“When I work with women here, I always feel empowered, and it reinforces my belief that women are truly champions. Besides being a mother, sister, daughter, wife or homemaker in the domestic sphere, working women also have to serve as subordinates, supervisors or managers, balancing work, financial and caregiving needs. They have to wear so many hats!” Isabelle, a marriage counsellor since 2014, shares candidly. She supports transnational families and early marriage couples in Fei Yue Community Services.
Isabelle embarked on her journey in marriage counselling after witnessing many broken marriages amongst her friends and family members. She found fulfilment in supporting the couples through their trials and empathised with the women who struggled to cope with their life challenges—Isabelle herself had experienced struggles in finding her identity and self-worth after getting married.
Fortunately, Isabelle had support from her family and friends. They tried to visit her to connect with her more often. She also started doing some part time work, since she could now blend in with the locals better with her improved Thai language. Getting through her struggles in marriage, she learnt to be resilient and draw on available support.
Isabelle was happy to start a full-time job in 2002 and the arrival of her lovely daughter in 2003. She found joy in being a mother and gaining financial independence. However, her stability was again challenged when she decided to bring her 4-year-old daughter to Singapore to be educated. She was torn between giving her child a good education and caring for her elder sister who was ill at that time. At that time, her husband was occupied with business travelling.
“I thought I was doing what was best for my girl, but it didn’t work out. I soon realised that mother does not know best sometimes,” Isabelle admits. Hoping to give the best to her daughter, she had overloaded her daughter with many lessons. Isabelle quickly realised that this compulsion stemmed from her underlying desire to prove that she had a valid reason to return to Singapore. Her ambitious plans backfired when her teenage daughter refused to cooperate. Eventually, Isabelle and her husband supported their daughter’s decision to return to Thailand. The once “absent” dad also started spending a lot more time with his precious girl and doing more father-daughter activities together.
After going through many challenges in her marriage and her experience as a parent, Isabelle had learnt many valuable lessons. She realised that what she had perceived as sound decisions might be different from her family members’ views of what is important. Being a good listening ear would help her be a better mother and a more dedicated counsellor as well.
By Anna Lee ad Maxine Goh, based on the interview of Isabelle Ng