Perspective from a Mother
Growing up on the water, I had quite the nautical skill set for a young lady. Anything a boy could do, so could I. But one day my cousin and I were on our great uncle’s powerboat, and that perspective changed. Our great uncle invited my cousin down into the engine room, but I was not invited to join them. I asked my dad why I could not go down into the engine room and he told me the engine room was not a place for girls. It crushed my heart!
Recently, my sister and I were talking about our great uncle’s powerboat, and I told her my story. She had a story of her own. She had dreamed of attending the Coast Guard Academy because, as of 1973, girls were now able to be admitted. Our dad served in the Coast Guard during WWII as a radio operator and my sister wanted to follow in his tracks. When she approached our dad about her wish he told my sister, “No.” She felt rejected and not good enough.
We grew up in an era when a young lady was expected to get married, be a dutiful wife, and have children. If women did work, they were generally either a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse. Women working on the water were an anomaly. Over the years, doors have opened for women to follow their passions whether they be on the ground, in the air, or at sea. Interestingly enough, even as I write this, Grammarly tried to finish that last sentence with “follow their husbands.” Nowadays, women have so many more options and are not tied to the pursuits of their spouses or partners. More doors of opportunity have opened, and they are much more enabled and empowered to follow their hearts and passions!
Being a mother of a daughter, I tried and continue to encourage my daughter to follow her passion. Encouraging my daughter was not hard for many reasons. Every vacation and many weekends were spent on the water. She had a passion for the water and I was able to nurture her interest throughout the years. She had a sailboat and participated in sailing programs every summer. When she was in high school, she was an instructor at a local yacht club. For her senior high school project, she started a sailing program at a local park. During her summers as a sailing instructor, little did we know that the Coast Guard Academy & US Merchant Marine Academy wanted to recruit her. She wound up choosing the US Merchant Marine Academy.
But what happens when your family life does not offer these opportunities and your daughter has an interest in working on the water? There are other options to explore. Never discourage your daughter(s). Look for ways, no matter how small they might seem, to inspire her. Find someone who works in the field your daughter is interested in and reach out to see if they will mentor your daughter. Research what skills are needed to be a mud logger, drilling engineer, directional driller, seismic engineer, marine biologist, chief mate, captain, or pilot. Help your daughter to find classes she’s interested in that propel her closer to her dreams. Remember, this is her life, not yours.
As females, we are lucky because we can multi-task. We have the option to raise a family and have a career. Staying home to raise a family is not for everyone. Having a desk job is not for everyone either. Some women hunger for adventure at sea, some are simply drawn to a life on the water, and some women want to work in the engine room and get their hands dirty! We may not always have the brute strength to get a job done, but we know how to get the job done. Besides, brute strength is not always the best way. Over the years, we will continue to learn to work smarter and kinder.
My advice to you, if your daughter comes to you to discuss her career choices, listen to her and find out how you can best support her. No action on your part is too small to make a difference. Who knows where her career might take her!
Martha Music is passionate about supporting women who work on the water and an avid boater. She is an experienced treasurer for nonprofits, and serves as the treasurer of the Women Offshore Foundation.