Learning to Embrace the Seasons – Diary of a Football Wife, Widow & Mother

Recently, the end of an era was marked.  For my husband.  My family, and also, for me.

Following 23 years of open-age football on a weekend, James hung up his weekend footy boots after his final game.

It felt big.  For him and for me. 

You see my husband and I met very young.  In a dingy stick to the floor famous nightclub in Halifax, 22 years ago.  So, without choice, football has been as much part of my life as it has his over the course of our relationship.  Hey fellow football, cricket, rugby and other sport wives and girlfriends out there.  I see you! I know you know the exact life this creates for you.  Whether you love it or hate it.

I personally, have a love/hate relationship with football.  Mainly hate for most of the time…which actually deepened, when I became a Mother.

As a teenager who simply wanted to spend time with their boyfriend, it often felt like I was competing with the game for his affections.  I regularly used to point out I was sure he loved football more than me.

In our 20s and then 30s it felt like everything, all plans, had to revolve around football fixtures.  I celebrated the end of season with vigour.  But wow those off-seasons are short, aren’t they?! Also, the training, the friendlies, continued, even if the fixture games, did not.

Then, you step into parenthood. 

Well, if I did not hate the game before I did now! But like the true perfectionist I was back then, we carefully curated a plan for both of us to keep up our very important hobbies and parts of ourselves, which included James’ weekly football match.  The reality was far from our hopes and expectations.

Honestly.  I resented the game.  I resented him.  For being alone with a baby that always cried and rarely slept for 5 days during the week and 1 day at the weekend, because a football day, is a full day!

I often share with my community that the first year postpartum nearly broke my marriage.  In all honesty, it was football that nearly broke the camel’s back.

All of the anger, resentment, unmet needs, uncommunicated needs, would come out and be directed at a hobby that my husband loved so dearly.   You can imagine how that felt.  You may have felt it too.  What an awful wife and person to wish that your husband, did not do the thing that brought him so much joy and was as much part of him as his signature nicknames.

On reflection, I wanted him to make the decision himself that doing it all was no longer working.  Our plan was not working.  It was breaking us.  I didn’t want to be the one to say, “you need to make a choice”.  I didn’t want him to have to make the choice, between the two loves of his life.

But parenthood is full of ‘perceived choices’, isn’t it?! We want to do and be it all, but with there only being 1 of us and 24 hours in a day, logistically, it just is not possible.  Especially, with little to no support.

In the end, the choice was taken away from both of us.  Covid happened.  Nobody could play football. Problem solved!

Can you remember the space and quiet of those lockdowns? Especially the first.  It gave us both an opportunity to reflect.  He got to truly see how challenging parenting was from a place of having to do it solo and more intensely when ‘Daddy Wednesdays’ came into play.  He got to understand the reason behind my anger and resentment.  I also got to understand more of myself and what I needed too.  Part of that learning to recognise that nobody, not even the man I had spent more of my life with than without, could read my mind.  All of our needs mattered, and we needed to get better at communicating them, and I am so thankful that this time gave us an opportunity to learn how to do just that.

Some people hated Covid lockdowns.  I could never.  It saved my marriage.  It also made us stronger.

Through learning to communicate more effectively and consider how all of our needs could be met, we settled on twice per month games once the football season resumed and this was our ‘good enough’ balance.  It gave me the flexibility to plan things for myself, and for us to spend time as a 3.

Recently, my husband shared some reflections with me he has never pondered himself or shared with me before.  It is beautiful.  He has given me permission to share it with you too.

Before my son was born my wife and I had agreed how we would work around getting time for ourselves and our own interests. How we could keep that piece of our identity. Mine was football on a Saturday afternoon. I’d played every Saturday, every season since I was old enough for open age football, so I didn’t want to let that go. The actual reality when my son arrived was that this wasn’t sustainable if we were to remain as a family. I found it hard to accept this, this was a massive part of me, I was part of a team, but the reality was that I was letting down a more important team and I was now a Dad, my identity had changed, but that didn’t mean I was never going to play again, I just had different priorities.

Reflecting on my relationship with football, the truth is I have never hated the game.  Not really.  I just hated what it felt like it took away from me.  Quality time with my boyfriend, then husband, then family.  Also, how could I hate it now? Our challenges are what make us stronger and grow further into who we are meant to be, and football did just that for me, my husband, and us as a family.  It will always have a special place in my heart for that.

So, life is full of seasons.  Rarely, do we love them all. But all have an important part to play in the rich tapestry of our life.

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