Britney Spears and Family

Britney Spears’s Book Confirms: Her Parents Are Awful

Target goofed over the weekend and sent me my copy of Britney Spears’s autobiography The Woman in Me early, before its release on October 24. This meant I had all weekend to read it, and all I can tell you is, her parents are awful.

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Even if you believe half of what Spears writes (and I happen to believe it all), it paints a picture of self-absorbed people who put Spears’ material success over her emotional well-being, and when Spears tried to do just that, they literally locked her away from the world. Their inability to be parents started at an early age and continued throughout Spears’ life until she made the decision to cut them off. Here are some of the lowlights demonstrating how terrible Spears’ parents, Lynn and Jamie, were to her.

***Spoilers for The Woman in Me below***

An abusive alcoholic insisting on perfection

Spears does not paint a flattering portrait of her father in her early years, describing how he would insist on perfection in sports from her older brother and when he would disappear from the family to go on a bender, ultimately resulting in a substantial loss of income for her family, throwing them into poverty.

Spears writes:

My dad was reckless, cold, and mean with me, but he was even harder on Bryan [Spears’s older brother.] He pushed him so hard to do well in sports that it was cruel.

[…]

My dad could also be abusive with my mom, but he was more the typr of drinker who would go away for days at a time. To be honest, it was a kindness to us when he went away. I preferred it when he wasn’t there.

What made his time at home especially bad was that my mom would argue with him all night long. He was so drunk he couldn’t talk. I don’t even know if he could hear her. But we could.

According to Spears, the poverty came after her dad could no longer hold down steady employment due to his alcoholism:

When my father started drinking heavily again, his businessess started to fail.

The family finances got so bad that at age nine, Spears went to work waiting tables to help out:

… I went to work, waiting tables at […] Granny’s Seafood and Deli to help out.

[…]

Meanwhile on the floor, at age nine, I was cleaning shellfish and serving plates of food while doing my prissy dancing in my cute little outfits.

I doubt child labor laws would have allowed this in the early ’90s, but this seems also typical in the childhood portrait Spears painted in her book.

Her mom’s teen drinking buddy

In a book full of horrific parenting, this detail stood out as the worst to me. Spears became her mother’s drinking buddy at the age of 13, writing, “By thirteen I was drinking with my mom and smoking with my friends.” That’s just too young.

Here’s a particularly horrifying story:

For fun, starting when I was in eighth grade, my mom and I would make the two-hour drive from Kentwood to Biloxi, Mississipi , and while we were there, we would drink daiquiais. We called our cocktails “toddies.” I love that I was able to drink with my mom every now and then. The way we drank was nothing like how my father did it. When he drank, he grew more depressed and shut down. We became happier, more alive and adventerous.

Some of my best times with my mom were those trips we took to the beach with my sister. As we’d drive, I’d sip on a little bitty White Russian. To me, the drink taste like ice cream. When it had the perfect amount of shaved ice and cream and sugar and not too much alcohol, that was my piece of heaven.

If your happiest childhood memories of your mom are of drinking with your mom, then your mother is simply a bad parent. This is not an indictment of Britney Spears in any way. It’s clear she was raised by people who had little interest in her emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

Controlling Britney’s diet to a terrifying degree

Approximately half the book focuses on Britney’s life directly leading up to, and during, her conservatorship. I’m sure much will be discussed in the days and weeks to come. Something particularly awful that stuck out when reading the book is that during the conservatorship, her father, who was in control of her entire life, refused to let her have dessert. He was hyper-focused on her body, and starving it to a size he deemed acceptable:

And no matter how much I dieted and exercised, my father was always telling me I was fat. He put me on a strict diet. The irony was that we had a butler—and extravagance—and I would beg him for real food. “Sir,” I would plead, “can you please sneak a hambuger or ice cream for me?”

“Ma’am I’m sorry,” he would say, “I have strict orders from your father.”

So for two years, I ate almost nothing but chicken and canned vegetables.

Two years is a long time to not be able to eat what you want, especially when it’s your body and your work and your soul making the money that everyone’s living off of. Two years of asking for french fries and being told no. I found it so degrading.

I genuinely cannot fathom what it must have felt like to be Britney Spears all these years. To have parents who relied on her for their entire lifestyle, but who were so wholly unwilling to help take care of her in any sense of the word.

The reason she finally cut her family off is heartbreaking

Any one of these anecdotes in the book, and there are many more pages just as awful as the ones I’ve highlighted, would be enough in my opinion to justify cutting her family out of her life forever. However, the reason why she finally did is relatively small and heartbreaking.

After Spears was allowed out of the rehab facility her family put her in, by Spears’ account for not agreeing to do another Vegas residency, she learned what her family had done to her treasured childhood keepsakes while she was away:

It was during this period of time with my family that I learned that while I’d been in the mental health facility, they’d thrown away a lot of what I had stored at my mother’s house. The Madam Alexander dolls I’d collected as a girl were all gone. So were three years’ worth of my writing. I had a binder full of poetry that had real meaning for me. All gone.

When I saw the empty shevles, I felt an overwhelming sadness. I thought of the pages I’d written through tears. I never wanted to publish them or anything like that, but they were important to me. And my family had thrown them in the trash just like they’d thrown me away.

[…]

In that moment I made peace with my family—by which I mean that I realized I never wanted to see them again, and I was at peace with that.

I wish I could tell you this is the worst of the worst, but her entire book is peppered with moments just like that. These were the ones that stood out most to me, and painted a very sad, heartbreaking portrait of Spears’ relationship with her parents. They failed her. Much like most of the media has failed her in her decades-long career.

I’m just glad that Britney Spears finally gets to reclaim her narrative and tell her story in her own words. She deserves that.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)


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Author
Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and reality TV in particular for six years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She is the co-host of the popular Bravo trivia podcast Bravo Replay, and her favorite Bravolebrity is Kate Chastain, and not because they have the same first name, but it helps.