“Wednesday Evenings” aims to show there is beauty in every family’s evening, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a continued partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Langworthy across the US to document the nighttime routines of 12 families in four different cities.
Allison and Otis live in the suburbs of Chicago with their two-year-old son Odie and two Pit Bulls, Chubby and Spike.
Allison and Otis are both transitioning careers at the moment. Allison just switched from a teacher’s assistant to her dream job as an elementary ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. Otis recently retired from the NFL (the majority of his career was spent with the Cincinnati Bengals) and is currently studying to become a financial advisor.
“People don’t realize this, but professional athletes’ careers can just end. His just ended. He battled a lot of injuries, but was still playing well. There are always younger guys who are less beat up and coaches, owners, and general managers will take the fresh bodies over the veterans. Yes, it was hard on him and us as a family. He still thinks he could play, which he probably could, but at the ripe age of 29, he is probably ‘too old’ for the NFL.”
Allison and Otis are high school sweethearts who moved back home to Chicago when their son was a few months old.
Allison says she entered her family in the Wednesday Evenings series because “I really wanted the world to see that professional athletes and their families are NORMAL and not what reality TV leads people to believe.”
That being said, she also worried that “people will criticize us for who we are and what we do,” particularly for being part of an interracial marriage.
“Racism exists everywhere. We’ve experienced it as a couple. I’ve experienced it as a mom of a biracial child. It was only in 1967 that the Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting interracial couples to marry was unconstitutional. 1967. I’m happy that happened, but we have a long way to go.”
When Raquel arrived the whole family was home and playing in the backyard.
Allison talked about the misconceptions about players and their wives.
“People think football players live a life of luxury. Well most NFL players only play for 2.5-3 years and most are NOT making millions of dollars. Yes, their income is great while they are in the NFL, but a career in the NFL does not last long. After the NFL, they have a hard time finding a job because of injuries and lack of experience in a typical working environment. People also have a misconception about wives being gold diggers or groupies. Yes, they do exist, but there are many NFL wives who are amazing women. They keep their families and husbands afloat when they are injured, having a bad season or just not getting enough playing time.”
Eventually, Allison headed back in to make dinner, while Odie continued to play with his dad.
After a bit, Otis came back in to study for Series 7 exam, which he did for the majority of the evening.
“Otis has ZERO finance background, but we have a financial planner who was very helpful while we were in the NFL. We were young and the players get a paycheck every week of the regular season (16 weeks). That paycheck has to last throughout the year. It’s more than enough, but there were guys making millions of dollars who were living paycheck to paycheck. Otis wants to help them. So, he is studying every waking minute of the day!”
Meanwhile, Odie played around the house and wrecked the couch.
“Odie is always making people laugh. He is a very kindhearted little boy. His day care teacher told me the other day ‘not only is he handsome and intelligent, but he is very helpful and kind.’ I cried on the way home.”
After playing, Otis and Odie helped mom get the table ready.
Then the family all sat down to eat together.
Odie was having trouble sitting so Allison put him on her lap. They talked constantly throughout dinner.
“It’s probably the teacher in me that makes him talk everything out. When he’s upset I try to calm him down and then ask him to explain what’s wrong. When he asks a question, I answer it. When we don’t know an answer, we search for the answer. It really creates life-long learners. I teach kindergarten, 1st and 2d grade English Language Learners – some are recent immigrants to our country, some were born here. You can tell whose parents talk to them non-stop and whose parents NEVER talk to them.”
Otis was not 100% sold on being featured in the shoot and he left for a Target run while Allison cleaned up.
“To be honest, Otis was not too thrilled when I entered and even less pleased when we were actually chosen! I dragged him into it (sorry Otis). He felt uncomfortable. Usually he interacts more with Odie. He also cleans our house. He loves a spotless house and I hate cleaning. I like a sparkly house too, but he LOVES a sparkly house. He does a lot of the cleaning and laundry.”
After everything was in order, Allison changed, put Odie in the carrier and took the dogs for their nightly walk around the neighborhood.
“Odie has a love-hate relationship with the dogs. They steal his snacks and he yells ‘NO! THAT’S MINE!’ but then before bed he will hug them and say ‘Goodnight Chubby, Goodnight Spike, I love you.’ They are so patient with him. He wants to walk them every day, but they’re too strong for him. One day.”
They usually walk for up to two miles.
When they got back from the walk, Allison gave Odie a bath.
Then Otis returned home and Odie had a bedtime snack with dad.
Allison says Otis is around less now because he splits his time between long workouts (“he is trying hard to lose his extra football weight”) and studying (“preparing for his second career is extremely time consuming”) but she is thankful she doesn’t have to worry about life-altering injuries anymore.
“I’m worried people will think that I do all the work. I do a lot, but only because my hubby needs the time to work on himself and his second career.”
Allison then took Odie to brush his teeth.
She put him to bed at 9pm and read him a few books.
Before getting in bed, Odie left his room to get a good night kiss from dad.
Then one more kiss from mom before Allison put him in bed and left the room.
Usually Allison and Otis watch TV at night but on this night, Otis continued to study.
I asked Allison what she thought of the photos.
“I love them! They capture my son’s goofy personality and our fun evenings! As a working mom, I’m so grateful for the evening hours, when he’s not too completely exhausted from school and we can just play. I try to have fun with Odie every day.”
I asked Allison if she was worried people will judge them.
“I don’t think they will. They show how hard working and dedicated my husband is to his post-NFL career. I don’t mind doting on our son, while he’s busy studying. I know he’s working hard. The pictures show how loved our son is. He’s spoiled with love.”
I asked what Otis thought about the photos.
“Otis kept asking when our pictures would arrive. Even though he wasn’t pleased with me for entering us, I think he secretly did like it. Life is short and changes so frequently. I’m thankful we captured these moments.”
This post is part of the “Wednesday Evenings” series sponsored by Allstate. From bath time to bed time, every family has a special evening routine. This series aims to show the beauty in the day winding down. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.