The Internet has certainly changed our world in more ways than one. We’re constantly in touch, at all times. The answers to any question we may have are at our fingertips immediately. We don’t even have to actually remember things anymore — like how many cups are in a gallon, for example, or what the capital of Malaysia is. It’s glorious.
However, the Internet has also brought upon a newfound ability to steal another person’s privacy and publicly shame them with the snap of a photo and a few taps of the finger. And perhaps one of the worst offenses I’ve seen has been the public shaming of an exhausted parent. This disrespect was recently shown to Molly Lensing, a 29-year-old mother of three from Geneseo, Illinois, when a photo of her and her baby was taken without her permission at an airport and used to ridicule her on the Internet.
You may have seen the photo yourself, and made a few of your own snap judgments. If so, you apparently weren’t alone.
But after months of being the butt of Internet fodder and cruel memes, Lensing is speaking out — and sharing the truth behind what was really going on in that now-infamous photo. Lensing, who gave Babble permission to repost the original image here, told Today Parents on Thursday that she and her then 2-month old daughter Anastasia were stuck in a Colorado airport when the photo was taken, now close to a year ago.
“We had the unfortunate luck of being stuck in the middle of the Delta computer shut-down,” Lensing shared, adding that her
“flights were delayed and re-booked so many times that she spent more than 20 hours sitting in airports — with a two-month-old.”
“Anastasia had [also] been held or in her carrier for many hours,” the mom explained. “My arms were tired. She needed to stretch. And I had to communicate with all the family members wondering where the heck we were.”
But all that didn’t seem to matter to the stranger saw her from across the airport and judged her. A stranger who didn’t know that she’d been stuck in an airport with a baby for 20 hours. A stranger who didn’t know that her baby had been cramped in a carrier and needed space. And frankly, a stranger who should have minded his own damn business.
I saw this photo and immediately related to this mom. I’ve been stuck in airports with my kids before. I’ve been in situations where it made sense to lay my baby down, let him stretch his little arms and kick his chubby legs while I checked my phone for messages. Or responded to emails. Or played on Facebook because he was a baby, eating his hands and didn’t need me to stare at him or coo at him or kiss him or tickle him every single second his life. That doesn’t make me a bad mother.
After what was probably one of the most exhausting days of her life, Lensing was shocked to suddenly found an image of herself and her child all over the Internet, with judgment attached. I cannot imagine that feeling. As a RN who works part-time as a pediatric nurse, she told Today Parents:
“I absolutely feel as though my privacy was violated. 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.”
Probably because any parent, doctor, nurse, or person with common sense would see this and think, “that’s a normal mom checking her phone while her baby looks around and stretches out, safely, on a blanket, right next to her.”
So to the man who originally posted his public shaming, and to all who re-shared it and agreed with him, knowing nothing of Lensing’s story, you can have a giant pile of get over yourself. When Albert Einstein said, “I fear the day that technology will take on our humanity … the world will be populated by a generation of idiots” (which, by the way, was the quote attached to the image in one negative meme circulating Facebook), he wasn’t talking about a tired mom stuck in an airport with her baby. More likely, he was alluding to the misuse of technology that allows people like you to feel this entitled in bashing someone you don’t even know all over social media.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prepare for public ridicule and having your privacy violated, but Lensing does offer some advice to any mom who may experience a similar situation. “I’d say to lean in to those who know the real you,” she tells Babble. “Focus on the positive, and focus on love.”
In the end, Lensing says she knows she can’t control what other people say or think about her — only what she says or thinks about herself.
“I am powerless compared to the Internet, but I am the best momma to my girls and I know that I cherish them and am raising them the best I can,” she told Today. And that’s all the matters.