'Meet with' is our series of interviews with women we admire from across the beauty, wellness and female health industries.
We're so excited to talk with Kelsey, the founder of Belle Force and designer at Mother Oxford, who we met a few years back at an event in NYC before she became a proud mama as well. Kelsey O'Connell is the founder of Belle Force, designer for Mother Oxford, mother, wife, New Yorker, and eternal optimist. She believes in elevating everyday experiences with beauty, kindness, and curiosity. We discuss her journey to becoming a mom, how she got involved with Mother Oxford and she shares some powerful words of advice for the modern woman looking to balance an active lifestyle, wearing many career hats and being a mom.
Who do you look up to as a role model or for inspiration?
I admire mothers and women with a strong sense of self. Women that find power in embracing multiple roles - whether at once or in different seasons. Women that raise each other up and recognize that we are capable of endless achievements together.
What was healing for you during your pregnancy?
Movement! I founded an activewear company - Belle Force - almost 5 years ago, when I rediscovered dance as an adult and adopted a daily fitness routine. Working out makes me feel strong, capable, balanced, and happy - and this was especially important during a time of so much change! I was lucky to be able to keep moving the entire time (I went to an Xtend Barre class on my due date!) and I attribute my feeling good throughout the pregnancy (and after) to this.
How has your understanding of your body and hormones changed post-pregnancy?
I’m much more aware of the cycles my body goes through now. When I was pregnant I found cravings led me to supplementing my diet with nutrients I needed more of, and it allowed me to really tune into what my body needed at each stage. I am more sensitive to my needs now - be it movement, food, or sleep.
What inspired you to join Mother Oxford?
Mission and team! I was so excited when Lydia, Mother Oxford’s founder, shared her concept for 'performance wear for motherhood'. I so genuinely appreciate and support her idea that mothers should be treated as women first, which means that in addition to raising children, we’re cultivating relationships; running businesses, connecting with our partners, and more. In Lydia’s words, the brand “gives not only mothers, but all women, a blank canvas to be the person they know they are but we're too distracted to be.”
I am honored to be building this brand alongside a small team of wildly talented and driven women, and I’m so excited for the future of Mother Oxford.
What have been some unexpected results from starting Mother Oxford?The immediate support we’ve received has been incredible, and it gives us even more motivation to continue on this path. I think we’re speaking to women in a way they’ve been craving.
Did you see a need for something like Mother Oxford when you were pregnant or post-pregnancy?Hell yes. I remember being surprised and frustrated that so few of my pre-pregnancy clothes worked for me after having my son. I needed pieces that were nursing friendly, comfortable, yet put-together, and I didn’t have to put too much thought or time into. I had a few favorite pieces that checked those boxes, but then I’d have to change every time I got spit up on, which was frequently. Mother Oxford has considered all of these pain points and built something that perfectly supports women in the post-pregnancy time and beyond, into motherhood.
Any advice for those going through pregnancy and the changes you can experience with your hormones during and after?
Know that some moments will feel perfect - like you’re living a sweet story you’ve heard or an idyllic photo of parenthood you’ve seen. And some will feel so foreign. I struggled with a fair amount of anxiety and difficulty finding my self identity for a while after. Becoming a mother ushers in a tremendous shift. It changes you, and that change can be uncomfortable and messy at times. Knowing your core values and giving yourself grace to slowly (continuously) evolve into the new person you are is crucial.
Is there one quote which resonates with your journey in life so far that you like to share to inspire other moms?
My favorite quote is from Jane Goodall: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
It's an excellent reminder that each moment counts - not to put undue pressure on yourself, but rather to remember the opportunity you have every day to give what you have to the world. When you’re bringing a child up, this rings so true. They’re looking up to you for everything, and it’s up to you to model the behaviors and ideas you value for them. It’s inspiring!
What’s your go-to hair and skin product?
- Hair - wrapping it up in a bun! It’s so long these days, and when I need it out of my way, I twist it into a bun. It feels like a chic way to keep it pulled back, and when I take it down, it’s got a nice little wave to it and is smoother than before.
- Skin - tretinoin (a retinol cream) and face oil. I now use oil in the day (to highlight and hydrate cheekbones and eyes) and in the night (for overall moisturizing).
What are your non-negotiables for your at-home routine?
- Coffee!!! Before anything else, if possible.
- Getting dressed. I don’t feel myself without a fresh, considered look for the day.
- Some kind of movement, whether it’s a hike, a run, or even a five minute yoga flow. I find myself getting anxious and irritable when I skip it.
And finally, how do you feel today, what's your current state of mind?Managing my expectations. This year has turned our world upside down, and little is really as it used to be. This brings with it so many benefits and rewarding surprises, but I am continually needing to reframe my perspective. There are so many lessons to learn and so much growing to do. Most moments are far from Instagram-perfect, and I am continually needing to remind myself that that’s ok.