How Serena Williams rewrote the playbook for female athletes juggling motherhood and sport
The world’s greatest tennis player, the six-time Grand Slam champion, sits down in a nondescript studio on the second floor of a stately office building to chat with a magazine writer about her role as a mother and as a man.
“I think my responsibility as a parent and as a human being is to help my kids be who they want to be regardless of what society says or their gender,” she says. “I want them to become the best version of themselves and have the most fulfilling life possible. I don’t look at it as a conflict. I think that it’s my responsibility to be the best role model that I can. That’s my obligation.”
But there are moments when Williams breaks out in a flash. “I’m watching my children be born, so there’s a little bit of a struggle there,” she admits, “but I don’t think of it as a conflict. I definitely don’t look at it as a negative.”
What does she look at it as?
“Just a responsibility. It’s my responsibility to be the best parent that I can be.”
The day of the interview, she was on a public appearance and, because she doesn’t drive, was taken to dinner with her five-year-old son, Harry. They sat next to a couple of the magazine’s staffers, and Williams was the picture of happiness.
When they got back to the office, Williams was surprised to be treated like a member of the media. “I was very, very shy.”
The conversation quickly turned to her being a father. Williams had been a single mother for only a year. She had given up her tennis career to join the Los Angeles Unified School District tennis team. She was getting ready to start her own family.
As a single mother, she wasn’t just living down, she was redefining her life. “I had never had children before,” she says. “My parents and I talked about everything. My mom took her time giving birth because she didn’t want my baby to be a boy.”
And it did seem like the future wasn’t promising. “A lot of times you don’t have the chance to be a mom because you’re in a sports career,” Williams says. “I wouldn’t change anything about my career. I wouldn’t change anything about the person