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Focus on Service

A Sailor's Second Shift

A mother's story

Life as a Seabee in the United States Navy can be very demanding. They can usually be found with a hammer and a nail building anything from small woodwork to large bunkers and watch towers.

But some Seabees take on a much more demanding job after their uniform comes off. This job consists of long hours with often no breaks, no vacations, and intensified workload during holidays. This job is called parenting.

After leaving work, Builder 2nd Class Julia Sijka, stationed in Sasebo, Japan, removes her cover and puts on a different hat. She is a single mother to her two year old, Lilya.

Sijka and her ex-husband divorced when their daughter was very young forcing her to play the roles of both mother and father. Being a single mother has challenges that traditional parenting doesn't normally have.

In order for a single parent to be able to take care of everything they have to find this balance between work, children, and home life." - BU2 Julia Sijka

In traditional parenting, it's much easier to find this balance because the
workload is distributed, Sijka said. Single parenting can sometimes be much more of a juggling act where a choice has to be made between more time for you, your child, your job or sleep. More often than not, one of those things is going to suffer. For Sijka, it's usually her personal time that suffers. Her daughter and her career take the front seat.

"Cleaning the house can wait," said Sijka. "A lot of things really can wait. There's so little time we get with our children. Just try to absorb every little bit of it you can."

Even though Sijka serves overseas away from close family, she still manages to balance her life, but not without the support from her shipmates and chain of command. Sijka said they are very understanding of the unique challenges of raising her daughter alone.

Although being in the military has its own challenges, it comes with a multitude of perks that any parent would find extremely beneficial including a guaranteed paycheck, housing, and medical insurance.

"Not being in the military, I'm not sure if I would be able to hit all of those points," said Sijka.

Learning how her daughter works has taught Sijka how other people work. As Lilya grows and learns, Sijka grows and learns alongside her as a parent. She wants nothing but the best for her.

"My greatest aspiration for Lilya is that I will empower her to be the best at whatever it is she wants to be," Sijka said. "I can be anything in this world and [whatever she dreams] I will help her achieve it."