ParentDish interviews tennis superstar Lindsay Davenport

Filed under: Your Pregnancy, Life & Style, Celeb Parents

Professional tennis player Lindsay Davenport has an impressive resume. She's a former world number one player who's also won three Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold, as well as an amazing string of singles and doubles titles. She also, just this month, became the career prize money leader in woman's professional sports, a record formerly held by Steffi Graf. In 2006, a pregnant Lindsay retired from the pro-tennis circuit to settle into motherhood. Her son Jagger was born in June of 2007.

But about seven months into her pregnancy, something interesting happened: Lindsay wanted to play tennis. It wasn't something that she had planned, but she felt drawn back to the game. So just five weeks after Jagger was born, Lindsay was back at her first competition. Since then, she's been showing the pro-tennis world that competition and motherhood can mix, winning an impressive string of titles and setting her sights on the Olympics in Beijing. I had a chance to talk to Lindsay this week about tennis, fitness, motherhood, and how life is different now that Jagger is in her life.

Lindsay Davenport(click thumbnails to view gallery)

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In a recent NYT interview, Lindsay shared a touching, humorous, and true-to-life story about a recent competition in Bali. She was in the middle of the match and happened to look to the sidelines where her son Jagger sat with his nanny. She noticed that he had sun on his forehead, she said, and she started freaking out. When I asked her how she deals with that emotional tug of war, and she said, "I can't shut it off." Instead, during practices, she tells her nanny, "I don't want to see you." She knows that Jagger is safe and nearby, but out of her line of vision so that she can focus.

That's just one way that her perspective on her career has changed since becoming a mom. Lindsay's just one of a handful of women who have returned to the sport after motherhood. Before Jagger, she was a high-ranking player positioned to compete against -- and beat -- the elite players of the world. Now, though, she is looking at her comeback as a new challenge. She said that returning to the court was "old hat," but was pleased to find that, although her game hasn't changed, her perspective has. With the pressure to be the next champion gone, her focus is now on enjoying the game and loving her life with Jagger, and husband Jon Leach.

When I asked Lindsay to describe a typical day, it didn't sound that much different than a day in the life of any other mom. She gets up with Jagger, feeds him breakfast, and they spend the morning together. He attends her practices with her, playing on a nearby playground. They eat lunch together, and she'll head to the gym during his afternoon nap. Her day is built around his schedule, she says, and when it comes to traveling, Lindsay says, "We just figure it out."

Lindsay (with permission from her doctor) played in her first competition just five weeks after delivering Jagger by c-section. She attributes her fast recovery to an active lifestyle before and during pregnancy. "I just felt like it was the most important time of my life to be active," she says of her pregnancy. When I asked her what piece of advice she'd give moms-to-be, she said that she'd recommend making healthy lifestyle changes before getting pregnant, including eliminating caffeine and alcohol, and starting a fitness program.

Though Lindsay takes very good care of herself, she doesn't agree with the current pressure on new moms to lose the baby weight right away. She said that when Jagger was born, she took care of him, and took care of herself as well. She says that she's "never been a numbers girl" and is fortunate to have a career that doesn't focus on looks. "Everyone happens differently," she said, and shared that the very last pound of her baby weight didn't come off until nine months after giving birth.

Lindsay isn't the only athletic member of her family. Her husband is Jon Leach, former All-American tennis player and brother to Rick Leach, an accomplished professional tennis player himself. Lindsay's dad is Wink Davenport, who played volleyball with the 1968 Olympic team. Lindsay and Jon won't push Jagger to play tennis, she said, because she thinks he should do what makes him happy. But there is plenty of activity going on. Jagger takes swim glasses and attends a baby gym class twice a week. Lindsay says that she looks forward to being able to be active as a family, taking bike rides together, for instance.

She thinks that the best thing that parents can do to encourage their kids to be healthy and active is to be good role models themselves -- exercising as a family, throwing a Frisbee, turning off TV and video games, and getting up to "break a sweat every day," for instance. When parents take care of themselves, they lead by example, and Lindsay intends to do that.

Lindsay is a great role model for woman who strive to juggle family and career, yet who still have goals they want to achieve. It's so easy to set your own life aside when your kids arrive, but Lindsay's experience shows us all that it is possible to combine motherhood and career with grace and ease.

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