The tennis star and new mother said her Wimbledon match was for ‘all the moms out there’ and that she’s ‘just getting started.’
Serena Williams gets it: Sometimes, moms just can’t win.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner (for singles) failed to clinch a 24th title at Wimbledon over the weekend, falling to Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the championship match. It was her fourth tournament since giving birth to daughter Olympia just 10 months ago, when she nearly died from complications in childbirth, including blood clots in her lungs.
But moms cheered the tennis ace as a winner after Williams, 36, dedicated her match to other mothers — telling the crowd, “To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today, and I tried.” When asked if she was a “supermom,” Williams said she was “just me.” Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, a mom of three, and the new Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, who were watching from the Royal Box, were visibly moved.
Williams also tweeted on Monday to all of the stay-at-home and working moms that, “I’m not any better or diff than any of you all. Your support has ment (sic) so much to me. Let’s keep making noise everyday in everything we do.”
These past 2 weeks was a sound for all moms stay home and working you can do it you really can! I’m not any better or diff than any of you all. Your support has ment so much to me. Let’s keep making noise everyday in everything we do. #roadtoUSOpen pic.twitter.com/5OLYk1a6cK
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) July 16, 2018
“As far as I’m concerned, she did win,” Manhattan mother Amy Chen, 58, told Moneyish — while hustling her 11-year-old son out the door to camp. “She’s in a life-changing phase in her life, and she’s adapting. Parenting isn’t a hiccup in the road, and then life goes back to normal. It’s a whole new path, and our society needs to evolve its expectations.”
Meredith Bodgas, editor-in-chief of Working Mother, agreed. “Serena’s new message, that it takes time to come back after taking time off, is so important for new moms — and new dads — to hear,” Bodgas told Moneyish. “If a tennis great like Serena can’t win her first Wimbledon after having a baby, it’s permission for the rest of us to be kinder to ourselves and gradually transition back into dominating at work.”
“That’s not to say that a new parent can’t be number one on day one back at work after parental leave,” she added. “It’s just that it might take a few months to get back to where you once were, thanks to sleep deprivation, changes at work while you were out, and this cataclysmic shift in your routine. We should be patient with ourselves and each other.”
Williams has been candid about her long road to recovery to get back to the top of her game, opening up in her HBO docuseries “Being Serena,” on social media and in a CNN column about her pregnancy and new motherhood. She also tweeted last week that she cried when she missed her daughter’s first steps, because she was training for Wimbledon.
She took her first steps… I was training and missed it. I cried.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) July 7, 2018
She told the Wimbledon crowd on Saturday that her loss “was obviously disappointing, but I can’t be disappointed. I have so much to look forward to. You know, I’m literally just getting started; so, you know, I’m looking forward to it.”
And her husband Alexis Ohanian supported her in a sweet Instagram post, writing: “She’s got the greatest one waiting at home for her. Our family knows she’ll win many more trophies, too. She’s just getting started. And I couldn’t be more proud.”
Days after our baby girl was born, I kissed my wife goodbye before surgery and neither of us knew if she would be coming back. We just wanted her to survive—10 months later, she's in the #Wimbledon final. Congratulations, @angie.kerber. @serenawilliams will be holding a trophy again soon—she's got the greatest one waiting at home for her. Our family knows she'll win many more trophies, too. She's just getting started. And I couldn't be more proud.
“There’s always this assumption that moms are superwomen who can plow through it all, keep going, go back to work after six weeks — even though you’re still bleeding from your vagina and you’re lactating and everything — but you can go back; you’re fine,” Melissa Musen Gerstein, a mother of three and co-creator of The Moms media company and TheMoms.com, told Moneyish.
She added that it’s not just your body changing, but also your priorities and your time management. “Whether you’re going back to a sport, or you are going back to the workforce, as a new mom, your mental state forever shifts,” she said. “And now that Serena is a mom, maybe it won’t happen again for her. And maybe it will; time will tell. But her message was not only so graceful in that she was acknowledging the world of moms, but also that she recognized something in herself — sometimes, you can’t have exactly what you had before you became a mom — and I think that’s really honest.”
It takes time to recover from childbirth. Yet because only 12% of Americans have access to paid parental leave, many moms have to rush back to work to help support their families. A 2015 report analyzing Department of Labor data found that as many as one in four new moms return to work within just two weeks of giving birth.
And 75% of women surveyed in the 2017 book “The Fifth Trimester” said they wished they could take a few extra months of maternity leave. That’s because the average respondent said she didn’t feel physically recovered for 5.5 months after delivery, and it took six months to come back emotionally. Research shows that women who take less than six months of maternity leave face a higher risk of postpartum depression.
“Managers need to hear Serena’s message, too, so they don’t expect nearly impossible feats to be accomplished from parents just getting back to work,” added Bodgas. “New parents need to be challenged, but set up for success. (And) part of that setup means giving new parents ample time to achieve.”
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