Serena Williams tweeted last month that she recently missed her daughter's first steps because she was training for Wimbledon.
"I was training and missed it," she wrote. "I cried."
She took her first steps... I was training and missed it. I cried.— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) July 7, 2018
My heart broke for her. I'm a working mom. I get it. As I sit here writing this column, my daughter's in day care. It sometimes pains me to think about what I'm missing.
That said, I love work, too. And I know I'd find it really hard being a stay-at-home mom. I try to strike the right balance, but it isn't always easy. Mom-guilt is real.
It seems Serena understands this, too. Last week on Instagram, she wrote she's recently been "in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom. I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with."
Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom. I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal. It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby. We have all been there. I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be. However, that means although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes. I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week--it’s ok--I am, too!!! There’s always tomm!
The point she raises about postpartum emotions is a good one.
I was always under the impression that some mothers suffered from postpartum depression after they gave birth and others didn't. You either got it, or not. I didn't understand that the postpartum period can usher in a whole host of feelings. Depression and other mood disorders, yes, but also anxiety and doubt, shock and guilt, fear and joy.
"Women can experience a range of psychological problems after birth, including anxiety, depression and adjustment disorders. However, research has predominantly focused on depression," a paper published in 2014 found.
"These findings emphasise the need for exploration of psychological processes such as distancing, guilt and self-blame across different types of emotional difficulties, as these may be viable targets for therapeutic intervention. Breastfeeding and birth trauma were key areas with which women felt they needed support with but which was not easily available."
After my daughter was born three years ago, I remember there were times I felt acutely happy for no real reason. Like a surge of happiness. But I cried more than usual, too. It took at least a year for me to feel "normal" again. And compared to some moms, I had it easy.
A friend of mine — part of my so-called "mom squad" — posted an article on Facebook the other day titled, "Grieving the Postpartum Experience You Didn't Have."
In it, Shannon Hennig, a maternal mental health specialist, describes the experience some women have after giving birth.
"As hard and painful as it is to realize and try to accept, the postpartum experience you had in mind was never guaranteed. Not one little bit. You were sold a vision, a dream, an expectation and you bought it without thinking twice," Hennig wrote. "You’ve been conditioned since you were a child to think that you’d naturally have innate abilities to take care of a baby; that it would being you happiness and joy. And now that it’s here you realize that being a mom is hard. It’s grueling and no one told you about this other side of the experience."
That's why I'm raising a glass to Serena Williams this week. Her social media posts offer good reminders that the mixed emotions many moms reckon everyday with aren't ours alone.
Celebrities — they're just like us.