Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Spare a thought for your daughter, Kate

Good or bad parenting by the middle classes and celebs is hardly ever commented on
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The Independent Online

There are times, when (in spite of its barbaric and scavenging nature) the press can raise real and important concerns which otherwise remain buried under the feathers and fur, champagne bottles and coke packets. The Brit brat pack claims the right to grab incessantly for our attention and the inalienable right to whinge about privacy; to eat their cake, have it and then, inevitably, throw it up. The public is supposed to bear witness to all of this and to agree that underneath the glamour, supermodels and stars are simply helpless, hapless victims of excess, the beautiful and the damned, to be pitied and not envied by the masses.

Well I do find pity welling up, but it is not for Moss but rather her two-year-old daughter. As she goes through life, she will be burdened with love for a mother who never really grew up. Moss was pushed into the fashion jungle at 14; she entered too early a distorted adulthood which appears to have given her grown-up clothes, money, parties, intoxicants and many unruly lovers but left her clueless about the meaning of maturity and maternity. The impetuous and irresistible Paula Yates, if she is keeping an eye on the in-crowd from wherever she is, must recognise in Moss a terrible twin.

The rich and famous don't deserve unhappiness, nor should we rejoice when they fall from their pedestals . Yates was a superbly talented TV interviewer and is still much missed. When Caroline Aherne, creator of The Royle Family, and Stephen Fry found themselves unable to cope for a while, most of us felt for them. When last week the papers ran photos taken on holiday of a female TV presenter in a bikini, a woman who is large and happy with her body, I thought what kind of scum does that? The pressures of being followed by the paparazzi night and day even when you are out buying tampons must be unspeakable, and yes, that is gross intrusion into a person's selfhood.

But Moss, Frost, Naomi Campbell and other "bad girls" thrive in the camera lens. Sometimes you feel they can only confirm their existence to themselves by looking at their photos in the rags. Just as Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth, both of whose lives ended in tragedy, did in their day. Yet a good time, fame, sanity and dignity are compatible and possible. The choice is not between a Garbo and a Monroe. Think of Judi Dench, Zoe Wanamaker, Rowan Atkinson, J K Rowling, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Iman, supermodel and wife of David Bowie, Bowie himself, any number of others who manage to keep a hold on life without drowning in the vomit of hyper-success. They keep parts of their lives private by not inviting people in who would breach it. It can be done; and it must be done for the sake of the children and integrity in family life.

Moss and co are in control of their personal life decisions. If they choose to have children, they must expect to behave with responsibility towards them. Babies are not a must-have-for-this-season accessory. Once they arrive, priorities change, they come first, you make sacrifices for them, you can't ever be the centre of the universe again, you can't do what you want, because another life needs you.

If that makes me sound like the vice-president of a Surrey Women's Institute or hopelessly right wing and conservative, no matter. Concern for the needs of family are still perceived as "conservative" values and that is an indictment of the left which has privileged personal freedom above all other rights for far too long. To give them credit, New Labour has tried to repackage the pro-family agenda. But their policies and recommendations are directed only at the poor. The question of good or bad parenting among the middle classes and celebs is barely ever commented on.

Let me intrude on this complacency. We may kid ourselves that fantastic nannies, Holland Park nurseries, three family holidays a year and internet facilities for toddlers make up for all that time not spent with the children. Kids who have this are happy enough, but time with parents is what they crave, from birth to when they are free of those longings. That intimacy is priceless and quality time is no substitute. We forget that too often. Last week, because I was careless with my diary, I was out for three consecutive evenings. My daughter, 12 now, objected. Eating dinner together is important to her, to us all. There were problems she wanted to talk about and stuff about starting a new term. Small things, but they matter so much to her. All too soon she will fly the coop. If I don't make an effort to understand her need to be with me today perhaps she won't understand my need to see her in the future because she will have learnt from me the appalling lesson of personal gratification at all costs.

I have just read about the foreign correspondent Christina Lamb who is proud she makes no concessions to motherhood. She was man enough to leave her newborn, premature baby in an incubator and go off on an assignment and never deigns to go to parents' evenings at school. If you are ambitious you have to put in the hours whether you are a man or a woman. But what a way to behave as a parent. Why bother? Why not join the vastly more honest and self-aware band of childless-by-choice women and men?

Rumour has it that the Social Services in her area will now check up on Kate Moss and her child. What kept them so long? I hope Sadie Frost will be getting a visit too. When Jude Law was caught with his pants down the press was only interested in how his fiancée Sienna Miller would respond. This man slept for many nights with the woman who was in charge of his children, the nanny who had brought them to him while he was filming for good fatherly contact, so important after a divorce.

No doubt Sadie Frost, Jude Law, Kate Moss et al love their children. But love isn't enough and parenting cannot be outsourced or laid aside while they live it up in any which way. I know at least three people who have been into well-known rehab clinics. They all tell me that these places are full of disturbed, sad and lost people whose parents were or are too rich and or famous. It has become common for affluent parents to put down their children for good schools even before birth. A time may come when enrolment for high-class rehab will have to be done at the same time. The sins of the fathers and mothers will thus be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation, these poor little rich babes who never asked to be born.