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FEATURE STORY: Overcoming challenges as a mother in the Coast Guard

May 9, 2015

One challenge many people in the Coast Guard face is finding a good work-life balance, and finding that balance can be especially difficult for mothers. Long deployments, difficulty finding affordable child care and complicated work schedules are all situations many mothers in the Coast Guard face each day.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Martha Viloria, a yeoman at Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, started her family with her husband three years ago and has faced many of these challenges first hand.

“One of my biggest challenges has been my own work ethic,” said Viloria. “Before having my daughter and son, I didn’t really worry as much about how much time I was spending at work. There was always something to be done at work, and I always wanted to get as much finished as possible.”

The family dynamic can be a difficult situation as well. In the past, it was more common for a mother to stay at home with the children while the father was the main provider. Today, the roles are often reversed.

“At first, my husband was the one to work and provide for me while I was finishing school, but we did a role swap. Now I’m working and providing while he stays at home with our kids,” said Viloria. “That’s what works out best for us right now. Child care costs are outrageous.”

Many mothers also miss holidays and birthdays because of work schedules and deployments. It’s common for mothers to miss their child’s firsts, such as crawling, the first tooth coming in and first steps.

“I missed a lot of my daughter’s first birthday when I was at my previous unit because we were scheduled to go shoot at the range,” said Viloria. “I tried to get out of it. I was a terrible shooter anyway. Thankfully, we finished with enough time for me to still go pick up my daughter’s cupcakes, so I didn’t miss the whole thing.”

Viloria said she had a wake up call when her daughter started noticing how much she was gone at work.

“I’ll never forget this,” said Viloria. “I used to work on weekends a lot because it always felt like the work was never ending. My daughter eventually started to notice I was going to work on days I was supposed to be off. She started asking where I was going. I would always tell her I was going to work because I had bills to pay.

“That’s when I realized something had to change - I had to balance my time between work and home better,” said Viloria. “When she started to see I was home more, one day she just asked me if all the bills were paid. I just laughed and told her they were. She was happy about that.”

Viloria said one of the ways she balances her time between work and home is maintaining a schedule. She dedicates a specific amount of time to work, studying for her advancement and working out. The rest of her time is dedicated to her family.

“Being a mom in the Coast Guard is amazing for me,” said Viloria. “I have a huge amount of support from my command, and I’ve met so many helpful people along the way. Sometimes it feels terrible when you have to miss certain things or can’t be there for your kids, but in the end, your children and family are getting the experience of a lifetime. It’s worth it.”

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