Mothering around

About a(nother) boy

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I have been a pretty poor blogger these past couple of months. I would witness the same scenario repeating itself every morning: waking up with an idea and then finding a thousand perfectly valid reasons not to sit down. I have never indulged so much into manual jobs. I have been watching the washing machine doing its thing (yes, as in a sort of comic Poltergeist. I do sit on the floor and watch my washing machine sometimes), cleaned the oven a couple of times and went to the supermarket so often that I now have 6 bottles of dish soap on my kitchen shelf.

I went swimming every other day and kept gaining weight despite the effort. I now suddenly realize it had nothing to do with the blog. Or, not entirely. I had trouble writing because I wouldn’t write about what really was on my mind at that time.

The thing is that last November I found out that I am pregnant. And I now know it’s another boy. The third. If someone had told me a few years ago I would raise children of only one sex, I would have been sure it was girls. I am not that much into the frills and pink (though I would have indulged in some liberty blouses for sure) but I always thought I had something to tell to the next generation girls. I like women. I like little girls. I even like (most of the time) teenager girls. I like the fact that women talk all the time, and share life.

I also believe in fate, though. So, for some obscure reason which will unfold itself later or never, I have to raise (gentle)men. Before having my boys, I didn’t know a thing about men. I had a male dog, of course and had figured out they rarely hold a grudge and are pretty simple and straightforward. (don’t laugh, any dog-lover would get what I mean).

Now I know they are more fragile and emotionally dependent than girls but also simpler and living-in-the-present. I appreciate their fresh, indomitable physical energy and I try to teach them to be gentler as we will never have enough of men with a developed feminine side. I liked to think gender was imposed upon children by society but in my case, so far, it has proved innate. My boys could tell different cars before they could speak properly and would stare at a digger fascinated for 20 minutes in the same way I sat down in awe of some YSL vintage ball gowns I have seen at an exhibition a few months ago.

When I told them there was something new about our family, they asked if I had bought another iPad so they didn’t have to share anymore. As simple as that. How can one not adore those testosterone-filled brains?

That said, my pregnancy brain is slowly recovering from the first three months crash and I am now able of forming correct sentences again instead of wandering around without remembering what I was looking for.

I am determined to make the most of my writing time till mid-summer when I’ll probably have a few rough weeks in terms of daily functioning so I am planning to redesign the blog.

The thing is: when I started writing I was obsessed with my inability to be the half-dozen persons an average woman has to be on a daily basis. Then, of course, my thoughts have evolved and I have realized that my expat identity had become a shaping part of myself. One year and a few months later, it turns out my readers are most interested into the expat posts and into those related to my age group (with the one on turning 35 being a big hit, I guess us Millennials are all going through the same crisis). I will then focus on the life of a millennial expat and keep the mothering posts only when they can be inscribed into the two previous categories. The Brussels Bits will stay but with a less philosophical take and I will report more on Brussels lifestyle.

Wish me luck with the technical part of this change and stay tuned, I am back!

Alice Munro and all those women who had to find the time

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Some time ago a friend sent me a link, just saying: “I thought about you while reading this. Have a look”. I have a certain aversion to links and seldom open them. Most of the times any email containing a link ends up straight in the trash. But this time it was real good. The article, published by The Guardian at the beginning of October, is a sort of anthropological study of famous writers’ daily habits. It took me a while to understand why my friend thought of me. After all, I don’ t indulge in alcohol and drugs (not as much as my creative side would like, anyway), don’t wake up at dawn, am unable to stick to a schedule and, most of all, I am not a famous writer.

Towards the end of the article I found the only lines I could relate to and felt something between elation and depression:

” Alice Munro.

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In the 1950s, as a young mother taking care of two small children, Munro wrote in the slivers of time between housekeeping and child-rearing. When neighbours dropped in, Munro didn’t feel comfortable telling them she was trying to work. She tried renting an office, but the garrulous landlord interrupted her and she hardly got any writing done. It ultimately took her almost two decades to put together the material for her first collection, Dance Of The Happy Shades”.

I have been writing since I learnt to and, to put it simply, there is not much I can do beside it. (cooking, maybe. But I only briefly toyed with the idea of making a living out of that). From the essays and literary competitions in school till the day I sat in front of a laptop as a professional journalist, I have felt that urge to put my thoughts and feelings into words, to observe, analyze and sometimes detangle lives, habits, dreams and weaknesses in my fellow human beings.

When I was on my own, I spent my whole day reading, writing, watching films and bad tv. It was great. Then life happened, and I wanted it to happen, don’t get me wrong. Those thoughts that once became words, letters, emails, essays now stay in my head for a couple of hours while I look at the chicken’s expiration date, pay the weekly grocery shopping and drive absent-mindedly, so that I always get lost and forget where I was going. They come while I talk to the children and suddenly I keep saying yes or no or I don’t know without listening to their question and they get upset and yell: “Mami, are you listening or whAt?”.

At some point, passed the early infancy stage, I thought I had it under control. I worked hard on a book I ended up hating for almost a year. And it worked. Then came November, and my first NaNoWriMo. I still remember the overwhelming joy on the morning of the 1st of November, 2012, sitting with a huge teapot in front of my unfinished novel. Unfinished, but still loved, every time I lay eyes on it. I walked on clouds for barely a week. Then pneumonia hit the house and goodbye literary aspirations. More or less at that same time, I started this blog. If I can’t keep focus for longer than a day, at least I’ll be writing something.

I wasn’t new to blogging: I’d had a couple in my 20s. One that covered the time between my engagement and my married life. It was fun but once at the end of the ride, I didn’t think it could live simply as an online, public journal of a too ordinary life. I tried out another one on being a new mom and lasted a couple of months. Truth is, I had some lyrical moments while busy with prams and milk bottles and my friends urged me to cheer up a larger audience but I realized almost immediately that it didn’t define me. It was, and it is, a part of me, probably the best. But I felt like I was talking of an arm, when I wanted to write about the whole thing.

I started this blog impulsively while high on powerful antibiotics and thought none would listen. Plus, I struggled between languages for a few days because I had never written actively in English (sauf emails and some crappy free-lance articles) yet I didn’t want to stick to my native language, which I don’t master  they way I used to. The first like happened in the middle of the night. When I found it in the morning, I laughed. it felt like when I was six, and got an obsession for putting letters into glass bottles and then leave them to the sea. Someone actually found that bottle this time.

I have blogged as much as I could this past year. And yet, it is not enough. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks in and out of the hospital with one of my children (he’s fine now, thanks) and as every time a small disaster hits home, I go back into brackets and wait, silently, for the storm to pass.

I maybe suck at running my household but I feel I am not alone. How many women, out there, put their dreams in a drawer to dive into real, happening-now, heartbreakingly bare life and at the same time keep opening an inch of that drawer some nights, when everybody’s sleeping, just to make sure those dreams are not gone?

I chose to raise my children in total freedom and every day I am more convinced I couldn’t have it any other way, given the circumstances of my everyday life and the joys of the job. (Yes, it is filled with joy. And a few migraines. But there’s strong stuff to cure that).

Still, I can’t but wonder: what was Alice Munro thinking during all these years, when she was filling lunch boxes in the mornings and getting up in the middle of the night to change a wet bed?

A dinner party, uplifting conversations and a question

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Last Friday I went for dinner to a friend’s place. We were just six: the ideal number to have interesting conversations and celebrate without falling into small talk or being hijacked by gossip. We discussed pretty everything: from Pope Francis’ peaceful revolution to the perks of globalization and all things that have changed between our generation and the latest.

An Indian girlfriend confessed that she’d never met a white person before age 12. In the same way, I have never crossed paths with a non-white child or adult before around the age of 14 (Then I started taking English summer classes, attended by a lot of nationalities). With no colonies (apart from the two or three held for a short time at the beginning of the last century) and no impressive economy, Italy has traditionally been an emigration country, before becoming an immigration point of access to Europe in the late 70s. When I went to school, it was rare for an average Italian child to meet a non – Caucasian person.

I realized how much this has changed when a friend – who’s just moved to Singapore – posted on Facebook a picture of her blonde son at school, surrounded by Asian children. Someone commented: “How does he feel about being the only white child?”. She wrote back: “He doesn’t know. That’s a thing of our generation”. She’s right. My children don’t even know where their classmates come from. They not once asked about skin color, or eye shape. They don’t see it. I might be a little emotional, but the thought (and the hope) that humanity is progressing towards a future where race, sex, religion and color won’t matter anymore moves me deeply.

So, after these uplifting discussions, a couple of friends told us a story, and asked our opinion. I’d love to hear yours.

Here it is:

A father and a son are in the car when the father loses control of the wheel and they crash against a tree. The father dies. The son is heavily injured. An ambulance arrives and takes him to the nearest hospital. The emergency surgeon comes out, looks at him and says: “I can’t operate this boy. He’s my son”. 

How is this possible?

East and West in the classroom: when the pursue of comfort meets the strive for excellence

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Last Thursday there was the first and only teachers-parents meeting of the year. We arrived 30 minutes a little early and were soon joined by fellow parents, as anxious as we were to know all and everything about our little bundles of joy. Parents in a classroom resemble tragically enough children in a classroom. They start to look around, talk and eagerly lift their hands as they did 30-something years before.

The ex first-of-class doesn’t wear thick lenses anymore but shows the same impatience in getting the undivided attention of the teacher. The ex cheerleader is still gorgeous, and shares her worries about the amount of sugars and fats her children are gulping down at the canteen. (“I want to manage the number of treats I am giving to my children and monitor the amount of fat and sugar they are assuming”, dixit). The shy guy in the last row sits against the wall and takes notes, avoiding other parents’ look. The class socialite still flies around making friends and small talk. And then there’s me, looking at other people and mumbling in my head, losing track of what is being said and secretly fearing that the teacher will ask again, decades later : “What’s going on in your head, Miss?”.

The social architecture of the average classroom is intact. But that shouldn’t make anyone feel safer. In these times of global travel, it’s not anymore a question of extraverted vs. introverted, first-of-class vs. shy guy, socialite vs. cheerleader. It may become more complicated.

More than ten nationalities are represented in class: mainly Europeans with some Asians and a few Africans. Europeans were worried about safety (“I am not leaving my child if not in class”), food quality (“Why is the school’s caterer providing so many dairy-based desserts?”), psychological balance (“Are you sure your teaching method doesn’t foster unhealthy competitiveness? My child needs to play!”), and physical comfort (“Who’s taking the younger children to the loo?”, “What if they are tired after lunch?”). They asked tons of questions on the daily details of their kids’ day, their activities and the importance of teachers being available, to them and to their offspring.

The English teacher went through a detailed explanation of how the children are going to learn to read. “First, they learn three-letters words – she said – Some of them, though, can already read six-letters words and even write short sentences. It’s the case of Vikram”. And she goes on showing to the class a perfect notebook with a whole page filled with phrases. A very proud mother in a cotton sari stands against the blackboard, listening to the accomplishments of her son.

There was a moment of silence. It’s not just Vikram (the name is not the actual one). All the Asian children in our school are at least a year in advance. They are outstanding. And you know what? Their parents never worry about comfort, the size of the loos or the amount of organic food provided. They think of the results. What they are learning, what opportunities the school will give them, how they will strive for excellence.

Where they look at the road, we seem to be looking at our shoes. I am myself a little too focused on quality food and quality time and it’s not a simple matter of “tiger mothering” vs. “goose mothering”. What are we building on our pursue of comfort? What are they losing in term of quality of life? What will the bottom line be in a few decades?

I can’t but think of an Asian friend telling me many years go that ” you, Europeans, you waste so much time arguing on futile problems instead of sticking together, ready to face the coming challenges. Because, I tell you this, the Chinese and the Indians will pull the rag from under your armchair and won’t leave you the time to think”. It never sounded so real.

Back to school: tearing up at the smell of new notebooks

Today was the big Day. I couldn’t sleep well, spent half of the night reading blogs on my mobile phone and finally got up at 7. Mixed feelings: relief at the thought of resuming a predictable schedule and a sort of cerebral life and the usual anxiousness at the thought that the kids would go into a new class, with new classmates and new teachers. All on their own.

Tall one played cool: was dressed and combed in a flat 5 minutes, prepared his bag, bragged about being in the last year of kindergarten and finally being in the same class of his best pal. Short one took forever to get up and even longer to dress and eat breakfast. backtoschoolThe Husband and I entered the new school and started having dejà vu: the whirlwind of schoolbags, children, adults, the confusion of lists, unfamiliar faces coming to shake hands and introducing themselves: “Hello, I am the teacher”. I had kept myself together pretty well till we had to walk them in class. Then I couldn’t resist a few tears and tried really hard to think of something funny in order not to show any emotions. If the children had seen me, they would have started screaming like hell.

The interesting thing is, I wasn’t crying because I was leaving my children. Of course, I am sad not to have them around but I also realize that at some point they just need a teacher and a class and community rules.

I cried because the smell of new notebooks, the noise of hundreds of feet climbing a marble staircase, the mixture of cries and reassurances, the drawings on the wall and the smiling teachers all felt very familiar. Too familiar. As if we were still in 1982, with the exceptions that I was now among the adults in the room.

They both cried. Tall one lost his attitude. Short screamed so loud he got the teacher all for himself.

I left with a lump in my throat and went to have a proper coffee.

Tale of a Tempest in a Teapot

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Yesterday morning I was sitting in my doctor’s waiting room when I started receiving an unusual number of blog comment notifications. I barely had the time to read a few lines when a reader tells me that she found this blog through the Corriere della Sera, the main Italian newspaper. I am intrigued as I have no idea of what she might be referring to.

It turns out a journalist has bumped into a post I wrote 6 weeks ago, has poorly translated it into Italian and put it on the newspaper’s website with a catchy title. So my “Myths about Italy: 1. Italians love children” becomes “Italian mothers: eternal teenagers who raise their children as puppies” and I suddenly become a “U.S. blogger”. Chaos ensued.

The free impressions and personal opinions of an expat mum who goes back home over summer are then dissected as a sociology manual, igniting a fierce debate on the real nature of Italian mammas and rapidly (and sadly) degenerating into personal attacks, various insults and toxic remarks.

What about a pinch of salt, guys? (or a sense of humor?)

It’s clear that my cahier des doléances can’t cover the 100% of Italian individuals and I am candidly surprised that talking of neurotic parenting and disputable ethical standards struck such a chord.

I guess it rubbed salt in an open wound. Now I’d really like to go back to my expat stories, though.

Myths about Italy: 1. Italians love children

Some stereotypes are so strong and well established internationally that they will be the first thing you hear when meeting a foreigner. I have a beautiful, über smart Brazilian friend who owns more PhDs than all the people I know but keeps being asked on first meetings about her mastering of samba. I have been asked a thousand times about Berlusconi, who apparently has become a synonymous of Italy as Mafia and Pizza. Since I had kids, though, all the foreigners I cross paths with are eager to tell me about Italian mothers. It varies between “Ah, an Italian mamma, always around her children” and “Ahhhh, children in Italy are treated like kings! All Italians love children!” and then, when they are a certain age, they take a dreaming look and start recollecting stories from traveling on the Italian coast in the 70s, when kids would play football on the streets and someone was always around giving them candies and distributing kisses and hugs.

The Wall Street Journal even dedicated last year an article to the apology of Italian-American mothers, described as “warm, affectionate, passionated and generous”.

This perfect picture illustrated the WSJ article on Italian mothers

I feel compelled to reestablish the truth: Italians DO NOT love children. The loving, brave, patient and constantly kissing Italian mother is a thing of the past.

Wandering around with children, surrounded by Italian families, is an anthropological epiphany. Neurotic is the nicest thing I can say of Italian parents. Or, to be honest, grandparents, for parents are rarely around to be seen.

Children are never talked to as small individuals but the sort of attention they get resembles more the type you’d give to your favorite pet. As pets, they are kept on a leash and constantly reminded of the imaginary dangers they could run into if they, simply, live. The bush they are climbing could break, and let them fall down, injure their spine and end up in a wheeling chair for the rest of their life. They can’t swim in the lake because it harbors a monstrous dragon, ready to eat them alive. They can’t run too fast because they could have a heart attack. I have personally heard all of these things.

Motherhood is less a choice than a chore. The main Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, has produced a web mini-series, aired a few weeks ago, which was widely praised: “Una mamma imperfetta” (An imperfect mum). It tells the story of a 40-something mother and her best friends, juggling work, home and kids and basically trying to hide from their life in every single episode. They giggle when the perfect mother (which means decently dressed, actively involved) has a hole in her tights and they line up every friday morning in evening black dresses to stalk the handsome dad of the school. Grandparents and fathers always save the day while mothers are constantly too exhausted to interact or even educate their brats.

I have already written about the outlandish arrangements of the average Italian family, where parents outsource child-rearing to grandparents while they are apparently too busy living their forever-teenager life.

Nowhere else I have witnessed so clearly an innate lack of accountability. A child is constantly lied to (as in the horrific lake monster story), officially for safety reasons, and whenever he breaks the rules he’s justified by his brainless child status, which usually continues to provide an alibi till teenage.

From time to time, the neurotic Italian parent will yell at his child for some trivial reason. Preferably in a crowded place, so that everybody can listen to his show of paternal authority. The humiliated child will listen quietly, then turn his back and start doing whatever he was doing wrong all over again.

No one is ever taught the simple relations of cause and effect or the meaning of being responsible. Would you teach your dog about responsibility, when you can keep it out of troubles by walking him on a tight leash?

Then people wonder why the vice president of Italian Senate can call a black minister “orangutan” and then refuse to resign, as a naughty child refuses to apologize for his pranks.

Going home and living in a bubble: when you take a holiday from expatriation

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Everybody needs a holiday once a year. Some need physical rest, some others a change of scenery. Some need time to spend with their loved ones and yet some need space to find their true selves. My expat self (which counts for a shocking percentage of the whole thing) needs its own vacation from time to time. Going to the homeland is not enough, as an expat often goes through a phenotypic transformation that prevents any true relaxation in familiar surroundings. I have to confine myself to my parents’ house, in the middle of a sun-kissed countryside, rich in olive trees and vineyards and cats. And not much else, to be honest. Here I am not an expat, nor a mother and not even an adult. It’s my personal Neverland.

My two decades of expatriation translate to my parents as a series of odd and worrying eating habits (some years I rant about the importance of organic, some others on my new egg-dairy-wheat free regimen, this year I am all into protein and greens powder in my morning smoothie…); a mild weight gain related to growing old, having kids and living in a sun-deprived country and maybe (maybe!) a surge of occasional wisdom. That’s it. They never asked a single question on how life is out of the national borders or who I made friends with or what people say, up there, about us down here. They don’t care. I am just their child and as unnerving as it was in the early expatriation years, when I just wanted to tell them over and over again how cool I was for living abroad my little adventure, I ultimately find it relaxing. The show is over for a few weeks and since none is interested in my personal philosophy I can even take some time off from my usual rantings.

My children are the actual stars of the season and I can’t even compete. Who’d want to spend time with an almost middle-aged and compulsively dieting child when you can hang around with a couple of blondish, angelic-faced little things who will love you more for every candy you hand them? And what child would obey to the same ol’ lady he sees and hears every day when reality suggests she’s not boss anymore?

So that is how I stop being a mother in my little home bubble . My children don’t recognize my authority anymore and deliberately choose to follow the grandparents’ lead. Which is always sugar-coated. Literally.

There was a time when I tried revolution. You know, teenage style. Like telling my parents all the time how child rearing was a different story up north, how they were stuck in pre-liberal era, how we should educate children to become independent individuals and not spoiled pets. How plastic toys were to be banned, as were DVDs and candies. How mine was a sugar free house and how “youknowsugarisreallybad”, how modern people live now and eat healthily and so “no carbs please, what with all that pasta?”. It didn’t work. I didn’t insist.

I now enjoy this magic place where I can retreat to my room as my 16 years old self (minus the oily skin and the perpetual love chagrin) and when I occasionally switch on my hearing to catch my mother telling her grandsons that “there is a big, nasty man going around houses to take away all the naughty children” in the same way her mother used to talk me into eating my lunch I don’t care anymore. I’ll tell them later there is no such thing as the nasty man, in case they’d be actually worried about him. In the meantime I’ll just lie down and savor the free time.

When holidaying becomes a job: packing for four

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Expats are not all made the same but they often tend to be independent, restless, always-on-the-go individuals. Who like to travel light. I never understood how it could take a day to pack a luggage or what was the point of bringing literally your house on your back as a snail risking major physical injuries when you could just grab the essentials and give yourself the freedom of changing plans, running to catch that last train and hop on the overcrowded bus. Well, now I do. Understand.

Last Friday was “Graduation Day” at school. Theoretically it’s an actual school day, the last of the year but the teachers made very clear since the previous week that, well, “parents can come around 10.30 to have a drink and talk to us” and “maybe you can take your children home at 12.00”. So a very tired group of moms paraded in class, with the half-scared look of someone who’s about to enter jail while the teachers looked for the first time in the whole year rested, made-up, with whiter teeth, rosier cheeks and a happy, bright light in their eyes. They, on the other side, were prisoners about to be released. For a couple of months.

Since then, it’ been a roller coaster ride. My childhood memories are of drawing, coloring and sitting quietly in a corner, not even supervised by an adult. Thirty years ago children weren’t much more of a job than pets. This generation, though, is definitely more demanding: my boys get bored easily, know always what they want to do (eat candies, go to the cinema, make cupcakes, eat pizza, climb trees and break windows while playing football…not always in this order) and won’t take no for an answer.

After being their slave for the past four days, I have finally found a way out: a mosaic class, where they will decorate some frames with a bunch of well behaved, pink clothed and pig-tailed girls. I needed the day off not to go get that pedicure I am dreaming of since a few weeks but to accomplish the terrible task of packing for four.

My light travelling days are gone and I have to stack clothes, medical equipment, favorite stuffed toys and a mountain of sticker books with the performance anxiety linked to Ryanair’s luggage weight standards and the risk that I forget that very little thing that of course they needed the most.

So, I apologize for not being a good chat right now but packing for four has certainly taken the best of me. I will be back soon, hopefully. If Ryanair doesn’t detain me for breaking some of their absurd regulations.

Little Expats II: Tiger mothers and The Pursuit of Happiness

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Some say that Belgium is the lab of Europe: whatever happens here will eventually happen to the rest of the Continent. It is indeed the place where different and far away cultures manage to mix together with the privilege of remaining largely unaffected by the host country. In this frameless picture I made my first real life encounter with a tiger mother.

The picture above shows my son’s kindergarten homework. They started to familiarize with letters and sounds at the beginning of the school year and although teachers stressed the importance of having a routine in exercising a little bit everyday, they also insisted that children shouldn’t be forced to do their homework at this stage (thanks God!) otherwise they could develop a negative attitude towards the whole learning process (catastrophic as it sounds…).

My son is doing his letters, as often as I remember to pull the notebook out of his backpack. Which is not everyday but at least once a week.

The other day I walked him to class and my eyes fell on an open notebook, in a corner of the room. Unlike my son’s, that notebook was immaculate on the outside and letters were neatly drawn, minuscules and majuscules. All with the same, perfect black ink. Instead of the usual three lines under the given text, a full page of letters was completed and there were no finger or food marks around the lines. I looked around for the owner of the perfect notebook and it came out it belonged to the Chinese girl of the class. The teacher followed my look and understood what was going on in my head and tried to console me. “She has a tiger mother, don’t look at that notebook!”.

The Chinese, perfectly combed girl may have a tiger mother but then what about the Indian kids in the class who moved last September from Mumbai following their dads’ hi-tech jobs and walked into class the first day already knowing the whole alphabet?

I asked an Indian friend if all Asian parents were so competitive regarding their children’s achievements in school. She wasn’t surprised: “Yes, of course they are. It’s pure logic: if you want to stand out in countries like India and China you have to be the best and to be sure you’ll be exactly that you start to work hard. Since the very beginning”.

Standing out and working hard were part of European post-WWII education. The stuff my parents’ generation was made of. My generation got it a little softer: we had to work, and enjoyed being first but the idea that maybe it was not all about success had started to make its way into our head, and behavior and inner values.

The generation after mine – say, guys in their early 20s – are way less attached to past symbols of success. They want to change the world more than they want to make money. They want to get a degree but don’t think anymore that the world will fall apart if they don’t. They want to know who they are and they crave happiness and self fulfillment way earlier than we did. This is old, comfortable, sinking Europe at least.

When we went to California, The Husband met a friend who has moved there a few years ago. “I set a rule in my house for the kids: no more work after 9 – he said – otherwise they would be up till midnight to study as their American classmates do. That is not healthy”. Working hard to achieve one’s objectives is still a typical American trait while in Europe we think that you should never forget that there is more to life than work.

When I told my Belgian friends about the tiger mothers at school, they shrugged their shoulders: “Yes, but then what? Do we want stressed, overachieving children? Don’t we prefer them to enjoy childhood, play outside and be happy?”. Of course we want them to be happy. But my point is: Can we still afford it?

In a global world, where the work market is almost free of entry barriers, can we still think that competitiveness is a wartime thing? Will happiness really matter in twenty years time?

What do you think?