I’m writing to you not as a fan, because I am not that knowledgeable about your career. Less so am I one who follows your personal life, because aside from high-profile stories about a lack of undergarments and your pending divorce, I don’t know that much about you. Rather, I am writing as a fellow parent.
I understand that of late you’ve developed an interest in Judaism and have been sporting a Magen Dovid. That’s nice. I hope that in Judaism you will find inspiration and direction for your life. So allow me to share with you a teaching of the ancient Rabbis: Who is wise? One who sees the outcome of one’s actions.
You have two children, I have eight. I am sure that we share in common an infinite love of our kids. That you had children early in your career always impressed me. It meant that you knew what was truly valuable in life. Other starlets postpone having a family because it might interfere with the endless accumulation of fame and money. But you took time off from a successful career to marry and become a mom. That shows character.
But once you become a parent, Britney, life gets really serious. Everything you do impacts on your children. Whether you are at home at night or at some nightclub, matters. Whether you are in a stable relationship or switch men regularly will determine the stability of your children’s environment. And whether you have a good name or a bad name directly affects the choices your children will make.
We can all pretend that life is one big party devoid of responsibility. But when we have children the illusion abruptly ends. And rarely being home, or coming home drunk, or letting your kids see you in a degraded state will permanently scar your kids.
Few things are more pleasurable in life than feeling that you are your child’s hero. I still remember when my eldest daughter composed her college entrance essays. She wrote how she had learned from her father not to waste time and that every moment counted. When I read it I was walking on air. Wow, I was her role model. But conversely, I remember how I recently lost my temper at another daughter and yelled at her. I humiliated myself in front of my precious little girl, and I felt sad and pathetic.
You have to start thinking about these things, Britney. Your actions have always affected the public. Your manner of dress has influenced many young girls to copy you. Truth be told, it doesn’t seem as if you have ever really cared about the negative impact you’ve had on those girls. OK, I get it, they’re strangers. Why should you care about them? But you now have two very young, innocent sons. It’s already going to be pretty tough on them, seeing that they will never have any recollection of their parents being together. All they’ll ever know is the divorce. Divorce is hard on kids, Britney. I should know. My parents divorced when I was a boy of 8. That’s why it’s incumbent upon parents to do their best in the wake of a divorce to give their kids all the stability they can.
But you’re making it that much harder on your boys by allowing yourself to become a negative caricature.
It’s amazing how fast our kids grow up. Soon your boys will be surfing the Internet. They’ll see a lot of photos of you in poses that no son should ever see of his own mother. The fact that so many young boys around America might download your pictures without underwear may not bother you. But one day, these boys may be your own children, and that would be unconscionable.
I understand that Madonna is a friend of yours. I have to confess that I always harbored a bit of a grudge against her, which would seem foreign to someone like me because Madonna studies kabbalah, visited Israel, and seems to love Jews and Judaism. So why am I not more appreciative? Well, for many years Madonna vulgarized our culture, exposed her body to America’s teenagers, and generally portrayed women in a highly degrading light. But after she became a mom, she moved to England, essentially complaining that America is too decrepit a culture in which to raise kids. That’s a bit unfair. When it was our kids, she didn’t mind corrupting them. But when it was hers, she fled to a safer environment.
So I beseech you, Britney. You’re a very popular entertainer. Please act in a manner that will be an inspiration both to your kids and to ours.
You’re young enough to make real changes in your life, changes that would benefit you and your environment. You’re a woman of great influence and what you say and do matters. Here a brief few suggestions:
1. Try and be home with your kids at least five nights a week. I realize your single now and would like to date. That’s understandable. No woman should have to be alone. But why not go out after the kids are in bed, or on weekends?
‘. Have a relationship with a man who respects you, and keep that relationship out of the public eye. This way you’ll be able to tell whether he’s dating you because he loves you or because he can get publicity from being with you.
3. Make sure your kids have a healthy relationship with their father. I realize you and Kevin Federline may be fighting over money right now. But don’t let the kids suffer because of it. Even after divorce, kids need two parents.
4. Cover up. Try and dress in a manner that, should you have daughters, you would want them to dress. Modesty will lend you dignity, as Madonna has discovered.
5. Limit the visits to the nightclubs. They’re often meat markets that aren’t conducive to dignified living. Also, it messes up your next day, seeing as they only get going very late at night. And people drink pretty heavily at clubs, and as a mom you have serious responsibilities that alcohol can impair.
I know you can get your life together, Britney. You’ve shown real promise in the past. And as the Jewish sage Hillel said, "If not now, when? And if not me, then who?"
God bless you.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the host of TLC’s "Shalom in the Home’" and the author of "Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children." He lives in Englewood.