Inside the lives of moms at sea. (Photo: Azamara)
Aileen Sumauang had to miss her oldest son’s graduation and his birthday. She was working.
Being a working mom is one of the hardest jobs out there. You are constantly trying to reconcile being a good mom with being a good employee.
Being a working mom on a cruise ship is even tougher. Why? These women are at sea for months at a time, making it hard to see their kids, much less be an active presences in their lives. But many women, like Aileen, don’t have a choice. They need to make money to support their families, and working on a cruise ship is one of the most lucrative jobs they can get.
As travel editors we meet hundreds of female workers on cruise ships but we rarely think about what they are leaving behind at home.
We wanted to find out what it is like to be a working mom, separated from your kids by an ocean. To do that we interviewed two moms who work on Azamara Club Cruises.
Erlinda Llanes is an assistant stateroom attendant. Her job is to make sure all the staterooms are clean and pleasant for the guests. She’s had this job since 2007 and says she loves making guests happy. For her, the guests are like her family away from home. Her main reason for working onboard is so she can support her family and provide them the education needed to help them have a better life at home in Nicaragua.
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She has four boys at home. Her oldest is 30 years old. He is married and is a fisherman with his own boat. Her second son, a teacher, is 28 years old and is also married. Her third son is 22 years old and is studying to become a mechanic. The baby of the family is just 17. He is currently in his second year of college.
“I miss them all the time when I am on the ship,” Erlinda said.
Erlinda’s niece is the main caretaker when Erlinda is on the ship. But she also has help from other friends and neighbors. They live in a small town, so everyone is looking after each other.
“I spend six months working on the ship, and then two months of vacation — all of which I spend at home with my family,” Erlinda explained. “It’s hard sometimes, but I know that they are taken well care of by my family. What makes it easier is that I know by doing this, I have been able to provide for them, to give them a better life.
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She calls home every day to talk to her niece and her younger boy.
“What makes me the most happy is when I talk to my youngest and he tells me, ‘Mama, I have everything, so don’t worry. I love you.’”
In addition to calling, they also stay in touch on Facebook. That way she has contact with her kids all the time.
“I am 52 years old and love this job,” Erlinda said. “It gives me everything I never had. Even when I’m on vacation, I miss this job. I won’t leave this job.”
Aileen Sumauang is a specialty waitress at Prime C, one of the specialty restaurants onboard the Azamara Journey. She’s been working on cruise ships for 15 years. Her situation is a little different, because she is a single mom to two boys, 13 and 9. Her job creates a much better financial situation for her family, which is the main reason she works on a ship.
An Azamara Club cruise at sea. (Photo: Azamara)
“I want my sons to have a better life than I had,” she said.
Aileen’s mother looks after her sons when she is working, and she has five other siblings who help out when she needs them to. Manila, Philippines, is a big city, but Aileen knows her sons are safe and secure at home.
She currently spends six months working on the ship and then has two months of vacation, all of which she spends at home with her family.
“During those two months, we go on trips, do activities together, and just have fun time and quality time,” she said.
Sometimes Aileen asks herself how long she will have to do this work.
"Maybe for two or three more years,” she said. “For now, this works, and it is so worth it, as I am able to provide them with a better life. And also, staying
on the ship provides a little extra for the future.”