Jamie Lynn's pregnancy puts Spears mother in uncomfortable spotlight
As Britney Spears was shaving her head, popping in and out of drug rehab, flashing her nether regions and otherwise shocking us over the past year, fresh-faced tween star Jamie Lynn was the scandal-free Spears sister.
Now she's a pregnant 16-year-old. And the question everyone's asking is: Where the heck was Mom?
We all know it's often not fair to blame a parent for a child's wayward ways. But Jamie Lynn's predicament, piled on top of Britney's woes, certainly made it seem as if a critical mass of evidence was gathering against Lynne Spears' parenting skills. (Maybe that's why her publisher announced that her book - about being a mom, no less, and due on Mother's Day - was on indefinite hold.)
Across the web, the gloves were off Wednesday, if they'd ever been on.
"Is Lynne Spears an even worse mother than Britney?" asked celebrity editor Bonnie Fuller on The Huffington Post. She excoriated her for apparently never having had "the talk" with her daughters: the talk about birth control, and the dangers of unprotected sex. (Jamie Lynn, the star of Nickelodeon's "Zoey 101," told OK! magazine that she was 12 weeks pregnant and the father was 19-year-old boyfriend Casey Aldridge.)
Even worse than an apparent lack of parental guidance, for many, was the possibility that the Spears family stood to profit financially from the pregnancy story. A spokesman for OK! magazine, which routinely pays celebrities for their co-operation, would not comment on whether it had paid for the story.
"The sad thing is that you now have a second daughter with a career built on scandal, and a mother who is leading the charge," said Janice Min, veteran celebrity-watcher and editor of US Weekly.
To be sure, Lynne Spears isn't the only parent in the entertainment industry to be accused of imbuing less-than-stellar values in her children. Britney's occasional partying buddies, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, and their families have undergone similar scrutiny.
In a number of Hollywood cases, Min noted, the table gets turned as youngsters - successful too early in life - become the main breadwinners in a family. The power dynamic shifts. In other cases, it might just be that fame is intoxicating, and the parents get sucked up in the desire to make the most of it, sometimes partying and drinking along with their offspring.
But the case of the Spears family is an extreme one. "To have a woman preparing to write a book about how to raise daughters when her own two daughters are imploding reeks of incredible denial and a lack of self-awareness," Min said.
For one parenting expert, it comes down to parents - and many of us non-Hollywood types are guilty in degrees of this - wanting to be their kids' friends.
"This is such a strong case for why you should be a parent and not a friend," said Janet Chan, editor-in-chief of Parenting magazine. "A friend can teach your kid to make farting noises. A parent makes the rules, sets a role model.
"I think it's the No. 1 parenting issue today," Chan said. "Too often parents feel guilty about working too many hours, or want their kids to have things they didn't have, and they err in thinking they should be friends rather than parents."
With all the talk about Lynne Spears' neglecting to give her daughters the proper sex education, Chan feels something even more important has been neglected: An education in self-worth.
"I'm more concerned about why she didn't give her daughters talks on self-confidence and appreciating your own worth and saying no," Chan says. "This isn't an issue an issue of condoms. It's an issue of self-esteem. And that starts in infancy."