The term “having it all” is generally loathed now, right? We’ve accepted that expecting women to be the perfect mother, wife, friend, employee, boss, sister, aunt, daughter and super human all at the same time is antiquated and unfair, right? Thanks in large part to essays like this one and this the myth of “having it all” has officially been debunked. Right?
Well, Serena Williams covers InStyle’s first ever “Badass Women” issue and here’s what PEOPLE took away from her cover story:
If any woman proves that moms can do it all, it’s Serena Williams…
Serena Williams is the Greatest of All Time. She’s also the mom to an eleven month old baby, a wife, a sister, the boss of a clothing line and personal brand. She won the Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant in a heroic outing that will forever be a part of her legacy. There couldn’t be a better posterchild for “having it all” and yet, if you’ve watched Being Serena or if you were following Serena’s stunted French Open run, you know that she hasn’t exactly had “it all”.
There’s a line that Serena’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, repeats in one of the most eye-opening Being Serena episodes (an episode Lainey has written about before) about what it would take for Serena to come back from having a baby to being the Grand Slam-winning athlete we know she is.
“You need to make sure that family adapts to tennis rather than tennis adapts to family.”
In other words, he’s asking Serena to put tennis first – before her daughter. Serena has made it clear that she won’t do that. This is why I wasn’t surprised when Serena revealed in her InStyle feature that she may retire after having her second child.
“If I weren’t working, I’d already be pregnant…I don’t know if I want to play if I have another baby.”
Compare that to the confidence Serena exuded to Vogue when she was sure she’d defend her Australian Open title just months after giving birth. Now, Serena has been through it. She’s suffered some tough setbacks and knows that while her body is still the body of the GOAT, she has gone through major physical changes. Right now, Serena Williams is still breastfeeding while training for Wimbledon. This is what a day in the life of Serena looks like:
“I wake up at either 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. to feed Olympia… I’m in the locker room pumping before a match because my boobs are so big. When I pump, they go down a size or two and I go out and play…. I sneak away to practice, usually around 8 a.m. The only rule I have at practice is to be done at 1 p.m., because as much as I love tennis, I need to be with her. I want to put her above everything else I’m doing… Since she was born, I haven’t been apart from her for more than a day.”
I’m exhausted just reading that. My overwhelming emotion reading that passage was exhaustion followed by a slight wave of rage. The rage came when Serena is asked if she’ll keep playing next year when she’s 38 (if she doesn’t have that second baby.) She basically says, “F-ck yeah.”
Roger [Federer]’s still playing. If he’s doing it—he’s older than me.
The rage I felt was at the unfairness that Roger Federer has FOUR children and not once will he have to answer to “having it all”. After the birth of every one of his children, Federer didn’t have to pump in a locker room or question whether he’d be able to play again. I know that motherhood is a gift and childbirth is a miracle, etc. etc. but in this situation, don’t you wish Alexis Ohanian was the one physically bearing their children? Don’t get it twisted, Serena CAN do it. She won one of the biggest tournaments in tennis while pregnant. I just know how f-cking hard it has been on her and her body and those hardships are things that men don’t have to deal with. It feels unfair while at the same time proves that women are absolutely the more badass sex. Obviously.
Serena Williams isn’t just a badass, she’s a champion. She may be talking about retiring and more babies in the future but right now, she’s focused on winning her next title. There may be too much pressure on women to be all the things and I think “having it all” is bullsh-t but no one tell that to Serena Williams. She WANTS it all. There’s a moment in the InStyle interview where Serena talks about how her husband Alexis made her “hot” when they first starting dating but the sexiest part of this piece for me is when Serena talks about her determination, ambition and what it’s like stepping back out on the court with a legacy to uphold on your shoulders.
“I’m an incredible mental player, but I’m also a physical player. You can’t play a sport without being physically ready. It’s difficult to come back as a professional athlete who was once “Serena.” There are records out there that I want, and I’ll get there, but in due time. I’m always in the fast lane. I’m always extra. I have to be willing to do the work, and I have been. Because, to be honest, I feel pressure to be Serena. But these days I keep telling myself I don’t have to be anything. This is for me.”
You can read Serena’s full profile in InStyle here. Also, the photospread and accompanying behind-the-cover video is EVERYTHING.