WMM Interview WMM Spotlight

April 2020 Spotlight | Erin Ong

Alright, Moms. We know it's been a challenging time with a lot of unknowns recently. But one thing we know for sure is that there's no shortage of incredible moms right here in our community. This month we're saying Happy April to you and introducing you to this amazing mom, Erin Ong! Enjoy reading about Erin in our exclusive interview!

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Erin Ong and I work for MGIC (Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Company). I am a CPA in the Finance & Accounting department. I have a toddler named Kennedy, who just turned 2 years old in March.

Tell us a little bit more about you and your family.

I have 2 brothers and I am the baby girl in the family. I was born and raised in Malaysia where most of my family live. I moved to Milwaukee, WI (which I have never heard of prior to moving here ☺) when I was 19 years old to attend Marquette University. Prior to having kids, my brother and sister-in-law lived in Germany for 2 years (which I had the pleasure of visiting while they were there).  After moving back to Malaysia and having 2 kids, their whole family moved to England (which I also had the pleasure of visiting while they were there) and lived there for 4 years. 

My family and I love to travel – my first international plane ride was to the US when I was 5 years old. I think that might have been our first family trip together. I have travelled to 25 countries (not including the countries I’ve transited in airports) and every continent except for Antarctica (which is on the bucket list!). My husband (whom I met at Bastille Days) and I live with our 2 year old in Bayview. 

What is the best part about being connected with Working Moms of Milwaukee?

My first WMM event was at a happy hour after work at the gorgeous Pfister lobby lounge in December 2019. I enjoyed networking and connecting with other mums, who were a diverse group of women who shared similar challenges as me.  Ever since then, I have been to a few events – Women’s Networking Event, WMM Playgroup at the Bay View Community Center and International Women’s Brunch hosted by our lovely Susannah. I only wish that I started going to WMM events sooner!

I enjoyed networking and connecting with other mums, who were a diverse group of women who shared similar challenges as me. 

How has Corona Virus impacted your life?

Let me just begin by saying that I could barely even finish answering the questions for this April Spotlight article due to how much the Coronavirus has wreaked havoc our lives. Just like everyone else, this pandemic has affected us in several different ways.

 Firstly, my parents (who live in Malaysia) and I were planning our Scotland itinerary which was scheduled for May. Right before we were about to book our flight tickets in February, my dad cautioned us to hold off from making any reservations due to the Coronavirus. At that time, I scoffed, not thinking that Scotland would be affected by the Coronavirus (which at this time there are a few cases). Little did I know back then that the entire country and world would be on lockdown, and that there would be travel bans. 

I am sure glad that I listened to my dad (thanks Dad!) and did not go ahead to book any flights or accommodations. 

In addition to that, I had to unfortunately cancel Kennedy’s 2-year-old birthday party with her little friends, which was scheduled toward the latter part of March at the Bay View Community Center. 

While I am lucky enough to work remotely, it has been challenging trying to navigate the chaos of having to figure out alternative childcare options my 2-year-old while maintaining the same productivity at work. On the bright side, I learned to set up a Zoom account and have had a few virtual conference video calls with my friends and Kennedy’s daycare friends! 

All I can say is, I thank our lucky stars that we have enough toilet paper, thanks for my mother-in-law who used to work at Kimberly Clark! ☺

Explain/describe one of your proudest mom moments recently.

My daughter is 2 years old, so I can’t say that I have a ton of “proud valedictorian mum moments” but here are a few that come to mind.

At her 18-month checkup, her pediatrician was astonished to see that she has a vocabulary of a 2 ½ year old. We were none the wiser! I guess that would makes sense as to why she loves counting to 10 (and almost 20) and knows her colours. 

When my husband dropped Kennedy off at daycare one day, her teacher complimented her on wanting to clean and wipe off the tables. That must come from her OCD mum! LOL 

One day, while I was at work, I received a text from another mum who was visiting her child at her daycare. She told me that one of the other kids started crying and Kennedy walked up to and put her arm around her, said “it’s OK” and gave her a kiss on the cheek. For a 2-year-old to show empathy is beyond what I would expect! 

We took Kennedy on her first international trip to Ireland in May 2019 when she was 14 months old. Needless to say, it went smoother than we anticipated (apart from the fact that she threw up on me in the Dublin airport before checking in for our flight home) ☺

What's the hardest part of being a working mom?

A mum is one of the most exhausting yet at the same time most rewarding thing I have ever done. The hardest part about being a working mum is having to juggle everything and do it all. In addition to working full time, my husband also goes to school part-time. This means that I am on baby duty solo parenting every night of the week during the school year.

Without any family in the surrounding area to help, it does pose a challenge when I have multiple deadlines and deliverables (as most people who work in Finance / Accounting) and have to rush out of work for daycare pickup before they close. There are times when my heart is racing trying to get it all done.

There are times when my heart is racing trying to get it all done. 

I have a newfound appreciation for single mums and dads - my hats go off to you and don’t know how you do it all! 

Despite not having family to help out, I am fortunate that I have my tribe of friends who are willing to babysit and have watched Kennedy a few times. Shout out to all of you! 

Do you have a favorite place to go in Milwaukee? If so where and why?

My favourite places to go in Milwaukee has evolved throughout the years but since having Kennedy, I love going to South Shore Park next to Lake Michigan because Kennedy loves going to that playground. South Shore Farmers Market is bustling during the summer. And South Shore Terrace Beer Garden is a fun place to hang out when the weather is nice and is kid-friendly.

Do you have any words of advice for other working moms, especially those that are newer working moms and learning how to navigate this new world?

As a working mum in this day and age, we are pressured and expected to do it all - to hold the role of the caregiver, not only for your child but sometimes to an elderly parent in addition to being a good employee who performs well at her job. 

My advice to working moms are (which I need to take myself) is to do the best you can and do not be too hard on yourself. 

Also, because we are always looking out for others, we tend to forget self-care. It is easier said than done, but we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. 

My other advice that I need to take myself is to not forget about date nights with your significant other. Our first date night was an overnight getaway for Lodi / Prairie du Sac when Kennedy was 18 months – which was way too long! 

It is difficult to have date nights when there is no family in town, so it did take a little planning (shout out to my friend Rachel and her family who was so willing to watch Kennedy for over 24 hours!)

Also, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and network with other working moms. I went to my first WMM by myself not know anyone and did not have trouble because everyone was so friendly and open! 

Also, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and network with other working moms. I went to my first WMM by myself not know anyone and did not have trouble because everyone was so friendly and open! I wish I had started going to events sooner. 

What (in your opinion) is Milwaukee's biggest opportunity to improve the lives of working moms and better support them?

While I’m fortunate work at an employer that has nice comfortable lactation rooms, I wish that more workplaces, airports, convention centers and public spaces have dedicated lactation & nursing rooms.

Miller Park does a great job with having a dedicated comfortable nursing and lactation room. 

Do you know how many times I’ve attended conferences where when I have called and inquired about lactation rooms, only to get the response “you can use the bathroom”? 

I had to refrain from replying back “do you eat in the restrooms?”

I am also a proponent of longer maternity leaves. While I understand that organisations needs to run their business efficiently and not every company can afford to give mothers a 2-year maternity leave, 12 weeks (if we are lucky to get that much) seems a little short for a mum to spend with a newborn right after birth. 

Do you have any plans for summer or other fun stuff? If so, what are they?

At this point, I hope we getting a summer and that is not cancelled due to being on lockdown from the Coronavirus! j/k ☺

As mentioned, we were supposed to meet my parents in Scotland in May but it does not look like it will be happening in the foreseeable future given our current situation ☹ 

If summer is happening as planned, here are some of my favourite activities that are my annual go-to:

  • Spectating Tour of America’s Dairyland 
  • Beer pouring at Irish Fest 
  • Bastille Days is our all-time favourite festival since this is where we met. We have Stormed the Bastille 14 years in a row since my husband and I met.

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