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Returning home after living in Italy, where “everybody loves children”



Photo: pnwbot/Flickr

 

Are you new to Seattle or thinking about relocating? Presenting the next in a series of features on families that have made the move to Washington State in recent years and are navigating life with kids. 


A return to living in Seattle after a few years abroad has given parent Gina Hundley Gomez a new perspective on what it means to raise children in the Northwest.

Though she grew up on the eastside and considers the Pacific Northwest home, Gomez has lived all over the country with her husband, a navy officer. Now that she and her children are back in Seattle, Gomez says that she’s able to take advantage of the incredible public resources for families with children: our many parks that cater to kids (hello ziplines!), the Seattle Public Library system, and readily accessible outdoor activities.

When Gomez and her family moved to Seattle a year and a half ago, she didn’t feel that the move was hugely difficult; in fact, she says, she felt a slight sense of relief. The Gomez family had relocated to Naples, Italy shortly after their older son (now four years old) was born. Life abroad presented a host of challenges like navigating a foreign language, grappling with new cultural norms, and mastering the logistics of once-simple tasks like using an ATM. “Every single day required a little bit more mental energy” than life in the U.S., Gomez says.

Though her transition back to life in the Northwest has been fairly easy, aided by the presence of friends and family still living in the area, Gomez has noticed one major difference between daily life in Italy and Seattle: attitudes toward children’s presence in public space.

In Gomez’s experience, in Italy, “everybody loves children. It’s not just grandparents and other parents — you go to a restaurant and the waiter holds your baby.”

Having become a parent while living abroad, Gomez experienced the cultural celebration of children in Italian society firsthand. “Part of it is the culture, part is the low birth rate, but if you have children,” Gomez says, you and your child are showered with attention from strangers. “It’s expected that you bring your children everywhere. They’re [considered] a special part of the community,” she says. In Gomez’s experience, in Italy, “everybody loves children. It’s not just grandparents and other parents — you go to a restaurant and the waiter holds your baby.”

Upon returning to the U.S., Gomez found the feeling of children’s cherished centrality within the culture somewhat absent. However, Gomez has found that Seattle’s outstanding accessibility and community resources more than make up for the cultural differences in public attitudes toward children.

Now approaching her family’s second summer back in the Northwest, Gomez says that she’s grateful for Seattle’s community efforts to provide for families’ needs. She and her family are able to take advantage of the city’s amazing parks, libraries, and many outdoor trails — resources that she hasn’t had access to in the other places she’s lived. And being within easy driving distance of world-class medical facilities is an enormous benefit, Gomez says.

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