Shay Mitchell on Why Millennial Women *Need* to Talk about Motherhood
And seriously stop it with the mom-shaming
Shay Mitchell always knew she wanted to be a mom. Before she could fully articulate what motherhood even meant, the Pretty Little Liars actor was—in the way many young girls do—mimicking it. “Ever since I was a little girl I always had my dolls lined up and loved pushing them [in a] stroller,” she says of growing up. “So when I actually did get to push a stroller, it was kind of funny.”
If you’re one of Mitchell’s 27.7 million Instagram followers, you’ve probably seen said stroller in a September 2019 video on the star’s YouTube channel. Titled “How NOT to Build a Stroller,” the four-minute vid features Mitchell’s partner, fellow Canadian Matte Babel, struggling to put together the stroller for their then-unborn baby. A very pregnant Mitchell sits to the side, bikini-clad and munching away on chips as she gives instructions. It’s a *whole* mood—and also, super relatable, because who among us wouldn’t want to lounge around, belly out and eating to our heart’s content? And it’s a side of celebs we don’t often see; with highly curated social media feeds and ultra-glam pregnancy shoots, it’s easy for normal people to feel inadequate (not to mention unglamorous) throughout their own pregnancies.
But spoiler alert: Celebs don’t always look that good. Thankfully, this relatability was a reoccurring theme throughout Mitchell’s pregnancy, as she shared videos detailing her fears around giving birth and her changing body; and it continued into her first few months of motherhood, with Mitchell sharing the realities of pumping with her followers.
But that doesn’t mean that the road to motherhood has necessarily been easy for the actor and founder of BÉIS (Mitchell’s lifestyle and luggage brand). FLARE sat down with Mitchell in February while she was in New York City promoting Pamper’s #ShareTheLove campaign to chat about being a new mom, keeping it real with fans when it came to fertility and pregnancy and why mom-shamers need to honestly just #ShareTheLove.
Shay Mitchell always wanted to be real about motherhood
While it’s easy to look at Mitchell with her adorable baby and assume she has a perfect life, it’s important to remember that things aren’t always as they seem on social media. In January 2019, Mitchell shared that 2018 had been a tough year, revealing in a year-end round-up on Instagram that she had suffered a miscarriage, sharing a photo of an ultrasound on her Instagram stories. Talking about how humbling it is to have so many people following along with her, Mitchell wrote: “The support and affection so many of you show me lifts me up during even my darkest days, one of which happened last year after I lost the child of my hopes and dreams.”
It was a heartbreaking revelation, but for many fans, an eye-opening and relatable one as well. “I just wanted to be as honest as possible about my journey,” Mitchell says of sharing the ups and downs on her road to motherhood. “A lot of things that we go through on this journey sometimes aren’t spoken about as much as they should be. And I really wanted to let other moms know that they weren’t alone.”
And this extended into her next pregnancy as well. Throughout her pregnancy with Atlas, the PLL actor was transparent with fans about the highs and lows, documenting the entire journey in her YouTube series, Almost Ready. This included talking about prepartum depression, being honest about the struggles that came with her changing body and sharing a real look at childbirth through her labour video (seriously real…did you know that labour shakes are a thing?!).
But despite all of this, Mitchell says she doesn’t really see herself as a champion for moms—she just doesn’t want them to feel alone or stigmatized for what they’re going through.
“Especially when it came time and I felt ready to talk about the prepartum [depression] that I had, it was a topic that I wanted to discuss more because I didn’t feel like I had heard much about it previous to me going through it myself,” Mitchell says. “I don’t know why [so much around motherhood and pregnancy is stigmatized], because there really shouldn’t be shame in any aspect of it,” she continues. “What we’re doing is so amazing; we’re giving birth to new life.
“I just wanted to open up that conversation; and if it could make one other person feel less alone, that was really the ultimate goal.”
Because she knows millennial moms face unique challenges
While social media can be a source of support and a way of creating a sense of community, Mitchell understands its drawbacks. While it can be difficult to live your life online any day, with constant comparisons to your peers and their Insta-perfect lives pretty much a daily thing, this type of comparison can be especially difficult for new moms. And this kind of constant comparison isn’t something our own moms didn’t really have to contend with, or at least not in the same way. ”We deal with comparing our everyday lives to other people’s highlight reels,” Mitchell says. “Whether that’s being a parent or not, it’s something that my mom didn’t have to deal with. She wasn’t putting a photo up and then having a million people comment about whether she was doing it right or wrong.”
And while not *all* of us may have a million people circling around our Insta stories and judging us—that is pretty uniquely a celeb problem—the feelings of inadequacy moms can get from this comparison is pretty universal. Mitchell points to a 2019 study by Pampers that found that nine out of 10 moms don’t feel like they’re doing a good enough job parenting. “I totally relate to that,” she says. “There are days where I’m like, ‘Oh cool, I crushed that;’ And there are other days where I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m the worst.’ It comes in ebbs and flows, but just to know that I’m not alone in feeling that way really helps.”
For any new moms who may be feeling a similar way, or are caught up on the mood board-worthy photos on fellow mamas’ feeds, Mitchell has some advice: “Don’t try to be perfect and don’t try to be what you see on social media. Remember [that] it’s a highlight reel. Don’t compare your journey to anybody else’s because they are all so different.”
Which is honestly A+ advice for anyone.
Especially when they focus on their career
Some more excellent advice? Stop asking women stupid questions (like when they’re going to have kids). Nt to mention, don’t ask young, career-driven women how they manage parenting *and* their careers, because a) it’s a dumb question and no one asks men that, and b) it implies that women can’t do both (when FYI, they can).
So, what question should we be asking moms? “What’s your favourite part?,” Mitchell says. “That’s what I feel the conversation should be about, not how you handle it.”
While Mitchell agrees that Atlas is her number one priority and anything that takes her away from home “has to be worth it,” she also emphasizes that “what’s worth it” isn’t based on monetary gain or what will give her more exposure, it’s based on what’s important to her. And that’s a value she wants to teach her daughter.
“I love what I do so much, so if I’m working on something I love, whether it’s a campaign like [Pampers], BÉIS, working as an [executive producer] on a show or speaking about something that’s super important to me, it’s worth it,” she says. “And I want Atlas to know that she can do whatever it is that she wants to do and wear as many hats [as she wants]. And I think once she’s older and can realize it, she’ll be proud of the fact that I can wear many different hats and still have time with her.”
But, you have to tune critics out
Regardless of how engaged a mother Mitchell may be, there will inevitably be people online ready to bring her—and any new parent—down. Shortly after Atlas’s October 2019 birth, Mitchell was slammed online for attending a party thrown by Drake. Mitchell was prepared for the criticism, having seen fellow celeb mom Chrissy Teigen called out for going out a few weeks after the birth of her second child. “[After seeing the response to Teigen], I thought, ‘Oh I’m going to get it,'” Mitchell says. “But at the same time I was like, ‘OK, bring it. I don’t even care.’ At the end of the day, the person that means the most to me is is my daughter. And as long as I’m doing the best that I can and I’m doing what I feel is right, that’s all I can do.”
Mitchell’s advice to those nameless, faceless critics on the internet, poised to hit post on a nasty, shaming comment is pretty simple: “I would say just don’t do that,” she says. “Share the love and spread the love, because we’re all trying to do our best.”