Any mother can tell you that traveling with children is not for the faint of heart. For Molly Lensing, a mother of three from Illinois, this sound advice couldn’t be more accurate.
While traveling home from a trip to visit family in 2016, a photo of Molly and her then-two-month-old daughter was taken without her knowledge or permission.
The snapshot shows the mother taking a minute on her cell phone while waiting in the airport. Her newborn baby is (safely) lying on her back on the floor in front of her, and a stranger just happens to be looking at the baby during that split second in pure disgust.
Combined, all of those factors made for a mom-shaming opportunity like no other—one that framed Molly as a mom who is more interested in a piece of technology than her own baby.
The photo was rapidly posted and shared around the Internet, widely shaming Molly for caring less about her infant than she did her cell phone. Each retweeted post filled with more judgment than the last.
Untold in the viral meme is the backstory of how Molly and her two-month-old, Anastasia, found themselves stuck in Denver International Airport, waiting out a Delta Airlines computer shutdown.
Their flights were delayed, canceled, re-booked and booked again so many times that Molly and Anastasia spent more than 20 hours sitting in airports.
“Anastasia had been held or in her carrier for many hours. My arms were tired. She needed to stretch,” Molly told TODAY parents. “And I had to communicate with all the family members wondering where the heck we were.”
It wasn’t until a few months after her horrible travel experience that Molly, a pediatric nurse, caught wind of the humiliating and degrading judgments that were being posted with her photo.
“I had recently started working on a labor floor, and I was terrified of my co-workers or boss seeing the photo and comments and believing that I should no longer work with infants. Thankfully, this never happened.”
Aside from the photo being a complete violation of her privacy, I can’t help but think that there are FAR worse things that could have been happening in this image to deem Molly the “careless mother” the Internet has relentlessly made her out to be.
The baby was safely lying flat on the floor. She wasn’t flopped on top of a suitcase or another terminal chair, or anywhere remotely unsafe for an infant.
And yes, Molly was looking at her phone. She isn’t the first mother to ever look away from her child for a split second, and she sure won’t be the last. But that is no reason to shame her.
“No. Just no,” the Mom Babble blogger wrote. “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 onto the floor if I nodded off… I wish she knew that there are mamas who understand exhaustion and imperfection and don’t choose to pounce someone in their weakest moment.”
Her encouragement is just one of the many that that DO show up every time Molly’s photo makes the rounds. Still the voices of haters and mom-shamers everywhere shout much louder than the kindness of moms who get it.
These days, Molly says her main focus is being the best mom she can be, while holding tight to who she truly is: a dedicated wife and mother.
“I am powerless compared to the Internet, and I know that I am the best momma to my girls and I know that I cherish them and am raising them the best I can.”