She might have global stardom, an estimated £50m fortune and a singing career that has spanned four decades, but Britney Spears, in a rare moment of calm reflection, admitted last year that for all her achievements, there is ‘nothing stronger than the love between a mother and son.’
How much it must pain her, then, that her sons’ love for their mother is tempered with frustration.
Last week saw Britney’s first music release since the end of her controversial 13-year legal conservatorship, during which her father Jamie had control over her financial and personal affairs.
Hold Me Closer, her single with Elton John, should have signified new beginnings.
But her hard fought battle for freedom has brought a series of profound family tensions to the fore.
Last month the Mail on Sunday revealed that Britney, 40, hadn’t seen her sons, Preston, 16, and Jayden, 15, for months. Their father, former dancer Kevin Federline, who Britney divorced in 2006, said the boys’ desire to avoid the circus surrounding their mother’s private life was so great they didn’t even attend her June wedding to American-Iranian model Sam Asghari.
Britney Spears pictured on a beach with her two sons Preston (left) and Jayden (right). They have spoken out about their complicated relationship with their mother
Jayden, pictured during the documentary with Daphne Barak, is described as the more outgoing of Britney’s two sons. Though he is one year younger than Preston, he describes how he is speaking to the cameras ‘on both of our behalfs’
Britney Spears’ son Jayden (left), speaking with father Kevin (main) and half-brother Kaleb (right) lifts the lid on his relationship with his mother
Jaden sits by a piano (left) and then takes a selfie (right) alongside his brother Preston and interviewer Daphne Barak
The boys’ desire to avoid the circus surrounding their mother’s private life was so great they didn’t even attend her June wedding to American-Iranian model Sam Asghari
Kaleb (left), Jordan (middle), Jayden (right, standing), Peyton (right, sitting) play by the pool at their home
Britney’s ex-husband Kevin Federline and wife Victoria sit down to chat to Daphne Barak in a new documentary
A rare picture of the Federline family all together, as they enjoy a steak dinner. Bottom-left, light blue shirt: Jayden. Bottom-right, black shirt: Preston
In response, Britney accused her sons of ‘abandoning her’ and ‘being hateful’ in a now deleted Instagram post, after which Kevin, 44, posted videos allegedly showing the singer ‘screaming’ at her sons when they were younger. Also now removed.
Britney has since deleted her Instagram account altogether and last week uploaded a voice recording online in which she claimed her family had ‘literally killed’ her through her conservatorship ordeal. That too has now been deleted.
As claim and counter claim between Kevin and Britney played out in public, two voices were missing – those of their children.
Now, speaking for the first time to documentary film maker Daphne Barak, Preston and Jayden reveal the truth about their relationship with their mother.
The interview will air on ITV news tomorrow.
There is ‘no hate’ Jayden stresses, but he admits ‘it will take a lot of time and effort’ to repair their fractured relationship.
‘I 100% think this can be fixed. It’s just going to take a lot of time and effort. I just want her to get better mentally. When she gets better I really want to see her again. ‘
Speaking directly to their mother, he adds: ‘I love you a lot, I hope for the best for you. Maybe one day we can sit down like this and talk again.’
Earlier this year Britney posted a series of naked pictures online to celebrate her freedom, before deleting them
Yet to do so at her wedding to Sam, 28, who Britney met on the set of her music video Slumber Party in 2016, would have been inappropriate, he believes. ‘At the time it just wasn’t a good time to go. I’m not saying that I’m not happy for her,’ explains Jayden. ‘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.’
Following her divorce Britney suffered a well-publicised breakdown that culminated in Kevin gaining custody of their children in 2007. After the conservatorship was established in 2008 Britney acquired shared custody again, and occasional snapshots of Britney with the boys over the years – beaming at the camera at a baseball match, celebrating birthday dinners, splashing around in a swimming pool – suggest a tender bond between mother and sons was forged.
But Kevin was reportedly given 70 per cent custody in 2019.
The children then stopped their over night stays. Their monitors visits became less frequent, until they decided to stop visiting their mom.
In person the boys are bright, articulate and – thanks to Kevin and his wife Victoria’s diligent parenting – pretty much like any other pair of teenagers.
Although younger, Jayden is the more extrovert of the siblings, a self-taught pianist who, like his mother perhaps, views music as ‘therapy’ and speaks on the siblings’ behalf.
Preston, who also enjoys music and art, is more sensitive, and camera shy. The pair enjoy an irrevocable bond borne of their unique upbringing. ‘Preston and I are very united. He is always looking out for me and I am looking out for him. We make sure that we are both healthy mentally,’ says Jayden.
They offer a fascinating insight into an upbringing overshadowed by their mother’s stardom, controversial conservatorship and ongoing concern for her mental health – earlier this year Britney posted a series of naked pictures online to celebrate her freedom, before deleting them.
Recalling growing up with a famous mother, Jayden said: ‘There was this TV and it just showed all these people, and it showed her singing and dancing on the stage, and when I saw that I was like ‘Wow, that is a lot of people’ and I came to the realisation of how famous she was and how successful she is as a person and that inspired me.’
Her turbulent life in her £10m Los Angeles mansion is in stark contrast to the domestic stability Preston and Jayden enjoy just a few miles away.
They share a home with their father and his wife Victoria, 39, a former volleyball champion, Kevin’s older children, Kori, 20 and Kaleb, 18, from a previous relationship with actress Shar Jackson, and his two children with Victoria – Jordan, 11 and eight-year-old Peyton. ‘I feel this is my safe place. My home,’ says Jayden. ‘I love everybody here.’
Left: Kevin Federline with his children Jayden (left), Payton (blond hair) and Jordan (back). Right: Jayden gives Payton a piggy-back
The family allowed filming to take place in the park as part of a documentary in which they opened up on their relationship with Britney Spears
Daphne Barak (middle) interviews Britney’s ex-husband Kevin Federline (right) and son Jayden (left)
Jayden and Preston pictured as children with their mother on stage. They have revealed their hopes for reconciliation despite the ’emotional trauma we have been through’
Britney Spears and Kevin Federline arrive at the 2006 Grammy Nominees party in Hollywood, California
Yet he is keen to stress he also loves the Spears family Britney has relentlessly criticised.
In addition to lashing out at what she describes as an ‘abusive’ conservatorship imposed by her father Jamie, 70, the singer has accused her mother Lynne, 67, who separated from Jamie in 2002, of being the ‘brains’ behind the conservatorship.
She has described her sister Jamie Lynne, 31, as ‘insane’ for not siding with her against her parents and accused her brother Bryan, 45, of treating her like ‘absolutely nothing.’
Kevin, who met Britney at a Hollywood club in 2004, when she was emerging from a 55-hour long marriage to her childhood friend Jason Alexander and he was expecting his second child with Shar, admits his relationship with Britney’s father has not been without incident.
Britney Spears with father Jamie Spears in a photo she posted on Instagram on June 21, 2015, with caption: Happy Father’s Day, daddy! Love you!!’
In November 2019 he took out a restraining order against his former father-in-law Jamie following claims of an altercation. But he believes Jamie ‘really cares about his family’ and the sentiment is one his sons echo, despite having been critical towards him in the past.
Jaden said: ‘At first he was just trying to be like any father letting her pursue her daughter’s dream of becoming a superstar but I did think maybe the conservatorship went on too long, probably why my Mum was very angry about the whole situation that she was working for too long and I personally think she was. She should have taken a break and relaxed.’
But he adds that Jamie ‘doesn’t deserve all the hatred he is getting in the media. I love him, with all my heart. He was just trying to be a father.’
He says his mother is ‘ceasing to realise how much he cares for her’ and cannot parry the manipulative Spears family Britney has portrayed with the relatives he knows.
‘When I meet them in person they would not do such things,’ says Jayden, describing his fun loving Uncle Bryan as someone who ‘always wants to go and play ball in the park’ and his grandmother Lynne, who he calls Memow, ‘a really nice person’.
‘Whenever I see her, she cares about me. They are not bad people! They know what we are going through now. They want our future to be what we want it to be. They just want to watch over us. Memow and Uncle Bryan are a good part of our lives. They have taught me how to deal with things.’
Not that he has always felt this sanguine towards them. In March 2020 Jayden, when questioned by fans on social media, described Jamie as a ‘d**k.’ Now, however, he says: ‘Looking back, I regret saying all kinds of things. I really feel bad. Preston and I feel bad. We want to see him. I want to see him, sit with him next to the piano, talk about my future.’
Coming to terms with their mother posting pictures of herself naked online must have been embarrassing enough for the teenagers, but seeing themselves thrust into the public eye against their will is arguably more troubling, especially for Preston, who, Jayden says, ‘doesn’t like the cameras. He asked my mother not to post his photos, and she did it anyway. So it didn’t go well.’
Following her divorce Britney suffered a well-publicised breakdown that culminated in Kevin (pictured) gaining custody of their children in 2007
Sean Federline, Jayden James Federline, Britney Spears and Sam Asghari attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on November 29, 2017
He, meanwhile, seems torn between thinking Britney has a right to broadcast her life and body on Instagram and wanting her to realise the ramifications on her family. ‘Social media helps her… So if that’s what she wants to do that’s what she wants to do, I’m not going to hate her for that. At the same time, she should come to the realisation of whatever it is that stops her loving her family.
‘It’s almost like she has to post something on Instagram to get some attention. This has gone on for years and years and years and there’s a high chance that this will never stop but I’m hoping for me that she will stop.’
Perhaps wisely, neither boy is consumed by social media. ‘I do have an Instagram account but I barely go on it,’ says Jayden, while Preston, he adds, is prone to ‘overthinking’ about what strangers will say about him. Instead, home ‘is our safe place to process all the emotional trauma we have been through to actually heal. My family is helping me focus on myself and succeed.’
Growing up, it seems Preston bore the brunt of their mother’s frustration.
‘I think Mom has struggled giving us both attention and showing us equal love & I don’t think she showed enough to Preston and I feel really bad for that. We’ve both been through so much pressure in the past that this is our safe place now, to process all the emotional trauma we’ve been through to heal, heal our mental state.’
At this point his voice trails off.
‘If I complained, she went after him,’ he resumes. ‘I feel guilty, so I am there for him,’ says Jayden, admitting that ‘mom has treated me better.’
When he’s upset, he reveals, he confides in his dad first, ‘because he is always there, to put the pieces together. Or I will try going to my siblings, to get distracted from whatever it is … This family here has really helped me, not to worry about many things.’
When Britney’s conservatorship was initially established after her breakdown in 2008 Kevin said a period of stability followed, while Jayden implies that their mother’s behaviour became all the more difficult to deal with as they approached adolescence.
‘We have been going back and forth for years. But when you become 10,11…,’ says Jayden.
Despite his frustration, however, he harbours hope he and his mother will be reunited, while fearing the drama surrounding her life may never end. ‘I know it has been going on for years.
There is a high chance it is never going to stop,’ he says. ‘It is so easy to be negative. It is so easy to dip into sadness and depression. It is harder to spread positivity.’
Words Britney may find all too relatable.
- Daphne Barak is a renowned interviewer and documentary film maker, whose subjects have included Nelson Mandela, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Johnny Depp and Michael Jackson among many others.
- Her latest book, ‘Struggling for One America’, written with Erbil Gunasti, is published by Skyhorse Publishing and is available to buy here.
- Daphne Barak’s full one-hour documentary with Britney’s boys will be released world-wide in the coming weeks.
Hopefully, after some of the pain is expressed, Britney’s sons will be able to move on and maybe even talk to their mother face-to-face one day, DAPHNE BARAK writes
While Britney Spears made the headlines, fighting to be released from her conservatorship, there were two boys, looking on – and somehow trying to live their lives like other teenagers.
Bill (Erbil) Gunasti and I spent weeks filming with Kevin and Victoria Federline and their blended family of six kids, four of them living at their home in California.
Two are Britney and Kevin’s boys: Sean Preston, 16, and Jayden, 15.
And somehow, Kevin and Victoria have succeeded in giving these boys a normal upbringing – or as close as is possible in these extraordinary circumstances.
They are both handsome, creative and curious about what life might offer them.
Jayden learned how to play the piano by himself. He is composing without even yet having learned to read music!
Preston, meanwhile, is experimenting with the guitar and with art. He showed me an impressive drawing made ‘In the middle of the night, not to forget what I had in mind..’
Their half siblings are impressive, too: With Jordan interested in professional dancing, Peyton in tennis, Kori doing animation, and Kaleb showing athletic skills.
Despite the furore surrounding them, Kevin tried hard to put the kids’ best interest upfront, and encouraged them to see their maternal relatives, including their beloved ‘Memow’ (their nickname for grandma Lynne Spears) and ‘Uncle Bryan (Britney’s brother) and the rest of the family.
Britney might well have had some truth on her side in the long battle to escape from the conservatorship.
Yet for the boys, who have been ‘healing’ ( their own word) from a painful period, it has been traumatic to witness this public feud. The hatred of some Britney fans has not made it any easier.
Each one of the boys reacts differently, though they are united and support each other.
Sean Preston is more withdrawn, and hates the cameras. He says it was distressing to have mother post their photos despite his objection.
Yet – off camera, he is very expressive, engaged in the conversation.
He misses his grandfather Jamie (who has a restraining order for an altercation with Sean Preston) and is worried about Jamie’s health and weight loss.
Otherwise, he is a regular teen, excelling in his studies, showing me photos of a beautiful girl (‘My best friend’) and excited at the prospect of getting his first driving licence.
Jayden is more outgoing. Though he is one year younger, he is speaking to my cameras ‘On both of our behalfs’.
Like Sean Preston, he is articulate and shows maturity.
He is always there to play with his younger sisters, the two dogs, and to interact with the rest of the family.
Since I aired a clip of their father’s interview last month, and revealed the boys stopped seeing their famous mother, they have had to deal (while trying to heal) with cyberbullying.
‘One day, if She (mom) seeks help, we can sit with her, like this (with you) and talk…We would like that.’
Their mother’s decision to buy a house in their own gated community has been something else for them to consider. Will they bump into her? What would they say?
Since my recent groundbreaking interview with Kevin in The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, interest in the boys has grown still further. And how there are paparrazi to consider.
When I hosted a steak dinner, we had to think about who would go in what car. And once inside the restaurant, it had to be a private rooom.
Today, with Britney’s release from the conservatorship and her return to her singing career, conversations about ‘the situation with mom’ are much more frequent.
When Britney posted and then deleted some comments about the boys, they felt under attack.
He and the rest of the family maintain that they have been silent for years, while dealing with a great many emotional moments.
These exchanges on social media are unfortunate.
Hopefully – after some of the pain is expressed – They will be able to move on. Maybe even talk to their mother face to face..