Serena Williams and Meghan Markle Share Difficult Moments When They Had to Continue Working Despite Their Children Being Hurt or Dangerous
The tennis superstar discussed having to play in the French Open final despite her daughter having a broken wrist in the first episode of the Duchess of Sussex’s new podcast, ‘Archetypes,’ while host Markle discussed her son almost being caught in a fire while she and Prince Harry were in South Africa.
Meghan Markle and Serena Williams have both faced difficult situations in which they were forced to continue working despite their children being injured or in danger.
The professional tennis legend was the first guest on the Duchess of Sussex’s Archetypes podcast, which debuted on Tuesday as part of a collaboration between her and Prince Harry’s Archewell Audio and Spotify’s Gimlet Media.
During the hour-long discussion, titled “The Misconception of Ambition,” both women shared a story about a time when their professional obligations clashed with their ability to care for their children. In the case of Markle, it was a fire that broke out at the residence where the couple and their then-4-month-old son, Archie, were staying while she and the Duke of Sussex were completing a speaking engagement in South Africa in 2019.
“As soon as we landed, we had to drop him off at this housing unit where they had us staying.” He was going to get ready to take a nap. “We went straight to this official engagement in this township called Nyanga,” Markle recalls. “There’s this moment when I’m standing on a tree stump, giving this speech to women and girls, and when we finish the engagement, we get in the car, and they say, ‘There’s been a fire at the residence.'” What? ‘There’s a fire in the baby’s room,’ she says.
Markle claimed they dashed back to their hotel, where they discovered their nanny in “floods of tears.” The Duchess reveals that it was a small decision made by the nanny, who usually kept Archie tied to her back with a mud cloth, that ultimately kept him safe.
“She was supposed to put Archie to sleep, and all she said was, ‘You know what? Let me just go downstairs and get a snack,'” Markle claims. “Her instinct was simply, ‘Let me take him with me before I put him down.'” The heater in the nursery caught fire in the time it took her to go downstairs. There was no smoke alarm. Someone smelled smoke down the hall and went in, extinguishing the fire. He should have been sleeping in there.”
Everyone was “shaken” and “in tears” when Markle returned, but “we had to leave our baby,” she said.
“What were we supposed to do?” “I’m going to do another official engagement,” Markle explained. “‘This doesn’t make any sense,’ I said. ‘Can you just tell people what happened?’ I asked.
Markle’s story came after Williams’, who recently announced her retirement from tennis in order to focus on her family, opened up about having to leave her daughter Olympia after the baby suffered an injury.
It was the same year that Williams gave birth to her daughter — and the night before the 2018 French Open final, when she wore her “infamous catsuit” to prevent blood clotting. While under Williams’ care, Olympia fell out of her highchair and broke her wrist, which “devastated” the Olympic gold medalist and Grand Slam winner.
“She fell, we went to the hospital, and she had a minor tear or break in her wrist, so she needed a cast.” We didn’t get home until around four a.m. Meanwhile, this was the one day I was playing early, of course,” Williams explained. “I remember holding her all night and simply rocking her to sleep.” I just didn’t want to lose sight of her at that point.”
Williams was “so mad at myself for even allowing that to happen,” and she only got about 30 minutes of sleep before the match.
“I managed to win, but I was so emotionally spent and drained that it was insane,” she told Markle. “Then, like every other night after that, I just stayed with her the entire time.” ‘You’re going to be with me,’ it said.
The tennis player went on to say that “moms do a lot” and that she has no idea how her own mother, who had five children, did it.
After hearing Williams’ story and sharing her own, Markle observed how optics and archetypes can misrepresent the realities of high-profile working parents’ lives.
“I think the focus ends up being on how it looks rather than how it feels,” she says. “Part of humanising and breaking through these labels and archetypes, these boxes that we’re put into, is understanding the human moments behind the scenes that people might not be aware of, and giving each other a break.”