Work and Family in Naples

Published January 25, 2013 by Tony

Neapolitans:  Work & Family


I am against mama’s boys, against too obsessive parent’s attachment towards their children, which limits their freedom and experiences, but it also happens the other way, especially nowadays that both parents are busy with work and various daily commitments.
Parents who leave home early in the morning for work, and in some cases back just long enough to eat, then again to work until evening. The less fortunate are back at home directly in the late evening. Things to do are many, of course, and so parents’ free time must also be used for commitments and commissions, aside from leisure and other outdoor activities.
They spent very little time with their children, often with a quick hello in the morning and good night before going to bed only. During spare time, also kids have their own commitments, studying, friends or extra-curricular activities, and this shrinks the opportunities for parents and children to meet and stay together. Everyone daily involved in their activities leads, year after year, reduction and cooling of interpersonal relationships, with children who, over time, look to their parents as a simple mandatory presence in their lives, and that, like it or painful,  they still have to apply for any need or permission, and with parents who, instead, look at their kids as one of the reasons they must work, to meet all the expenses that growth, welfare and education imply. There are cases in which parents and children, even seeing every day and sleeping under the same roof, become outsiders, by a simple cohabitation. The ones who do not know needs, issues and expectations of others. The dialogue is condensed to a minimum and when it happens to have to or want to re-establish the normal parent-child relationship, then is too late, and parents realize that, beyond the genetic characteristics, have little in common, by now. If this lack of relation happens in children’s period of life between 10 and 15 years, which corresponds to the period in which kids are most in need of a parental presence, then it even becomes much more difficult to re-establish a close relationship. If it is true what we watch in many films from U.S., the above happens much more frequently in American families, because in Italy and Naples, where I live, such situations are infrequent. This probably is another difference between you and us.
Thanks to American films, we come to know about lifestyle of you overseas’ people, and often we see that relationship between adolescents and parents are not among the best. Parents too busy with work and commitments and boys now accustomed to fend for themselves. Just the opposite of what I said at the beginning of this post. This leads us to assume that work and some commitments have a significant part in your life. This is not to say that work or hobbies are nor important and necessary, indeed, but probably you Americans give them a different priority, compared with we Neapolitans.
For us, family and children come before anything else.
scugnizziBut to understand this, it is necessary for me to say something about work and Neapolitan people’s mindset.

In the past it was common to point to Naples citizens as one of those who did not like to work, slackers and malingerers. A cliché that for long any Napoletano has been labelled, especially from Northern Italy’s fellows.
As always, the southern regions of Italy have had less industries and infrastructure than North, therefore, fewer jobs and opportunities for businesses, which over the years has produced a high rate of unemployment. Every day, many people left the house in the morning looking for a job, trying to get by,  remedy and bring “nu piezze ‘e pane” (a piece of bread) at home, at least. For this reason Neapolitans have become famous for their ability to adapt, to have invented the oddest and unimaginable jobs, just to survive poverty. Even today, here the unemployment rate is one of the highest in Italy, but that does not mean we don’t like to work or snub the job. Although to be honest, apart from a few cases, I wonder who of you like to work really?
Neapolitans when they can, get a break from work to being at home, and if must be absent form work for family reasons, they do so without too much trouble. For women, this need is even greater, and here in the south there are still many women who don’t work and devote their lives to family and home. In this regard, I should make a distinction between wealthy families, middle and poor class.
Rich families such as the poor are the ones that usually allow more freedom to their children. Poor families’ children already at an early age are accustomed to being alone, to spend more time in the streets and fend for themselves. They are the heirs of the famous “scugnizzi” (street urchins) of a time that you can still meet in the hinterland or in the narrow alleys of Naples playing in groups. But these “guaglioni or guagliuni” (boys), as we call them, do not feel their parents absence, in fact, they love freedom and cut the “umbilical cord,” that binds them to their parents, as soon as possible. The low and middle income is not conducive for hobbies or other recreational activities, and apart from moms who stay all day at home, dads like to spend free time at home with their family. Who runs a shop, closes at lunch time (around 13.30) and reopen it at 4 pm,  and then close at 8 – 8,30 pm., while a worker usually works until 5 – 6 in the afternoon. On the other hand, famous are the Neapolitan sentences: “’e figlje so piezze ‘e core” (literally, children are pieces of heart), ” ‘a famiglia è sacra” (family is sacred), “tra moglie e marito non mettere dito” (literally, between wife and husband does not put the finger), and although here parents rarely invest money for the future of their children, woe to those who do them harm.

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