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Celebrity dad lacks authority to judge women

Thank heavens, America's foremost parenting authority, Tom Cruise, is expecting a baby. Now all the world will finally get to see how it should be done.

When I heard the news, I immediately flashed forward to an image of a despondent and depressed Katie Holmes laying in bed strung out from nightly rounds with a colicky baby while smiling Tom tries to summon the spirit of the late L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology founder, to heal his lethargic wife.

As Katie buries her face in the pillow wondering why the guy with the smirky grin can't hear his own infant scream, Tom jumps up on the couch and shouts, "Who needs anti-depressants when you've got a guy like me?"

For those of you unfamiliar with the saga - earlier this year, Tom Cruise publicly chastised Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants to combat the debilitating postpartum depression she suffered after the birth of her first child. Cruise told "Today" show host Matt Lauer that "there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance in a body," suggesting that "depression should be treated with vitamins and exercise."

While it was widely reported at the time that Cruise was a father of two with former wife Nicole Kidman, I saw very little mention of the fact that his children were adopted.

So, while Mr. Cruise may be familiar with the concept of postpartum depression, he has never actually been its victim. He may have loved his children dearly, and for all I know he changed every diaper, but he's obviously never lived with a woman whose post-birth hormones are so out of whack that she cries more than the baby.

Something tells me a few rounds of wifely weeping would have Tom screaming "please pass the Prozac" faster than The Goose could lock and load his jet.

Passing judgment on others when you've never been there yourself is a highway to the danger zone, no matter how you slice it. It's risky business, and Tom Cruise is hardly the first person to do it.

People who've never had kids always know exactly how to discipline. Subordinates who've never been in charge know just what the boss should do. And I'm personally convinced that if Donald Trump would up the age limit, I could smoke all those good-looking sharks on "The Apprentice."

The problems you've never experienced are always the easiest to solve. And the life you've never lived is always the simplest one to rearrange.

Yet there's hardly a person alive who willingly accepts advice from somebody who's never walked in their shoes. It's yet another odd paradox of human behavior - personal lack of experience rarely keeps us from offering advice, but it almost always prevents others from taking it.

In Mr. Cruise's case, he actually made some well-founded points about the general overuse of psychiatric drugs, but going after poor Brooke made him look like a narcissistic nut. Jumping on Oprah's furniture didn't help. But it was his "I know what I'm talking about and the rest of you losers better listen up" attitude that really turned us off.

An actor telling a woman how to handle postpartum depression makes about as much sense as letting your husband decide whether you should get drugs during delivery.

I have to wonder what might have happened if Tom had called Brooke directly and expressed heartfelt concern for her mental state. Perhaps after letting her know he was fully confident in her ability to make her own decisions, he might have been opened the door for a suggestion or two.

Cute as he is, I'm still guessing he's a few chips short of a snack pack on the empathy scale, so I doubt Brooke would have given his opinion much weight. But if he hadn't acted like such a critical know-it-all, she probably wouldn't have written an angry rebuttal to The New York Times, either.

There's a fine line between having the courage of your convictions and believing your own hype. Celebrities cross it all the time. But the rest of us aren't immune. We're often so convinced we're right, we make fools of ourselves trying to prove our point.

As for Hollywood's cutest couple, all I can say is, Katie, you might want to hold off on that fab wedding until after you give birth. You seem like a real nice gal, and if you don't officially marry the guy, he has no legal right to make medical decisions on your behalf. I'd hate for you to suffer some sort of birth trauma and have Tom tell the doctor you should tough it out on the table.

And if he starts dangling the baby upside down and heading for an open window, grab the kid and head for the hills. And I don't mean Hollywood.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You've Already Got and the YOU You Already Are." She has been seen on "Good Morning America" and featured in Lifetime, Glamour and The New York Times. Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.