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Consistency Keeps Military Family's Life on an Even Keel

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2006 – Catherine McCarthy, a Navy submariner's wife, has a solution for keeping life normal for her three children despite challenges a military family faces.

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Catherine McCarthy, the wife of a Navy submariner, deals with her husband's schedule of five years on sea duty and three years on shore duty by maintaining the routine of couple's children. This helps minimize any upheaval her husband's absence during sea duty may cause. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Nothing about everyday life changes, she said, whether her husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Matt McCarthy, is at sea or home. The nuclear electrician's mate has been in the Navy for 11 years.

"'Steady' - that's my key word," McCarthy said. "What works for us is to stay solid and stay on the same steady path. When he comes home our philosophy has always been that he fits back into the family."

McCarthy's husband is assigned to Naval Station Norfolk, Va., where he is an instructor in the engineering department at the Submarine Learning Facility.

His sea rotations were barely noticed when the couple's oldest daughter, Rachael, was a toddler, McCarthy said. As she approached 4, she began sobbing when they left her father at the pier.

Now 8, Rachael tends to act out when her father leaves, McCarthy said.

"For the first two weeks ... she'll push boundaries," she said, explaining that Rachael's behavior evens out after that. "(I) don't give allowances for bad behavior. (The kids) need the structure, and they need to know that everything is still the same and my life is not falling apart."

McCarthy's son, Andrew, 5, has never taken his father's departures too hard, she said, and the youngest, daughter Elizabeth, just turned 3.

A former sailor herself, McCarthy and her husband have been married for nearly 10 years. As a stay-at-home mom, she stays busy volunteering with Girl Scouts and swim teams and at her kids' school, she said. McCarthy also works with CinCHouse, an online resource for military wives, servicemembers' girlfriends and women in uniform to share advice and support.

In the past, she has been an ombudsman, a liaison between her husband's command and its families.

Not only does her routine help her cope with her husband's sea/shore duty rotations, she said it's also the best advice she can offer new military spouses. Participating in community activities focuses energy on something other than how long a servicemember has been gone. Simply meeting people can open up a world of resources, she said.

"Get involved and stay busy," McCarthy said. "That's (what has) helped me tremendously. You have fun and your life continues. You're still a living, breathing person. Life should not stop because your husband deploys."

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