A woman who's been 'mom-shamed' for bringing her 7-year-old son to Burning Man since he was an infant says she wants to inspire other parents to embrace 'alternative' lifestyles

  • Tage, 7, is set to attend his fifth Burning Man, and his mom, Bianca Snyder, has been documenting it on TikTok.

  • Some commenters are criticizing her parenting, saying the festival is synonymous with sex and drugs.

  • But Snyder is harnessing the virality to inspire others to live and parent on their own terms.

A mom, influencer, and cannabis entrepreneur named Bianca Snyder stoked a heated conversation last month with a TikTok about how she had "no regrets" bringing her 7-year-old son to Burning Man — a festival in the Nevada desert where tens of thousands gather annually to build a "participative temporary metropolis," its website touts.

Burning Man, which is in its 37th year, is centered on philosophies such as "decommodification" and "radical self-reliance," but is also synonymous in popular culture with over-the-top fashion, sex, and drugs. So-called "orgy domes" have also long been a part of its festival lore.

In her video with 78,000 views, Snyder — who told Insider this year would be her 12th Burning Man — showed her family decked out in their Burner best, dancing in the desert and checking out the massive art installations. "We pack in more fun, laughter, play and adventure into 2 hours of exploring on the playa than most families will ever experience," reads the on-screen text.

While some commenters applauded the way Snyder was exposing her son, Tage (who has his own Instagram account, by the way) to unconventional experiences, others felt that the festivities were inappropriate for children. "Cool he can go to the orgy," one quipped. "Y'all are wilding!" another added. "Bad parenting 101."

The discourse is nothing new to Snyder. In fact, she told Insider she brought her son to Burning Man when she was eight months pregnant, and these criticisms arrive annually or every time she posts about their pilgrimages to the desert. (They didn't attend in 2019, and the event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.)

"Our son goes everywhere that we go and that's just the way that we live," said Snyder.

The biggest stir came when a photo of her breastfeeding Tage at 22 months was shared in a 2018 Bored Panda article, which resulted in an avalanche of critical comments on the post as well as her social channels, Snyder said.

A dad holding his enfant son and flanked by his wife at Burning Man in the desert.
Tage's first trip to Burning Man as an infant.Bianca Synder

"It was definitely a combination of people not liking public breastfeeding, and also, 'Why would you bring your child to a drug festival?'" she said.

Last year, someone on TikTok even commented that Child Protective Services should be called —"a pretty serious accusation that I definitely do not take lightly," she said.

While the criticism hurts, it has ultimately inspired her to cling harder to her convictions. Snyder told Insider she wanted to use the attention to raise awareness about "mom-shaming" and to inspire others to "live an alternative lifestyle" with brazen.

"It's about giving them experiences to build their confidence," Snyder said

While sex and drugs may be a part of Burning Man, Snyder said, that's not what the festival is about in her eyes.

"You can cultivate the experience that you want to have, and you're not subject to those extremes if you don't want to be," she said. "There's people doing yoga, there's people having important conversations that are relevant to improving the future of mankind. There's people experiencing art."

Snyder said her family mainly preferred to bike around the desert and climb on giant artscapes, which had helped to instill bravery and exploration. Baseball-obsessed Tage told Insider his favorite activity was Burner Ball, an invented, ruleless game similar to baseball where everybody's on the same team.

A young boy looking into the distance at Burning Man in the desert.
Tage taking in the sights and sounds of the festival.Bianca Snyder

Snyder added that interacting with attendees had "brought a lot" to her son's "socialization, being able to talk to strangers." On the flip side, it had enabled festival go-ers to witness the "joy" of the event through a child's eyes.

Snyder says while they have encountered some things at the festival that could be deemed unsavory in the eyes of social media critics, she aims to be transparent about them with Tage.

For instance, nudity is common at Burning Man, but Snyder is not too concerned about it.

"That's not something that I think that a child needs to be sheltered from because we are all humans," she said. "We all have that same anatomy." And she says when they've encountered overly inebriated Burners, it's an opportunity to teach Tage about caution and compassion: "It's teaching him how to handle real-life situations that he is going to encounter."

And Snyder isn't alone. Despite loud dissenters, many commenters on TikTok have also extolled the benefits of the festival for kids, voicing support for her unconventional parenting style.

"It's a cool place for kids!!!" a commenter wrote on her July video. "I love this! I take my kid everywhere," another added.

Snyder believes these experiences can be foundational for Tage.

"It's about giving them experiences to build their confidence to become stronger, self-sufficient humans," Snyder said. "And you can start that at any age."

Correction: August 30, 2023 — An earlier version of this story misstated how old Tage was when his mom was depicted breastfeeding him in a viral photo. He was 22 months, not ten months.

Read the original article on Insider