Returning to work after maternity leave can prove challenging for any mother. Yes, even if you’re a global tennis sensation.
In a refreshing post, Serena Williams took to Instagram to share her own personal experience of digging out her racket after a 13-month break from the court.
She captioned the powerful image: “Four months ago I could not walk to my mailbox… but I will keep going forward and I’ll get there.”
Earlier this week, Williams returned to the sport after welcoming her first child, Alexis Olympia, back in September. The 36-year-old lost in the first round of the Miami Open to up-and-coming star Naomi Osaka and it was widely reported that it was Williams’ earliest-ever elimination in a tournament.
The 36-year-old decided to skip the post-match press conference and instead, released a statement which read: “Every tournament is an opportunity for me to better understand the areas I need to improve to be my best. Naomi played a great match and I learn something each time I play.”
She continued, “I look forward to continuing my return by progressing every day. I’m so grateful for my fans who continue to support me every step of this incredible journey.”
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And it was a rare but welcome sentiment from the celebrity. Too often do residents of the Hollywood Hills seemingly bounce back from pregnancy with fitness DVDs and Insta-ready abs.
Whereas in reality, starting a family can prove tough. When the tennis champion began her maternity leave back in January 2017, she was ranked number one in the world. But as a consequence to the Women’s Tennis Association rulebook, she lost her ranking during her time away from the game meaning that she returned to the court unseeded.
And the move sparked debate within the sport, as the Miami Open tournament director, James Blake,that she had been ‘punished’ for wishing to start a family, as he told AFP: “For someone who goes on maternity break, they should be protected. These kind of things shouldn’t happen.”
He continued, “She has won this title so many times that she needs protection. It’s not as if she left because of injury and lost her passion for the game. She had a kid, which we should all be celebrating, so when she comes back there should be a grace period where she can still be seeded.”
But it’s just yet another hint that we’ve still got a long way to go in combatting maternity discrimination. According to a recent study, 54,000 mothers are unfairly forced out of their jobs every year after announcing their pregnancy.
Yet it’s important to note that although Williams missed out on her recent game, she’s made a positive stance for mothers across the globe. And for that, she remains a winner in our eyes.
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This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR UK.