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“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and family. I don’t think it’s fair.”
In the news today, tennis legend and Open record holder Serena Williams has announced her retirement from the sport after 27 years of playing professionally.
In an essay for Vogue magazine, she shares her desire to “evolve” her career away from the sport (she’s not fond of the word retirement), explaining that “something has to give” if she’s to continue growing her family.
The 40-year-old describes her dream of having a second child – a sibling for her four-year-old, Olympia – in her essay. But she also continues to reflect that her career doesn’t allow her to do both—a sentiment that women globally will feel all too well.
“I definitely don’t want to get pregnant again as an athlete – I have to be two feet in tennis or two feet away.” she shares. “Sometimes it’s just not possible to achieve all your work and family goals at the same time. I will miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis.”
She explains: “Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and family. I don’t think it’s fair. If I was a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife did the physical work of growing our family. But I’m turning 41 this month and something’s got to give.”
Continuing to explain how difficult the decision has been for her, she says: “I’ve been reluctant to admit that I have to move on from playing tennis. It’s like a taboo subject. It comes up and I start crying. I think the the only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist.”
The athlete currently has more medals than most, with 23 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals under his belt.
But her poignant first person — in which she explains why she’s moving away from the sport that has shaped her life, legacy and career — is heartbreaking. It highlights the choice that too many women are forced to make – by family or career.
This issue doesn’t just affect women in sports – it affects all women, in all walks of life. Being forced to make a decision between having a family and moving forward in your career just shouldn’t happen – but in reality it still does.
Bravo to Williams for raising awareness of the topic and further showing that even global mega stars face the same problem.
I wish her all the best in her development.