Being a woman in the military can be challenging. Being a mother in the military is a whole different ball game. According to The New York Times, more than 100,000 mothers have served in the war, which is roughly half of the women who were deployed.
When mothers leave home to go to Iraq, they are sometimes leaving several children or a baby who is only a few months old and still nursing. Some mothers are struggling to find childcare if they are single moms without family support.
One mom said that she thought coming back home after being in Iraq and trying to get back into her old life was harder than being in a war zone. She said people can’t just step back into their old lives without some adjustments and that children may be resentful and upset that their mom was gone for a year.
Why do mothers choose the military? The pay is good, the benefits are great and there is opportunity for job advancement. These women also have a lot of pride in their work and what they do. It seems like these things would be good for children, but having mom away can be difficult for children of any age.
Worse than that, some moms are coming home with post-traumatic stress disorder.
What is the military doing to make life easier for moms? It has extended the time a mom can stay home with a new baby (and not be deployed) from four to six months, which still needs to be increased. In Germany it’s been upped to a year because that is the recommended time an infant should breastfeed.
It is also trying to build more day care centers and allow families to stay in one place for longer, and even allow fathers a 10-day paternity leave, which is something new. However, there are still strides to be made. There are no rules stating that a husband and wife can’t be deployed at the same time, leaving children in the lurch.
Around-the-clock child care is a must that still isn’t offered, Lory Manning, director of the Women in the Military project for the Women’s Research and Education Institute, told The New York Times.
Although counseling is available for families left behind, it just isn’t enough. Some women have had to pull out of the military because they were needed too badly at home. Their children were suffering. Is there more the military could do to make it easier on moms?
Perhaps maternity benefits could be expanded, taking a cue from the Germany colonel that lets moms stay home for a year. Maybe they could get more notice before they have to deploy so they wouldn’t have to scramble around weaning a six-month-old baby, like one colonel did. Saddened, she left her infant with her aunt.
Pulling out is always an option, but why lose these talented women? The military could accommodate them instead and possibly keep these bright women around for longer. Day cares, shorter deployments, maternity leave – these things could all help. These women are needed on the home front and the front lines. It shouldn’t be so hard to make the transition.
Christi Aldridge is a senior strategic communication major from Hillsboro.