With over 651,000 Instagram followers and 458,000 YouTube subscribers, Singaporean influencer Naomi Neo has come a long way since she started blogging at the age of 11.
In the latest episode of Quan Yi Fong's talkshow "Hear U Out", the 25-year-old spoke about her parents' reaction when they found out about her first pregnancy, and how her relationship with her parents improved after marriage and motherhood.
Self-harm over a boy
When Neo was showing Quan her first tattoo, the talkshow host noticed self-harm scars on the influencer's arm.
Neo admitted that she had cut herself over a boy "a long time ago" as she was depressed at that time.
The influencer added with a sheepish laugh that she regrets doing it because the scars look "ugly".
Neo did it to "reduce the pain at that time", but acknowledged that her choice of method was wrong.
When asked about her parents' response to her self-harm, Neo revealed that her mother was very sad and "cried a number of times" when she noticed the scars.
"At that time, I didn't realise that hurting myself would also hurt my parents," the influencer said, adding that she now understands how her parents can be affected by her actions.
Improved communication with parents
Now that she's "grown-up" with her own family and children, communication between Neo and her parents has improved.
"Back then, even before I could get to the point and merely said, 'Mummy, I got something to tell you,' I'd get reprimanded, 'What do you want to tell me?! Did you do something wrong again?!'"
Such a response made Neo afraid of telling her mother about anything.
In addition, Neo divulged that her mother cared a lot about how relatives and friends viewed their family, which caused the latter to present a happy facade.
"But we're obviously not like that," Neo said.
Neo shared that she initially believed her mother did it to maintain a social reputation ("mianzi"/"face").
After thinking about it more, Neo realised that perhaps it was a manifestation of her mother's strong desire for the family to actually be happy.
"That's why she would try to post these photographs to make others think that everything was perfect," Neo said, adding that they could have been a happy family if not for the misunderstandings.
Besides her habit of reflecting on her past actions, Neo said that the loss of three grandparents — her parents' closest kin — in the past three years further pushed her to care for her parents more.
"It's time I showed them concern, instead of vice versa."
Parents acknowledged they were too strict
Neo acknowledged that her father has always doted on her a lot.
Whenever she was drunk in the past, her father would fetch her home no matter how late it was, or how busy he was.
The 25-year-old believes that her parents love her a lot and are proud of her, but do not verbally express it.
Quan then pulled out two letters were written by each parent for Neo, whose eyes started to well up even before she read the letters.
Neo noted that her mother has expressed her love for her in the past, whereas her father typically sends a text message after their arguments.
In the letter, Neo's mother said that Neo's rebellious teenage years were the most difficult time for her, but she never thought of giving up on her.
Her mother also added that she wanted to help her but recognised that she might have been too strict.
Similarly, her father also acknowledged that they might have been too harsh on her during her rebellious teenage years, even though they had good intentions.
He added that he still blames himself to this day for not being able to mend the rift between them.
After reading both letters, Neo apologised to both of them and said she "still loves them a lot".
The influencer said that she understood their intentions even before reading the letters, although this might not always be the case.
Having kids has allowed her to understand her parents' perspectives, which makes her feel bad for letting them down.
"I wish I could make amends for what I did in the past but I know that the scars will stay with us."
Parents' reaction to shotgun marriage
When asked if her parents accepted Neo's shotgun marriage shortly after dating her husband, the influencer candidly said with a laugh that they did not accept it.
At that point, they were starting to accept that she had a boyfriend, whom she had introduced to them.
However, her mother "exploded a little" when she found out about Neo's pregnancy when the latter was 21 years old, the influencer said with a chuckle.
Neo revealed that she had left the pregnancy scan on a chair in her room and her mother stumbled upon it while tidying the room and immediately phoned her father, who was in Vietnam at that time.
Her father subsequently called her as well, but she locked her door and refused to speak to him, Neo added, saying she was afraid of being reprimanded.
Fortunately, her mother eventually accepted it.
It helped that her parents liked her then-boyfriend (now husband), and could see how her personality changed for the better, which made it easier for them to approve of their relationship.
How motherhood has changed her
While her first pregnancy was not planned, the couple was prepared for the second pregnancy.
For the uninitiated, Neo gave birth to her son, Kyzo, in June 2018, and daughter, Zyla Rey, in January 2021.
When asked if she has plans for more children, Neo disclosed her husband was already talking about having a third baby, even before their second child was born.
She expressed her annoyance with a laugh, as he made it sound like it was as easy as laying a chicken egg, adding that she was the one who has to do the hard work and look after the children.
When asked about how her children have changed her life, Neo replied that they helped her to grow significantly as a person.
"Back then, perhaps I used to care about every little thing, but I stopped caring upon having children," she said.
She added that she used to be very insecure and would be very concerned about where her husband went as she was afraid of losing him, but her children have helped to boost her self-confidence.
She also learnt to cherish herself in the process, and discovered many things about herself that she did not know:
"Before having children, I was a person who really loved the nightlife. After having children, I've come to realise that I can give up all of that."
If you or someone you know are in mental distress, here are some hotlines you can call to seek help, advice, or just a listening ear:
SOS 24-hour Hotline: 1-767
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children)
Top images via meWATCH and @naomineo_ on Instagram.
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