Chrissy Teigen and Shay Mitchell—Two of the Most Criticized Moms on the Internet—Just Want to Give Their Haters a Hug
Chrissy Teigen “needs to have another baby.” Chrissy Teigen also “needs to STOP having babies.” Shay Mitchell is “flawless.” But at the same time, “What is her diet plan while breastfeeding?”
Since 2016, Teigen has been one of the highest profile mothers in the world. We’ve watched her go from Sports Illustrated cover model to iconic influencer and mom of two, refreshing our feeds to see her respond in real time to those who would dare tell her how to parent. In October 2019, Mitchell joined the famous-mom club when she gave birth to her daughter, Atlas. Later that month, she posted on social media about going to Drake’s birthday party and got a taste of what Teigen has been dealing with. “Mother of the year award right here!!!!” one commenter wrote. “Lacking some serious skills there sweety! #selfish.”
Welcome to the real party, Shay—it’s not Drake’s birthday (which, by the way, was several weeks after she gave birth and also is no one’s business)—it’s being a mother, in public, in the age of social media.
Teigen and now Mitchell are in an odd position—Teigen is both Queen of Moms—and some moms’ favorite target. And Mitchell, who’s posting about pumping in the back of the Uber to the Oscars, is a fresh—and photogenic—prey. They’re two of the most materially privileged moms on the planet (both acknowledge this) and they’re also both doomed to be loudly judged for the way they raise their children. (Teigen’s husband, John Legend, is rarely criticized for the way he raises *checks notes* the exact same children.)
Heavy is the head that wears the hair extensions. Mitchell and Teigen can’t give back their crowns, so they’re putting the spotlight to good use with a campaign called Share the Love, from Pampers. The campaign aims to more positively reframe conversations around motherhood, after Pampers found in a survey that nine of 10 moms asked are worried that they aren’t doing a good enough job.
Constant criticism for how she parents has been painful, concedes Teigen, who, with Mitchell, joined the campaign. But it has also been impactful. “It’s brought me empathy,” she says.
The campaign is, of course, about celebrating all mothers—a catch-all which Teigen readily admits includes some of the women who, to be frank, seem to despise her. But for Teigen, that’s the point. While she’s, in her own words, “so numb to so much stuff now,” she tells Glamour that perversely, the haters have made her more empathetic and more inclined to include them in an effort like this one. Being used as a glamorous punching bag by strangers—both she and Mitchell say the majority of the hate they get is from women—has helped Teigen understand the pain of moms who feel the need to lash out online.
“There are some people that are always celebrated,” she says, with so much care and deliberation one might think the women who regularly insult her breasts are present in the room with us. “John is one of those people, I’m one of those people—these events happen all the time where we’re celebrated, and I think mothers are very under-celebrated and undervalued. When you become a mother, there’s something to be said about wanting to be celebrated and wanting to know things and wanting to know it all.”
When women—so often discounted and discriminated against—become mothers, “they finally get to be knowledgeable about something, they get to be excited,” Teigen says. And sure, some of them end up in her mentions. But she understands where they’re coming from, and why they’re so in need of connection. “I think we should take their experiences into account,” she says. “I think that it’s finally time they get to be celebrated.”
Getting to the point of celebrating a group of people that includes strangers who’ve insulted her children’s appearances has taken “a long time,” Teigen allows. But despite the evident hate she is subjected to, there is also—in maybe greater measure—a lot of love. “If I’m walking through the airport and a man comes up to me, I know for a fact he’s going to say, ‘Thank you for your article in Glamour. My wife suffered from postpartum depression,’” she says, referring to her 2017 Glamour essay in which she revealed her postpartum diagnosis. “If a woman comes up to me, I know she’s going to say the same thing.” It’s a privilege to share that with people. “It is weird, just because you don’t ever want to seem like the go-to person for mom stuff, because I have no idea what I’m doing,” she says. “[I’m] still learning all the time.” Learning about parenting, sure, but also, Teigen says, about the joys and complexities of all the women who share her title—“mom.”
Mitchell, too, has other moms in mind as she navigates her newfound platform. She didn’t let the “controversy” that her night out generated get to her. (“To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t have cared less,” she says.) But she did think about the message the attacks sent to other women—that new mothers aren’t “entitled” to a night out or a time to themselves.
“Moms deal with shame on a constant basis. ‘Am I doing this right? Could I have done this better?’ You’re constantly questioning the decisions you make as a parent,” Mitchell says. But Mitchell wants to set an example that being a mother doesn’t require unrelenting guilt. “Just tell us that we’re doing a great job!” says Mitchell, of the way the public should interact with moms. “It’s really all we need to hear, it’s pretty simple.” Dialoguing with other moms, she says, is the only thing that’s made being a mom feel doable.
Mitchell and Teigen are both surprisingly invested in dialoguing with moms, despite the fact that both say moms are the source of most of the parenting shame they get. “There’s no single psychological explanation for why women—or why people—can be competitive with each other,” says Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist who is working with Pampers on the campaign. “What I can say is there’s so much pressure on women around becoming a mother. It is hard for people because there are very few ‘right’ answers in parenting. Your pediatrician will give you guidance on the basic things we know, but beyond that it’s a very subjective experience, so that can lead people to feel insecure.” Unintentionally, she says, women may try to augment their own confidence by correcting other women.
“We need to feel like we’re not the only ones going through something, because we’re not,” Mitchell says. She’s spoken, with remarkable openness, about experiencing depression while pregnant and about losing a pregnancy. “The more I spoke about it, the better I felt,” she says. “I don’t know if anything in the world could make you feel better in that time but definitely having that conversation with other moms, speaking up about it, allowed me to feel better than just holding it in.” Teigen says that until her friend, model Brooklyn Decker, walked her through it, “I had never had anyone explain to me what it was like to go through postpartum care of having a tiny newborn.” Decker gave her a postpartum kit, full of bath salts, bandages, and “things you would only know about if you had just pushed out a baby from your vagina.” Camaraderie between moms, Teigen agrees, makes life as a mom possible. “John can be gone for ten days and he can come back and get treated like a complete god,” she says. “And me and my mom friends can gripe about it and have fun about it.”
“What helps is people talking about it,” Teigen says, of the inequality and indignities moms face. “The fact that other people, my best friends, can say that they’re going through the same thing.”
And Teigen glows when she talks about the delights of parenting. Luna is “such a girly girl,” she says, but “she also loves watching the scariest zombie movie on the planet, and playing in the dirt and sand with Miles. And then Miles loves playing with dolls,” she adds. “You just let them flourish, and let them live, and enjoy themselves and see what makes them happy. They have no stigmas attached to anything, they have no boundaries, they have no rules for disliking something, or rules for liking something.” Children exist in a place without Instagram comments or presidential candidates or social constructs, she notes, and that’s part of what makes parenting so moving. When children make choices, she says, “They do it because they like it, they like the color, they like the shape, they like the voice.”
For Mitchell, at least for now, public fixation remains not on her daughter as much as on her appearance. As soon as she left the house for the first time after giving birth, she felt the pressure, she says.
“I want to completely get rid of that notion that you have to snap back,” she says. “I don't want to go back to where I was before. I’m so proud of what my body has enabled me to do and give life to this amazing little human. I’m not trying to go back to who I was before or what I looked like for that matter I’m way stronger and I’m proud of who I am now.” Instead of snapping back, she argues, women should get themselves excited about “snapping forward.”
With characteristic openness, Mitchell described a new relationship with her body, brought on by pregnancy—including wearing diapers herself. “I don’t really feel embarrassed about a lot of things [anymore],” she explains. Toward the end of her pregnancy, she would spend hours on set, with the bathroom “miles away.”
“At eight months, nine months pregnant, I’m not wanting to really walk that far,” she says. She laughs, and jokes that she would have worn adult-sized Pampers to our interview, if she could. “I’d love to just sit here right now, you wouldn’t know what I was doing.”
Whether your kids play with fairies or zombies, whether moms go to Drake’s party or party at home, whether you’re wearing a designer pistachio-colored jumpsuit or an adult diaper or both, moms deserve to be celebrated, Mitchell and Teigen both say. And the key, the women agree, is to keep the conversation going. Motherhood is a topic that the field of psychology has mostly ignored, points out Dr. Sacks. “The attention of the psychological community has historically been on research and child development, which is obviously extremely important and exciting,” she says, “but that has eclipsed this other emergence of this identity—becoming a mom.”
“There is a community out there,” Mitchell says. “You can feel less alone.”
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
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