Serena Williams doesn’t worry about winning tennis matches. What does keep the 36-year old champion up at night, though, is “mom guilt.” In a recent interview with NBC News, Williams opened up to reporter Stephanie Ruhle about how motherhood has changed her life.
Since returning to tennis after the birth of her daughter, many are quick to refer to her triumphant comeback to the sport. But she felt she had never left. “For me, I was always there mentally. She called on the old L.L. Cool J. line, “Don’t call it a comeback.”
Williams is using her platform as one of the world’s most famous athletes to call attention to the double standards women face. Her husband, Alexis Ohanian, is a public figure in his own right. While he’s the co-founder and executive chairman of Reddit, “No one called his work a comeback, and he had to take time off, too.”
“I’m just still trying to compete and win Grand Slams — and do it while I have a daughter.”
Although her schedule of training and travel can be overwhelming, the new mom says she considers it “a gift” to be able to spend every day with her daughter, Alexis Olympia. “I’m really fortunate. A lot of women don’t have that opportunity.”
Handling the pressure of raising a child while maintaining a legendary tennis career has not been a cakewalk. Williams counts on the uplifting power of her 9 million Instagram followers when she’s stressed out about family issues. She wasn’t present when Olympia took her first steps, but reaching out to her vast social network helped her realize that it’s “almost more normal to miss it than to make it.”
The superstar recently started the hasthag #ThisMama, sharing an anecdote about her 11-month-old getting sick on a plane. Williams urged other parents to share their stories and remember “the importance of supporting one another through the highs, lows, laughs and tears.”
Kids humble us. The other day on a flight home Olympia had so much energy and insisted on running up and down the aisle. When I finally got her to calm down and sit still, she threw up all over me and in the aisle. #ThisMama wants to remind all mothers the importance of supporting one another through the highs, lows, laughs and tears. _ Share your own stories of motherhood with hashtag #ThisMama. I’d love to hear them!
“I feel like moms are all — you know — we’re all the same people. It doesn’t matter what race you are, what color you are, what background you’re from. I feel like we all have a connection. We just want to help each other out. So I’m really using social media in a way to help me understand my struggles with my baby.”
Looking towards the future, Williams says, “it’s just the beginning” as she counts upcoming tournaments. After her competition in this week’s U.S. Open, she’s making plans for “the next Grand slam and the next and the next and the next and the next.”