The couple literally had a bun in the oven within a month. Says Jenny, 31, managing director of Direct Funeral Services, “We felt really blessed that things turned out so smoothly! My initial thoughts were: Wow! The baby’s really efficient!”
After missing her period, Jenny decided to use a pregnancy kit to check while her spouse was at work. In fact, Darren, 32, who’s the executive director of Direct Funeral Services —was sitting in a staff meeting when he received pictures of the positive results.
“He sent me a message with the crying emoji and the next moment, he’d stepped out from the meeting to call me so that we could share the joy together!”
You may be familiar with Jenny and her hubby ― the couple appeared on Channel 5’s documentary series, Death is our Business, which aired in April last year. The series gave viewers a rare insight into the world of undertakers and what it takes to run a family business in, what many would consider, a taboo industry.
“We felt really blessed that things turn out so smoothly according to our plans! My initial thoughts were: Wow! The baby’s really efficient!”
Jenny is one of Roland Tay's four children. The undertaker, 70, grabbed headlines when he provided free funeral arrangements for the poor and families of murder victims. Given her background, unlike other people, Jenny had no qualms conducting conversations about death and the end of life. In fact, she has been deeply interested in the unconventional industry since she was 18.
“I had seen how my father dedicated his life to sending off the deceased in a dignified manner, and most importantly, helping families tide over their most difficult times. I knew I wanted to help people the way he did.”
When her father had a heart attack in 2012, the couple quit their jobs ― in marketing and advertising and healthcare ― to help in the business. Jenny, named one of ELLE Singapore’s Leading Ladies in August, says of her profession, “I think that what we do is a form of essential service to the community and we are helping people, so there is no need to be superstitious about anything.”
The couple is set to welcome their firstborn — a baby girl — in March. Reflecting on her four years of experience in the funeral business, Jenny says it has only taught her to value her loved ones even more. “The funeral business taught me that in the end, what matters most is how loved you are, by your family.”
She adds that it’s so easy to get caught up in one’s career and friends that we neglect the ones who matter the most — family. “I have learnt to be more appreciative of my family and to have more time to spend with them.”
SmartParents cosied up to the mumpreneur to get the lowdown on her pregnancy and how she plans to juggle work with caring for her baby…
Congrats on your pregnancy! How’s it going so far?
I’m 23 weeks into my pregnancy and am really thankful that things have been pretty smooth. Though I’m clueless as to what to expect, I’m grateful to have a group of mummy friends that have been providing me with so much valuable information to guide me through my pregnancy.
Besides the initial nausea in the first trimester and the body aches here and there, it has been quite a nice journey experiencing a new life within me, especially when I feel the baby kicking every day. It’s quite fascinating ― I actually enjoy the kicks!
How did you share your pregnancy news with your love ones?
We sent the image of the pregnancy kit to our loved ones to announce our pregnancy. All of them were so excited about the new addition to our family. I’m staying with my dad, so I told him personally, he smiled and say, “Good, good, must take care from now!” I could see the joy he had in his eyes when he said that.
Any challenges so far?
They are rather more of a change to my lifestyle. For example, I have to be more mindful about my posture when I carry things, my sleeping position and the dos and don’ts of pregnancy. It’s important to stay positive throughout ― it’s more of setting the right expectations that this is a phase that I have to go through while waiting for the arrival of a lovely baby.
“He constantly showers me with sweet words, about how he thinks my changing body is so beautiful to him.”
Any pregnancy cravings?
The food that I crave is the food I can’t really eat! [Laughs] I really miss my sashimi and wine and definitely can’t wait to savour them after my pregnancy! Besides that, I don’t really crave anything, so my husband is quite lucky he doesn't really have to go out of his way to satisfy my cravings.
Did you have to change your diet?
Definitely! I’m trying my best to eat healthier for my baby girl, after all, whatever I consume goes to her development and nutritional needs. I’ve always been eating pretty healthy, even before pregnancy. Now, my meals definitely include oats and fruits in the morning. I also intentionally order a portion of vegetables, meat or fish for my other meals, so that baby gets all the nutrients she needs to grow. However, it’s pretty inevitable that I’ll give in to my cravings as well! I don't really crave sweet stuff, but the occasional prata, hokkien mee and carrot cake helps to keep my cravings in check! I think it’s important to be happy and not be too stressed with your food intake — moderation is key!
Did anything take you by surprise during your pregnancy?
I’m very surprised by how accommodating and sweet my husband has been during my pregnancy. Whenever I feel upset about my body changes, he is always so reassuring. He constantly showers me with sweet words, about how he thinks my changing body is so beautiful to him. His support and love really helped me through the difficult moments during my pregnancy.
What has been most rewarding so far?
My second trimester is much easier for me. I’ve much more energy now, so I’ve been going to the gym and doing prenatal Pilates to keep my back strong and to stay fit. It’s really nice to notice a pregnancy glow on my face as well! Hopefully that will stay!
Do you find yourself having to slow down quite a bit from work?
I really had to slow down in terms of going out with friends during my first trimester as I felt tired really easily and was always nauseous. However, I still managed my work with my team via e-mail or WhatsApp. It really helps that my husband Darren is running the business together with me, so during the first trimester, I could rest more. Now in my second trimester, my energy is up and I’m back to my usual at work again.
Do you prefer going with the flow?
We are both pretty chill and prefer to experience the joy of having a baby rather that fussing over too many things. We feel that when the baby arrives, we will be busy for the rest of our lives, so why not just relax and experience pregnancy happily? We do read up on the important dos and don’ts of pregnancy, but besides that, we are really going with the flow.
Who do you think will be the stricter parent?
“We feel that when the baby arrives, we will be busy for the rest of our lives, so why not just relax and experience pregnancy happily?”
What advice have your friends been giving you?
I’ve gotten great advice from so many of my friends ― I think it’s most important to listen to your body to stay happy. Rest when you are tired and don’t strain yourself when you feel uncomfortable. Eat healthy but don't forget to reward yourself with food that you crave, so that you don’t feel miserable during your pregnancy. Everything in moderation is key.
What are you looking forward to the most with your baby girl?
Both of us are looking forward to bringing up our child with the right values, to be positive, kind and compassionate in life. We want our child to lead a well-rounded childhood, so definitely, a good balance of play is important, we can't wait to bring her out to try all the outdoor activities we have in mind for her!
Do you plan to get a helper?
Yes, as a working mum with four dogs at home, a helper would really help me juggle work and life better. I’m grateful that my mum has also offered to help out when my baby girl arrives. I will also be engaging a confinement lady for two months as I don't want to tire my mum too much.
Would you want your child to go into the funeral business in the future?
That’s really up to her. I would definitely expose her to what I do from young, so it would be great if she shares the same passion that I have. However, it’s really up to her — whether she’s keen to further our business legacy.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Photos: Jenny Tay
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