Ancient History

Follow Me?



A little over six months ago I wrote an open letter to Britney Spears, who had just become a mother.

Why I felt and still feel compelled to defend her is completely beyond my comprehension. I do not own any of her CDs. I don’t listen to her music. I haven’t seen the movie she filmed, watched her reality TV show, or otherwise follow her career. I cringe when I think of how many young girls try to emulate her. I have followed her journey to motherhood, however.

Her choice of husband has been slammed, her birthing method ridiculed, her weight gain scrutinized. She is pregnant again and the news is not welcomed by anyone and is actually decried. I’ve read that Britney is stupid, vain, a horrible mother, makes terrible decisions, and deserves scorn. Ripping her to shreds is a gleeful pastime for many, especially mothers, I’ve noticed. Why?

I think it is because we often feel like we fall short in our mothering skills, so we need a Bad Mommy to look down on. The infamous incident where she drove with her son in her lap was a huge mistake. I don’t defend her actions. What she did was dangerous and illegal. The latest scandal involving Britney is a picture purporting to show her driving a convertible with her son facing forward in a carseat. Coupled with the recent baby-dropping incident by the baby’s nanny, and you have a candidate for Worst Mother in History.

If paparazzi followed me, a picture would have been taken of me with my back turned as Joel rolled down a hill in a Target shopping cart. It happened when he was 10 months old while I was occupied trying to get Tommy buckled in his carseat. I don’t know what happened, but I heard a woman shout. I turned to see Joel nearing the street, oblivious that his wild ride was a tragedy waiting to happen. A man ran out of nowhere and stopped the cart. I ran down to get him, sobbing. I shook for days. I have only shared this story with a few people.

Paparazzi would snap photos of me yelling a little too much.

Once we visited the ER three times in one day.

Joel sprayed 409 in his eyes.

He also broke his arm under my watch and I don’t know how it happened.

I once drove around for who-knows-how-long not knowing Sam’s carseat wasn’t buckled in—he was buckled into the carseat, though. Somehow it came unbuckled and I didn’t notice.

I locked my keys in the car at a grocery store with three kids under the age of three strapped in their seats. Joel was a newborn and he was shrieking. It was freezing cold inside the car and out.

I was walking through a doorway holding newborn Aidan when I bonked her head into the door jam.

We were oblivious to the fact Ryley could hardly see, until his doctor recommended an eye exam which revealed horrible eyesight.

Joel’s favorite curse word: Dammit.

I have many other less-than-stellar mothering moments.

The search for the Worst Mother in History doesn’t culminate in Britney Spears or me. I think of mothers who leave their babies in dumpsters or pool tavern toilets. Mothers who somehow forget their little one sleeping in a carseat on a burning hot day, only to return to tragedy, infamy, and a lifetime of shame and guilt. I think of moms who make mistake after mistake regarding the men they bring into their lives. Mothers who turn a blind-eye to their teenager’s alcohol and drug use right under their noses. I think of the mothers who provide the alcohol and drugs, reasoning “kids will be kids”. Mothers who beat their kids, starve them, emotionally and physically neglect them. I think of mothers who sell their children. I think of mothers who kill their children.

Tragedy could have happened to Britney as a direct result of her stupid mistakes. Tragedy could have happened to me or my baby son that day in the Target parking lot. But it didn’t.

Rather than bash her as a seething idiot, I am glad worse didn’t happen. I pray she is learning and that she gets the tools she needs to be the best mom to her son and the baby on the way. I don’t envy the glare burning in her direction. I don’t envy anything about her.

You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something. ~H.G. Wells


I have to add I indulge in celebrity-bashing, too. I am not perfect in that regard. Tom Cruise is usually my target. I am trying to be more mindful of how I express disapproval of those in the limelight, especially in front of my kiddos. They don’t understand why it is okay to ridicule a person on TV, but not their brother or next-door-neighbor because it isn’t okay. I’m a work in progress. Obviously.

21 comments to Bash

  • I have don’t many of these things myself. Yelling, driving with the car seat not strapped in, locking my kids in the car, locking myself out of the house with toddlers, oldest needing glasses, forgetting to put the gate back up on the steps and ally climbing up and falling down, letting ally slip through my hands while jumping in the pool (she went way under), and
    on one of our first outings as a family after the twins were born we were getting everyone in their car seats and went to drive off. As we backed out of our driveway we saw one of the twins in their carseat sitting in the driveway.

    I’m not a tom cruise fan either.

    Children are a blessing from God. Obviously God blessed Brittany for a reason.

  • I think you make some good points. And goodness knows I’m a mothering mistake waiting to happen.

  • Stephanie

    I had thought about blogging a very similar post, and had a feeling I would stumble across one soon! I agree with you whole heartedly in every way- and this is a good thing to remember next time you think about judging that “other mom” in the grocery store aisle… remember it could have been/could be you on an off day, or even a day you thought you were pretty “on!”

  • I had thought about blogging a very similar post, and had a feeling I would stumble across one soon! I agree with you whole heartedly in every way- and this is a good thing to remember next time you think about judging that “other mom” in the grocery store aisle… remember it could have been/could be you on an off day, or even a day you thought you were pretty “on!”

  • Mopsy, excellent post, once again. I’d been thinking some of those same things (and I applaud your courage to list your less-than-stellar mothering moments–we all have them). I too, for some reason, have been strangely fascinated by Britney’s motherhood journey. I’ve found myself–in all sincerity–praying for her and Katie Holmes both.

  • Tracy (tjly)

    You make some very good points Gretchen. And I definitely don’t judge the “other mom” in the grocery store aisle. We all know what its like to be a frazzled mom juggling 10 different things. But Brittney’s not exactly a “regular” mom. I guess it seems easy to mock her because she has highly paid “people” to take care of her every imaginable need and they seem to be doing a lousy job. Plus, car seat safety doesn’t seem to be a “mistake” or an “accident” like locking your keys in your car. But I totally agree with the spirit of your post. I certainly have had my share of mistakes and am sure there will be many more!

  • Wow! Well said. Great post.

  • Bravo! About your last paragraph, that is.

    We play the voyeur, peeking into the gossip rags and watching E! TV, poised and ready to take aim when the celebs prove themselves to be human and (mostly) godless. I posit the reason is that we’re jealous. So we look for dirt under their famous little rugs, reasons to hate them and tell our our friends what fiends they are.

    We’re pretty ill, wouldn’t you say?

  • Russ Eldredge

    Thanks for a real eye-opener of a post! I’ve admittedly taken part in the Britney-bashing, and have spared no expense in the Tom Cruise bashing, either… But rarely have I ever subjected myself to a paprazzi-like examination like this. I would probably be found terribly lacking in many areas, and be certainly seen as negligent in many others.

    Thanks for the “remove the beam out of thine own eye first” reminder…

  • I loved your original post on Brit way back when she had her first. It was very thoughtful. This one was just as inspiring. It is so easy to stand back and judge, but as you mention, too many times there but for the grace of God go I.

  • Well said, as usual, Mopsy. It is easy to point and laugh or cluck, but we all have our moments.

    Like the time my seven-month-old fell down the basement stairs because the door was left ajar, and then the doctor accused me of throwing my son down the stairs, because everyone knows seven-month-olds aren’t mobile.

    Or two days later when he climbed out of his crib and landed on his head.

    Or just Monday, when he made breakfast out of a bar of Irish Spring.

    None of us are perfect, and we should remember that.

    But I still really, really dislike Tom Cruise, or as Chilihead says, Freaky McFreak. It may be unChristian of me, but I will continue to cluck my tongue at that misguided man. I will, however, pray for Katie and the baby, poor things.

  • Very good points! All of us have our moments of which we are much less than proud, and I am unfortunately definitely one of those people.

  • Great post, Gretchen. I don’t follow the celeb gossip too much, but as easy as it is to ruefully shake my head at Brittney’s mommy mistakes, upon further reflection, I kind of feel sorry for her.

    Mommies need each other. Without my friends, both IRL and online, I would be lost. I need their advice, their support, their product reviews, and their honest opinions. It occurs to me that someone in her position probably doesn’t have a lot of good fellow mommy friends to call on and to emulate.

    I guess we’re all just doing the best we can. I’ve certainly had my share of mistakes also, like just last week when I put my kids in the backyard to play, then went inside to answer the phone. When I looked out the window again, they were gone. They had managed to open the back gate and run around to the front yard, where I found Jacob standing dangerously close to the street. Thank goodness no one got hurt, but I wonder what my neighbors thought of me as my 2yo and 4yo played in the front yard, near the street w/no adult supervision.

  • So thought provoking Mopsy.

    “Joel’s favorite curse word” Does he use it in the right context? *grin*

  • mopsy

    Heather—Joel is very adept at dropping the D-bomb at the perfect moment—stubbed toes, dropped toys, spilled milk. Of course we tell him it’s not nice and try not to over-react. I am probably the worst offender at saying this word, unfortunately. I need to say “dad gummit” or something.

    And I’m such a nice girl, too…

  • I think that any mother who has paparazzi following her 24/7 is going to end up looking bad! I could add incidents to your list too–things that I am just thankful that my kids came out Ok! Once, while we moved into a new house, my 6 month old was exhausted so I left him in the van to sleep and watched him carefully through the living room window. It never entered my mind that it was 90 degrees outside and he could overheat. I went out after 20 minutes and found him with bright red cheeks and dripping with sweat–who knows what would have happened in 10 more minutes? I learned my lesson and moved on… mostly I am thankful that he was fine!

  • I’ve literally been thinking of writing something like this for several months now. I’ve got one in my brain for Jessica Simpson as well. It is so easy to condemn, harder to sympathize and pray for women who are supposed to “have it all together,” yet surprisingly still struggle…

  • Laura

    I wonder about this every time I am standing in line at the grocery store–who are these women anyway? Why have they been picked out of the millions for us to examine in minute detail? And sometimes I wonder, why aren’t they creepier? I mean, there are plenty of truly horrible, creepy people out there. There are weirdos in this world you just don’t want to know exist. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which issue you’re pondering, they are rarely in the limelight until they get caught in some illegal act. Even then the limelight doesn’t last long. But at the same time there are these little girls–none of them older than I am, and I am not old–who have somehow become icons of something or other for all society to pick to peices. Why them? What did they do to deserve such notoriety? They were beautiful, or they danced a sexy dance, or they made a stupid comment, or were caught on videotape–but so many other women have done the same. Why them? Doesn’t the arbitrariness of it just bug the heck out of you? It obviously does me. This comment is getting out of control. But really, it is a true mystery to me why our society does this to certain young women. Is it possibly a kind of mysogeny? Or are they scapegoats? What???

  • Jinx…I just blogged about this. Promise I wasn’t copying you. Laura just alerted me to your blog on the topic.

  • I really have tried not to bash Britney. I am not sure it has been completely successful, but I really appreciate your post. It serves as a reminder to me of my own inadequacies (ok…spell check not working today, ha). You have a special gift of caring. That is something that many people don’t share and I want to emulate. Thank you.

  • I love this post.. have been defending her to all the Indian mothers for a while and felt quite at a loss after a point.. hope you don’t mind if I link up to you.. thank you for this post…. its exactly what I feel…

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