Britney Spears has dedicated her newly released memoir – an unbridled retelling of her tumultuous life in the spotlight – to her two sons.
The opening dedication of The Woman in Me, released worldwide on 24 October, reads: “For my boys, who are the loves of my life.”
The message from Spears can be read as one of hope, as the 41-year-old pop star turns the page on a period of great professional and personal upheaval that has resulted in a strained relationship with her children amid her 13-year conservatorship and marriage to fitness instructor Sam Asghari.
Her children, Sean Preston, 18 , and Jayden James, 17, have also recently moved to Hawaii with their father Kevin Federline.
Here’s everything we know about Spears’s relationship with her children.
After her four-year relationship with fellow musician Justin Timberlake ended in 2002, Spears began a whirlwind romance with backup dancer Federline. After three months of dating, they tied the knot in September 2004. Spears was 22 at the time; Federline was 26.
They welcomed their first son, Preston, just days shy of their first wedding anniversary in 2005. Spears’s mother, Lynn, and sister, Jamie Lynn, were both present for what was supposed to be a scheduled caesarean section when the singer went into labour early.
Preston’s younger brother Jayden was born a year later in 2006, weeks before Spears filed for divorce from Federline, citing “irreconcilable differences”.
In one section of her book, the “Oops… I did it again” hitmaker opens up about suffering from perinatal depression following the birth of her sons.
“Being a new mom is challenge enough without trying to do everything under a microscope,” Spears writes. “With Kevin away so much, no one was around to see me spiral – except every paparazzo in America.”
Initially, the former couple were granted joint custody of their children. Amid the singer’s mental health and susbtance abuse struggles, however, Federline was granted sole custody of Preston and Jayden in 2008.
Shortly afterwards, Spears was placed under the conservatorship of her father, Jamie. In The Woman in Me, Spears writes that she agreed to the legal arrangement – which stripped her of control over her personal life and professional career for 13 years – for “one very good reason” and that was being “reunited with my boys”.
“My freedom in exchange for naps with my children – it was a trade I was willing to make,” she writes. “And so I went along with it.”
‘My kids come first’
In a 2017 interview with People magazine, Spears admitted that achieving a “balance between work and my personal life” was challenging as a single mother. She also said that she tries to plan her “schedule with my family” as far in advance as possible.
Spears added: “My kids come first, always. There is nothing more rewarding than being a mom and watching my sons grow into young men.”
Alongside performing her hugely successful Piece of Me tour in 2018 as well as following through on other professional commitments, Spears made time for family holidays with the boys, including taking trips to Miami, London, and Disneyland. She documented their birthday celebrations on her Instagram account.
In 2019, Federline was awarded 70 per cent custody of his and Spears’s sons, while she retained 30 per cent.
Two years later, Spears commemorated Preston and Jayden’s September birthdays with a post on Instagram, writing in the caption: “I have to ask their permission to post them because they are extremely independent little men.”
The singer went on to explain that her children “are very private” teenagers. Preston and Jayden had turned 16 and 15, respectively.
A period of “estrangement”
Preston and Jayden were not in attendance at their mother’s star-studded wedding to Sam Asghari in June last year.
Federline later claimed that their sons had “made the decision not to go” to the ceremony, which took place at Spears’s house in Los Angeles.
In a 2022 interview with ITV News, Asghari, 46, shared that witnessing Spears’s social media activity – which included posing naked on Instagram – had been “tough” for her children.
“I try to explain to [her kids], ‘Look, maybe that’s just another way she tries to express herself,’” he said at the time. “But that doesn’t take away from the fact of what it does to them. It’s tough.”
He added: “I can’t imagine how it feels to be a teenager having to go to high school.”
Asghari filed for divorce from Spears in August this year, citing “irreconilable differences” as the reason for their split.
In an interview last year, Jayden spoke candidly about his and Preston’s relationship with their mother, going on to address their decision to skip her wedding.
“I’m really happy for them, but she didn’t invite the whole family, and then if it was just going to be me and Preston, I just don’t see how that situation would have ended on good terms,” he said.
Jayden also defended his grandfather, Jamie, against Spears’s fans who vocally opposed his past role as conservator to the star.
Spears, herself, previously said that her father “should be in jail” for his actions regarding the controversial legal arrangement that gave her father control of her life and finances for 13 years.
Jayden said that Jamie “doesn’t deserve all the hate he is getting”. He did, however, admit that the conservatorship “did go [on] for a little too long”.
In a since-deleted Instagram post, Spears responded to Jayden, writing: “I didn’t do anything wrong and I know I’m not perfect, but the love I’ve given you and how much I adore you and your diplomatic way [of] speaking like Paw Paw [Jamie Spears]… ‘This can be fixed, I will see when she’s better?’
“Jayden, it was a miracle I could even have a normal conversation when I got out of that place.”
Spears went on to say that she was “deeply saddened” that she “she wasn’t up to his expectations of a mother”.
She wrote: “My love for my children has no boundaries and it deeply saddens me to know his outcry of saying I wasn’t up to his expectations of a mother… and maybe one day we can meet face to face and talk about this openly!”
Spears, however, also criticised her children for failing to give her “unconditional love and support”.
A new year
In December 2022, Spears shared photographs of Jayden and Preston on her Instagram, expressing her desire to spend time with them both.
Alongside the photographs, she wrote: “To both of my boys … I love you … I would die for you !!! God speed my precious hearts !!! I would give anything just to touch your face !!! I send my love … Mamasita.”
This year, Federline sought permission from Spears to relocate Preston and Jayden to Hawaii, where he and his wife, Victoria Prince, would be moving.
His attorney later told People that Spears had “consented” to the move, explaining that “the boys are ready to get away from the LA miscrocope”.
A source close to Spears told the publication she has “always faithfully supported her children”.
Soon after, the Grammy award-winner shared a sweet post in honour of Preston graduating high school.
Her caption read: “My first love”.
Giving fans an unrestricted access to her life over the last two decades, Spears’s memoir is now available for purchase; you can read the 10 biggest revelations from the book here.