'Stranger' at the Park Approached This Mom About Sunscreen & the Experience Is a Reminder New Parents Need

Shelby Beck

Shelby Beck with her daughter
Shelby Beck

It's the greatest irony of the social media age: With each new day, we become increasingly connected and yet further and further distanced from one another. We no longer talk on the phone (and I mean actually talk), our kids don't play outside together for long stretches at a time, and we're far more wary of strangers than ever before. We're also petrified of getting judged -- for just about anything but especially for parenting. That's something Shelby Beck knows all too well. In fact, a recent exchange with another mom at the park weighed on her so heavily, she took to Facebook to get a little something off her chest -- and now, it's going viral.

  • On August 20, Beck took her daughter London, who turns 1 next month, to a local park in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

    There, the two sat in the grass reading stories, as Beck noticed another mom nearby. She was playing catch with her toddler while gently rocking her newborn back and forth.

    They didn't exchange glances or even a wave, but nothing about that was out of the ordinary. In fact, on a typical day, each mom would have spent their time in the park and gone their separate ways without even a word being shared between them.

    But today was not that day.

    "A while later, I glanced up to see her approach me," Beck recalled in her post. "She shrugged her shoulders and quietly said 'I’m embarrassed to even ask, but do you happen to have sunscreen we can use?'"

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  • It wasn't so much the mom's request but rather the way she asked it that stopped Beck right in her tracks.

    The mom said it, Beck later shared, "as if she was somehow ashamed that she forgot to pack sunscreen today."

    Yep. That sounds about right.

    Ask any mom in 2019 if she's felt a heap of judgment for her parenting choices, decisions, and foibles -- however minor -- and you'll likely get an earful. We silently judge moms whether they breastfeed in public or formula feed; we judge them if they work or they stay home; and yes, we even judge them if they forget to slather their kids in sunscreen on a sunny day or at least toss it in their diaper bag.

    It was precisely this internal side-eye that the mom was fearing she'd get when she sheepishly approached Beck. But little did she know, the Wisconsin mom was probably the last person to judge her.

  • "Many mamas feel a sense of 'duty' to just be able to handle whatever is thrown at us, without showing weakness," Beck tells CafeMom.

    Shelby Beck's daughter
    Shelby Beck

    "Almost as if we'd be 'flawed' for admitting we need help," she adds.

    But seriously -- in what world does that make sense? 

    "We live in a world where we see celebrities, social media influencers, etc. posting photos of their children behaving perfectly as they sip tea looking as if they are ready for a red carpet," Beck tells CafeMom.

    "In reality, we ALL forget sunscreen. We ALL have children who decide to get loud at a not-so-great time. We ALL could benefit from a friendly 'You got this' smile from a fellow mama. If we are all working toward the same goal of raising happy, healthy children, wouldn't it make sense to simply ask for help when we need it?"

    Um, YEAH, it would. 

  • Beck says there was something about the moment that stayed with her, long after she left the park. And so, with tears in her eyes, she wrote about it.

    Shelby Beck holds her daughter up in the air
    Shelby Beck

    "Dear fellow mamas," her now-viral Facebook post read. "Please ask me if I have sunscreen. Ask if I have baby wipes, diapers or even extra snacks. Ask me if your toddler can sit down and play with us while you find a shady bench to nurse your newborn."

    "Hand me your phone and ask me to take a picture of you with your sweet babies," she continued, since "we all know mamas aren’t in enough photos."

    Above all, "Ask for help," Beck urged. "Ask for love. Ask for anything. Even though we are strangers, please ask me. It’s not easy being responsible for little humans but it’s easier if we help each other out. We’re all in this together."
  • That message -- "We're all in this together" -- is one not every mama feels these days.

    Shelby Beck holds her daughter as her husband looks on
    Shelby Beck

    In fact, for many, it can seem like the "village" our mothers once had is long gone -- a thing of the past, replaced by online forums and Facebook groups full of strangers who rarely connect in the real world. And that's not to say we've lost all sense of community, but it is to say that ... well, that community is different now. 

    What we're left with is a world in which new moms are apparently afraid to admit fault, for fear of being labeled a "hot mess mom." For fear of being thought of as a bad mom.

    And this kind of mentality has got to go, Beck says. 

  • In just days, her post has shot to viral fame, with over 286K shares since she wrote it on August 20.

    Shelby Beck and family
    Shelby Beck

    "Sure, motherhood has made me extra sappy, but for some reason knowing that another mama felt ashamed to ask for sunscreen was breaking my heart," Beck tells CafeMom about why she decided to write the post. "I never expected the post to go viral. I was simply sharing an experience in hopes that a few other mamas would read it and know they are not alone."

    If they didn't know it before, they certainly know it now.

    "My babies are ages 3,4, and 5," wrote one mother. "I've been places where mom act the complete opposite. Where they think you're not doing a good job because you have to ask for help ... I LOVE seeing moms come together to help each other out. It really does take a village to raise a child!"

    "Absolutely love this, and even though my kids are no longer babies or toddlers ask me too!" wrote another. "I've been where you are, I understand and I'd love to help out if I can."

    Others openly regretted not having asked for more help when they were new moms and wishing other moms don't make the same mistake.

    Beck says she's received the "sweetest messages" from from strangers all over the world, including moms in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Mexico, who have reached out to tell her about their own struggles. (Not to mention their appreciation for her sharing the story.)

    "What more proof do we need that regardless of where and how we live, we are ALL in this together?" says Beck, who it might not surprise you to learn is also the founder of the charitable nonprofit organization Project Give.

    Her simple yet moving story really is just that: a gentle reminder for all of us to not be ashamed to ask for help if we need it. But also, it's a reminder that when we're in the position to help -- no matter how small the favor -- we should rise to the occasion and offer it judgement-free.

    "I think if we give the world a gentle reminder that life is SO much easier when we stick together, we just might make some changes," she adds.