From maternity leave to combat – mother in Canadian Army learns resilience

Article / May 14, 2018 / Project number: 18-0165

By Michelle Savage, Army Public Affairs

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Gagetown, New Brunswick — Sergeant Marie-Eve Martin successfully balances her role as a Gunner in the Canadian Army with the role of motherhood, although not without occasional heart-ache.

Deployment can be difficult for any member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF); however, parents have the particularly difficult challenge of sometimes missing their children’s milestones. Missed birthdays, dance recitals and soccer games are sacrifices soldiers regularly make as they serve their country. 

Sgt Martin understands the pain that comes from having to spend time away from her child but she recognizes that this is the military way of life.

Her own experience as a child of two military parents helped prepare her for raising a child as a CAF member. She understands the challenges associated with frequent moves and deployed parents.

Sgt Martin, who joined the Army at age 17 as a Field Artillery Soldier, is currently a  Regimental Duty Sergeant at The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School in Gagetown, New Brunswick.

Artillery soldiers, such as herself, are part of the Combat Arms. This group also includes infantry soldiers, Combat Engineers and Armoured soldiers. Artillery soldiers’ responsibilities include surveillance, target acquisition and indirect fire to engage the enemy.

During her 19 years with the Canadian Army, Sgt Martin has gone on several deployments, something she admits became more difficult after having her son, Alex, 12 years ago.

She says motherhood has given her greater perspective, which motivates her to help make the world a better place.

Q & A with Sgt Martin

What do you and your family usually do on Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day usually happens over spring hockey season. That means that most of the time we are in a hotel outside of town. But Alex always “invites” me out for dinner. He tells me I get to pick.

Were there any difficulties for you being a mom and working in the Army?

When you are pregnant and on maternity leave, it’s like your career stops for this period of time. We are lucky to have such good conditions for maternity leave but when you get back to work, you have missed a lot of things. You have to get back into it.

Being deployed is very different when you are a mom. I found it a lot more difficult and it didn’t get easier as my son got older. Asking someone else to take care of your kid while you are away is very hard. Not being there when he is sick or when something good happens is heart-breaking.

You come from a military family. Tell us about your parents.

My mom, Sergeant (Retired) Carmen Audy, was a Resource Management Support Clerk for 37 years. She joined the Army Regular Force, moved to the Navy Reserve and finished her career in the Army Reserve at the rank of Sergeant. My dad, Warrant Officer (Retired) Guy Martin, was also in the Army as a Regular Force Artillery Soldier and then a Reserve Vehicle Technician. He served 30 years.

What was your own path to joining the Army?

At a very young age I knew I wanted to be in the Army and I knew I wanted to be in the Combat Arms.

I joined the Army Cadets at 11 and continued until I was 17. I got to do summer camp and exercises with the 2e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment. That just confirmed that it was exactly what I wanted to do.

On my 17th birthday, I enrolled in the Forces. My mom signed for me but her one and only condition was that I couldn’t leave for the Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) before I graduated high school. I graduated in June, 1999 and on the 25 of July, still 17 years old, I started my BMQ course in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

Tell us about some of your deployment experiences.

My first deployment was in 2002 in Bosnia. Back then, I didn’t have kids so I left Canada with nothing to worry about.

But then I got deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. I knew it was part of the job and, to be honest, that’s why I joined the Canadian Army. So I was torn between two feelings. I am sure every parent who gets deployed or leaves for a course understands exactly what I am talking about. I was very excited to go overseas, to finally get to do what I joined for and what I trained for. But at the same time, I felt guilty that I was leaving my son behind.

I wasn’t worried, because he was in very good hands with his father, but it is a feeling you have inside your gut and it doesn’t leave you for the whole time you are deployed. But it made me realize how lucky I was to have him in my life and he was my reason for doing what I was doing. I was deeply convinced that we were doing this for a good cause and that we were making the world a better place for our children.

I did a lot of field time here in Gagetown, but the Chain of Command has always been very accommodating to me. If I was deployed to the field and if, for whatever reasons, my son was sick or if his dad couldn’t take him, they were very understanding. His dad and I kept a very good relationship and I am very lucky, I always had his support. And from my parents as well.

I participated on an exchange with the New Zealand Defence Force in 2015, so I got to spend one month over there. I found it hard to miss the first day of school and the beginning of hockey season but, like I said before, it’s part of the job!

Do you think your son’s personal growth and leadership abilities have been enhanced by the military lifestyle?

Yes, I think so. I think the postings and being in another province than the rest of our family has made him very resilient. He no longer assumes that when he has a new friend, this friend will stay in the same town as him forever. However, he learned at a very young age that even if people are far away, we can still be close to them.

Is there anything else you would like to say about motherhood and the Army?

I think we are privileged to have such great maternity leave. Back when my mother had me, she couldn’t get more than three months.

I really think that becoming a mother changed my perspective. I don’t see life like I did before. I think it makes us more human and more resilient. As soldiers, we are trained to put our mission before ourselves, so when we have kids, we are already used to putting our interests second. 

I think it makes our kids grow up faster and stronger because they learn at a very young age to adapt quickly.

Since 1908, Mother's Day has been a celebration honouring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.

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