While Hoda Kotb tore up the letter, she admits she "felt horrible in that moment, because there is something that bothers you inside about that"

By Jen Juneau
September 21, 2020 02:20 PM
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Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager are opening up about their experiences with mom-shaming.

On Friday's edition of TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, the co-hosts and fellow mothers talked about how they have been on the receiving end of critical comments in terms of how they parent — and in Kotb's case, her decision to even become a parent at all.

"I got a physical letter in the mail ... from a woman who wrote, 'Who do you think you are, having kids at that age?' " said Kotb, 56, who's mom to daughters Hope Catherine, 17 months, and Haley Joy, 3½. "I literally read it and thought, 'Oh my God, I can't believe someone put a stamp on it and sent it.' "

While the television journalist "literally tore it up," she admitted that she "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 that and fold it and put it in the envelope with a stamp and go to the trouble of mailing it?' It took effort," she added.

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Hoda Kotb and family
Hoda Kotb/ Instagram

Bush Hager, 38, chimed in with words of affirmation for her friend, telling Kotb, "Anybody that would see the way you are with [Haley and Hope] ... that stranger that took the time to write something so mean when she doesn't even know what you're like as a mother."

"She's never seen you hold those little girls. That infuriates me," she added. "And I think why it's so hard is that, as parents, we're already questioning ourselves constantly."

Hoda Kotb
Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty

"Yes, that's why it hurts," said Kotb. "Every parent is second guessing. [And] we don't know. 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."

Earlier in the conversation, Bush Hager recalled her own experience with mom-shaming, remembering a trip she took to Vietnam with Michelle Obama "to tell these stories of girls that couldn't go to school" because she "thought it was important to do that."

"I was on the plane coming home and I felt so inspired and I just ached with the thought of missing my children," she said. "One person in particular wrote some really mean thing 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.' "

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"And I felt this stab in my stomach and I was about to write her back and then I just thought, 'I don't want to add shame into shame,' " the former first daughter continued. "I didn't want a bunch of people piling on."

"But I will tell you ... it hurt," Bush Hager admitted. "Because of course I miss that little boy with everything that 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?' "

"I was on that plane thinking 'God, I'm the worst mom,' and then somebody says it. So 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," she added.

But with the shame comes those surrounding Bush Hager with support, too — like during a plane trip for Thanksgiving 2018, when she was traveling with daughters Poppy Louise, now 5, and Margaret "Mila" Laura, now 7.

"I'd 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," she said. "And the flight attendant said, 'You look like you're having a hard time. Want some champagne?' And I was like, 'You are the nicest woman. I will drink that champagne.' "