Lynne Spears is used to seeing her celebrity daughters, Britney and Jamie Lynn, at the center of media firestorms. But this week, Lynne was the one in the spotlight. She hit the talk-show circuit to promote her new memoir, "Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World" (Thomas Nelson). "This is the mother's version, not a tabloid version," Spears tells NEWSWEEK, by phone from her Louisiana home. "They report an incident, but don't tell you anything about it. You know that saying that a picture can say a thousand words? A picture can also tell a thousand lies."
As Spears waited for her 3-month-old granddaughter, Maddie, to arrive—she's on babysitting duty on a Friday afternoon to give new mom Jamie Lynn some downtime—the elder Spears spoke with NEWSWEEK's Sarah Kliff about a specific chapter in her book, and life: her daughter's teenage pregnancy, which the family announced last December on the cover of OK! Magazine. Jamie Lynn gave birth to Maddie in June; not long afterward, she granted OK! another exclusive with the first public photos of the baby. Her mother discussed the tabloid coverage, where the media went wrong and why Jamie Lynn's pregnancy was treated differently than that of Bristol Palin, the teenage daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: When Maddie was born, Jamie Lynn was on the cover of OK! magazine. The story got a lot of attention and some criticism. NEWSWEEK spoke to OK!'s editor about whether the piece glamorized teen pregnancy. W e received thousands of comments, with readers coming down on both sides. What do you think?
Lynne Spears: Do I promote teen sex? Of course not. Do I promote teen pregnancy? Needless to say, of course not. But when it happens, you deal with it and you do the best you can do. And you know what? She's doing pretty well. But [despite] a situation that has fallen in her lap, she's doing exceptionally well ... What kind of pictures would have been more befitting? Should she have just not done anything and let the paparazzi clamor around ... day and night?
Sometimes, when you're a celebrity, you have to choose the lesser of two evils. So she decided to do the OK! Magazine, give a spread, give some pictures, and it really did ease off the paparazzi. It has lightened up her load a lot ... Did it make it glamorous? It showed her with some cute little shots, having some fun moments with her little family. If they call it glamorous, well I'm sorry. But everybody knows that once you get a new baby, it's the most cherished time of your life—but it is not glamorous.
One of the critiques was that Jamie Lynn never talked about the difficult parts of being a parent, like waking up at 3 a.m. when your child starts crying. [The complaint was] she only ta lked about the good, fun parts.
Of course she knows it's going to be tough. You might lose sleep. Or maybe the baby's a little difficult to organize. Or maybe you don't get everything done that you want to do that day. You know what? Maybe the reporter didn't ask those questions, I don't know. But you know what really gets me? What would really blow them away?
We don't want this said, 'cause this would be glamorizing, but I will tell you a secret: her baby does sleep all night. What do you think about those apples? Maddie is the best baby I have ever seen. She is like a little angel. She's so contented. She laughs and she coos and ahead of herself with her stages. But of course we can't tell that because then we would just glamorize it more.
What's it like to hear so many people trying to figure out what role your daughter's pregnancy plays in society?
If you look back in history … We're [in] a much more technical age, much more educated in some ways. But I think our generation is having babies so old ... I think 20s, that's a good age ... [when women get older] their bodies are tearing down. When they start having babies it makes it so much more difficult and then they can't get pregnant, because all the stuff is kinda set in ... I don't think people are looking at it that way. I think your 20s is a good time to have babies. Jamie Lynn has done beautifully with what she's done. Could every other teenager do what Jamie Lynn has done? No indeed.
You and Jamie Lynn got some negative press when she got pregnant so young. But more recently, 17-year-old Bristol Palin, and her mother, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, found themselves in a similar situation. And the publ ic reaction has been different.
It's a totally different reaction. It's as if [Sarah Palin] became celebrated. I mean, the mother, Palin, was celebrated for this. Every woman in the world has applauded her strength and her convictions and poor little old Jamie Lynn—you saw how she was crucified. Everybody did, firsthand ... I just feel like it's been a very hypocritical situation.
What advice would you give the Palin family, having been through a pretty similar situation?
I really can't give advice. I wouldn't give advice because everybody's situation is different. I would never tell anybody else what to do with their child. I would never attempt to make them think I knew more about their child. Even if they were to ask, I would tell them dig deep, what do you think?