These days, Jennifer Garner is taking a more laid-back approach to motherhood.
“I can’t really complain about my kids,” the actress and mom of three, 47, said on stage Thursday during a panel at INBOUND, the annual conference held by HubSpot in Boston. “They’re pretty awesome. They humor me. But I have chilled out and stopped trying to be my mom.”
Garner, who was interviewed by Katie Couric alongside her Once Upon a Farm co-founder John Foraker, talked about how her mom was one of the largest influences in her becoming involved with the company. (Garner says she grew up with a mother who made everything from scratch.)
And while she didn’t appreciate it much at the time (“We’d say, ‘Please can we have a Little Debbie snack cake?’ I would have killed for a Pop-Tart!”), the 13 Going on 30 actress has found that now, it’s her own children — Samuel, 7½, Seraphina, 10, and Violet, 13 — who are the best guinea pigs for her business.
“I have one who’s quite a foodie,” Garner says of daughter Violet, whom she recently recruited to test a smoothie. “She’s like, ‘This is kind of “banana forward” for me.’ I was like, ‘Who are you?’ “
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In fact, her children are some of the hardest critics to please.
“Here I am making homemade wheat thins like a nerd and my kids don’t want them,” the actress jokes. “The harder you work on whatever you’re making for your kids, the less apt they are to eat it.”
Garner says it’s her own mother, Patricia, who was one of the largest influences on the company’s creation. Patricia grew up on a farm during the Great Depression, and raised her own family by pinching pennies when it came to food in order to provide privileges like ballet classes and a college education.
“My mom made every bite of food my sisters and I had growing up,” says the star. “That was her way of doing it. She was so frugal.”
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The other influence has been her experience working with Save the Children, particularly in the field of rural poverty: “We want to be able to feed the entire elementary-on-down set. And what you feed your child every day at lunch is such a huge part of that.”
“We’ll see kids with a round belly and think, ‘That kid’s not hungry,’ but they actually really are,” says Garner. “There are so many hungry kids in this country and so much rural poverty. Food deserts are a real problem.”
While she’s moving into entrepreneurship these days, the actress explains that her method of making professional choices has evolved over time.
“It used to be [just] what you can get, first,” she says. “You’re just so grateful to have a job, and leave the restaurant. And then it’s what job would fit in the hiatus of Alias, and be just something different from what I was doing nine months a year. And then it became about how to surprise myself. I’m always driven by writing, so I do quirkier movies more than big, bold ones.”
“Then it became about my kids’ schedule, and being pregnant and nursing and where my husband was working, and how to fit it all in,” she adds. “And now it’s whether they can shoot in L.A. while my kids are in school.”
Another big change Garner has seen in Hollywood is the rise of a female community in the wake of rapid sexual harassment, gender equality and lack of diversity in the industry.
“It’s made me part of a tribe. There is suddenly a kinship and a sisterhood that you didn’t experience before. You would see each other backstage at awards shows and that was kind of it,” she tells the crowd. “Now we’ve all sat in the same room many, many times, and had many hard conversations, and we reach out together.”
“Something’s happening that can’t be undone,” Garner continues. “We know each other, and we’re friends now.”