At Home With: Sarah James
Photos by Emily Hart, ninaandbphotography.com
Sarah James is a local mom of two and the voice behind her popular blog, Whoorl, where she writes about everything from fashion and natural beauty to cooking and travel. She's established herself as an authority on natural beauty and has even been featured on the Rachel Ray Show, a Pantene commercial and other national media outlets. She lives in a historic Edgemere Park home with her husband, Dustin, and their two children: 10-year-old son Derby and 6-year-old daughter Malou.
MFM: You grew up in Quail Creek but just recently moved back to Oklahoma after some time away. Tell us about that.
SJ: My husband and I were both born and raised in Oklahoma, but we left for college and didn't come back for a while. We spent time in Dallas and Chicago and lived the last 12 years in Newport Beach. Our major decision to come back was prompted by the fact we had no family out there. We saw it was taking a minor toll on our kids to not have that family support. It was a rat race out there with mortgage, schools, work. My husband is an interior designer and he was wanting to start an independent business, so we just decided to go for it two years ago. It's been great. My kids are just flourishing here with all the unconditional love of aunts, uncles and grandparents.
MFM: How did you get started blogging?
SJ: I started the blog 11 years ago. I had a job as a pharmaceutical rep and I hated it. It was not fulfilling. A friend of mine had a blog but back then it was really weird to have a blog. I figured it would be fun to do on the side. Shortly after, I got pregnant. Nobody else was writing about pregnancy online, so I garnered a huge audience from writing about that. It just took off. I had Derby and I left my job and at that point things just kept increasing with paying opportunities. I used to write a lot about parenting but I've started to give my kids more privacy online and my real passion is natural beauty now. I just keep evolving it depending on my interests and my stage of life.
MFM: How did motherhood fit into your blog?
SJ: My day-to-day life was so different once I became a mom. I had a job working from home so suddenly there was this freedom to go to the beach with my son and write a post. It was great because it allowed me to work from home but it also became impossible to pull apart work and home. Ultimately I'm better for having the flexibility but there are obviously challenges with it. I firmly believe you can't do everything. If you're trying to do that you will be mediocre at everything. Over time, parenting is obviously number one for me. My blog is not live or die, my kids matter most.
MFM: Your blog makes a lot of references to minimalism. Is it hard to cut down on extra stuff with kids?
SJ: It's hard with my husband! Being an interior designer, he's really a collector. Or I like to call him a high class hoarder. I'm much more comfortable to keep things organized and clean but he's always bringing stuff home. But it's good because he's so good at what he does. Interior design is not my passion. People compliment my home and I say, "thanks but it's not me." He's always gracious to ask my opinion and let me make some decisions but he really knows what he's doing.
Our house now is pretty small but it doesn't feel small because when we first moved to Oklahoma City we were in a 700-square-foot apartment. We are around each other a lot in tight spaces and that's both good and bad. But it feels familiar and the kids feel good so I'm happy.
I'm lucky that Derby and Malou get along really well and love spending time together playing. There are challenges. The dining room is also the craft room and also the home office. But I think our kids feel super connected to us because we're always together, always interacting.
MFM: What are some philosophies you've adopted to keep everyone at home happy?
SJ: I've dealt with anxiety since I was in my early 20s, so I'm big on mindfulness and meditating. I've found that's what keeps me grounded, so I try to implement that with my children as well. I want them to learn to step back, take a breath and reassess stressful situations. I want to raise kids aware of what's going on around them and not have their faces in a screen all the time. That's a very difficult line to walk because of my job and because Mommy's on a screen a lot. So it's a difficult balance.
My husband and I want to be very accepting of who they are and their issues. Being a mom is funny because I notice little things in them that I see in myself. I just want them to know it's totally okay and they should never be ashamed of who they are.
MFM: What are your thoughts on balance?
SJ: I think it's about how you define balance. Everyone's definition is different. My definition of it is being able to do everything you need to do and still feel whole and content, not necessarily happy. It's so different for each person. It's hard for me to talk about balance because I have such a good situation working from home and doing something I love. I don't even feel comfortable saying I have balance because I have so much control. Other people work 80 hours a week and are single parents. But I do believe balance is achievable and that means nothing I do is going to be perfect. Balance is letting go and being okay with the way things are.
MFM: What are the best and worst parts of motherhood?
SJ: The best is having these little children who are my teachers. I learn so much about myself and about the world around me from them. I never considered that before I had children. The worst part right now is living in a space where we're together so much that there's some bickering. Working from home and being with them all the time, you feel so frazzled and children make it easy to lose your focus really quickly.
MFM: What's been your favorite stage of motherhood?
SJ: Definitely not the infant stage! I think when the kids around 4 or 5 and they start to think for themselves, you see that ability to rationalize and that's fun. At that point it's not just about keeping them alive and I love that. I'm loving it more and more every year that passes. There's an old Jewish Proverb that says when you have the young ones you never sleep but with the older children you never rest. It's so true. At first, it's just an issue of sleeping but as they get older so many issues arise that it's no rest.
MFM: How do you want people to feel when they're at your house?
SJ: I just want them to feel number one comfortable, where they can be themselves, where they are heard. I want home to be an emotionally safe place, like they can exhale and enjoy themselves.
[Editor's Note: This interview was edited for style and clarity.]