Mother Oxford's Kelsey O'Connell on embracing the mess
Congrats on babe #2! How has this pregnancy been so far?
Thank you! We’re thrilled! It’s certainly been different than the first, primarily in that I’m now chasing after a 3 year old and don’t have many opportunities to rest. On the bright side, staying active helped me feel strong throughout my first pregnancy, so I’m doing my best to keep moving through this one as well, and parenting a young child can be quite the workout! Plus, occasional yoga classes and lots of walks are keeping me feeling healthy—physically and mentally.
Thoughts on transitioning from one to two?
I’m excited and a bit nervous. We’ve struck a nice balance and routine in our family, and I know we’ll be shifting that. We also have so much fun together, I feel lucky to have another member on the way to add to it! Having gone through this once before, I have some idea of what to expect, but the dynamic this time will be entirely different. I’m going into it optimistically, and I'm ready to embrace this new mess ahead.
I can’t remember who said this first, but I’ve since heard it repeated, and I like it: “you can have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.” That might mean you shift what you’re “having” day to day, or even throughout the day. The more I’ve worked through this, the better I actually am at my job and at mothering. I’m less reactive and more focused on the big picture. There is real growth to be had in this time.
Tell us about your role at Mother Oxford.
I’m the brand’s Creative Director, which means I’m responsible for the conceptualization and execution of the brand’s creative vision, from product assortment to customer-facing content. It’s my job to make sure that our products reflect our values and that our presentation clearly communicates to our customer. That includes staying on top of industry trends and developments, listening to customer feedback and developing styles that serve her needs, and creating content that tells our story and showcases our pieces in a way that informs and excites our audience. Some days it’s sourcing new colors and patterns, sometimes it’s working with fit models to ensure we’re delivering on our promise of great fit, and others it’s directing photo shoots to bring the pieces to life. I’m even learning how to TikTok. ;) There’s also a business-oriented side to the role, reviewing sales to understand product performance and future opportunities, forecasting our upcoming product needs, and engineering the garments to ensure they’re the highest quality and value. Each day presents a new challenge, and I love every moment.
We know you’ve been with them since the very beginning. Why do you think MO has taken off and what sets it apart from other brands?
It’s been the best adventure so far. From a product standpoint, we’re offering something no one else has—an opportunity for women to invest in themselves and feel ready to confidently face their day, no matter what messes may lie ahead. There’s so much messaging around women giving up everything when they become mothers, including a wardrobe that makes them feel good, and that’s just not necessary. A lot of what we used to have in our closets may not practically stand up to the demands of our new role, and that's where MO comes in. We’re bridging that gap—offering solutions for the multi-faceted lives that we lead.
We also have the most incredible team dynamic, and I believe it extends to our business partners and to our customers, as well. We are moms, immersed in the daily challenges that we’re solving for ourselves and our community. We are direct and transparent, compassionate and problem-solving. We approach every issue with honesty, optimism, and logic, and while we hold each other up to high standards, it’s an open environment where every question and idea is welcome. I’ve never been more frequently pushed out of my comfort zone but also supported in a way that promotes so much confidence, experimentation, and growth. Our team is pretty special, and I’m very proud of it.
How has your experience with motherhood influenced the direction of MO?
Immensely! We all bring our mothering wins, losses, and insights to the table. Many of the skills mentioned above go hand in hand with parenting, and I’m grateful for the learnings I have from my son, my husband, and my MO team. We understand that comfort, reliability, and ease are critical to a mother, and we aim to offer those with every MO experience. I love that our pieces are simple to style and wear, and I love that everything is nursing friendly. Our sizing system is built to cover a range, so there’s room for change—something I recognize in a different way after having had my own body grow, shift, and change repeatedly. That is part of being a woman, and MO’s products embrace that.
Thoughts on achieving work/life balance as a new mom?
I think the key is dialing into your true priorities on both sides - the essentials that will have the most impact - and identifying what you can live without for a time. It’s a challenge and takes some trial and error. I embarked on this adventure with unrealistic expectations, trying to add to my life without giving anything up. We are capable of a heck of a lot, but not everything! I can’t remember who said this first, but I’ve since heard it repeated, and I like it : “you can have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.” That might mean you shift what you’re “having” day to day, or even throughout the day. The more I’ve worked through this, the better I actually am at my job and at mothering. I’m less reactive and more focused on the big picture. There is real growth to be had in this time.
What’s been your go-to pregnancy style?
I have always loved mixing proportions; now I’m just playing with some different ones. I like generous fitting tops + straight bottoms or a form fitting dress. I have fun emphasizing the bump, and wearing pieces open over slimmer fit tops or belting them is a nice way to do that.
Tips for dressing the bump
Comfort is key.
I quickly had to ditch my beloved high waisted rigid denim with this pregnancy, and I was so happy when I did.
Find a uniform.
Or a few silhouette combinations that you feel good in helps a lot. Over the winter I wore a lot of straight leg pants + slim fitting tops + a more oversize layer on top, like a Mother Oxford or chunky sweater. Having that formula in mind made getting dressed so much simpler.
Work with what you've got.
I wear my Ingrid+Isabel belly band all the time! It has allowed me to extend the wearing life of many of my non-maternity styles much longer and gives me support and coverage that feels great.
Keep it fresh.
Pair classic pieces with interesting accessories to keep things feeling fresh. I’ve been wearing a pair of black lug sole boots on repeat. They’re super comfortable and lend just enough of a trend-forward look to my otherwise very classic wardrobe to make it feel current and still very much me. And they’ll fit long after my bump is gone.
What’s one thing you do for yourself every day, no matter how short on time you are?
Getting dressed each morning helps me feel prepared for the day. Contacts in, face washed, fresh outfit on. I feel more capable and energized, like I’ve shifted into my daytime self.
Any advice you can leave us with?
I’m sharing this as advice for my future self, as well - a few months from now when I’m navigating an uncharted phase of second time parenthood. Relax and enjoy it. Don’t expect it to look a certain way, and please don’t try to compare it to someone else’s experience. Don’t attempt to fit everything in by pushing yourself harder; determine what really is important and be open, curious, and creative about how to best achieve that. Ask for help. We’re fortunate to have family traveling to us around the time of my due date, so that we have plans in place for my son and won’t have to worry about his care when we head to the hospital. Knowing that we’ll have those extra hands on deck gives me a sense of calm even now.