Serena Williams recently announced that she’ll be stepping away from tennis to focus on family, an announcement that she wished she’d never had to make. In an open letter, released by Vogue, Serena opens up about her struggles with contemplating retirement, the importance of family, and how life is sometimes unfair for female athletes.
Serena turns 41 next month, and she said plainly: “It isn’t really fair. A male athlete would never have to make the same choice.”
This statement resonates with women in sports, but also women in general because many could relate only too well to her words. It’s true that men don’t have to make these choices. Even in other professions, many women have to make the difficult decision of career or family and something does have to give because you really can’t have it all (at least not at the same time).
I’ve always idolized Serena because of her drive as an athlete, but also the way she pushes herself to succeed. Serena is an individual who strives for perfection. Although we are far from being perfect, she’ll keep working at something to get it as perfect as she can be. And, when people write her off, she’ll be the first to find a comeback to prove them wrong. This is similar to my mentality, which is why I’ve always idolized her because of her drive, passion, and determination to just get the job done. I’m sad to see Serena go, but she leaves behind a magnificent tennis legacy, and she moves into the future with a beautiful goal in mind of making her daughter a big sister.
Although we cannot gender stereotype, we cannot deny that at the very least, women need to sacrifice their career toward the latter half of pregnancy, and during the first few months when their child is born. Yes, I’m aware that you can find someone to take care of your child, but there are things you cannot due when in your third trimester, and depending on your job, you might need to take maternity leave before your child is born. Sports is one profession that is like this. Also, when your child is born, there’s an adjustment period that requires you to take time off to focus on family, so if we were to do the math roughly, that’s at least 6-months away from your profession. Half a year is a long time, and when you’re an athlete, it’s not that simple. When you return to the sport, you need to begin training again, and especially after pregnancy, I’m sure you’re also a bit out of shape. It’s not easy being a female in sports, which is why many don’t start a family until after retirement. Serena had Olympia, her daughter, 5 years ago, and admits she played a tournament while being 2 months pregnant.
Kudos to Serena for writing her open letter and inspiring other women who are in the same shoes as her. What I always loved about Serena is that she was never afraid to speak her mind, and I admire that type of strength and boldness. Her words speak to many, and as a mother myself, I completely understand about family sacrifices. There has been times when I’ve considered giving my son a sibling, but, like Serena, I wanted to grow in my career and I’ve already given up so much to have my son to begin with. Though, Serena is much braver than I am.
Thank you Serena for years of sharing tennis with us and bringing to the world a role model that women can look up to. You will always be a legacy and I wish you the best in your future endeavours.