Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Mommies and Me



Register columnist

Aside from my fantastic bum, I thought I had nothing in common with Britney Spears. Even when she started to get picked on for being a bad mom, I shrugged off the circumstance as mere coincidence. But as the media flogging intensifies, I feel, suddenly, like Britney's my kindred spirit. Mine and probably every other mom's on the planet.

Britney deserved to be excoriated for driving with her child on her lap. That was just plain stupid. But the high chair thing was a little murkier. And driving with Sean Preston's car seat facing forward is actually notin violation of state law, provided her toddler weighs more than 20 pounds.

A few weeks ago, America's Worst Mommy was back in the news for tripping and bobbling her baby. I challenge any of those tabloid editors to raise a child without ever once dropping him or bumping his head.

But it wouldn't matter. It's like the paparazzi have been replaced by a pack of meddling yentas: "Oy, she's such a bad mother. Like this, I'd never raise my child."

Don't you have a Jennifer Aniston uterus-cam to monitor? Leave poor Britney alone.

I'm not the only one saying this. Last week, The Associated Press reported the results of a Parenting.com poll that asked whether the media have "gone too far" in skewering Britney. Of nearly 10,000 responses, 75 percent said yes.

I'm guessing moms are siding with Britney because they're fed up with their own paparazzi-esque critiques. For a society that won't talk on elevators, we sure have a lot to say about other women's children: I've been chastised for dressing Zev in hats and for taking him outside without one. A homeless guy once followed me for a block, yelling that I should give my crying baby a bottle. (What he really needed was Orajel, which I was on my way to get; but thanks for your concern, Mr. Homeless Man Baby Whisperer).

After I wrote a column about my dog biting my son, reader Stephen Thompson e-mailed to say my child should be taken away from me.

I'd liketo write back, saying, "Hi, Stephen, we haven't met, but I have a suggestion of two things that should be taken away from you." But of course, I wouldn't actually say that because who would say such a thing?


Similarly, nobody would ever stop a woman CEO and say, "Oh, darling, that's not how you hold a briefcase." But they would if they thought they could get away with it. Motherhood may be the last grassy plain where misogyny can roam free, and Britney is stranded in the middle of it.

Not all celebrity moms are subject to Death By Scrutiny. Nobody's calling Gwyneth Paltrow a bad mommy. She's willowy, so she can go ahead and name her children Apple and Moses and no one calls the police. The worst anyone could say about O.C. native Gwen Stefani is that she had the temerity to give birth the same weekend as Angelina Jolie, thereby ensuring nobody would care. And, by the way, who's to say Brad and Angelina haven't already dropped Shiloh 150 times by now? As the saying goes, if a child falls in Namibia, nobody hears about it.

But Britney is a different class of celebrity, the class that is just as unclassy as the rest of us. And, therefore, she's subject to the same kind of unsolicited critiques we are – albeit under a much bigger, harsher lens.

So the next time you see an "Oops! She Did It Again!" headline (and you will), remember that your own mother did not strap you into her car with anything more than a seatbelt (if that) and that you have likely made your own share of mistakes. If you do, if you cut her some slack, maybe one day we will live in a world where people don't feel as casually entitled to stick their noses in everyone else's dirty diapers. A world where well-intentioned moms can feel good about simply doing their best.

A world where all I have in common with Britney Spears is my fabulous rear end.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Homeless Man Baby Whisperer. That made me laugh. I guess I never really thought about the whole Britney situation like that before. I guess I shouldn't have much to say at all being that I am not a mother at all. Thanks for making me looks at things in a whole new light.