I read the Britney Spears memoir, The Woman in Me, less than 24 hours after its release.
And of course, when I say “read” I mean I let Michelle Williams read it to me. Rather than aggressively typing out a reactive review of the book, I decided to sit in my feelings for a bit, hoping to gain some perspective. Then, I decided to get a physical copy of the hard-bound book and read it while taking notes.
Less than a week from its release date, I listened to the Britney Spears memoir, sat with my thoughts, re-read the entire book while taking detailed notes, and had many discussions with friends, family members, and strangers. (Y’all, my husband said it sounds fascinating and he wasn’t mocking me!)
So, where am I at with it all? I’m Britney Spears now. I’m sorry, that’s a bad joke. If you read the book, you know what I’m referring to and you’re likely foaming at the mouth that I just used the phrase in such a glib way. That’s fair. I’m angry too.
If you haven’t read the book yet, I’m not giving away anything if I reveal that the Britney Spears memoir packs an unexpected punch. I was very pleasantly surprised by Britney’s introspection and vulnerability. Believe me, if you’re 30-50 years old, like celebrity memoirs, or are a mom, this book has something in it that you may relate to. Really.
All of that to say, the past week has been quite an immersive experience for me. And, rather than writing up a review you could read anywhere, I wanted to try a different approach. So I mined through the details of Britney’s life for parenting takeaways.
After all, at its core, the Britney Spears memoir is truly the story of two people who had no business parenting. If you read the book, you know I am not referring to Britney and Kevin Federline, but to Jamie and Lynne Spears.
Before we get to that, there are a few elephants in the room that we need to address.
- Britney shows more compassion for her abusers than I can even fathom. She is truly an angel on earth.
- I’ll admit I was nervous this book was coming too soon after the end of Britney’s conservatorship. I wasn’t sure she’d have processed enough to be able to share her story with perspective. I was pleasantly surprised by Britney’s level of self-awareness. The therapy shows.
- Michelle William’s narration is perfection. Full stop. I will not entertain any opposing opinions on this point.
- Contrary to what the headlines may have led you to believe, Justin Timberlake is only the third most egregious man in Britney’s story. The chapters about him take up, maybe, 10% of the book.
Now, without further ado…
Parenting Dos and Don’ts from the Britney Spears memoir, The Woman in Me:
Don’t drink with your 13-year-old.
Britney shares that she would drink White Russians with her mom at the age of 13. She remembers this time with her mom fondly because it’s one of the only times in her life when she felt joy with her mom. Her happiness is sweet and naive. Her mom was drunk, using her, and putting her and her siblings into dangerous situations.
Absolutely, DO NOT get drunk with your 13-year-old.
Don’t allow your 13-year-old to drive while your 3-year-old is in the back seat, not in a car seat.
I know people may defend this by saying that you learn to drive young in the South. But, a 13-year-old should never be her drunk mom’s designated driver. Not ever.
A 13-year-old should never be driving with her toddler sister in the backseat of the car. Not ever.
A toddler should never be driven without a car seat. Not ever.
Don’t abandon your child in New York City- particularly not when she’s underage.
When Britney signed her deal with Jive Records at the age of 15, she was sent to NYC with a family friend, Felicia, as her chaperone. Now, Felicia sounds like she really loved and looked out for Britney, but I can not fathom what her parents were doing that so precluded them from being able to relocate with her. It does not add up!
Her older brother was 19 and thus out of high school. Her sister was young enough to tag along and be put in a kindergarten in NYC.
Her mom was teaching second grade in Louisiana and her dad was MIA in his alcoholic era. Now Lynne, that mid-90s Louisiana teacher salary was not enough money to justify abandoning your daughter. What was really going on here?
Why did her mom NOT go to NYC with her?
Please, please, please don’t ever send your underage daughter into the belly of the music industry on her own!
Don’t attempt to manage your child’s money and career if you’ve never been able to manage your own money or career successfully.
Britney’s parents struggled with money. The Britney Spears memoir describes them as poor, then rich, then poor again, and repeat. They struggled with finances so much that when her grandmother died while Britney was filming The Mickey Mouse Club, Justin Timberlake’s mom, Lynn Harless, had to buy plane tickets for Britney and her mom to fly back to Louisiana to attend the funeral.
Where, on this holy earth, did Jamie and Lynn Spears get the audacity to think that they had any business managing Britney’s career or money? They couldn’t even successfully manage their own careers or finances on a much smaller scale.
Know your strengths. As a parent, if you can’t help your child with something, find someone trustworthy who can.
Don’t make any major life decisions in your first 6 months postpartum.
This was advice I saw shared in a parenting Facebook group when I was a new mom. Studies show that after having a baby, a new mom’s hormones do not level out for six months. For this reason, it is best not to make any major life decisions in those first few months postpartum.
Just two months after giving birth to her second child in one year (via c-section, no less,) Britney was tricked into filing for divorce from her husband. Not long after, her babies were taken from her for extended periods of time. Five months postpartum, she shaved her head and famously struck a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella. This was not a crazy person. This was a new mom who was suffering and needed compassion and support.
Now, of course, if you are in a situation where you or your child(ren) are unsafe, do not heed this advice and wait for your hormones to settle, just get the hell out.
Don’t lock your child (or wife, for that matter) away in an institution just because her emotions have gotten hard for you to deal with.
Jamie Spears’ father, Britney’s grandfather, June, locked away two of his wives in mental health facilities. Jamie’s mother was locked away after losing her infant son at just 3 days old. Years later, she committed suicide on her infant son’s grave.
Jamie learned from his father that, if a woman has emotions you don’t feel like dealing with, you can just lock her away – out of sight, out of mind. He did just that with his daughter, Britney when she was suffering from postpartum depression and going through a very public divorce and child custody battle.
Sure, she could have needed mental health help. Certainly being locked away and removed from her children was not helpful to her mental health in any way.
Don’t steal everything from your child, humiliate them, and hold them captive.
You’re not a psycho, so of course you would never do these things to your child. But Jamie Spears did.
He stripped his daughter of her bodily autonomy, all control she had over her career, and the power to manage her own finances by becoming a conservator of her body and estate. And, when he did it, he looked her in the eye and said, “I’m Britney Spears now.”
He told the court she did not have the mental capacity to speak before them while at the same time having her perform daily. All the while profiting from her work.
This man should be in prison for what he did.
Do cuddle your babies and smell their heads (it is as close to God as you can get.)
Britney describes cuddling her babies as the closest she’s ever felt to God.
Same, girl, same. Cuddle those babies as long and as often as you can, mama.
Do stay away from ATVs.
Early in the book, Britney shares the horrifying experience of seeing her brother’s crushed body after an ATV accident. In her sister, Jamie Lynn Spears’ memoir, she shares the details of her daughter, Maddie’s traumatic ATV accident. ATVs and the Spears family do not seem to mix.
Maybe, let’s keep young kids off of ATVs?
Do absorb lessons from those you admire and shout them out.
As a parent, continue to learn from those around you who you admire. One of my favorite things about this book is that throughout, Britney mentions women she’s met and clearly praises what it is she admires about them and has learned from them. Those women include: Mariah Carey, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, and Reese Witherspoon.
To take this one step further, take time to expose your kids to and cultivate relationships for them with people you admire and know that they can learn from.
Do surround yourself with people who will support you and your mental health while postpartum.
In the months following the births of both of her children, Britney seemed to experience an isolation from women. Following the birth of a child, women need other women. There’s very little mention of her mother being there for her, her sister, her cousin (who was supposed to be her best friend), or Felicia. Where were the women? Where was her support system?
Do make sacrifices for your children and their future. But, don’t sacrifice your whole self for them.
Heartbreakingly, throughout her conservatorship, Britney kept her head down and did what her father demanded because she was promised more time with her kids. This is the type of sacrifice a mother who loves her kids makes. Instead of thinking of herself, or her career, she thought only of her kids and made massive sacrifices. It’s not hard to understand why she did what she did, given her circumstances.
It’s essential, however, to return to the sometimes cliche expression about securing your own life vest and mask before helping others. Or: You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Britney was coerced into giving up her freedom for her children, but at some point, mothers must also prioritize their own well-being. This is a painful and impossible choice, but we must never forget what we are capable of.
Y’all (yes, I say y’all now, like Britney), this list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Read the Britney Spears memoir! I beg you. And if you want an even deeper analysis, catch our episode of Tell Me More where Chelsea and I break down the entire book (we’ll link it here as soon as it’s live on November 7, in the meantime, subscribe to Tell Me More).
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