Serena Williams On Why Her Mother Taught Her She Didn't Need A Man

Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle
By Bustle Editors

Bustle's "Without This Woman" is a series of essays honoring the women who change — and challenge — us every day. This interview with Serena Williams, as told to Princess Gabbara, has been condensed and edited for clarity.

My mom, Oracene Price, has been the biggest part of my life. Growing up, she instilled confidence in me not to believe I needed a man to hold me up. We laugh about it now, but my mom raised five girls, so it was important to her for us to know that all we needed was ourselves. She was always telling me that I had to really believe in myself because, as the youngest of five, I always wanted to do what my older sisters did. She wanted to make sure I did what I wanted to do.

From the second I gave birth to my own daughter, I felt a new understanding and love and appreciation for my mom. This may sound silly, but I remember always sleeping in bed with my mom when I was around 2 years old. All I wanted to do was to be with her — I remember even going to school and crying so much because I didn't want to leave her.

Now, I'm trying to enjoy the moments with my own 2-year-old daughter because it goes by so quickly. It's difficult being a mother to a daughter, because you want to be their best friend — but you also have to be their mom. And you want to be with them forever, but you know one day they have to grow up.

My sisters and I have bustling careers, and my mom says none of it matters, that we have to remember this is just a career. Spiritually, she really grounded us. We still have a wonderful spiritual background, which is the most important part of our lives. That puts a lot of things into perspective even today, as much as I have going on. You have to put God first.

Without my mother, I wouldn't have the courage to speak the truth. My mom has always been super honest with me — in fact, I don't know if she’s ever even told a lie. That probably explains why I'm so honest and why I just say what is real, whether it's advocating for women's rights or whatever issue I'm passionate about. Sometimes the truth has to be loud and clear.

Serena Williams is working to combat gender inequality in sports by partnering with Secret Deodorant, whose "Gender Inequality in Sports" study will explore how gender bias surfaces at different levels of play, from high school athletics to professional sports.