Happy April Moms! Spring is officially here! Meet this month's spotlight mom, Noël Ray-Ortega, self-employed hairdresser, progressive activist with Our Wisconsin Revolution! Learn all about Noël in our exclusive interview below.
How many children do you have?
1 teen boy named Julian (mine) and another teen boy (his).
Tell us a little bit more about you and your family.
I have a very typical 20th century Milwaukee background. My mom and dad were both raised on the Southside; my mom from a German-Irish family and my dad being a second generation Mexican-American. I have an older brother, who now lives in Minneapolis with my niece. The rest of my family is mostly scattered in the area.
My partner and I have a blended family with two teen boys and we reside near the airport, very close to my childhood home. We have two cats and lots of plants; both inside and in our garden. We love to travel and explore together. I look forward to more freedom in the next year or so.
Much of my free time is filled with activism and volunteering. My main area of focus is income inequality and how it affects the lives of POC and women in Milwaukee.
What is the best part about being connected with Working Moms of Milwaukee?
I just sort of stumbled across WMM on Instagram awhile back and I was really excited to see a network created for working mothers. There's no shortage of mommy groups and blogs, but the demographic of those communities are overwhelmingly SAHMs. Being a caretaker/parent/guardian while working full-time presents some unique challenges, so it's nice to find resources that are relevant to me.
What inspired you to become a stylist?
I've always been into art and fashion but was unsure of how to make a viable career out of those interests. I honestly don’t remember how I ended up here, but I love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else!
What's the best part of your job/career?
That's changed many times over the years… right now, I really appreciate how truly important a moment of self-care is. Most of my clients are hard working women who have busy schedules. I've noticed during 2020 in particular, that clients are taking more time for themselves and making self-care a top priority. Women (especially mothers/caretakers) are often seen as vain and selfish when taking time away from their jobs or families for “beauty” things. Sometimes a haircut is just a haircut, but it can also be a small act of defiance towards societal norms and I think that’s pretty cool.
Explain/describe one of your proudest mom moments recently.
I'm proud to see my son become his own person. We could not be more different, which really bugs me sometimes, but it's cool to see how he chooses to navigate life.
What has been the most challenging part of this past year for you (and/or your family)?
All of the changes from COVID have really rocked our family. My partner was able to transition to work from home with ease and his job has been stable. Being a hairdresser, I am obviously unable to work from home. I lost a lot of income this year. Additionally, I am one of the almost 100,000 people in Wisconsin who still hasn't received unemployment payments. 2020 was hard, but I made it through and, honestly, I feel tougher than ever.
Do you have a favorite place to go in Milwaukee?
I love exploring the parks and natural areas… Bender Park and Falk Park are my favorite birding spots. Some of my favorite restaurants are SmallPie for sweets, Pho Viet for bun cha and spring rolls, and basically any taco truck.
The salon I work at, Amity Loft, is located in Bay View where there are lots of neat little shops and restaurants to visit. I always encourage clients to get out and explore the neighborhood while they’re here.
Do you have any words of advice for other moms, especially new moms?
Don't be so hard on yourself. Expecting perfection will only lead you to numerous disappointments. You are literally raising another human being with their own thoughts, feelings, and desires… there will be tough times, but that doesn't outweigh the pure joy and magic of being a mom.
Will you be doing anything fun for spring break or summer this year?
Since we bought our home four years ago, I really enjoy just being close to home. Hopefully, we can socialize a bit more and reconnect with friends we haven’t seen through the pandemic.