While visiting Italy, I had the chance to talk with several parents living there… and hear their horror stories. For starter, one mother shared how her workplace started mobbing her until they forced her to leave, right after she got pregnant. After years working there, they wanted to get rid of her just because she had had a child. In their eyes she would lose commitment to the job and flexibility in working hours. She was forced to accept a job in another company and cut in half her salary. On top of this, she shared the childcare fees she has to pay and it turned out she works just for the privilege of doing so.
This story is not uncommon. I have heard of Italian friends going to job interviews without their engagement ring on, because engagement means marriage, marriage means kids, kids means they’d rather hire someone else. When you have a kid, you become a problem for your employer.
I was talking to some fathers as well. One was the owner of a family-run factory, another was working in an IT company, another had an office job in a manufacturing business. When talking working hours, they shared they rarely work a 9 to 5. Their usual working hours are around 10 a day, with long periods of 12 hours a day. Plus Saturday afternoons, of course. In some companies, the extra hours are not even paid.
In practice, this means they barely see their kids. Their wives are often forced home as housewives. The grandparents have no choice but work as full-time babysitters during their retirement years.
Does this look like a healthy society to you? Didn’t think so.
These stories are exactly why my husband and I moved to Finland. We did not want to start a family in Italy. On the other hand, Finnish society celebrates parents. They literally pay people to have kids. Public cheap childcare is a right. Parents are encouraged (yet not forced) to go back to work and contribute to society. On the workplace, there’s a common understanding that family comes first and yeah, sure people have a life outside the office. I witnessed (male) managers ditching a company-wide presentation because daycare had called and their kid was projectile-vomiting on the walls. Having a work-life balance is encouraged. Many companies even plan regular events for employees and their families, kids included! That’s how a healthy and happy society looks like.
Dear fellow Italian people, what you go through is not right. Having children is not only your right, but a precious contribution to society. Having a life outside work is advisable, not acceptable. You cannot rely a society on grandparents’ care. Wake up and shout out ENOUGH!