Chanita Foster, otherwise known as wife of NFL vet George Foster, is a philanthropist, entrepreneur and mom of six, yet she's poised to add one more slash to her title: reality star. Soon to appear on VH1's new original series "Football Wives," the candid Chanita took some time out from her hectic schedule to chat with momlogic about football wifedom, impending reality stardom and that cute brood of hers!
momlogic: Sooo ... you have six kids!
Chanita Foster: I biologically birthed a [now] 1-year-old, 3-year-old and 4-year-old. When my husband and I met, there was a young lady pregnant, and down the line in our relationship we found out, and now we have a 5-year-old stepdaughter. Then we have my adopted daughter, who just turned 20. And there's only one son in our group who we take care of. He lives in Swaziland, Africa, where we are building a school, so we travel back and forth every three months.
ml: How do you keep them all in line?
CF: I think it's pretty easy. I always knew that I wanted a lot of kids. I talk to them -- I don't talk at them, so our children are very well aware of how our lifestyle operates. You'll see that on the show. We're very open and honest with them. A lot of people are already saying that this show is scripted, but when my husband has to pick up and go to Omaha, you can see how it took us by surprise that it's the first time that we weren't going to be together as a family. My 4-year-old daughter wanted to know why we weren't going -- she recognized what was going on right away and began to ask questions. She also knows when I get the big duffle bags out that I'm preparing to go to Africa. She says, "Oh you are getting ready to take the dresses to the kids," and I explain to her I'm going because they don't have a mommy. But usually neither my husband or I leave the household for more than three days. We just don't do it. Either we don't go, or we pack up the kids and go. But we've both never been gone for more than three days in a row. We don't have a nanny, so either my oldest daughter watches the kids or my mom will fly in. But we don't have help. We've never had a full-time nanny in our house.
ml: So you've gotten up every two hours with your babies?
CF: Oh my god, breastfeeding! And you know what? When a man plays football, they have to be so focused. You have to free their minds of everyday things, because you never want them in the field worried about something going on at home. So I've never had the luxury of waking him up, even when I bottle-fed, because he gets up at six to go to football practice. So I didn't want him to really get hurt because he was too tired or couldn't focus, so yup -- I did it all.
ml: What's it like being a football wife? What's the biggest challenge?
CF: I think the biggest challenge is the aftereffects. I knew what some would be, but now that we're almost in the transitioning period, it's very frightening to know that, especially in the position my husband plays, when they get to a certain age -- say 40, 45 and 50 -- there's a high chance of dementia or Alzheimer's and a lot of physical things. That's very hard to deal with. I think I cry about that the most, because I'm setting him up for a shorter lifespan. I'm setting him up to hurt. There's no other job in the U.S. or the world, other than the military, where you send someone into a job knowing you are going to shorten their life expectancy. That's what I'm doing as a wife and as a mom. We set our lifestyle up. We have all of these children. I'm giving them dance classes and piano class and swim class and my children love good food. So you set them up for all these different things and you want the private-school education, but it's almost like I feel bad, because I know if my husband could quit on his own terms, he would. He turns, he looks at me, he looks at our family and lifestyle that we've created and he knows he has to go to work. Sometimes I feel like it's unfair. But I drive him to the stadium, I let him go on that field and I'm [basically] saying, "OK, you might get knocked in the head a couple of times and you might not remember me and your kids ten years from now, but that's OK because we're going to get a check."
ml: That's tough! But it's his decision ultimately, right?
CF: Of course!
ml: But you're kissing him goodbye and you aren't stopping him. You have a degree in sports management, so you must have some idea. It's not like you married your husband and had no clue what your life would be like.
CF: I think that's the misperception. I wasn't bamboozled or hoodwinked. My background came from working with basketball players. I was coming from a background of guaranteed money. I was coming from a background of Bentleys and 20,000-square-foot homes and just like a lot of America, I thought that's how the sports world operated. And in my marriage, and I'm sure it's this way for most people, there are many things that are revealed to you. I didn't ask my husband how much he had in his bank account or whether or not I could get a Pap smear on his insurance. FYI: With NFL insurance, you can't even get a Pap smear!
ml: Are you kidding me?!
CF: I'm dead serious! We have to pay for our kids' immunizations, too. I went all the way to Capitol Hill to talk about healthcare because people don't realize if we strike, a lot of families lose healthcare, there's going to be a problem. Especially if someone like me has to take ALL their children to the hospital for a runny nose or whatever. After my husband's done playing, we're going to have to pay for private insurance with preexisting health conditions.
ml: Did you come from a life of privilege?
CF: I would say that I came from an upper-middle-class suburban background. We were the only black family on the block. My parents worked hard, and we were introduced to ballet and culture at a young age. I'd say not so much "rich," but very well-off.
ml: What's it like being on a reality show? Did you know the other wives?
CF: I knew the majority of them. There were three people on the show that I really didn't know at all; maybe we crossed paths in social circles. I wanted to do the show. It was a way to vent. It was a way to show the truth. Sometimes people's perceptions become reality. I got tired of putting on the TV and seeing the minority represent the majority -- meaning, there are a lot of babymamas and girlfriends and divorcees trying to portray what our lifestyle looks like. I sit on the board of the Wives organization [Off the Field, a charitable association comprised of NFL wives], and until the majority starts to step up, the minority will regulate what this lifestyle looks like. One of the big things for me in doing the show ... I wanted real-life wives who were married, functional and with children. We go from the high-end to the low-end as far as money is concerned. You'll see a 20,000-square-foot home, but you'll also see a wife who's struggling to pay her mortgage, so I think we did a pretty good job of showing the whole spectrum.
ml: What was your favorite part about doing the show?
CF: I got to know a lot about myself. You realize you are under a microscope and try to think about what you say before you say it. Or you really look at things that you do. I really learned about my kids. I learned a lot about my husband. That was his opportunity to vent and say everything that he wanted to say about the games and I was like, "Wow!" It was just awesome. Even though there was some conflict, you don't live life without conflict and I stand behind every single conflict that I had. It was standing my ground and standing up for what I believe in.
ml: What would you say if one of your daughters wanted to do a reality show?
CF: I would say, "If it gives you the opportunities that it gave us ... go for it." It gave us the opportunity to talk about our children's clothing line, Rock Star Rascals; we raised a lot of awareness about the school we are building in Swaziland through our foundation, Beyond the Game; it gave America a chance to see a happily married African-American couple, which was important to me. In the world we live in now, girls do these shows and take off their clothes ... if you make a mistake, you make a mistake for the vast millions to view, and sometimes you can't bounce back.
Tune into the premiere of "Football Wives" on VH1, starting on October 24th at 10:30 PM!