Thanks to reality TV and social media, being a “basketball wife” has become a stereotypical fantasy. Yet, people have no clue about the day to day highs and lows of how this type of career impacts the entire family. In reality, being in this role, doesn’t only consist of putting on cute little outfits to go to basketball games, lunching with friends, and shopping. I wear many hats, much like your “everyday” stay-at-home mom or housewife, but the main difference between myself and others is that from year to year I pack up my family to live in another country for 6 to 7 months. While that is generally met with a lot of comments like, “that’s so exciting”, “how cool” and “I wish I could travel like that”, it definitely has its ups and downs. Thus, I would like to share with you the peaks and pits of being the wife of an international basketball player.
Let’s start off with the fun stuff, the peaks. Traveling, exposure and experiences of living and indulging in another culture, watching my husband do what he loves, quality time with family, and last, but not least, the people we meet who become family while living overseas are the most special aspects of this journey.
Traveling and diving into another culture, let’s face it, is scary and exciting all at the same time. Learning bits of another language, customs, and THE FOOD are some of my favorite highlights! These are the things that can make it so worth it. It’s so much fun and gives you such a rush to do something completely different than your everyday life. Eventually, you become knowledgeable about your new environment and are no longer the “new kid on the block.” For example, in France, the customary kiss on each cheek was a part of the French culture that I adored and it quickly became a normality in our American lives. Then, when we returned home, we had the immediate realization that no one else is doing it or saying bonjour! A major piece of indulging in another culture is indulging in the food. Trying new food was something I had to just dive into because anyone who knows me will tell you it didn’t matter where I was- I was ordering chicken fingers and fries. While traveling, that habit was quickly broken and has proven very good for me. I would venture to say my palate is a little cultured now.
Watching Jawad play basketball is one of the best parts of it all. I love to see him still do what he loves and do it so well. I take so much pride in watching him play, and I’m so very proud of him. To see how hard he works in the off-season and how the hard work pays off is rewarding all in itself.
Clearly, I’m his #1 fan. 😉
Another peak, is family togetherness. Family time is something that I feel like most people take for granted because you do it everyday, but unfortunately, for us that isn’t always the case. We can easily go months and not see each other. So when we are together, the time is very much precious and cherished.
Now the icing on the cake is by far the amazing new people we get to know every year. We seem to always meet the best people while living abroad, which are mainly the other Americans that play for the team and their families, and we immediately bond for obvious reasons. We become like family to one another, including watching out for each other, regular dinners and game nights whenever our schedules allow. We’ve maintained a relationship with mostly everyone we have met while abroad. Since I’m a people person, it’s definitely something I look forward to each season. This year in Gaziantep, I’m the only American wife here, so it’s been different and a little lonely at times. Although there are other wives here from Germany and Greece, we spend half our time trying to figure out what we’re saying to each other. I have come to realize that sometimes it’s easier to just smile and wave- LOL.
I’m sure you’re saying this all sounds so amazing and asking are there really any pits at all. Well let me answer that, YES!!! A few that stand out in my mind are packing for multiple people (some of which who are still growing) for multiple seasons, the dreaded long flights with small kids and leaving your support system behind, which can result in no time away from your children (and believe me, everyone needs a break). And finally, to conclude my list of pits, I nominate, the language barrier.
To start, I’m a person who hates packing for the weekend, so you can only imagine the anxiety that comes with packing for months in another country. When children are involved, you must pack for all of the “just in case” scenarios as well. We are not just packing clothes in multiple sizes but also medications, food and toiletries. In general, it’s A WHOLE LOT!!!
Of all the pits, the flight takes home the gold for most dreaded. It’s the thing I start praying and fasting about months in advance, seriously as soon as we find out where we are going. If I’m being honest, it’s the scariest part of it all. In the 13 international flights we’ve taken with children, I can only count one as a real lost, so 12-1 isn’t too bad. During this traveling adventure, Nailah was15 months old, and she cried from takeoff at Charlotte Douglas International Airport to landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, so what was I to do, but cry along with her. The silver lining and my only saving grace was that the flight was almost empty.
Another very difficult part is leaving my family and friends behind. Talking to people whenever you want changes when you’re seven hours ahead. Thank God for technology! We can still talk frequently, but I have to wait until my day is almost over. We are often on an emotional roller coaster because we miss so many important things in loved ones lives, our children bonding, having trusted babysitters and feeling like you’re growing a part. Luckily, we have an amazing village, whom we usually pick right back up with when we get back, but we miss them all so much while we’re gone. Like the old saying goes, you never know what you’ve got, until it’s gone, even if it is only temporary.
Lastly, when there is a language barrier, you can become the best charades player. Now don’t get me wrong, we usually practice the basic things like saying hello, asking how are you, how to order food, etc. But when someone starts a conversation with you because they assume you are proficient in the language, it catches you completely off guard. You start doing things like speaking louder in English (wrong), using hand signals, or looking for the translator on your phone that never translates correctly. It becomes a full out circus and you realize you’re the clown.
Overall, international basketball is a very fulfilling life that I’m extremely grateful to have the chance to be living, peaks and pits included. Because at the end of the day, basketball is a very inconsistent opportunity that can be a very short lived situation. So I remind myself quite often to enjoy the ride, while there is a ride, because one day I’ll surely miss this life with its pits and all.
-Angel F. Williams