Serena Williams On Motherhood And The Importance Of Setting Boundaries As A Parent

For years, we’ve watched Serena Williams dominate on the tennis court. Ever the consummate professional, the tennis star has continued to defy expectation and silence her critics, refusing to give up in games that have seen her triumph with that trademark grit and determination, an ability to remain firmly present in the moment and focus on the things she can control. Safe to say, motherhood is world’s away from competitive sport.



Where athletes pride themselves on every small detail and the marginal gains a fastidious approach to training, nutrition and recovery allows, motherhood seems to throw everything into a state of uncertainty. But where Serena’s Instagram used to be full of training montages and posts from various tournaments, now it’s one that shows her love for daughter Olympia, now four years old, and the incredible bond the two share.



Still, motherhood presents challenges for anyone – regardless of whether you’re an athlete or not. But to see Serena’s love for her daughter and being a hands-on parent coexist at the same time as she continues her quest for another Grand Slam as a world-class athlete and businesswoman is remarkable, and leaves many of us wondering just how she does it? In a recent interview with Insider, the star revealed that it’s an ongoing challenge, one full of a wide range of emotions.



“Mum guilt is real,” Serena told the publication. “I always feel so guilty when I’m doing something on my own. I don’t know if I’m a good mum, and I don’t know if my method works, but I’m very hands-on with my daughter, and it was the same with our parents.”



For many, it’s all too relatable and describes a particular feeling of not being able to fulfil a role and image that society has inculcated into us about what it means and looks like to be a “good mother.” As a number of mum’s will experience, mum guilt can often arise as a result of feeling inadequate as a parent, perhaps due to professional demands or other pressures demanding more of their time. Remarkably though, it’s not a feeling that’s universal between parents.



There’s good reason it’s called “mum guilt” and not “parent guilt” and that’s because it’s a feeling that disproportionately affects women, who are typically seen as the caregivers. According to one study conducted in the US, an analysis of 255 parents in California regarding guilt about the ways they balance employment and family found that mothers had significantly higher levels of guilt than fathers.



As Williams described, juggling career and personal life can be incredibly difficult as a mum and even lead to mental and physical fatigue. As Serena shared in an Instagram post: “Working and being a mum is not easy. I am often exhausted, stressed, and then I go play a professional tennis match. We keep going. I am so proud and inspired by the women who do it day in and day out. I’m proud to be this baby’s mama.”



But while Serena continues to chase a record-breaking 24 Grand Slam titles and develops her early-stage venture capital firm Serena Ventures alongside Alison Rapaport Stillman, she’s setting boundaries between work and personal life so that Olympia remains her priority. “I’ve set really good boundaries,” she said. “After work, I’m going right to my daughter.”


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