Hoda Kotb has opened up about how ‘horrible’ she felt after receiving a cruel letter mom-shaming her for adopting her two daughters in her 50s.
The Today star, 56, was talking about mom-shaming with her co-host Jenna Bush Hager, 38, on Friday’s show when they recalled some of the harshest and unwarranted criticisms they have received as parents.
‘I got a physical letter in the mail, a letter that came to my address, from a woman who wrote: “Who do you think you are having kids at that age?”‘ Hoda said. ‘I literally read it and I thought, “Oh my god, I can’t believe someone put a stamp on it and sent it.”‘
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Looking back: Hoda Kotb, 56, opened up about being mom-shamed for having children in her 50s during a conversation with her co-host Jenna Bush Hager, 38, on the Today show
Awful: The host, who has two adopted daughters, said the letter was mailed to her home address and said: ‘Who do you think you are having kids at that age?’
Hoda, who is mom to daughters Haley Joy, three, and Hope Catherine, one, said she tore up the letter, but she still felt awful about it at the time.
‘I felt horrible in that moment because there is something that bothers you inside about that,’ she explained. ‘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.’
Hoda was 52 years old when she and her fiancé Joel Schiffman welcomed Haley in February 2017. Two years later, they adopted their daughter Hope in April 2019.
‘That stranger who took the time to write something so mean, she doesn’t even know what you’re like as a mother,’ Jenna said. ‘She’s never seen you hold those little girls. That infuriates me. And I think why it’s so hard is that as parents we’re already questioning ourselves constantly.’
Family: Hoda and her fiancé Joel Schiffman welcomed their eldest child Haley in February 2017. Two years later, they adopted their daughter Hope in April 2019
Hurt: Hoda said she tore the letter up but admitted it ‘felt horrible in that moment’
‘Yes, that’s why it hurt,’ Hoda agreed.
The mother of two noted during the conversation that parents seem to have become even more judgmental during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I was at a park yesterday and Hayley 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.’
Hoda admitted she has also felt shamed for sending her eldest daughter Haley to school amid the global crisis.
‘People ask me, “Hayley’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,’ she explained.
Backlash: Hoda admitted that she also feels like people are judging her for sending her daughter Haley to school in person amid this coronavirus pandemic
Too judgmental: Hoda and Jenna agreed that mom-shaming has become even worse during the coronavirus pandemic
‘But sometimes I think not saying anything is cool too. Why do you have to engage? Let it go.’
Jenna pointed out that these are unprecedented times for parents and people should have more compassion for others.
‘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.’
Right on: Jenna pointed out that these are unprecedented times for parents and people should have more compassion for others
Hard to handle: The Today host recalled how she was recently criticized for leaving her baby boy Hal (right) home while she traveled to Vietnam with Michelle Obama (left)
All smiles: Jenna and her husband Henry Hager have three children: Mila, seven, and Poppy, five, and Hal, one
‘I think the act of being mom-shamed is one of the worst,’ Jenna added, recalling how she was recently criticized for leaving her baby boy Hal home with his father, Henry Hager, while she traveled to Vietnam with Michelle Obama.
‘Hal was maybe five months old, four months old,’ she said. ‘I went to Vietnam with Mrs. Obama 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?”‘