Nowadays, it may feel like everything you do could be judged ruthlessly. That fear became a reality for Illinois-native Molly Lensing after a photo of her and her child, taken without her permission, went viral.
The mother of three was in a Colorado airport last year with her then 2-year-old daughter Anastasia. In the picture, Lensing appears to be looking at her phone while Anastasia lays on the floor.
Well, the internet wasn’t happy — and once the photo started catching wind a few months later, so did the shaming.
One post about her circulating the web translated to: “Albert Einstein said, ‘I fear the day that technology will take on our humanity … the world will be populated by a generation of idiots,'” and it received over 65K shares.
Understandably, Lensing felt violated and was afraid of what people in her personal and professional life would think. At the time, she’d just started working as a pediatric nurse, and after being berated with harsh criticism from strangers online, she was “terrified” that co-workers or administrators would deem her unfit to work with kids.
People pinned her as that millennial mother — the one who would rather look at a screen than her child. There are 9 million millennial mothers in the U.S, and they’ve been shaped by technology. But Lensing argues there is much more to the story.
As Lensing recently explained on the Today show, she and her child were “stuck in the middle of the Delta computer shut-down” and her flights had been delayed, then re-booked countless times, leaving her stranded in various airports for more than 20 hours.
“Anastasia had been held or in her carrier for many hours,” said Lensing. “My arms were tired. She needed to stretch. And I had to communicate with all the family members wondering where the heck we were.”
While the mommy-shaming hit her at full force, there were people who expressed their support.
One woman in particular, Mary Katherine Backstrom of the blog Mom Babble, wrote a Facebook post defending Lensing.
“No. Just no,” it began. “We do not snap photos of exhausted mothers in the airport and shame them publicly. This is gross and needs to stop. I’ve been this woman. My flight delayed, running on zero sleep, fearful that my baby might slip straight from my arms and unto the floor if I nodded off.”
“Most mothers who have traveled alone with young children would instantly empathize, so it infuriated me that there was a negative dialogue taking place,” the mom of two said.
Lensing revealed that after Backstrom stood up for her, it made all the negativity attention shift toward the positive, and for that, she’s grateful. Just looking at a photo, she stressed, “you have no idea what the story behind it is.”
Moving forward, Lensing hopes to be a “louder voice in support of mothers” because mommy-shaming “makes us scared. Scared to let kids be kids. Scared to enjoy life outside the safety of our homes for fear of being shamed.”
“Raising little people is hard work,” she admitted, “and a smile and offer to help, rather than annoyance and scorn, would go a long way.”