Playing for Keeps: Whitney’s Story

Motherhood is the fire and flood of my career.

I had a degree in interior architecture, and was working at my dream job when I got pregnant. After having kids I always had little side businesses, though I was primarily a stay-at-home mom. But then my marriage began to deteriorate to the point I realized I needed to get out. I was so scared to leave because I had no idea how to take care of myself and my kids. I think of myself as being independent, smart, capable — but it was the most vulnerable place, to be a single mom without a promising job opportunity. I really felt the gravity of it. I didn’t have a great support system back home to lean on. I was basically on my own.

One day I was walking downtown with the kids, and I saw a now-hiring sign on a Walgreens door. I thought maybe I should apply, that I needed to do whatever I could to support my kids. I thought, “How did I get here?” I think the worst feeling as a mother is not knowing how to provide for your kids. But it was also so motivating for me.


I started Sonnet James in January 2013.

I feel like I kept my style together pretty well after my first son was born. But after my second son was born, I was wearing Uggs and sweatpants everyday. I started thinking, “Why do my hair? Why do my makeup?”

This lack of self-care began affecting me in a lot of ways. It really affected my self-esteem and I was getting a little depressed. I didn’t feel like there was an option for clothes that mothers could wear everyday that were “realistic”, but still fashionable. So I decided to do something about it – I decided to create a market for beautiful play-clothes. I wanted something that was just as easy to throw on as my Uggs and sweatpants, but made me feel beautiful instead of frumpy.

It was the most aggravating, frustrating learning curve, and it all happened on my kitchen floor.

I had bought a bunch of books about how to draft patterns, and after putting the boys to bed, I would come straight downstairs and roll out butcher paper. I would use my little boys’ children’s books as weights to hold the pattern down. It was basically one month straight of me working from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. every night, doing things I never ever imagined I could do.


I’ve learned a lot: 1) Everything needs a contract. 2)  Don’t work with family or boyfriends.

I’ve also struggled to find the perfect mentors since I’m an introvert. But most of all, I’ve had to learn how to balance my company’s growth with being the mom I want to be. Wanting it all is my biggest challenge as a mom – wanting to build my company and also wanting to be room mom at school. I’ve chosen to focus more on my boys, which just means my company won’t grow as fast. And I’ve come to a place of peace with that.

Motherhood has connected me to humanity in a way I never expected.

When people irritate me I can’t help but think, “That’s someone’s baby.”  That person has a mom somewhere who sees all the good in him or her, just like I see it in my son. And I’ve had to learn how to be forgiving of myself. Taking time to self-reflect and change the habits or broken parts of me that add to our family’s suffering is an ongoing challenge. Whether it’s my anxiety about traveling (which turns me into Mean Mom), or the tone of voice I use when I get frustrated with the boys, recognizing these things is a challenge. Looking inward is a hard practice. It can be painful and change isn’t easy.

The power of motherhood is so inspiring to me. We have the ability to create change in this world just by the children we raise.

Motherhood is the best thing that has ever happened to me – it saved me. It gave me a strong sense of identity I didn’t have when single or through my marriage. It also was another part of my motivation behind the dress; since my parents were so disengaged with me, I didn’t know how to be a parent. I instinctively knew how to physically take care of my kids, but emotionally I didn’t know how to relate to or talk with them.

I’ve struggled with being playful. But my sons got into a great preschool, where the philosophy is play-based — it’s all about helping parents be engaged with their children. After learning from the school, I thought, “I’m so lucky to have this education, how can I share it?” Motherhood has brought so much play back into my life.


“Young at heart, present in the moment and more playful with the ones you love.”

That’s our mission at Sonnet James.  My dream is to spread this message to every mother because I’ve seen how much power it has had with my customers, and in my own life. Seeing the world through a child’s eye is inspiring.

Whitney is the mother to two adventurous, lovable and crazy little boys. Her love for fashion and dedication to her boys led her to create Sonnet James. She believes passionately in being a playful and involved mother.  To learn more about Sonnet James please visit, enter code MamaSaga20 at checkout to receive $20 off your order.

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