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Serena Williams Says America’s Weak Parental Leave Is Failing New Parents

"I can’t imagine moms that get two weeks off and have to go back to work.”


Everybody knows that the United States has godawful parental leave policies. It’s one of eight countries that doesn’t guarantee parental leave nationwide, leaving the issue up to state and local governments and individual companies, with wildly uneven results. And while it doesn’t affect her personally as it does parents who aren’t wealthy and self-employed, Serena Williams thinks it’s a travesty.

“I have my own job and I make my own schedule, but even then I still have commitments, and I can’t imagine moms that get two weeks off and have to go back to work,” the mother to 23-month-old Alexis Olympia told People.

“It’s impossible. I couldn’t have done it. I literally couldn’t have done it,” added Williams. “[Parental leave is] so important for both parents.”

We actually disagree with her on the first point. We think she could have done it simply because millions of new parents are forced to do it every year. It’s less about whether or not they can do it and more about why we make it so damn hard for new parents to spend time with their kids.

Williams also told People that she couldn’t be more “proud” of her husband, Alexis Ohanian, for his advocacy on this issue. Ohanian published an op-ed for the New York Times earlier this month in which he spoke of his personal experience as a new dad who took the 16 weeks of family leave provided by Reddit, the company he cofounded and called on federal legislation to guarantee that kind of leave to all new parents regardless of employer.

“All people deserve fulfilling work and close family ties. No dad should feel forced to wholly prioritize work over family at a time as important as the arrival of a new baby — a time that is not only critical in the beginning but has far-reaching impact years down the line.”