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Hey, Serena Williams, There’s No Need for Mom Guilt

Mandatory Credit: Photo by James Marsh/BPI/REX/Shutterstock (9748017fj)
Serena Williams during her Ladies' Singles quarter final match
Wimbledon Tennis Championships, Day 8, The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, UK - 10 Jul 2018
Photograph by James Marsh/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

Serena Williams is no longer just the greatest female athlete, Serena is also now a mom—a working mom, at that—playing at this summer’s Wimbledon with the weight of the world, and her daughter, on her shoulders.

Because Serena’s life is no longer just hers, she's got a serious case of mom guilt—and she’s not shy about talking about it. Serena is strong and focused, but now that she’s a mom to baby Olympia, that focus and drive comes at a cost. In a recent interview, she admitted to missing Olympia’s first steps, a milestone every parent dreams of witnessing.

Serena was at practice for Wimbledon when it happened. She admits she cried, knowing that she hadn’t been there to watch her daughter walk for the first time.

Welcome to the mom guilt club, Serena.

Any parent could miss any milestone simply by stepping out of the room, running an errand or going out with a friend. Unless one is never going to leave their child’s side, which is probably not realistic nor healthy for either parent or child, parents aren’t likely to be there for every development and every moment they perceive matters.

Working dads miss milestones all the time and no one bats an eyelash. And, while there is doubt that dads feel a level of guilt and sadness over what they miss, it seems to weigh heavier on moms. The pressure we put on ourselves is monumental.

Lose the mom guilt. Our children won’t remember what we missed of their lives, but we will remember what we missed of our own.

Personally, I’ve had my regular battles with mom guilt. As a writer, I am fortunate to work from home and pick my kids up every day from school. But still, the one or two times a year I have to travel for work, or the odd afternoon I have to meet a deadline and my kids have to fend for themselves—safely, of course—weigh on me.

So, last year, I made a decision. I have an annual conference for writers, which falls in the spring and always lands on some performance date for one of my kids' schools. This past year, it was the second time I missed my daughter’s poetry reading—a tradition the kids anxiously await. Year after year, my husband has sent me real-time video of her reading, during which I cry the entire time.

But last year, I decided no more: no more guilt, no more tears, no more staying up all night wondering if I’ve failed my child. No more mom guilt. The success of our children shouldn’t be at the expense of our own hopes, dreams or social lives, or our ability to help support our families by working outside of the home.

Simply put, our children are going to be OK even if we don’t see everything they do for the rest of their lives. Our children are going to be OK because they have dedicated parents, whether or not those parents are on hand to see their first steps, poetry readings, every end of school year party, that last trumpet performance before graduation and everything in between.

Mom guilt is not helping our children. And it's certainly hurting us. I can’t teach a star athlete to play tennis, but I can give a new mom some friendly advice: Win Wimbledon; lose the mom guilt. Our children won’t remember what we missed of their lives, but we will remember what we missed of our own.

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