Serena Williams' husband, Alexis Ohanian, who has been celebrated online for the support he's shown his wife and their daughter, says he appreciates the praise but admitted that he's got a long way to go before it actually feels warranted.
"It is a very high praise and a very high bar," said Ohanian, the cofounder of Reddit, on BuzzFeed News' AM to DM on Tuesday. "Look, I'm flattered by those things. I try not to take them too seriously because the reality is I am far from a perfect husband. I'm far from a perfect dad."
For those who aren't familiar, these are just a few examples of Ohanian going above and beyond for two of the most important people in his life: his wife and his daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. There was the time he and Williams flew all the way to Italy just because she had a taste for pasta, the time he demonstrated his love for his family by getting a huge billboard with Olympia's face plastered on the sign, and that one time he showed how protective he was of his wife by subtly dragging her opponent Maria Sharapova.
But despite all of this, Ohanian told BuzzFeed News that he has "plenty of bad days" when it comes to being a husband and parent.
"The reality is, if we can in some way model behavior that is good and that people take good things from it — like, great," he said. "But we're not. We're all humans at the end of the day and by no means do I let myself get a big head about it because I know I still have a lot of work to do."
That work presumably includes his fight for paid family leave, an issue that Ohanian became passionate about after Williams suffered tremendous pregnancy complications — an issue that plagues black mothers more often than white mothers — after the birth of their daughter.
In a New York Times op-ed published in August, Ohanian wrote about how important it was for him to be with his family during that difficult time. He also pushed for fathers to break the stigma and take time off work to help with the responsibility of parenting, though he acknowledged that a big reason why some do not is because of social stigma.
"Men are conditioned to be breadwinners, exclusively — and another mouth to feed calls for more bread on the table (to say nothing of college tuition) — so off to work we go," Ohanian wrote. "Our sense of duty is often fear-based: Men assume their bosses will frown on paternity leave, so we don’t dare to go there."
That stigma is also backed up by statistics, as fewer than 1 in 5 men are offered paid paternity leave in the US.
"For every advantage that we had as a family, in terms of wealth and access and support, it was still a traumatic experience," Ohanian told BuzzFeed News, discussing Williams' difficult birth.
"And coming out of that, I didn't want a single employee of mine or even a single fellow American to have to just endure that without knowing they could have time to be there for their loved ones," he said, "and so that's when it really became an issue that I wanted to advocate for nationwide."