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How New Mom Madison McKinley Isner Readjusted to Working Again

The jewelry designer is back in the studio, now with 6-month-old Hunter Grace in tow.

Since launching an eponymous jewelry line with her mother in 2017, Madison McKinley Isner has made headlines for her unique aesthetic. Just like her, the collection is equal parts city sophistication and rustic charm, inspired by the designer’s Dallas upbringing and summers spent at her family’s Wyoming ranch.

Last September, Isner, 26, took a brief hiatus from her responsibilities as designer and creative director to welcome Hunter Grace, her first child with husband John Isner, the professional tennis player. Now, six months into motherhood, the new mom is acclimated to her new normal and heading back to the design studio with more fervor than ever.  

DFWChild: Is there anything you miss about pregnancy?
MI: I miss knowing she’s in there safe. There’s something about the bond that you have when they’re in your belly. But I love having her in the world.

DFWChild: Are you feeling settled into motherhood now that Hunter Grace has passed the 6-month mark?
MI: I don’t think you’re ever settled. She’s changing so much. As soon as you get the schedule figured out, it changes. I didn’t realize how hard it would be. I don’t think I have it figured out, but I definitely feel more comfortable. I can get in the car with her to run an errand and be OK.

DFWChild: Has she been an easy baby?
MI: She’s been perfect. She’s a good eater and sleeper. She had that fourth-month sleeping regression, but other than that she’s been good.

DFWChild: How did you and John navigate this huge change as a couple?
MI: One step at a time. It’s such an adjustment. You have to realize you’re on the same team working toward the same goal: keeping her happy and healthy. Staying on the same page and really communicating about that is key. We sat down and talked about expectations. That was really good. Once I voiced what I needed from him we started sailing smoothly. We had to get our system down.

DFWChildHow have you dealt with the challenges of John’s career—the erratic schedule and travel? 
MIThat’s been tough. Travel is hard when you don’t have a baby. She was 7 weeks old on her first trip; we went to London. I was so nervous. If you think about it too much you’ll psych yourself out, so I say just do it. So far, she’s been everywhere with us. Flight attendants know it’s hard and are so helpful. People understand. 

DFWChild: How have you balanced your work on the jewelry line with a new baby?
MI: It depends on the day. When she naps I go to the office and work. And when John’s in town we take turns. I’m lucky that I get to work from home so I can make my own hours. Before the baby I wasn’t as intentional with my time, but now time is so limited. No moment is wasted.

DFWChild: Are there things you’re looking forward to layering back into your life now that Hunter Grace is a bit older?
MI: I try to take time for myself every day, whether it’s meditating, doing my devotional or doing some yoga moves as I watch her play. It’s a practice that you have to make a habit. My mom has always told me, “When Mommy is happy, Baby is happy.” I took that to heart. When you’re happy and you’re your best self, can give your best self to your baby.

DFWChildWhat attracted you to jewelry design? 
MII started making jewelry in high school. My mom and grandmother have always been involved with fashion, so there’s a family love of fashion and design. I’ve always loved being creative and having an outlet to express myself. Jewelry seemed a perfect fit. It’s a place where I can be my own person and express what I want to be. I also think jewelry makes people feel good, so that’s been awesome.

DFWChildWere you a creative kid? 
MI: I think so. When I was 12 years old, my mom and I started a T-shirt line and sold it to a few stores. I was always painting. My paternal grandmother was an artist. She had a studio in Wyoming, which is where my jewelry line started. I used to go there and paint. All art forms start with an idea. It’s just how you make that idea come alive.

DFWChild: Will it be a priority for you to cultivate creativity in Hunter Grace as she grows up? 
MI: I’ll do my best to give her opportunities, but I know she’ll be her own person. I’ll provide an environment for her to be creative and learn and use her imagination. That’s all I can do.

DFWChildDo you ever succumb to the mom guilt that’s perpetuated by Pinterest and social media
MI: It’s so hard not to. It’s in your face. You have to trust your own instinct and that you know what’s best for your baby. All the free advice is out there, but you have to find what works for you and your family.

DFWChildIs there a piece of parenting advice someone’s given you that really resonates? 
MI: One of my good friends told me that as long as you love your baby to the best of your ability, and surround them with love, nothing can really go wrong. I think that resonated because there are so many things you’re told to do or not to do. We forget that most basic principal.

DFWChild: How has reality of motherhood differed from expectations you had?
MI: The little everyday things were more of a shock to me—like you have to have someone watch her while you shower. I babysat when I was younger, so I thought I had a good idea of what it would look like. But you have no idea until you’re actually a mom. It’s a lot harder than I thought and I have so much respect for my mom now. Moms are awesome.

DFWChild: What’s been most challenging?
MI: Realizing how selfish I was before I had her. I used to like to wake up, have my coffee and do my devotional. You have to sacrifice that time and figure out a different routine. Realizing I’m not on my own time anymore was hard; I’m on her time.

DFWChild: What’s been most rewarding?
MI: That first smile. The love they already give to you is so incredible. It’s rewarding to see her wake up every morning and know that you get to take care of her.