Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Parenting lessons from 'Bridget Jones'

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
October 18, 2013 -- Updated 1707 GMT (0107 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In Helen Fielding's latest "Bridget Jones" novel, Jones is now a single mom of two young kids
  • SPOILER ALERT: Jones is a widow; her beloved Mark Darcy has been killed
  • Fielding, also a mom of two, says the "Bridget Jones" books are based a little bit on her life
  • Jones, even in fiction, can offer moms a break from pressure to be perfect, says Fielding

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and her reports at CNN Parents and follow her @KellyWallaceTV on Twitter.

(CNN) -- On a day when I felt utterly exhausted by my lengthy mom "to do" list (field trip, curriculum night, review homework, bake cupcakes, order food for birthday party, clean house, write this story and then collapse), I relished the chance to talk with "Bridget Jones."

OK, so I wasn't exactly chatting up the 30-something who seemed to speak to women everywhere (including this 46-year-old!) when she burst onto the scene in the '90s describing her struggles with, in no particular order, weight, relationships and work.

No, it wasn't Bridget, but the next best thing -- the woman who knows her best -- author Helen Fielding, who is out with her third novel in the massively popular series.

In the latest book, "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy," Jones is still lovable and hapless and a singleton, to borrow one of Fielding's favorite words. But Bridget's also 51 now. How exactly did that happen? Yes, I feel slightly old just writing her age.

Besides entering middle age, Jones has changed in other ways. The one-time hater of "smug marrieds" is a widow now. (Spoiler alert -- the book begins years after the beloved Mark Darcy, played by Colin Firth in the movie versions, is killed by stepping on a landmine in Darfur.) She's also a mom of two young children, juggling lice infestations, video games, irritating mass e-mails from parents at school, and sex with a lover 20 years younger.

If this were a video, I would say, "Re-rack the tape." How many moms in their 50s -- or moms of any age -- are scheduling nanny coverage for rendezvous with their lovers?

Perhaps that's one of the many things we can learn about parenting in the modern age from Bridget Jones the mom and from Fielding, who's also in her 50s and a mom of two (her kids are 7 and 9).

Fielding, who says she loves being a "mum," doesn't like to talk about her kids publicly. We can certainly understand that, but she did share how grounded her two little ones keep her.

"When I was getting ready for the book tour, I was thinking, 'Oh, what am I going to wear?' -- which of course any woman would think," Fielding told me. "And I've got a red dress, and I was prancing around in front of the mirror and I was singing 'Lady in Red' -- and then my son said, 'Mummy, you look like a Virgin Air hostess.' Not that there's anything wrong with Virgin Air hostesses, but that wasn't really the look I was aiming for. So I love the way they bring you down to earth," she said.

Here's more of my conversation with Fielding. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Kelly Wallace: Is this book mirroring your life? You are a mom of two little ones and so is Bridget.

Helen Fielding: Well, I think it's always easiest and best for me to write about things that I know and understand. With all the Bridget books, it's all based a little bit on things that happened or might happen to me, or happened to me a little bit, that I exaggerate or change to make it funnier or into a story. And also people tell me things. I've found that women especially are always coming up to me and telling me funny stories of things that happened to them or things that went a bit wrong, almost as if I'm the Pope or something, like they want some absolution: "Bless you, my child, you are human."

Wallace: What are the similarities between Bridget the parent and Helen the parent?

Fielding: Well, I think the more interesting thing is what are the similarities between Bridget the singleton and Bridget the parent. Because Bridget was always trying or thinking she ought to be perfect, whereas in fact she was just human and muddling through. And I think it's interesting with parenthood that, as with being a woman, the bar is quite high these days, or seems to be, so Bridget again is reading self-help books about being a mother and thinking she has to talk in a sort of calm voice all the time and then going, "Come to the table, come to the table, one, two -- " and then not knowing what she's going to do when she gets to three.

WATCH: Ladies, stop trying to be perfect!

Wallace: As a mom, as a writer, as an observer, why do you think we've gotten to this point where we, as women, feel we have to be perfect at work, perfect at home and perfect in every way?

Fielding: I think it's sad that that's happened. And I think Bridget's done something to make people feel it's all right to be human and kind and fun and, you know, keep buggering on, muddle through -- and that's something I feel really, really proud of.

Wallace: You write a lot about children and parenting, and also about sex as Bridget enjoys a relationship with a much younger man. Is there a message here for women and moms?

Fielding: She's a comedy character and these are romantic comedies, but to me comedy always comes out of truth, really, and sometimes painful truth. So when I was writing about Bridget in her 30s, it's funny, but it was painful for Bridget. She did want to have children. She had the usual confusions about it and the biological clock was ticking and all the uncles were saying, "Why aren't you married?" And she was still saddled with this idea of being a tragic barren spinster, which thankfully has now been replaced by the notion of the singleton, which is great. And so I did wonder whether to leave Bridget's age fake. But then I thought, "No, I'm going to say she's in her 50s, and she's still Bridget and life's still going on."

Wallace: You said you didn't write this book with a message. But we see Bridget as a woman in her 50s who is interested in sexual relationships and not just running around in her mom jeans. Aren't you saying a woman can be sexy and empowered even when she's no longer in her 30s?

Fielding: But of course. I think in this new book, you see Bridget's struggle to realize that. So when she starts off she is still grieving, even though it's five years after Mark's death, and she's still got all the baby weight and she thinks no one will ever fancy her again, ever, ever, ever, and the whole landscape of dating has changed since she was last single. And I think a lot of people find themselves in that position. When I first wrote Bridget, there was no e-mail. ... So now she's coping with Twitter, and the fact that, you know, lots of people meet online now, so she has to find her way around that and texting. But with the help of her friend she teaches herself to get into the game, and then she meets her gorgeous younger man on Twitter.

WATCH: Colin Firth talks love scenes: "I like the idea of them" but "it's a very odd experience"

Wallace: You've been asked this in just about every interview, but I still have to ask: Why did Mark Darcy have to die? It's become a huge Internet outrage. So the question is why?

Fielding: I went to to a local restaurant and a man came running out after me saying, "You've murdered Colin Firth!" But he was very drunk. Stuff happens in life and no one gets to the stage of life that Bridget's at without stuff happening, without losing people and having to deal with tough things. And Bridget's always been a survivor. I think that's what life is like. People do find things to laugh about even in the darkest situations. It's about the heroine really getting through the tough things and finding herself as a woman again and finding fun again.

READ: How to cut your kids' cell phone addiction

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

Wallace: What would you say is the hardest part of being a parent?

Fielding: I think the very interesting thing these days is technology. It is a new element, and children evolved in a sort of Darwinian way so that they know what all those 90 buttons are for on the three remotes to work the television. They just somehow instinctively know how to operate all these things. And I think technology's moving so fast, it's very hard for parents who haven't evolved to know what's safe in these devices, and how much they should use them, and what's good and what's bad. I mean Bridget says to (her son) Billy, "Come off your iPod, you've had your time." And he goes, "It's not an iPod." And she goes, "But it's thick and black and therefore evil." And he says, "No, Mummy, it's a Kindle. It's a book." And then she's really confused. He's reading Roald Dahl. And I think we don't know what technology's doing to children. We don't know what's good and what's bad.

Wallace: Is Bridget a helicopter parent?

Fielding: I think she aspires to be a helicopter parent but obviously she's never going to pull that off. But I think she also has that guilt when she gets a bit of time off, like when the nanny's taking (the kids) to school in the morning. Then she feels like sort of a Joan Craword figure who's going to drift down in a housecoat and say, "Hello darling. I'm your mummy. What are your names again? Do you remember me?" So it's that sort of, sometimes, exhausted and just wanting to read the paper in silence, but then when she's not with them, missing them and feeling guilty about it. I think a lot of moms probably have that dual thing going on.

Follow @KellyWallaceTV on Twitter.

Like CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
If it hasn't happened already, it likely will at some point: the moment you don't like one of your child's friends. What do you do?
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
They say the first step to overcoming a problem is realizing you have one in the first place. An online quiz can help you determine whether you are over-reliant on your cell phone.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
Options for meat substitutes have come a long way since Seth Tibbott's first few Thanksgivings as a vegetarian in the 1970s.
November 22, 2014 -- Updated 2112 GMT (0512 HKT)
Students unhappy with school meals are taking it out on the first lady by sharing images on social media of lunches sarcastically tagged #ThanksMichelleObama.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0255 GMT (1055 HKT)
A Louisiana family is fighting to protect its beloved pit bull from a "vicious dogs" ordinance.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2220 GMT (0620 HKT)
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. CNN's Michaela Pereira grew up in a family of five adopted girls in Canada and eventually reunited with her biological half-sister.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
It began for Nickolay Lamm as a question: What would Barbie look like if she had the dimensions of an average woman?
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 0216 GMT (1016 HKT)
Bill Cosby was thought of as a perceptive comedian and genial father figure. Now, that persona pairs with another, much darker image.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1735 GMT (0135 HKT)
If you think 'my teen would never sext,' you might be mistaken. Recent studies suggest it's more common than many parents might want to admit.
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
I pictured myself graduating from college, getting a cool job and even having a cute place of my own. Instead, I wake to the early-morning sounds of my family dog barking and my parents making coffee downstairs.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Samantha Futerman and Anais Bordier tease, poke and prod each other like they've grown up together, but they didn't. Neither woman knew she had an identical twin sister until less than two years ago.
November 13, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
A school district in Maryland has decided to remove all references to religious holidays from its school calendar, leaving some in the community frustrated.
November 13, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Female veterans often have a harder time finding employment than their male counterparts. But why?
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
I simply couldn't believe my eyes. At a children's party this year, I witnessed full-on "mean girl" behavior.
November 10, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Several children were sent to the hospital after being sickened by ingesting detergent pods.
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 1446 GMT (2246 HKT)
There are plenty of times when I literally wish I could take a hammer to the portrayal of girls and women in the media. In a new ad, a little girl gets to do just that.
November 8, 2014 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
"Playing doctor" and "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" are common rites of passage in childhood sexual behavior, according to the experts.
November 6, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
A tech startup claims credit for making Alex from Target go viral, but there's skepticism about how involved it was, if at all.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
A soft toy for cribs lets babies post pictures of themselves to social media.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 1655 GMT (0055 HKT)
Schools are increasingly confronting a controversial question: Should they do more to monitor students' online interactions off-campus to keep them safe?
November 6, 2014 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
The National Toy Hall of Fame recently inducted three new favorites into its hallowed halls. What's your favorite?
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
We don't know, and may never know, what led to the Washington school shooting, but we have to ask ourselves, following this tragedy, if we are doing enough to help our boys deal with difficult emotions without resorting to violence.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
The viral video of a New York woman being catcalled on the street has men asking, "So, what should I do?" The answer starts with respect.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1840 GMT (0240 HKT)
Trick-or-treating and dressing in costume have been Halloween traditions for a good long time now, but it seems we're still struggling to get it right.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 2038 GMT (0438 HKT)
Yes, there's actually corn in it. Corn syrup, if that counts.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Walmart found itself sending apology tweet after apology tweet after the Twitterverse raked it over the coals for a major goof on its website.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 2002 GMT (0402 HKT)
There aren't too many times when I'm speechless about what I consider an outrageous example of parenting. This is one of those times.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Holy crap, LeVar Burton.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 2138 GMT (0538 HKT)
Critics pounced on supermodel Gisele Bundchen for advocating a little mommy "me time" recently. When did it become a crime to admit that you -- as a parent -- put yourself first?
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Not again.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
"Breaking Bad's" drug-dealing chemistry teacher Walter White will have to stop making the sale at Toys R Us.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
I happen to agree with Renee Zellweger that all the chatter about her face is "silly." But I, and many other women I talked with via email Wednesday, would add some other choice words to the mix to describe the non-stop attention about her appearance: nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2206 GMT (0606 HKT)
I have long thought millennials, who expect flexibility in the workplace, would be the group that would bring an end to the stigma that is too often associated with flex time -- the belief that wanting a flexible work arrangement means you aren't willing to work as hard. But now I'm thinking it's going to be men who will get us there.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
Say it with us: Kids today have it sooooo easy.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1829 GMT (0229 HKT)
An Atlanta judge reportedly reprimanded an immigration attorney for bringing her 4-week-old to court for a hearing -- a hearing she asked the judge to reschedule because she was on her six-week maternity leave.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1604 GMT (0004 HKT)
Monica Lewinsky tweeted for the first time. She called herself "patient zero" of cyber-bullying.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter with something to prove: "Kids and guns don't always mean bad things happen."
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT)
strawberry ghosts
We love Halloween season. Sweets. Sweaters. Sipping hot cider (maybe spiked). Halloween can certainly get you in the spirit, and nothing warms our hearts like these healthy Halloween treats that help you stay energized instead of stuck in a sugar coma.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1923 GMT (0323 HKT)
Does your baby cry during long flights, causing you to want to disappear from the glares of fellow passengers?
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1313 GMT (2113 HKT)
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1946 GMT (0346 HKT)
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT