This Mother’s Day, we have a big announcement to make. We donated 1.5 million diapers to Baby2Baby to help them continue their amazing work supporting families in need nationwide. Diapers are a big deal to all families, let alone the ones who cannot afford them. This week, we sat down with Baby2Baby Co-Presidents Kelly Sawyer Patricof and Norah Weinstein to talk about their mission and why a diaper is so much more than just a diaper.
First let’s talk about how you both got started with Baby2Baby. Was there a certain moment or realization that drew you to the Baby2Baby mission?
Kelly: When I was living in New York and was a model, I volunteered at a head start center in Harlem where I worked with children living in poverty. There was a boy there named Brandon who stole my heart and one day he was doing his math worksheet and he started crying. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that his feet hurt. We took off his shoes and I discovered that his feet were bleeding and his shoes were 3 sizes too small. It was then that I realized that without the most basic essentials children can’t do their schoolwork or get an education.
Norah: I was a lawyer at Skadden Arps in New York and then Los Angeles. My favorite cases were pro-bono cases on behalf of low-income women. When Kelly and I decided to start a non-profit, we took meetings all around the city at organizations helping low-income kids and asked the social workers what they were lacking. Across the board they said the children in their programs needed diapers and basic essentials. And that’s how we formed the Baby2Baby mission—we let the community dictate what the need was.
Now that you’re seven years into your role, what’s the biggest challenge you see mamas up against? What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Kelly: The juggling of it all. You feel like you’re never doing enough in the right areas. You’re either at work too much and your children are wishing you were home more or you’re trying to spend more time with your kids and your office needs you. The balance is tough! The most rewarding part of my job is to see my children understand why I go to work every day. They are at the age where they are really beginning to understand giving back and I hope to instill that in them from an early age.
Norah: The most challenging part is growth! I would have thought time would make things easier but instead there are more complicated issues, more staff and more uncharted territory! But the challenge is also the excitement. The rewards of this job are limitless. We get to give people items that allow them to put dinner back on the table, pay their rent and keep families together. We are very lucky.
According to a letter from you both on the Baby2Baby site, diapers are “the most important essential we provide to the families we serve.” Why are diapers so important and what are the barriers mothers/families experience trying to get them for their little ones?
Kelly: One in three families in this country struggle to provide diapers for their babies. As a mother, this choice is hard to imagine. The mothers in our program tell us when we can provide diapers they can pay their rent, keep their lights on and buy food for their families. They are not covered by food stamps and you are required to bring a full day's supply of diapers in order to drop off your child at most daycares, so diapers are literally causing a cycle of poverty and stopping mothers from going back to work.
Norah: Every single time we ask a mom, a dad, or a social worker what item they need the most, the answer is diapers. Families are spending 14 percent of their after tax income on this one necessity. Infants go through 10-12 diapers per day and toddlers between 8-10. And that’s for a single child! These families can’t afford to buy in bulk so they are spending even more money buying individual diapers. In 38 states including California, diapers are also subject to sales tax. Sales tax is for luxury items and as any parent can agree, there is nothing luxurious about a dirty diaper.
Your recently initiated Emergency Response Program couldn’t have come at a better time. From wildfires here in California to a devastating hurricane season across the states, how is Baby2Baby helping families displaced by natural disasters?
Kelly: When hurricane Harvey hit Houston, we immediately sent 1 million diapers to the families affected by the hurricane. We then started an online registry that we posted on Baby2Baby’s Instagram and within a day and a half we sent 1.7 million items to the children. We continued to help the children affected by the hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico, then the fires in Northern and Southern California and in total we sent over 4 million items to children affected by the disasters.
Norah: For years now we have been building relationships across the country through the Baby2Baby National Network. In the case of hurricane Harvey, we immediately worked with our partners on the ground in Texas, specifically Hope Supply Co. in Dallas, who had dry warehouses, available staff and access to the mega-shelters so we could help quickly and efficiently. We knew exactly what the children needed—from diapers to portable cribs. We went to Houston and saw the devastation firsthand and handed out Honest hygiene kits, books and other essentials to the children who had been left homeless.
How has your work with/through Baby2Baby evolved or grown your perspective on motherhood? What have you learned in this role that you want all mamas to know?
Kelly: All every mother wants is to be able to provide for their children regardless of their background. And that even the smallest donation can give a family in need hope.
Norah: We want people to realize how prideful these mothers are. It doesn’t matter if they are homeless or living in a car—they feel exactly the same about their children as anyone else. They don’t want shoes with holes or games with missing pieces. They want their children to have the best.
How do you balance being a mother and your responsibilities outside of motherhood?
Kelly: The balance is tough but all you can do is try your best and know your children are seeing you go to work every day and do something you are passionate about and that is helping others.
Norah: It is hard. But I love how proud my daughter is of having a working mom. And I think it’s arguably even more important that my son sees me in a career I love to shape his view of women.
What does the future of Baby2Baby look like?
Norah: The future is more and more growth! We are constantly reminding ourselves how much more work we have in front of us. There are hundreds of thousands of low-income children we aren’t reaching, homelessness is on the rise, and families need us more and more.
How can our readers help support the vital work of Baby2Baby to make sure mamas and babies everywhere have the diapers they need and the community they need to thrive?
Kelly: Diapers truly are like gold to the families we serve. And even one pack of diapers can help change a mother’s day and help a child in need. Please consider donating diapers and other basic essentials to Baby2Baby to help children thrive and give mothers hope.
Learn more about the Baby2Baby mission and see how you can help here.