Serena Williams’ difficult decision reverberates among women

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Serena Williams made it clear: It’s not fair. A male athlete will never have to make that decision.

But after a storied career that transformed and transcended her sport, Williams, who turns 41 next month, has told the world she’s quitting tennis to focus on having a second child and having her firstborn, Olympia, be a big sister. Her explanation in a long article for Vogue resonated with women in sports and other professions, many of whom perfectly understood her words, “something has to give.” And to the idea that no, one cannot have it all, at least not all at the same time.

Many noted that Williams’ exploits, including winning one of the major tournaments when she was two months pregnant, made her look superhuman. But, as Professor Sherie Randolph has said, any woman is expected to be able to combine work and motherhood seamlessly.

“Society makes women believe that they can have it all at the same time: be the best mom at home and the best mom at work,” said Randolph, who teaches history at Georgia Tech University and founded a black feminist research institute. and is writing a book on African-American mothers.

“But that’s not what happens in reality for most women,” she said. “What happens at the end of the day is that working women are exhausted by overexertion in two demanding jobs: motherhood and their profession.” As if to illustrate what she was trying to prove, Randolph’s 4-year-old son constantly interrupted her as he explained her ideas about Williams’ decision in a telephone interview.

Explaining that her daughter longed to be a big sister, Williams said she didn’t want to get pregnant again as an athlete: “I have to have both feet in tennis or two feet out.”

“Believe me,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion wrote. “I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and family. It doesn’t seem fair to me. If I were a man I would not write this because I would be playing and my wife would do the physical work of expanding our family.

“Maybe I would be more like Tom Brady if I had the chance,” he added, referring to the 45-year-old football superstar, who recently announced his retirement and retracted it 40 days later.

Many women, speaking about Williams’ ad, reflected on the excruciating pain of having to decide in the name of “having it all.”

“Even as a woman sitting at a desk, whose job is not physically demanding, I have felt that tear between my career and my family,” said Jo McKinney, 57, an advertising agency executive in New York.

“Looking back, I wish I wasn’t branded a lack of ambition every time I chose my family over my job,” he said. “Serena’s article gave me goosebumps because it says what many of us feel and are afraid to say out loud: it’s not fair and something has to give.”

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