Frustrated with her crying baby boys, Jessi Cruickshank placed the identical twins on the floor of IKEA to let them play out their tantrum. As passersby judged, Cruickshank remained unfazed.
“I was like, ‘Uh huh, go ahead, buy your Ludvig. I’ll just be here while my babies mop the floors that you walk on,’” she recalls with a chuckle from backstage at WE Day Vancouver. “Now that I’ve done that, I can safely say that I look at other parents doing all kinds of things and I think ‘Well, I let my kids roll around at IKEA.’”
Good humoured, come hell or baby hysterics, Cruickshank’s quick wit has earned her a loyal following. Stepping onto the scene in the mid-2000s, when she held court as a side-splitting VJ on MTV, the peppy redhead has since moved on to a slew of hosting gigs, including reporting for etalk, as the show’s L.A. correspondent.
Despite a career in entertainment, these days, life for this mom of two is less about glamour and a little more about parenthood.
It’s Cruickshank’s commitment to raising kind and caring children that brought her to WE Day Vancouver. And it’s family values that continues to deepen her connection to the WE movement—a bond that began when she was barely a teenager.
Her relationship with WE started more than 10 years ago. Over the decade, Cruickshank has spoken at multiple WE Days across the country—including the first-ever WE Day event at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum. She’s also travelled to Kenya, India and Ecuador on ME to WE Trips to volunteer and learn firsthand the impact that WE’s development model has had on rural communities in those regions.
Cruickshank’s introduction to WE, though, goes back even further.
She was just 13 years old when she first heard the name of WE Co-Founder Craig Kielburger. Not yet a teen himself, Kielburger was making international news for speaking out against child labour. “He was a boy my age, who was trying to get the attention of the government, and I was like, ‘I’m sitting here in my pajamas, watching cartoons, and this boy is going out and changing the world.’” Immediately, Cruickshank was drawn to Craig’s cause and the idea of youth-led social reform. Of course, it didn’t hurt that she found the young activist “cute.” Giggling, she confesses, “It was Jonathan Taylor-Thomas and Craig.”
Today, volunteerism is a part of the Cruickshank’s whole way of living—and parenting. Since Kielburger and WE sparked her passion for giving back, volunteerism has become a part of Cruickshank’s whole way of living—and parenting. “It has made me a better person and a better mom.” And since charity and compassion go hand-in-hand, it comes as no surprise that Cruickshank’s social channels have become something of a safe space for mom’s experiencing their own tantrum traumas.
Cruickshank openly shares the triumphs and struggles of motherhood on her Facebook Watch show New Mom, Who Dis? and on her personal social media accounts. From joyous beach days to answering questions about breastfeeding to the guilt she experiences as a working mom, the entertainer bares all when it comes to life with two-year-olds Rio and Diego. This honesty, as she shares, is the secret to her success. “The most interesting thing about you is your vulnerable side,” she says. “That’s what draws people in.”
Although Cruickshank’s entire platform is dedicated to not judging other parents, she’s not always met with the same positivity. “I’ll get 1,000 lovely, kind comments, but then one person will say one mean thing, and I let it bother me,” she admits, listing nasty responses ranging from criticism around her sons being late walkers to being shamed for going back to work when the twins were two months old.
Rather than let the negative bog her down, being trolled has only strengthened her commitment to spreading compassion and pumping up parents like her. “Everybody is just trying to do their best. It’s hard enough to raise your own kid. Focus the energy that you would use to judge on raising your own kid.”
Despite the negativity she sometimes faces, Cruickshank sees social media as a place where she can foster connections with her viewers and other mothers over shared experiences. That sense of togetherness—no matter how fleeting—gives her hope.
“That’s what I like about social media,” she says. “That’s what gives me hope that it is going to move us toward a more united world.”
For Cruickshank, being socially engaged—whether that’s through volunteering on a ME to WE Trip or supporting a mom in need of comradery on Instagram—is a precursor to instilling humanitarian lessons in her kids. With kindness aplenty, this mom hopes her parenting style will do for her boys what Kielburger did for her so many years ago, when she witnessed a young boy dare to change the world. “That fire has really stayed with me.” She continues, tearing up about how this passion defines her aspirations as a parent, “If I can raise kids who are good and loving at their core, then I don’t care. They can go off and join the circus. I will be in the front row every night. As long as they are good, empathetic people, then I think I’ve done my job.”
Zoe Demarco is a writer and production manager for WE Stories. A third generation journalist, she has a natural curiosity for other people’s lives.