A Deaf Supermum and Enjoying Motherhood with 2 Daughters

Mothers of modern Singapore have it hard, real hard. On top of being the primary caregiver, they still thrive to do well at work to bring some bread home, amidst fast paced routines, they squeeze in time for grocery shopping, cooking healthy meals for the family and keeping the home clean. Let’s not forget about spending good quality time with their little ones and showing up everyday with a calm and nurturing attitude to be the best role model for their child(ren). Phew we are out of breath already.

This Mothers’ Day Series- A Deaf Supermum shares the parenting journey of power-packed ladies being mothers in different circumstances. Not just your average mums teaching ABCs, these mums swim the deepest oceans and run the extra miles to raise their children. Odds may seem in their disfavours but what are odds? No one has got time to think about that. They make the best of every day like a real superhero.

*Disclaimer: not saying Dads or other caregivers do not have it hard but it is Mothers’ Day so let’s take some time to appreciate mummies of all shapes and sizes out there!

Hi I am Jarn May. I am a Deaf mum of two teenage daughters, Juliet, 18 years old and Emily, 13 years old (and a fur kid!). I lost my hearing when I was three, after a high fever. That episode damaged my hearing nerves.

Here is my love story:

Deaf Community in Singapore is pretty small so everyone practically knows everyone as there were only three primary schools catered for Deaf children back then. I knew my husband through activities where I was Chairman for Social Group of the Deaf which oversaw all sports clubs and recreational clubs. My husband was participating in volleyball. I think his good looks and his helpfulness caught my attention!

In 2000, his good friend lost his leg in a car accident and my husband brought him to me seeking my help in soliciting support and help for his friend. This brought us closer and after a year of dating, we got married.

Being deaf had not deterred my husband and my decision for family planning. My husband comes from a fairly large family with four sisters while I have grown up in a family with many uncles and aunts. Once we got married, it was a natural process, and we knew we wanted to start a family within the first two years of our marriage. And we did!

Being a Deaf Mum:

Living with my parents-in-law, my kids grew up in bilingual, bimodal environment where my parents-in-law used Cantonese, my mum conversed in both Teochew and Mandarin, while my husband and myself, in English and signed Singapore Sign Language (SgSL). We started teaching our kids sign language once they were born. With the kids’ short attention spans, colourful flashcards helped too! My mother and mother-in-law were a great help. They would play children songs, watch videos with my kids and help them out with homework if needed.

My husband and I always try to make it a point to bring our kids to deaf events too. The last deaf event we attended together was in Jan 2021 which we went on 110km hike with like-minded Deaf hikers. Through our family dinners, we also educate our children on deafness and related issues. I also encourage our daughters to bring their friends to our house for playdates so that we could get to know them better.

I am grateful for their teachers who are very intuitive and made it a point to update us digitally via Whatsapp and emails. I recalled attending a talk in Juliet’s school with my interpreter when a fellow mum walked up to me and introduced herself as the Chairman of a parents’ group in school. She added us into the Whatsapp group and we got to know more parents. Thanks to them, we were introduced a good app – Life360 where we could track our children without texting them for their locations. Brilliant! It helped a few times when my daughter misplaced her phone too! Parents also created separate Whatsapp groups for playdates where my kids were often invited. They do not see my disability and see us as parents just like them.

My main roles as a mum are:

I am an all in 1! I am sure as with all mums out there, we have many roles to play. Right now, I am the co-breadwinner with my husband, an accidental chef, a home educator- helping my daughters out in their schoolwork, the Chief Financial Officer- holding the purse strings, the stationery manager, and an ardent cheerleader to my daughters. The roles are dynamic, and they will always change as the family transits through different milestones.

Proud moments as a mum:

Being a mum, deaf or not, we have many interesting moments. It is extremely hard to single out the proudest moment but I am definitely a proud mum of my daughters.

One thing I am proud of is that my daughters are open to sharing that they are CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) to their peers in school. It is not a fact that they hide, or shy away from. On the contrary, I actually believe that many students in their school would have known that I am Deaf by now!

Besides that, I am incredibly proud of Juliet for being a music lover, Juliet. She has a grade 6 in piano, has taught herself the guitar and the ukulele and she sang in a choir in primary school. Now she is serving in the music ministry in our church. Many people do not know but it is intriguing how I managed to raise a music lover. I believe that Juliet could have inherited her musical genes from my late father who also was a pianist in leisure time.

My younger daughter is the total opposite – she loves sports. And I am incredibly proud of her!

What are your hopes for your daughters and for society?

I hope that the society do not lose sight of important values as we move progressively economically, technologically, and academically.  I see many kids in the streets passing time aimlessly or do not know the core values they can hold on to.

My husband and I believe in teaching our children values such as resilience, humility, and empathy. One way we do so is by encouraging them to embrace nature rather than being holed up playing with devices or burying in books indoors. Hopefully, with everything my kids learn, they can pass the essential core values on when they become parents later in their lives. 

As for society at large, I hope that Singapore can develop towards being an inclusive society where all are treated equally and access free for all. There are many small steps we can take to work towards being an inclusive nation. An example would be working towards having our seniors be empowered with not just digital knowledge but also with language translation if they are not proficient in English.

Another example that we can work on is to increase awareness of the support of guide dogs.  Perhaps more talks can be conducted in schools, places of worship and at work for more of us to understand how essential this support is to the visually impaired or people with low vision to navigate around with ease.

Hello Mums out there in similar circumstances, I want to let you know:

Regardless of the situations you are in, your children will always be your sense of hope. Spend every moment as much as you can with them, watch them grow up and enjoy the process. While both mums and dads are the anchors for the family, to all the mothers out there, we will always be the guiding lighthouse for our families.

Each child is unique. Enjoy motherhood as much as possible. I do not even rely on parenting books because I want to be able to adapt, learn and enjoy each milestone as it comes. Time passes extremely fast and so relish every moment with your family and children.

Written by our volunteer writer, Valerie Ong

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