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Manuela has not yet made a decision about having children. She wishes that her choice could be free of constraints. In her testimony, she recounts her marriage and family experience. She also talks about her work as a social worker in contact with different cultural, geographical and social realities where very often motherhood is not a choice.

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Ecco la trascrizione completa del video:

MANUELA: «I am Manuela, I am 41 years old. I am a wife and I have been married for nine years. I am a social worker for a refugees and asylum seekers shelter, where we accommodate many women, single women, with children or families. And I come from Lecce, from the province, from a small town called Leverano.
Right now, actually, I chose not to choose. Meaning that I have not taken a decision yet, whether being a mother or not. Because I feel like I should get rid of… Many influences I feel around me. So, I would prefer this decision, apart from obviously sharing it with my husband, I would like it to be kind of free from a lot of conditioning.
I don’t have an idea, probably I would like to be a mother. I don’t know when it will happen, if it will ever happen. But I would like my decision to be really free from conditioning, because I feel that this desire that is starting to born in me, might actually be a desire that is very conditioned by what I have around me, by family, by society.
From being told every day: “Well, but what about a child? What’s going on?” “But are there any problems?” I mean, sometimes it gets heavy. It’s always the same two sentences. “Why?” “Are there any problems?” Always the same questions. At first, right after the wedding was: “Well, when? When are you going to have a child?” As if it had to be… A set out path of its own. You get married, now a few months go by, you must have a child, and everything has to be in this very specific order. So let’s say, these are all questions that anyway yes, they invade my… My person. Even when it’s my mother asking them.
I don’t know. I still feel that I don’t want to give any explanations even to my parents regarding this choice. Or anyway not until I will decide by myself.
As for my husband, surely this situation conditions him. What I notice is that it is certainly a minor conditioning compared to what I suffer as a woman. Because most of the time I am the one who gets asked to give some explanation. Even from, for example, my husband’s family, my mother-in-law usually talks to me about it. Or maybe to both of us, when we are together. But yes, of course it is a conditioning that I definitely feel more.
As far as my history is concerned, my family history, even the personal history of my mother and my grandmother, probably for my grandmother it was very different, because anyway she had four daughters. Let’s say, I lived in a fairly open family, compared to other situations, other families that I’ve had the opportunity to meet. By the way, my mother has two sisters who are not even married, and they have made this kind of choice, so let’s say. There is no such pressure about this, there is probably a desire on my mother’s part to be a grandmother.
My aunts, who are not… who have decided not to get married or anyway they haven’t found, let’s say. A path. They have really decided to be alone. Within the family, however, they play the role of the aunts, the aunts who in any case look after the nieces and nephews, they dedicate themselves to them, in this case to me and my cousins. It’s not… it’s a choice that in our countries is quite common, at least. At least, I know some others, especially from my aunts’ generation who have made this kind of choice.
There are so many examples, obviously there are a series of nicknames by which they are pointed out, like spinsters or, as you get older, old spinsters. Obviously. But, after all yes, it’s a fairly common choice, at least in many families. Especially in large families.
The choice, let’s say, of not getting married or not having children or a family, is a choice that actually is not talked about very easily. Certainly those who, especially in the past, like my aunts for example, had to, let’s say made this choice, had to give a series of explanations. To society. This however didn’t stop them from living their life anyway quite peacefully. After a certain point, at least in my family, it was no longer talked about. Absolutely, their choice was accepted. I don’t… I don’t see any difficulty for them, I see it as a choice that they also strongly claim. In fact, when we talk about relationships between husband and wife, they care to say their opinion: “But why do you have to get married? But I’m so good on my own”. So anyway it’s a choice that they strongly claim.
The question of inheritance for a woman deciding not to have children who’s not going to have children anyway is a topic. It is a topic that honestly grabs me on a daily basis. Going back to what my situation is, my current condition. It’s a topic that affects me a lot because I realise that if I don’t have children, it’s as if my family is interrupted, because it is not a large family; we are only two siblings. My brother also has made such a choice with his wife and so I think: Well, where will everything go? So it’s a topic that affects me somehow, and that makes me question me. I still don’t have an answer.
There’s a theme of continuation of the surname, precisely of a legacy that at some point it’s going to be lost, that will be lost in a certain way. I don’t know, I still don’t know if it’s something that really matters or… Well, who cares. I don’t know.
Regarding the workplace, the difference between women with children, and those who don’t have children, basically lies in the possibility for the woman with children to still have a whole series of benefits even at work, for example saying “I have to leave earlier.” It is also a kind of responsibility that maybe those who don’t have children feel they must have it in relation to work. I mean, since I don’t have children, because probably at home you don’t have much to do, because obviously what do you have to do at home if you don’t have children? So you have to work twice as hard, you can do it. And so, you go to work on Saturdays on Sundays, you do overtime and all of that. So, yes, this is my daily experience.
In these years of working at the shelter, I have met a lot of women. Women of many different nationalities and who bring, a very different cultural and also personal background. What I could notice in general, is that very often, in other cultures, you don’t have the possibility to ask yourself, “Do I want it? Don’t I want it?” “Can I choose? Can I not choose?” Because it is like that. Because precisely, we haven’t arrived at a point where one is able to question, where women can question themselves on these kinds of issues.
Having said that, however, there is also to be said that very often, at least for the situations that we have seen and that we see in all these years, very often that of having children is not a choice. At least for women who arrive here, coming from a certain migratory path, very often pregnancy is the result of real violence. And so there again, it’s not about the culture, it’s really about non-choices. Women who could not choose, who could not question themselves on these issues.
It always makes me smile when I talk to women, mainly women from some African countries, where anyway motherhood is a very important, central thing. It makes me smile that they always ask me: “How come you don’t have children? No, but you must hurry, you must have children”. So, there is always this confrontation referring to different choices or to even the various cultures. I often find myself explaining to them. “But you have to know that in Italy now there are many women who decide to…”
“No, no, no, but it’s not possible.”
So there’s always this confrontation which is very nice anyway. And it’s also nice that then, talking openly, you get to not judge what are choices. So very often I hear, “But how many children do these African women have?”
It is okay, it’s a choice. At least I hope it’s a choice, when it’s a choice it’s fine. So, it’s always beautiful, because you find yourself talking to different women on a daily basis. And having different opinions with regarding these topics. This is very enriching, this continuous sharing of views.
Indeed, lately it has become a theme. that politics obviously has… the topic… about declining birthrate, and the fact that Italians are no longer having children. In my opinion, it’s not like that, it can’t be, or anyway it can’t be. It’s almost like wanting to blame those who decide to make a choice. Of course it’s not possible. I don’t know. It’s something that I see as a violent intervention on people’s personal choices. Then of course this goes very much against what are then also migration policies, and all that. Let’s say, they don’t recognise in the new immigrant families they don’t recognise the same power of Italian families.
As far as the termination of pregnancy is concerned, I must say that with much surprise, as far as our Region and our territory are concerned, I found adequate services and also a very fast access. And that surprised me a lot. It happened to me lately, in the last couple of years to accompany, let’s say, some facility users to have a termination of pregnancy and I must say that I found the services quite adequate as far as our territory is concerned.
Regarding the termination of pregnancy, surely for some women it was a trauma. Actually, however, I also saw a lot of reactions let’s say calm. Peaceful. Many women who faced it serenely, knowing that they just couldn’t finish the pregnancy and so… peacefully, they decided to do it.
Regarding the pregnancies that were a result of abuse or violence, actually very often women however want to carry the pregnancies to term.
As far as I can tell from being just an observer of a lot of situations, including family situations, however I don’t notice, any kind of limitations from a parental point of view, even with respect to the care of the child. On the contrary, the attention that a mother puts into it, it’s the same of a mother who that pregnancy sought it and wanted it. Generally, I don’t notice differences in that, then obviously there are situations where it’s not like this. But in general, especially in some cultures, a child is still a blessing.»

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