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A divorced mom’s story: I partied like Britney.

Don’t worry, Britney, I know it’s been a trying couple years. Sounds like you’re going a little overboard blowing red lights with the kids in the Mercedes and all, but there’s hope. You’re not the only one who’s ever welcomed the challenges of parenting by partying like a rock star. I came out the other end of a mad-dash, welcome-to-motherhood party spree intact, and you can too.

True, I have the advantage of not actually being a star, so my antics as a clueless, parentally suspect diva never made the tabloids. But, just like me, you’re an ambitious girl who could surely pull off even such a feat as becoming a decent parent. So, here’s my story. You might relate.

First, I became a mother, just as I’d always planned. Then, not at all as planned, seven months after our son was born, my husband and I split.

If this were a Lifetime special, this would be where the tough got going. But the tough did not get going. The tough drank heavily, lost two dress sizes and dyed her hair blond.

On my “on” nights, I changed diapers, read Goodnight Moon and laughed with my son while he made rubber ducks dive-bomb into the tub. I loved the warmth and sweetness of motherhood, but it did nothing to fortify me against the loneliness of being on my own with a baby in an empty rental. Nor did it help me handle the head-spinning confusion of a collapsed marriage, or the always-pressing guilt over having potentially failed my child by starting him off in a two-household family.

I spent most of that year – the year I’d always imagined would be filled with the renewed marital closeness I’d thought you were entitled to upon starting a family – learning how to juggle three out-of-town lovers at a time and how to perform a left-handed cartwheel without spilling the beer in my right hand.

Maybe I should have just joined a single-moms’ support group. Maybe I should have sued for enough alimony to soothe the sting I felt every time I wrote a month-late rent check. Instead, I used the only coping skill I could think of. I made it my goal to milk as much fun and excitement as I could from the limited resources on hand.

Most of the time, I felt so ripped off, so off-kilter, so stressed out, that when the opportunity arose to jump headfirst into some kind of hedonistic adventure (and wow, does it ever arise when you’re looking for it), I sure as hell was going to take it. I danced until dawn whenever possible. If there was a rave in the desert, a meteor shower after midnight, or a clothing-optional hot-tub party, I was the first to know about it and the last to leave. I’m glad I shot some cool pictures at Burning Man, because I barely remember it.

I even have a battle scar to mark the era. In a moment of beer-fueled bravado, I decided it would be fun to give a friend a lift home from the bar on my bike. Down an icy hill. In the dark. I landed face-first on the pavement, broke a front tooth, and got the kind of lingering, puffy black eye that made strangers quietly ask if things were okay at home. (“Ha,” I thought, “not at all. But it’s not what you think.”) I got my tooth fixed, and the black eye is long gone, but it still looks like someone drew a little Cleopatra flourish over my right eye with an eyeliner pencil.

I never quite concluded that it was wrong, per se, to be a brash, fun-loving tart. (Seriously, Brit, I’d jump at the chance to party three nights in a row with Paris Hilton and trade stockings with her in front of a crowd of rabble-rousing horndogs, like you did.) And I did a pretty good job keeping partying and mothering separate. But when my good-natured two-year-old arrived home one morning to find me nursing a don’t-talk-to-me caliber hangover, I realized I should cool it.

Here’s where I think I can help you, Britney. You don’t need a moral overhaul. The naughty-ex-schoolgirl thing is still fine. Britney, whatever you do, your kids are going to turn out just like you. You don’t have to stop wearing the Daisy Duke cut-offs. You just need to give in to the practicalities for a while. I realized that trying to cope with the logistical and emotional demands of parenthood and the frustration of divorce and would get easier if I started getting some sleep. I started turning down a few party invites to stay home and get to bed early. I acknowledged that a superbly mixed Miller’s martini with French vermouth and high-quality olives makes me sleep worse, not better, so I started drinking fewer of them.

My son is almost four now, and he’s showing clear signs that I’ve taught him right. My lust-for-life approach to late-night adult activities extended into a let’s-put-Huck-Finn-to-shame approach to parenting. My kid is the kind of exuberant free spirit who will respond to a far-away riff of Latin jazz by jumping out of the jogging stroller on a city sidewalk to do the cha-cha. I feel a pang of sympathy when I hear other parents tell me their kids don’t do well with crowds or commotion or variations in their bedtime. I’ve found that with a well-timed disco nap, my party-boy’s good mood can last till midnight.

The bottom line here, Britney, is that whatever you do, your kids are going to turn out just like you.

So, here’s my advice: lay low for a while and do what you need to do to regain custody, but just shoot for fifty percent. That way, you can hula-hoop and make dinosaur cookies with the kids on Tuesdays while K-Fed’s out wooing Colin Farrell’s ex and schmoozing with Victoria’s Secret models. Then, on Wednesdays, you can go challenge Paris to Jell-o shot contests while the two of you swing upside-down on diamond-studded stripper poles greased with caviar. If you play your cards right, you really can maintain a good buzz and a satisfying reckless streak without racking up those court injunctions.

Oh, and when you get that Jell-o shot thing organized, make sure you get me on the guest list. I’m free on Mondays.

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