What About Our Military Mothers?

Lately I have been mulling over military moms who, upon notification of deployment, scramble to find childcare for their children. I can’t help but wring my hands and ask: where are all the fathers? And I am not talking marriage here or even money. I am talking about mutual parental involvement. Women are expected to step up when their husbands go off to war. We should expect the same of men whose wives are deployed.

My heart goes out to army moms, women who are practically invisible in war coverage. This piece stumbles on so many kernels of truth about the societal discrimination women face. For me, this narrative is particularly revealing:

Sergeant McFadden, who holds only an associate’s degree, wanted to hold on to her career. “It matters what I do,” Sergeant McFadden said. “I love helping people. It’s for our country. My dad was a Vietnam vet. I feel like I owe it to him.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks: McFadden is expressing something afforded to men that we haven’t quite gotten around to prioritizing for women. The plain truth is that boys and men grow up in a culture where their careers matter. Many employers insist on policies that make it impossible to reconcile the role of parent and with the role of wage-earner. McFadden, and the many other women who are torn about deployment because of motherhood, reveal how we lose out as a country when we don’t give both men and women equal opportunity to be employed in a profession where they can work to their fullest potential. 

This is about so much more than military moms in heterosexual relationships. What
about single moms and gay and lesbian parents who are being
against by the military? What
about women of color who are the least likely to be in positions where
they can rely on child care? What about the rights of queer women and
women of color to have non-normative paths to motherhood? All of these people have the right to express their service to country by enlisting in the
military, but our country’s policies and prejudices work against them.

Much ado was made about the President’s back-to-school speech, but not nearly enough folks have made the connection between the potential of today’s students and work/family balance. In this speech, President Obama said: “What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.” When girls grow up to have equal access to reaching their professional potential, only then can we truly have the best and the brightest in our military and at all levels of public service.

H/T to Smita Satiani Huff Po blogger who referred me to this article and wrestled with these issues with me.

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