How Serena Williams rewrote the playbook for female athletes juggling motherhood and sport
You’re a 30-something woman, trying to balance work and life. Your body clock is set, your career is just around the corner. And then, on the morning of the 2012 Olympic women’s gymnastics team final, you wake up and realize you’ve missed an hour of work. You have to explain to your boss—who is trying to put things in order for the New Year’s Eve party—that the whole day you spent preparing for the final on four hours of sleep. But you don’t want to show the disappointment in her, so you keep it to yourself. It’s a good enough excuse.
Your phone buzzes with a text from one of your favorite athletes, who can’t make it to the final. Instead, you text her with a quick suggestion: Come over around 6 p.m. and do the routine with a friend.
“But I’ve been going to gymnastics practice almost every day with a friend,” she texts. “I guess I’ll have to come to your house.”
But it’s the Olympics, and a gymnastics final is too much pressure to bear. You tell yourself, “Just do it.”
You try to get dressed and leave for work, but it’s already 6 p.m. You text another friend, who’s in the same predicament: She can’t make the final—but she can’t go to the practice, either, because she has another event to do and a family event she has to attend.
You think about how much better you are than she is. Still, you ask her to come over. She asks if it’s all right if I go, too. When you hear back from her, she says no.
You have two choices: go to work and explain how much worse you feel about her absence, or stay