Working Mother Serena Williams is All of Us

Serena Williams working mother

Did you hear the roar this weekend? It was the sound of women around the country giving a giant cheer for Wimbledon winner Serena Williams.

Yeah, we know. Serena fell to Angelique Kerber in the final at Wimbledon.

Pish tosh. The final score (and congrats, Angelique!) could not possibly negate the real winning stat: the fact that less than a year after giving birth - a year! - Serena was center court defending her title as the number 1 tennis player in the world.

Just as important, her oh-so-familiar trajectory validated the goals, feats, and obstacles experienced by working mothers on and off the court.

Yes, she really wanted to come back.

Why is it so darned hard to believe women want to work? Babies are awesome. But having them doesn't remove the part of our brain that desires personal achievement. Serena is like every mother who was excited to show that she's more than her maternal instincts. "I know that when I come back I definitely want to be competing for championships," she told AP earlier this year. "I am definitely looking forward to getting back out there." And we're thrilled to see you.

She had to fight the motherhood penalties

Serena went out at number 1...and came back at number 453, effectively tanking her seeding by negating all of her accomplishments that came before. It's a familiar experience. "To not recognize that that should warrant an exception, be it for Williams or any new mother," wrote USA Today, "is both outdated and mean-spirited." Amen.

She's a master of time-management

Like moms everywhere, Serena uses every moment to get the job done. "Despite her new responsibilities," wrote Reuters, "Williams has not abandoned the disciplined lifestyle she had led before. She has simply redesigned it so that it fits in around her daughter's routine."

There should be no doubts about her skills

C'mon...woman was in the final. Boo-yah.

She'll pave the way for those who come after

Successful women of tomorrow start with the role models of today. And little tennis players everywhere just got a master class in how it's done. That doesn't just apply to the court - but in the lab, the operating room, the trading floor, the corner office, and the courtroom. As a coder once said of the potential for women in her field, "You cannot be what you cannot see."

How big a deal was Serena's feat? Twitter lit up with praise for representing women everywhere.

"To all the moms out there," she said tearfully after the match, "I was playing for you today."

"I had such a long struggle to come back and it was really difficult and honestly I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. You can be whatever you want to be if you want to go back to work."

To which we all say...thanks for the inspiration.

Welcome back, Serena! 

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* Photo by si.robi (Williams S. RG18 (17)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.