Mom Who Inspires: Jessica Seinfeld
All week, we're spotlighting celebrities who have experienced a profound shift from motherhood, and are now using that transformation to be the change they want to see in the world. Next up: Jessica Seinfeld.
Jessica Seinfeld technically has four children: There’s daughter Sascha, 14; sons Julian, 12, and Shepherd, 9; and Baby Buggy, the nonprofit she founded in 2001 with the aim of providing families in need with baby gear, clothing, products, and services.
And much like any child, Baby Buggy takes up a lot of her time, so much so that she jokes with staff that it is run like NASA. The idea was born when, about three months into life as a new mom, Seinfeld found herself looking at a closet full of clothes her daughter no longer fit into—though she swore she had just bought them. “Not for the inconvenience of it, but for the waste of it, I just kept thinking about all the stuff that we had in our apartment,” Seinfeld, 43, tells InStyle. “I wasn’t really sure what to do with all this stuff, and I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a service who came to your house and gave all of these baby goods an immediate second life?”
Almost 15 years and over 8 million donated items later, what started out as a weekend-long drive in New York City has grown up quite nicely. Now a national organization, Baby Buggy just partnered with Jessica Simpson and her line for Destination Maternity, where $5 from the sale of this shirt will be donated to Seinfeld’s cause. And through September, for every pack of Seventh Generation diapers purchased at Whole Foods, Seventh Generation will donate a pack of newborn or size-one diapers to Baby Buggy.
InStyle recently caught up with Seinfeld about Baby Buggy’s latest initiatives, the altruistic pull of motherhood, and her plans for Mother’s Day.
Tell us about the new Fatherhood program you recently launched.
There are so many services for moms and women, but there really aren’t any for men. At Baby Buggy, we couldn’t help but address that need because it was so glaring and so easy for us to move into and complete the circle of the families that we’re trying to lift out of poverty. We really galvanized a bunch of wonderful men—with my husband [Jerry, 61] spearheading it—and we’ve been working in the fatherhood realm for a couple of years now. It’s been really exciting and is sort of our next chapter.
As a mom of three, you must have this whole motherhood thing nailed down.
I wasn’t one of those really calm new mothers. I didn’t have many babies in my life growing up. I wasn’t taking care of tons of cousins. Motherhood, especially the first time, was definitely a challenge for me.
Still, what is it about parenthood, motherhood in particular, that makes you want to do good in the world?
You feel so vulnerable. Your baby feels so vulnerable. And you feel this level of responsibility that you’ve never felt before. It almost wrecks havoc in your whole emotional constitution. I don’t think I was prepared for it, but I don’t think you can really be prepared for the emotional change in your constitution that it brings about. But with all things that require growth, you can never really be prepared, and I think that’s what’s magical about it, but also really stressful about it.
Your mom was a social worker. How has that influenced the work you do?
I’d listen to my mother tell stories about the families she worked with, usually families with kids with special needs, and I really got to see how hard life is for families who are living below the poverty line. Add in to that that your kid needs special therapies, and so you’re not only struggling to put food on the table, but then you also have this other set of expenses that makes it almost impossible to function. When I had my own, I became acutely aware of the costs. It just seemed really impossible to me for people who are already struggling to be able to afford it.
How do you plan to instill those values in your own children?
We talk about it every night at dinner: What I did at work and how the family responded—all the different aspects of the families we work with, I bring home with me. I don’t force my kids to do anything or be a certain way. All I can do is model the behavior that I one day hope to see in them. I do my best to be a good person and I just hope that rubs off.
Any plans for Mother’s Day?
We don’t really do presents, but we do activities and Jerry is so great at coming up with really fun things to do, so I’m looking forward to a day well spent somewhere interesting.