I'm looking at Naomi Osaka's parents for inspiration on how to raise my own daughter

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·3 min read
I'm looking at Naomi Osaka's parents for inspiration on how to raise my own daughter
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Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
  • Naomi Osaka spoke openly about the struggles her parents went through financially and culturally.

  • Dropping out of a tournament to take care of her mental health has put her in the halls of history.

  • Osaka inspires me to be a better mother to my daughter.

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Recently, I realized I was going down a rabbit hole watching and reading up on the tennis phenomenon Naomi Osaka. In her 23 years, Osaka has traveled the world, played tournament after tournament, and endured invasive post-match press conferences. She has stood up for what she believes, drawing attention to Black Lives Matter by wearing masks emblazoned with the names of some of the Black people who have faced police brutality.

Osaka also recently made headlines for withdrawing from several tournaments, citing the need to prioritize her mental health. When she walked off the tennis court in defense of self-care, in my mind she stepped into the halls of history.

Where did she learn the courage and confidence to stand by her convictions and challenge the status quo while the world watched? Was her valor innate or a result of parenting? If it was parenting, I wanted to know how I could nurture the same spirit in my daughter.

Seeing how Naomi Osaka made big choices, I began to wonder how her parents influenced her

Osaka has spoken openly about the struggles her parents went through to get her to where she is. Her mother, Tamaki, worked a lot, Osaka said, to pay for flights and accommodations during tournaments. Her father, Francois, was her coach despite not having tennis experience. He dedicated his life to training his daughters by following the blueprint of Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, according to Marie Claire.

Having such dedicated parents supporting her career may have made Osaka as strong as she is, knowing what they gave up in order for her to shine.

Or perhaps her strength stemmed from her mother's determination to stand by her unconventional - to Japanese standards - marriage to a Haitian, despite her own family's refusal to speak with her for years. Witnessing both her parents' courage, sacrifice, and dedication at all costs must have been a powerful example.

So what does my daughter interpret about my values every time she sideway-glances at my life? Right now she's seeing a self-employed single mother buried behind her laptop working all the time. I worry this teaches her only to value earning and saving money and creating financial security.

Overworking is not a habit I want to impart to my daughter. But I want her to know the value of hard work, advocating and being an ally for others, using access for a greater good, leading by example, taking risks, and creating and prioritizing community.

I chose my daughter to be my focus

My daughter's father and I separated a year ago. Separating was best, but it significantly increased my financial obligations. So while my daughter is no longer exposed to her parents yelling, she sees her mom working more frequently than not.

Since our split, I returned to the small rural New England town where I grew up, to raise my daughter next to her extended family. It's one of the best parenting decisions I've made, but the decision meant not pursuing a milestone career opportunity on the West Coast.

In this respect, I think I understand what Tamaki and Naomi know at their core: Walking away is sometimes walking toward a more important value. Tamaki chose a husband her family refused to accept, Naomi chose self-love by prioritizing her mental health, I chose my daughter.

Their examples remind me that being purposeful is fundamental to thriving, and that most self-growth happens far outside the comfort zone.

Choosing a partner, raising a child, shifting a career, or exiting an international tennis tournament are really about a commitment to purpose, embracing the unknown, and trusting you'll make the right decision even, or especially, when all eyes are on you.

Marybeth is a mom, entrepreneur, communication strategist, and passionate advocate for the economic advancement of women. She founded WinemakeHER ELLEvation to accelerate female leadership in the wine industry and the strategic agency Brand Elevation Co to increase the visibility of brands powered by purpose.

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