. Apparently in Italy cookies are health food. Grown men and women eat cookies for breakfast, and there are a few brands of cookies for babies and children, too. Yes, I did say babies. These cookies also come in crumb form that you can mix with formula or other kinds of milk in a bottle. For an American maybe the equivalent is rice cereal in the bottle? Let me add a positive note though and say that most Italian toddlers eat fresh, homemade vegetable soup like American toddlers eat mac and "cheese" out of a box.  Italian moms know nutrition.

6.  It's really hard to find the stay at home mom community.  Maybe Italy has the reputation of being such a family centered country that lots of people imagine Italian moms home and cooking and tending to their children's every need.  Maybe that was true a generation or two ago. But now most women are working outside the home, even if they have very young children.  I have found myself explaining to people why I chose not to go back to work for a good three years. Many Italians don't really understand this choice.

7. The pediatrician telling me what, when, and how to feed my baby. He wrote down the times for breastfeeding. Like the hours and minutes of the clock. Wrote them down. And then when it was time to introduce solids, he told me how to make the baby pasta (don't add it directly to the pureed vegetable soup. Make it separately and then add it, otherwise too much liquid will evaporate). Maybe he is also a cook? Then, the worst was when he told me to stop breastfeeding at a year. That she should have cereal and milk for breakfast "or whatever it is you Americans have for breakfast." He used cow's milk for an example of a better food for my baby. My baby is human and I make human milk so she'll be having that thank you very much. Are there pediatricians like this all over the world? I am praying that mine was just, "special." Yes, I have since changed pediatricians.

8. "I read in a recent study" doesn't make my story better.  I like to research things like motor development and cognitive development and social development. I find it all fascinating. But a story about "My cousin's best friend's aunt's baby learning to walk without shoes" is waaaay more credible than any study that I have read about gross motor skills and babies.

9.  Maternity leave is really good. 5 months are obligatory. You CAN'T work even if you want to and you HAVE to be paid your full salary. Wow. That's what I call a country who believes in its mothers. Mothers are also entitled to another 6 months at a good portion of their salary. And if you do decide to go back to work and your baby is not yet a year old, you are entitled to two hours a day to dedicate to feeding the baby (pumping, coming into work late or leaving early, or going home and coming back so that you can feed your baby). I'm so proud of Italy for this.

10. I did not see coming that I would miss my roots so much, yet not even realize it. I was too busy figuring out breastfeeding, falling in love with my babies, embracing a road of self discovery, figuring out a new kind of relationship with my husband, and cleaning up food and other stuff off the floor. I am still trying to figure out who I am and how I can fit in here, and I always feel huge bouts of growth after talking with someone who knows me as an American woman. I really never realized that I was so American!

Have you experienced any of these? What country do you live in?