Whitney and Jimmer Fredette: Half a world away

Whitney Fredette addresses how she got through the long months of the COVID-19 pandemic apart from her basketball star husband

Since meeting Jimmer Fredette her freshman year at BYU, Whitney Fredette has supported her husband through an extraordinary professional basketball career for over a decade. She has watched his wins, losses and — above all — ability to adapt. In 2016, Jimmer signed with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association, placing him in China for a portion of every year and introducing an unconventional challenge for her and their two young children. 

At the time of this interview, Whitney had not seen Jimmer in over six months due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic; they usually spend no more than six to eight weeks apart. Fortunately, the family reunited in their Colorado home in mid-April.

Here’s what she’s learned through it all:

On being in the spotlight: I’ll admit, in the beginning, during the peak of Jimmer’s popularity when he first got drafted into the NBA, it was obnoxious. We couldn’t go places, we couldn’t do anything. I remember thinking I didn’t want to deal with this for the rest of my life. As time went on, it’s become better. Now the people who want to talk to him and shake his hand are genuine fans. We live in Colorado where there is less of a Latter-day Saint community than in Utah so I think people recognize his name but may not know more than that.

On dealing with distance: It’s very difficult. I like to keep my plate filled so the days cruise on by, but the kids and I miss him a lot. We FaceTime every day. We support him because it is a great career, a way for him to support our family, and he’s a talented basketball player who loves what he does. Knowing there are six months of offseason when Jimmer is home with us every single day, all day, makes the times he’s gone a little easier. We have an end in sight, and it’s not like this is forever.

Whitney Fredette walks with her children and dog. | Darin Warren, for Deseret Magazine

On motherhood: Raising our children without Jimmer half of the time has been difficult because everything falls on my shoulders. I have to be the disciplinarian, put them to bed, clean up breakfast, do the laundry. All of these little tasks add up. My biggest priority is making sure my children get one-on-one time with me. As easy as it is to plop them in front of the TV, which I do sometimes, I make sure to carve out intentional time to do things that are fun for them, like riding a bike or a scooter. It’s such a quick and fleeting time that your kids are home and little.

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On experiencing a new country: The Chinese culture is phenomenal and the people are amazing. Something I love and admire is how important family is to them. There are obstacles like language barriers, but it’s all worth it. I love giving our kids the opportunity to immerse themselves in a different language, different food, something other than what they see every day in Colorado. It sounds cliché, but it provides such a wonderful perspective on how lucky we are as a family.

On the importance of self-care: In order to be a great parent you need to focus on yourself, too. I’m a better mom if I’ve had an hour to myself to go to the gym or grocery shopping or walk my dog and enjoy some peace and quiet. “Me” time is just as important as time with your kids, if not more important. That’s where my mom steps in. I’m fortunate to live 15 minutes away from my parents. I don’t think I could do it if I didn’t have her.

On faith as a guide: The concept of the eternal perspective is always in the back of my mind, especially when Jimmer is gone for long weeks and months. He and I do get to be together forever, and time apart is such a small little blip on the radar. Prayer is huge for us, too. 

On what the future holds: As our children grow older, Jimmer will close out his basketball career so he can spend more time with the family. We’re fortunate that he has business opportunities lined up, so it’ll be a pretty seamless transition. It’s weird to think about that chapter coming to an end because basketball has been in his life for as long as I’ve known him, but it’s in the future — the soon future.  

This story appears in the June issue of Deseret MagazineLearn more about how to subscribe.