A Week in Italy

For the last week I have been waking up either on a plane or in a hotel room all by myself, in a foreign city far away from home. The mornings were strangely calm and quiet, and the chaotic madness that I am used to in our daily household seemed distant.
This foreign city was Florence and work brought me there. Whilst I was there, the daytime was filled with intense work schedules, but we had the evenings to explore.
Florence is a city that is beautiful and rich in history. This was the place where the Renaissance started, and this was the place where great Italian historical figures like Galileo and Michelangelo were buried. Standing on the cobbled-stone streets, surrounded by concrete and marble buildings that were hundreds and even century years of age, you could not help but feel the presence of its grandeur past. The craftiness and architectural genius of the Italians could be observed through the intricate details that were attentively painted, carved and sculptured into every inch of their buildings – the doors and windows, the arches and columns, and even the roof and ceilings.
The atmosphere of the city was light and relaxed at most times; majority of the people milling about in the streets were tourists who had trickled in from all parts of the world to enjoy the Tuscan summer. The Italians who I came across in the shops and restaurants were lovely and hospitable people – not so much in the polite Asian kind of way, but more like in a louder, passionate and homelier kind of way.
When the sun went down, the city transformed itself again. The streets, the buildings, the Ponte Vacchio bridge and the surrounding hills all lit up in a modest, subdued manner, unlike the bright modern city lights that I was used to. The big majestic church, the Duomo, stood still and somewhat eerily in the backdrop, softly illuminated in a white light that reminded you of its presence without being intrusive. Together with the evening breeze and street musicians around every square and corner, you could not help but feel like you wanted to fall in love in this city. It was truly an indulgent experience.
However, while I was in the midst of basking in all of this, I was also aware of another reality that was unfolding halfway around the world. Despite weeks of advance planning, my three-year-old son caught an unexpected throat infection that resulted in high fevers and night waking for days. My husband, who was also sick and whose birthday I had to miss, was working full-time and having to take time off to look after him. My daughter, who still needed caring for while her brother was sick, ended up staying at my mother’s place for days while her father cared for her brother. I realized that for me to be able to make this trip and focus on doing what I needed to do, there were a lot of sacrifices made by my loved ones on my behalf.
A mother’s guilt is real, and it stems from the realization that the decisions made by myself can have multi-faceted impact on those around me. When I was in Florence I thought of my family every night before I went to sleep and every morning when I opened my eyes. Every time I was starting to savour Florence I felt guilt for being the only one in my family who had the opportunity to do so. Every time I received a text saying that Maxy was unwell, I felt guilt for not being there.
As the days go by, I get better at managing the guilt (or perhaps I just become numbed by it), but it does not ever really go away. Even before this trip, it has thrown (and will continue to throw) questions at me that make me think and consider about my real intent of doing things. Questions like:
Do I really have to work? Would the house finances fall apart if I stop working? Or am I working because I want to? Because it makes me feel accomplished and better about myself? Because it challenges me and keeps me in touch with the real world and I get to socialize in different networks? But even if I work, does it really have to be with a company and in a role that would require me to be away from my young family for days at a time, and sometimes steal hours in the evenings too? But haven’t I always wanted this opportunity to travel, and is it a bad thing to still want this knowing the impact it will have on everyone at home?
Is it ok to be selfish and want only for myself sometimes?
It is tiring sometimes to think about it, especially when knowing that there is never going to be one solution that would satisfy all these questions. But by pondering them from time to time I am hoping it woukd help me re-evaluate the validity of the decisions I made to date, particularly around work and life. And by doing so I am hoping to keep myself honest and challenge myself to try and find that right balance that would work for all of us – for those I love and also for myself.


2 thoughts on “A Week in Italy

  1. Hi Jer Sie, totally understood how you feel as recently I had the same feelings. I told myself, it is a learning curve for the kids to know their beloved mother is having great time boosting career and self-confidence, which we also hope that our next generation chase their dreams and not caged in so called typical Asian job if you know what I mean. Have fun with what you are doing and life is short, do it with no regrets!


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