The XX Factor

Are Today’s Female Athletes Better at Negotiating Work/Life Balance?

Kim Clijsters will play against Venus Williams in the U.S. Open semi-finals tomorrow - and as the New Yorker ‘s Lillian Ross points out, Clijsters is one of only nine mothers to ever play in the tennis tournament. Clijsters had a daughter, Jada, whom Ross describes as a “blonde morsel” (aw), in 2008. She left the sport in 2007 to start her family and then made a comeback last year, winning the 2009 U.S. open. Ross discusses how professional tennis players -male and female alike -negotiate the work/family balance, when being a pro-athlete is a fairly all-encompassing profession. There’s something called “Kids’ Court” at the U.S. Open. It’s a day-care service provided for what Ross describes as “main-draw players,” like Clijsters. She leaves Jada there while she plays.

Ross interviews ‘80s tennis star Chris Evert for the brief article, and Evert says there’s no way she could have been a mom while she was competing. “As a woman, you have to be very patient and flexible and nurturing, with breast-feeding and all that. I was married to my career. I knew I had to wait to have babies .” Evert, born in 1954, is of the baby-boom generation, while the current pro-tennis playing moms and dads Ross writes about (27-year-old Clijsters, 29-year-old Taylor Dent), could reasonably be described as part of Generation Y. While Evert’s focus on tennis was singular, Clijsters and Dent’s attitude toward work-life balance cottons with the stereotype about their generation’s feelings on the matter: That balance is considered a top priority . How lovely that the U.S. Open has created Kids’ Court so that players like Clijsters can enjoy her daughter and her tennis simultaneously.