Editor’s Note: To celebrate the opening of the WNBA season, we asked LA Sparks baller Candace Parker to share with MyBrownBaby how she juggles motherhood, being a basketball wife to Brooklyn Nets player Shelden Williams and excelling in her own career as one of the best, well-known and respected players in women’s professional basketball. We’re quite honored that she contributed this deeply personal, thoughtful essay, giving us a glimpse into the rare air of her world.
By CANDACE PARKER
Those that know me will tell you I’m a tad bit ambitious. I walked at eight months, rode a bike with no training wheels at three and dunked a basketball at 14 years old (1 year, 2 months and 13 days before my brothers did). Telling me I cannot do something is like ensuring I will.
On May 13, 2009, my daughter Lailaa came into the world at a healthy 7.6oz and 20 inches long. My husband and I were in love with her the moment we laid eyes on her precious little face. Lailaa was a creation of our love, and for a moment, we were blinded by this tiny gift from God. As a professional basketball player many people asked me, “So how are you going to manage this?”
Rewinding back, my husband Shelden and I began dating when I was in college at the University of Tennessee and he was in his last year at Duke. We connected immediately, and although several hundred miles separated us, we vowed to never let that affect our relationship. We knew it would never be easy but we made a choice to be together. And when you find “the one,” it is an easy decision to make. We both play basketball as our chosen profession so sacrifice is something we do on a daily basis and it has brought us closer together.
Currently, Shelden plays basketball in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets and Lailaa and I go overseas while I play for a club in Ekaterinburg, Russia from October through May. During the summer, I play for Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA. Basically I work two jobs and he works one! I’ve been telling Shelden he needs to pick up the slack!
The whole “love and basketball” marriage might seem like an ideal situation. But the months we spend apart are extremely difficult. Sometimes I walk the thin line between driven and crazy.
Lailaa was a pleasant surprise to my husband and I right in the very beginning of my career. I vowed from the start that I would have both a successful family and career. So many times I hear of women quitting their jobs as a result of their families. That is a decision that many women make and I support their choice. I choose to do both.
Shelden and I skype everyday and we definitely try our best to stay involved in each other’s lives. He is a wonderful father that spends a great deal of quality time with Lailaa. Lailaa loves her Daddy and I never worry leaving them at home when I’m on a road trip in the WNBA. Shelden can straight throw down in the kitchen. He is definitely the chef in our family. The only thing I cringe about is Shelden taking care of Lailaa’s hair 🙂 ! That’s one thing he has failed to master.
Lailaa is a beautiful, loving, energetic, talkative, curious toddler that has racked up more frequent flyer miles in her almost three years of existence than most people do in a lifetime. My heart smiles when she grabs her purse, backpack and Playschool basketball and tells me she is “headed to practice.” I die laughing when she returns five seconds later to tell me “I forgot my keys!” Just the simple fact that she pays attention lets me know that she is watching me. Regardless of whether she plays basketball or not, I want her to grow up and be a strong, educated, kind, giving, and confident African-American woman.
At times, I admit I am a bit ambitious, but when you are juggling something as precious and fragile as a family and career, it is well worth the hassle.
I looked up to so many female athletes. Mia Hamm to Lisa Leslie truly transcended their sport. In a way, I hope to transcend ideas.
You can have a family AND a career. Balancing both is quite a juggling act! At times I tiredly look into the mirror and ask myself, “What am I doing?” But I am quickly reminded how much I love “this” when I gaze over on the sideline during one of my games and see my whole entire world waving back. I smile when I see my husband whispering to my daughter, “You see Mommy?”
CANDACE PARKER is entering her fifth year playing for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, where she holds the distinction of being Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year of 2008, her first year playing professional basketball. She also is the second woman ever to dunk in a WNBA game and the first in her league’s history to dunk over multiple games. She is the married mom of one. Check out her thoughts on basketball and motherhood at www.candaceparker.com and follow her on Twitter at @Candace_Parker.
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Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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