By Gabriella Mileti, NIAF Director of Programs
Sophia Loren once said, “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. You are connected to your child and to all those who touch your lives. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”
Well, with all due respect to the Italian icon, I think she is half right. Italian mothers never think for themselves, they only think for their family. In my 32 years of existence, I can assure you my mother has never thought for herself. She has dedicated her life to taking care of our family of six. Even now that we are all grown up and adults, I have to force my mother to do something for herself, and it is usually a total failure.
As Italians we know that at the heart of every household is a strong woman—a woman who takes care of her family, the home and everything else in between. Indeed Italian mothers are a force of nature, all the while warm and affectionate. To this day I don’t know how my mother raised four children, kept a home immaculately clean and put food on the table every night all without a babysitter or housekeeper. In fact, I didn’t know what take-out was until I got to college nor did sauce ever come out of a jar, or any food for that matter.
As a young girl in a predominately anglo-elementary school, I showed up at the lunch table every day with the best lunches from mortadella or prosciutto sandwiches to Nutella or even hot soup in a thermos, while the other kids ate peanut butter and jelly on Wonder Bread. My mother always made sure I had the most complete and best meals when I was not eating at home.
Italian mothers are the best and are always looking out for their children. My mother always made sure we were covered properly for fear of a draft, we were never allowed to leave the house with wet hair, for fear of catching an pneumonia and while at the time I thought she was over doing it, I look back and realize she was only doing it for our own good, to keep us safe and healthy. Because we were, and still are, her number one priority.
Italian mothers are great at uniting people. Like in any normal family, we all have our differences, my mother was always there to make sure at the end of the day we were united as one family. And no matter what, she always has our back, supporting us in every decision.
And above all, my mother never forgot the value of tradition and culture. I grew up making pasta from scratch, speaking Italian in the house, and traveling to Italy on a yearly basis. My parents did a phenomenal job in instilling in us to be proud of our Italian heritage—I work for the National Italian American Foundation, after all. And for that I am forever grateful.
They say, of all the words in the Italian language, the word “mamma” is the most beautiful. You know why? Well, when you say it, your lips kiss twice. Remember to honor all those strong, beautiful women in your lives not only on Mother’s Day but every day of the year.