Hoda and Jenna on the sting of being mom-shamed: 'I felt horrible in that moment'

The TODAY with Hoda and Jenna co-hosts share their own personal stories.
/ Source: TODAY

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, mom-shaming has been on the rise, according to the New York Times. Parents are criticizing each other's choices on everything from outdoor activities to returning to school.

During TODAY with Hoda and Jenna Friday, Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager both said that they're trying to be as understanding as possible in this moment while still keeping their families safe.

"I was at a park yesterday and Haley and I were the only two people wearing masks," Hoda said. "There were a bunch of parents and kids and I was literally struggling with 'Should we leave?' Probably, yes. What do you do? You want to make sure your kid is protected, but every decision you make is loaded."

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Jenna said that some of the difficulty comes from the fact that most parents have to consider topics they've never thought about before.

"I think every single place, every single family, is making all of these decisions that we've never made before, like do you send your kids back to school? Do you do it virtually? Do you send them to the park, do you do after school classes?" she said. "And I do think mom-shaming is at a high. And I kind of think whatever anybody does, say 'That must have been a difficult decision for you. I'm glad you made the best thing for your family.' Because we don't know."

"We don't know the story," Hoda agreed. "And I do think people don't understand, people don't understand a lot of things. People ask me, 'Haley's going in person?' And I said, 'Yeah, she's going in person to school.' 'Oh.'"

"You kind of feel like you should fill in the blank," Hoda continued. "But sometimes I think not saying anything is cool too. Why do you have to engage? Let it go."

While mom-shaming might be at a peak right now, it's not a new occurrence for either co-host. "I think the act of being mom-shamed is one of the worst," Jenna said. She recalled an experience that she'll "never forget" about being mom-shamed while on the way home from a trip to Vietnam with Michelle Obama.

"Hal was maybe 5 months old, 4 months old," she said. "(We went) to tell these stories of girls that couldn't go to school, and I thought it was important to do that. And I was on the plane coming home and I felt so inspired and I just ached with the thought of missing my children and several people, but one person in particular, wrote some really mean things on Instagram, like 'How dare you leave your children, your new baby?' And 'Why would you ever do that? You'd think he matters too.'"

"And I felt this stab in my stomach," Jenna continued. "I was about to write her back, and I just thought 'I don't want to add shame to shame.' You know what I mean? I don't want a bunch of people piling on. But I will tell you, it hurt, because of course I miss that little boy with everything I have, everything I am, but I also thought, I made the decision, which was a hard one: 'Is it more important to tell these girls' stories who may not have a voice?"

Hoda said that once, she got a letter in the mail that asked her "'Who do you think you are, having kids at that age?'"

"I literally read it and I thought, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe someone put a stamp on it and sent it,'" Hoda said.

"I felt horrible in that moment because there is something that bothers you inside about that. But then I thought, who would take a piece of paper and a pen and write like that and fold it and put it in the envelope with a stamp and go to the trouble of mailing it? It took effort."

Jenna said that what she tries to remember in moments of mom-shaming is that the strangers who take "the time to write something so mean" don't even know what she or Hoda are like as mothers.

"She's never seen you hold (Haley and Hope)," Jenna said. "That infuriates me. And I think why it's so hard is that as parents we're already questioning ourselves constantly."

"Yes, that's why it hurt," Hoda agreed.

"I was on that plane thinking 'God, I'm the worst mom,' and then somebody says it," Jenna said. "I feel like, let's just all let go of any of that and support each other as parents because it ain't easy, no matter where, it's not easy."

"Every parent is second guessing. And yeah, you're right. We don't know," Hoda said. "Have you ever been on a plane with your kid crying? You know what that feels like. And anyone who gives you that disdained look either doesn't have children, doesn't understand, or forgot how hard it is to deal with it."

Even at the worst of times, though, there can always be sources of light. Jenna recalled one time on a plane where a flight attendant empathized with her as she was traveling with multiple children.

"I just lost my grandma, I was so exhausted, and we're flying on the airplane and it is my birthday and I have two children on my lap, Cheetos all over my face, and the flight attendant said, 'You look like you're having a hard time. Want some champagne?'" Jenna said, laughing. "And I was like 'You are the nicest woman. I will drink that champagne.'"