Adalgisa Giorgio

This paper looks at the ideal and practice motherhood and parenting among Italians in New Zealand. The paper is based on interviews I conducted in Wellington and Auckland between February and June 2013, with Italian migrants of various generations as well as new migrants who have arrived in the country in the last 20 years.

The main focus of the research and data collection was the translation of Italian identity in New Zealand, and thus the questionnaire was designed to elicit three elements that conceptualise identity: Definitional (I am Italian), Descriptive (being Italian means…), and Evaluative (I feel proud of being Italian) (E. Erikson, The Concept of Identity in Race Relations, Daedalus, 95, 1966, 145-171). Although the questionnaire contained no direct questions on motherhood, issues concerning motherhood and parenting emerged when the interviewees were asked the following questions:
       If you have children, do you think you have raised them according to the Italian or the NZ style of parenting? What does this mean to you?
       Could you describe the gender roles within your family? Are they different from the roles played by your (Italian or half-Italian) parents?

The paper will evaluate the conscious and unconscious acceptance or rejection of the ideal of the Italian family and of the Italian mother (and the underlying stereotypes). In particular, I will look at issues of choice and agency, with which all interviewees, independently of age and of migrant generation, appear to engage directly or indirectly. While (the memory of/imagined) Italian ideals are important, economic factors appear to have had and still have a crucial impact on the maternity choices of old and new migrants, alongside the influence of cultural ideals and practices of the country of settlement.