By: Sadie Newell | Engaged to Michael Winger, Front Office for Los Angeles Clippers
Imagine this: you’ve had a date night planned for weeks. Maybe you called in takeout from your favorite restaurant or have elaborate plans to hit the town sans kids. You’ve gotten a sitter, your hair is done – holy cow, you even showered! And then…the dreaded phone call. “Sorry babe, but a player got hurt and….” Or the ever unpredictable “hey I just got pulled into this meeting and it looks like I’ll be here a while” text. Your romantic date night? Just turned into a pity party.
I have stopped keeping track how many times this has happened in the last five years. For one, it isn’t healthy to keep score and for two, it creates guilt. The “just a seconds” or the “oh hold that thought, I have to take this call” or “I can’t make it tonight, babe, I’m so sorry” are a part of the lifestyle – and even when we know this because we’ve heard it from women around the league time and time again, it is different when it is happening to YOU. I can distinctly remember the first time I got upset about being put on the back burner. I had made a brunch at home, complete with all our favorite foods. Think coffee cake, poached eggs, French press coffee, sautéed kale, berries – you name it, I had it. We were celebrating a Saturday without work, and I was so excited! As soon as we sat down and poured our coffee, the phone rang. At first, I was patient. I wrapped up our breakfasts in foil, refilled his coffee and began to wait. Ten minutes turned into an hour. An hour turned into an hour forty-five. That hour forty-five turned into a lifetime.
By the time Michael got off the phone I was stewing. I felt ignored, robbed of a moment, like I didn’t matter. At the time I failed to see the big picture. Guys, this was BRUNCH. We had the rest of the day! I fell into that kind of anger where you just ruminate on everything that has ever happened, every time you’ve been brushed off, every time you did something nice without a quick thank you. I went there, and it took a LONG time to come out. He finally looked at me and said, “Sadie. I have to take these phone calls.” In that split-second I realized that I signed up for something much bigger than a 9-5. I wish I could say that after that day I understood completely and I’m always the best at understanding the workload and being flexible with our plans, but that is not even half true! This exercise in patience is something we do every single day. When the kid can’t sleep and you are up all night, the nanny is sick and you’re in a city with no family, the last thing you want to hear is “hey I have to go meet an agent for dinner.” What are we going to do, say no?! As much as we want to, we can’t. We have two choices: to start an argument or to brush it off.
When we moved to LA, a fellow league wife gave me some incredible advice, and I’m going to dispense it now. “Be the best friend you can possibly be. Be understanding every single day. Give Michael this season to work his tail off and set up a foundation for success. Understand that, while you’re lonely while he is working late most every day, he is also lonely working most every day for you and for your futures. Enjoy the journey, don’t sweat the small stuff, pick your battles and immerse yourself in the community to build your life while he is building his team.” I think of this every day. Every day, when it gets tough or plans change or things get strained I think, “is this worth it? Am I truly upset or have we just not connected as a couple lately?” When it is an issue of connection, I find that I am able to step back, find a quick way for us to connect and continue on with our life together. If it is a matter that I just can’t get over, I wait to bring it up until I am sure a good night’s sleep cannot fix it. If that is the case, I have no problem speaking my truths. Ladies, sometimes our lives come second to the game, but that doesn’t mean our family does. I know that when it truly counts, Michael will be there – and the rest is going to fall into place.