I’m always on the lookout for great examples of NFL wives who stand out from the crowd: godly women who are comfortable in their own skin and not defined by the success of their husbands. This time we travel to Cleveland, Ohio, and visit with a Browns’ wife, Kirsten Watson. She’s married to tight end Ben Watson and is the mother of their three children, all under the age of three. No, that is not a typo. So, I was quite honored that in spite of her busy life, she took time out to answer a few questions for me.
Growing up in Georgia and Louisiana, Kirsten faithfully attended Mass with her family. It wasn’t until the seventh grade that a teacher opened up her world to the fact that spending time with God was not just something you did on Sundays. She learned what it meant to have a personal relationship with God and decided to surrender her life to Christ at this young age. This one choice laid a foundation for many of the decisions she made going into high school and college.
Kirsten met Ben at the University of Georgia where she played on the softball team and was actively involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). The two of them spent every Wednesday reaching out to the youth at a small church near campus. During that three-year period, the foundation of their ministry became sexual purity. Ben and Kirsten had made the commitment not to have sex until after they got married and were compelled to help other young people follow this biblical principle as well. Maintaining their commitment to purity even while engaged, Ben and Kirsten were married seven years ago this month (July). Today, they are still committed to encouraging the youth through their charity, One More, where they spread the love and hope of Christ by meeting real needs, promoting education and providing enrichment opportunities.
KA: A husband’s career can have a lot to do with how a wife functions in their relationship. How is your role as a wife of an NFL player different from what may be experienced by a woman who has a husband in another profession?
KW: In the NFL there are characteristics in the guys as far as (them) wanting to be the best, wanting to always do well, not wanting to make a mistake. And you’re put on a platform where all of that can be seen and judged by anybody who has an opinion. So the one thing we do is make our home a safe place in terms of media, newspapers (and) opinions. If you were to walk into my home, you would not know an NFL player lives here. (There are) pictures of Benjamin with the kids and us with the kids. There’s no paraphernalia up. There are no footballs, jerseys…there’s none of that because this is his safe place.
So, as a wife I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure that this is steady. To make sure I am not caught up. I’m not a fan.
KA: I hear you say, “I’m not caught up. I’m not a fan.” But there are some wives who are very involved in the careers of their husbands. Considering that you handle things differently, how would you encourage new NFL wives to support their husbands?
KW: I guess my biggest advice would be: don’t be a fan, be a wife. It’s not who he is, it’s what he does. I don’t ever see Benjamin as an NFL player until somebody comes up and says, “Can I have your autograph?” Then I say, oh yeah. As a wife you have to be protective but you cannot be so caught up in it. Don’t find your identity in that he’s an NFL player. Because once that’s gone, what do you have? It’s what he’s going to do for a very short time, in the big scheme of things. So just (be) smart about how you spend your money, how you spend your time, and what’s important to you. Build your foundation on something that is strong… Definitely not on a team or a contract or not even on his body. We’ve gone through concussions, hurt knees…we see it all the time. These things are not (what) you want to build your trust on.
KA:One thing I’ve noticed is that NFL wives can easily end up living in their husband’s shadow. People will many times overlook them and what they have to offer or use them as a means to get to their husbands. There are even times when women will come up and ask a player’s wife to take a picture of them with her husband. How do you maintain your sense of value and worth in the midst of this world who is clamoring for your man?
KW: That is definitely a process. All you’ve described are things that I’ve experienced or felt early on in our marriage. Benjamin is going on his ninth year and a lot of that stuff I don’t even deal with. It goes back to knowing your worth. Knowing I’m not in his shadow, it’s not even really about a shadow. We’re experiencing this as a family and quite frankly a lot of stuff like taking a picture with…Benjamin doesn’t tolerate that!
KA: So you have been in that situation…
KW: Absolutely! Benjamin’s like, “No, she can’t take the picture, she can be in the picture.” He’s protecting me. Granted, when it first happens you’re (asking), “How do I do this?” It was a process through conversation, but as of now, it’s not even an issue. Benjamin knows to protect me in that. The problem is, if I end up being the mean person, speaking up all the time, then Benjamin has a “you know what” for a wife. And that’s not the perception I want of our family.
I don’t ever feel like I’m in his shadow because I feel like my biggest cheerleader is Benjamin. He’s always looking for opportunities for me to do what I love even with the three kids. He’s like, “Kirsten, audition for this, go do this…” or he’s always encouraging me to still follow my heart even though I’ve taken on a new role as wife and mother. So I’ve never really felt like I’m in his shadow or that he doesn’t want me to be a part of it. That comes from him making me feel secure in that.
In part 2 of her interview, Kirsten Watson speaks out about why she’s almost embarrassed to say she’s an NFL wife and the odds of her having an opportunity to fight the negative stereotype on a new reality TV show.
Kirsten Watson is passionate about helping young women in the areas of self-esteem and purity. If you are interested in having her speak at your event or want to learn more about her charity, log on to www.WatsonOneMore.org.
Kim Anthony can be contacted through www.KimAnthony.net or on Twitter @RealKimAnthony.
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