Help, Please: Jennifer Wong of Alt12 Apps

Chief Correspondent and new mom SuChin Pak finds out how other moms parent

jennifer wong!

From the moment you think about having a baby to tracking your pregnancy and then chronicling your life with kids, there’s an app for it — and it’s likely one of Jennifer Wong’s. Alt12 Apps, her mobile technology company, gives you the inside line on everything from fertility to picking the right bottle. But what amazes me most about Wong, is that amid the cultural debate about whether women can really have it all, she created a company to answer this question for herself, her family, and, ultimately, millions of other new moms. — SuChin Pak

Your company creates social media apps for women and parents. How did you get into this?
I was working at a music tech company where I traveled a lot and lived by my phone. When I found out I was pregnant, I naturally looked in the app store for something to help me with my pregnancy. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I realized there was a real opportunity to bring the latest mobile technology to women. Along with my husband, I created a pregnancy app. It was a complete labor of love — no pun intended! I worked long hours, moonlighting while working full-time. Within three months, we launched BabyBump, and it quickly became a hit. BabyBump’s success inspired me to take a leap and create a company dedicated to building mobile experiences for women.

Why create your own company rather than working a 9-to-5?
Before I started Alt12, I worked at a company that was predominantly male. When I was pregnant, I didn’t feel supported, because they couldn’t empathize with my physical condition, which required some flexibility in my usual work schedule. I remember being on a flight back from Japan well into my third trimester when my legs were painfully swollen and I had bouts of sciatic pain from sitting so long. I decided that having my own company would let me create a more family-friendly work environment. At Alt12, almost all of our twenty employees are parents, and there have been eight babies born between us. When someone has a sick child or a last-minute doctor appointment, we get it.

Out of all the apps you’ve created, what’s the one you’re most proud of?
I love them all, but I have a special place in my heart for BabyBump. It’s very personal to me because it was inspired and created alongside my pregnancy. Every feature in the app is there because I needed it or thought it would help other pregnant women.

jennifer wong!

Has technology helped you be a better mom?
Yes and no. Technology has provided me easier and faster access to information like cool things to do with my kids and upped the level of awareness of being an involved parent. But technology has introduced a new level of distraction. You think quickly checking your email on your phone is no big deal, but they do notice. I try very hard to unplug and be present with my children during family time.

When’s the last time a gadget, app, or bit of technology really wowed you?
I was lucky, or nerdy, enough to have worked for a music tech company for six years. Long before the iPhone and app stores, we created music identification technology that could analyze an analog signal through a feature phone and send you an SMS of the song info. It blew my mind and opened my eyes to the potential and future of mobile phones.

What was your “Woah, I’m a parent” moment?
It’s tied between hearing my son say “mama” for the first time and having my first diaper blowout. I’m talking on the wall, in my hair, blowout.

What was your last big parenting fail?
I’m tattling on my husband only because it easily could have been me. He was looking at his phone and my son said, “Daddy rather look at his phone than at me.” We both were mortified and felt like the worst parents in the world. To this day, that comment is my constant reminder to stay off my phone when we’re spending time with him.

What was your last big parenting success?
Getting my son to poop in the potty.

jennifer wong!

The most important advice you’d like to tell your friends without kids: Try not to judge. When you see a child acting out in public, it’s incredibly easy to judge the situation if it looks like the parent is handling the child poorly. I’ve learned that there’s so much going on that you don’t see, like the child might be hungry or hasn’t napped because of being sick. Most parents are doing the best they can and could use a smile over a glare.

Something you’ve learned from watching your partner parent: Roughhousing with my boys is fun! My husband is very physically playful with the kids, roughhousing as you would expect boys to. But I’ve learned that it’s super fun and now love the physical play and affection that comes with it.

Your kids are writing a book about you, what’s the title?
Mama, Are You Awake?

Rule you never break?
I’m terrible at following rules, but I try to stick to the no shoptalk and no phone during family time in the evening.

Your biggest vice?
Triple-cream cheese.

Thing you miss most since having kids?
Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Thing you miss least since having kids?
Traveling for work.

jennifer wong!

Parenting habit you swore you would never do, but now do frequently?
Worry! I swore I’d be an easy-going, carefree mom who rolled with it and would balance my worries. I can’t help it; now I worry about everything.

The best thing about being a parent is: Hearing my boys’ unadulterated laughter. It’s the sound of pure joy, and it never fails to make me smile.

The worst thing about being a parent is: All the stuff you have to schlep around. I can’t get out the door without packing like I’m going on a weeklong vacation.

I try to achieve work/life balance by: Working in sprints. I don’t have day-to-day work/life balance. My weekday is a little bit of evening family time sandwiched between a whole lot of work. It’s the nature of startup life, so I make sure to take advantage of any downtime to do the fun stuff, even if it’s the middle of the week.

Don’t forget to: Tell your spouse how much you love him.

Say no to: Pinterest. I don’t need anything else to make me feel like I’m not doing enough for my kids.

Say yes to: Accepting help.

The thing no one tells you about parenthood is: That it’s a Zen exercise in patience.

The one thing you can’t live without: Sunscreen. I feel totally naked without it.

What’s the best app for parents? For kids?
I love the Any.do app. It’s a really simple and intuitive task manager that’s great for moms. My 3-year-old loves the Duck Duck Moose apps. I like them because they’re well thought out for the age and usability skills of young kids. I also love supporting another husband-wife development team.

Know a parent we should feature in Help, Please? Give us a tweet @dailycandykids and @SuChinPak.

jennifer wong!

Photos: Aubrie Pick for DailyCandy