The journalist couple Cristina and her husband Luca live in London with their daughter Alice. I met both of them traveling through India years ago. Back then I remember Cristina as being a very inspiring woman to me: The correspondent for prominent Italian newspapers with a journalistic fellowship at Oxford seemed so eager to achieve her dreams. Alice, their daughter, has been in their life for two years now and things have changed slightly. The freelance journalist spends a lot of time with her daughter while working on her career. Her passion, journalism, is as strong as ever. Read how becoming a mum changed her life, and how Brexit affected it, here…
Hello Cristina! You and your husband Luca are from Italy, how did you end up in London?
When we met, I was in Brussels, and he was in Milan, and for a few months, we saw each other only during the weekends. After a very short time, we decided to do something new together, and London seemed like the obvious choice. He found a job; I got a fellowship in Oxford at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, we decided to rent a small flat and start our new life.
You are a freelance writer and journalist, and Luca is working full-time. How do you organize your life with your two-year-old daughter Alice?
Luca works for a big international newswire and does very long hours, whereas my job as a freelancer is mainly concentrated in the afternoon and can be very flexible. When Alice was born, I wrote some stories with her sitting on my lap, but after a while I found a nanny to look after her for a couple of hours a day. I am very lucky: Luca is incredibly helpful, the nanny was amazing (she moved back to Italy a few months ago, and we miss her a lot!) and there is a brilliant childminder living next door. For the first two years, I could arrange childcare in a way that suited us, so that I could still spend my mornings with Alice and make sure that most Fridays were just for the two of us. When the Brexit referendum took place, it was one of the busiest moments of my professional life, and I managed to do good work only thanks to my mum and my mother-in-law, two energetic and youthful women who came and stayed for a few weeks. It has been a wonderful, wonderful time and even though sometimes I have been extremely tired, I felt privileged: being able to spend a lot of time with Alice while keeping on doing the other things I love in my life was just what I wanted.
strong>Do you love your job?
How did Brexit impact your life in Britain and your work?
That was a big personal disappointment for all of us and a turning point: our emotional investment in the city just stopped abruptly, and there was not much we could do about it. After six years in London we were feeling part of something, but on June 24, 2016, it was not the case anymore. Plus, a lot of friends left and, what’s worse, a lot of people – almost everyone I know – are confused about their future. Not much about what they will be allowed to do under the new rules, but more what they want to do. London is losing much of its sparkle, and this is tangible, but Brexit is also a unique story, full of different angles and very compelling, so for my work, London is, more than ever, the place to be at the moment. The more difficult the situation, the more interesting my job is.
You told me earlier, that seven days after Alice was born you gave a speech at a conference. How did people react to that? Would you do it again?
Yes, something about a book I had written about the EU and the way it has been reported by media over the years. My best friend still says I was crazy to do it! I had prepared it very carefully in the last few weeks of pregnancy, so it was no more than going there and reading from a script. Looking back, I think I needed to prove to myself that part of my life would still be the same. It worked, it was harmless, and yes, I would do it again.
Do you feel that there is a certain sense of pressure on mums to stay at home with young children?
It is entirely normal to stay at home with young children, that’s where a mum wants to stay, but I found that in the British culture there is a surprisingly strong pressure to stop pursuing your own interests and, in some cases, your work. This is no Scandinavia here, childcare is expensive and often women give up their jobs for a few years as it’s the best choice for everyone. I find it very problematic: we studied and worked hard to be where we are, giving up can be very frustrating and can potentially lead to depression. As a daughter of a single working mum (my parents are divorced and I used to see my dad a lot), I was born in the very progressive Seventies. I never ever thought that women would want to stop working after having children. But that’s me, whatever works for other women is good, motherhood teaches you to be open and flexible and never ever judge other mums!
Did becoming a mum change the way you work?
I think being a mum is a big booster for effectiveness, efficiency, pragmatism. You do things better; you do them in less time. Wasting time is not an option anymore!
Alice is bi-lingual: Italian and English. Where do you see her growing up? Do you plan on moving back to Italy one day?
Actually, thanks to her Pakistani nanny we discovered she has a bit of Urdu too! She started going to the nursery yesterday, and I think English will prevail because of other children, which is absolutely fine. Then during the holidays, she will improve her Italian. The future is a big question mark: I often wonder whether I would have preferred to grow up in Italy or London and what would be better for her. London is big, exciting, maybe too much… In Italy, you have more freedom, warmth. We will see, for the time being, London is home.
I met you years ago on a trip to the Andaman Islands, a quite special place, – do you still travel to far away places?
Yes! We went to Japan with Alice last year, and it went really well! Japan is friendly, clean, safe, ideal for children. She was 14 months at the time, which made it still possible to carry her in a sling and go everywhere. She loved the food and being together all the time. She was very impressed with the cherry blossom, less with the very long flight… And one of the few words we learned in Japanese was kawaii, cute. Everyone wanted to play with her.
What’s the most challenging about being a mum?
Dealing with tantrums. At the moment persuading her to wear something is a big part of my morning routine, she is very opinionated, she likes to pick her clothes or to remain in her pajamas. Tantrums are mutating things: once you learn how to cope with one type, a new one arrives.
What’s the most beautiful?
Holding her hand and going somewhere.
Thank you Cristina!
Cristina Marconi and Luca Casiraghi with Alice (2), January 2018
Interview: Marie Zeisler
Photos: Sarah Winborn