NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Every May Americans pause to honor motherhood and the special bond that comes from it. Aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) Sailors recognize the unique challenges of a Navy mother. These Sailors balance family and ship-family love and care each day.
“The hardest thing about being a mom in the Navy is that many times, I feel guilty for the sacrifices I have to make,” said Chief Legalman Angela Houston, from Oakland, California, legal department’s leading chief petty officer. “There were times that I thought because I wasn’t physically around my children due to being underway or on deployments, anything that went wrong with my kids was because I was not there physically.”
The role of a Navy mother also comes with the acceptance that not only is one’s life changed by children, but that because a Sailor’s job is 24/7, one’s career is changed permanently, as well.
“There are sacrifices when you decide to have kids in the Navy due to understanding the career impact of being on active duty can pose,” said Houston. “It is difficult because the reality is it could impact your sea and shore rotation. That does not mean you have to choose one or the other, but you must be happy with the choice you decide to make.”
Likewise, Navy mothers and their children can face the stressful rotation of duty stations and moves across the country or throughout the world.
“It’s a big difference being a parent in the Navy,” said Yeoman Seaman Apprentice Leah Sullivanwalker from Atlanta, a member of George Washington’s combat systems department. ”Making sure [my daughter] is okay with knowing we’re going to have to move around and start over every few years – that’s part of the military. We’re going to move around.”
When duty calls, a Navy mother must answer like every other Sailor.
“I have experienced times coming back from deployment and my young child, at the time, looked at me and had no idea who I was,” said Houston. “There were also times that my son would pack his backpack when I was packing my seabag, and tell me he is coming to the boat with me.”
Despite the sacrifices their children have to make, there also comes admiration for the important career their Navy mother has.
“[My daughter] thinks it’s cool I’m in the Navy,” said Sullivanwalker. “She had to take pictures in her dance uniform, and she got the big picture of me from boot camp, and she was holding it in her pictures.”
Despite the challenges mothers in the Navy face daily, support from their families back home help buoy them in their careers.
“I do enjoy being a mom and being in the Navy,” said Houston. “I think regardless, as a working mother, sacrifices would be inevitable. We as mothers in the military cannot allow society to tell you how to be a better mom and not make you feel guilty for deploying or getting underway as needed. Some civilian mothers will say, ‘I can't do that’ or ‘how do you just leave your kids for that long?’ I do it to better myself and provide a better life for my children. The Navy teaches lessons in many ways, and it is on us as mothers to change the perception and to let other women know you don't have to choose between the Navy and your children. You can have both, and one is not to blame for the other. Adjust and overcome the obstacles you are faced with. It is not always easy, but it is rewarding.”
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.