So here's an interesting story I found: Army to discharge N.C. mom recalled to duty

There are a few things going on here. One obvious thing is "wtf, we're still at war?! when can we bring the soldiers home?!?!" But aside from that, I think there is something interesting to consider.

At first, I thought perhaps she's a single mother and that's why she didn't have adequate access to childcare. But, no, she has a husband. So then I thought well, why on earth can't he take care of the children? Is there something wrong with him? No, he's there, but travels a lot for his job.

When I pictured all of this in my head, I immediately tried to reverse the genders in this scenario. Imagine that the husband is in the military and the wife has a demanding job that requires her to travel. For the past four years, the husband has maybe had a job himself but been primarily responsible for the childcare. If he suddenly gets called up again, would the wife then be expected to find a new job?

The economy sucks and finding a new job would be challenging for anybody, but I venture to guess that the answer is yes, she would be expected to get a new job. One that was closer to home and didn't require travel or allowed her to take the children with her. Am I wrong in assuming this? And if I'm not, why don't we expect the husband to do that in this case??

Just for fun, I decided to peek into the comments section to see what the general vibe was.

Take a look at this one:

She shouldn't have had kids when she was witin the period of time when she could be called back to active duty. That was irresponsible. She still owed a duty to her country. Let's see a man get away with the same argument. "My wife travels and there's no one else to watch the kids." That would never fly.

I completely disagree with the first half of this statement (more on that below), but at least somebody else realizes that it "would never fly" if the roles were reversed.

And then it didn't take me very long to find this comment:
A good reason why women shouldnt be allowed in the military. She should have been sent to a combat zone.

I am not at all surprised to see this, and I actually expected to read something like this at some point or another.

Now, I've already explained that both parents are around in this scenario, but imagine for a moment that they weren't...

I always wonder, is it really so hard for these people to imagine a single father in this same position? I know of, and have met, many single fathers. None of them in the military, but I'm sure there are plenty out there. If a single father was struggling with resources and just would not be able to leave his child(ren) behind, what would we be saying?

Would he also be called irresponsible for having children? Does this mean all parents shouldn't be allowed in the military?

I believe that any conversation about having children should include a serious look at resources -- financial, mental, emotional, etc. Access to daycare is certainly something to consider. But I also know that in reality, it is hard to depend on any of these considerations. Especially when we live in a society that clearly still expects childcare to be the woman's responsibility. Especially when we live during a time where the options these parents had four or even three years ago are drastically different than the ones they have now.

All in all, I'm glad she'll be able to stay home. But damn, did this story make me think...


At Tue Mar 03, 02:21:00 PM Renee said...

I remember seeing this story on CNN. What gets to me is that people are demonizing the woman instead of considering the fact every where we turn women are encouraged to reproduce. We don't support motherhood in any way shape or form. If we did it would be a paid position and all parents would have access to some sort of socialized day care. Have the babies they tell us but when an issue arises we are on our own.

At Tue Mar 03, 02:33:00 PM frau sally benz said...

Excellent point! I actually started to go off on a tangent about that very thing but I cut it all out because the post was getting entirely too long.

But it's true. You'd think in a society that encourages women to procreate like crazy, they'd be more willing to make every possible resource available to parents. If only...

At Wed Mar 04, 11:27:00 AM earlgreyrooibos said...

She shouldn't have had kids when she was witin the period of time when she could be called back to active duty.

Okay, I know very little about the military, but - wouldn't the years when she could be called back on active duty coincide with her prime childbearing years? Maybe I'm wrong, but if she wanted both kids AND I military career, I can't really see any way of her being able to put of childbearing while she was still potentially able for active duty. It doesn't seem to me like she really had a choice to wait.

Not that I'm saying she should have waited if she could have been able to - if she wanted to, that would have been a valid choice. It just seems to me she wouldn't have room to make much of a choice.

At Wed Mar 04, 08:42:00 PM Ouyangdan said...

I am a veteran to served over half her enlistment as a single mother.

It is really sad the way that the military treats families. Something they probably don't tell the media (or at least I haven't seen it listed) is that for military members w/ children who have civilian spouses childcare is practically impossible to get. Single service members, and dual military get first priority (but that is the ONLY concession they give to single parents), and if space is limited and your spouse works, forget it. Civilian daycare that covers the same range of hours that a shore duty/non-deployed person would work is sometimes three times as expensive as military funded care (I paid $385 a month an E4 for a center, and home care was almost $500 a month for me). Plus, they don't provide a way to get school age children to care facilities if the school isn't next door. Oh, and this cost isn't part of your entitlements, it has to come out of pocket, which was a huge chunk of pay for me at the time. There is no sympathy if you are deploying, you had best get those kids to someone quick.

Then, if something happens, your kid gets sick (and they love to send kids home for runny noses or loose bowel in a diaper for 48 hours and a doc visit) you get reprimanded for having the audacity to want to take the time to stay home w/ them (and I did notice that this seems gender neutral, but the military is only >1% of the population of the US, and only 4:1 man to woman, but I am not an expert). You had best have a civilian person (read: exploit those SAHMs who have nothing better to do!) to take care of your kid. It's sad, but it's true, unless you have a desk job and a really cool supervisor, which is rare.

Also, it is ridiculous to plan your life around something that probably won't happen. To say that she shouldn't have had kids w/ the possibility that she would be recalled is disgusting. Recalling is rare and can be appealed for things like going to school. But having children isn't as important, you see, especially if you have the nerve to have a spouse who has a job. It really is a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario.

The moral of the story is that the Uniform always wins.

I also have to admit that if the table was turned and the husband was the service member, you betcha that his command would insist that his wife quit her job or that they find daycare no matte the cost, or he would be brought up to Captains Mast or Army equivalent (I am bad w/ articles) for failure to comply w/ military orders (paraphrasing).

I know I have never commented here b/f, and I am sorry it is so long. Pagan's situation makes me so incredibly angry, and sad for my fellow women service members who have served proudly, w/ and w/o children.

At Thu Mar 05, 02:46:00 PM frau sally benz said...

I really want to thank you for your comment! It's great to hear from the perspective of somebody who can actually relate to the situation.

I think there's a huge disconnect in this country between the idea of the military and the reality. Some people don't really consider them people, rather property of the government (some of the comments on that story explicitly state that). Others hold them up as heroes, but still not real people with real lives and real responsibilities.

Add that to what we've mentioned already about not granting adequate access to childcare, and parents in the military are screwed.

At Sun Mar 08, 05:46:00 PM Danielle said...

What went wrong here is why were her appeals ignored? Did she not have enough power or influence to get her appeal seriously considered? Why would an "im in school" appeal hold more weight than "i have no one to watch my kids"?

It is sad that the military cares so little about the families of their service members. The world works differently now, 2 income families are so much more common and the military should change with the times.

At Sun Mar 08, 11:49:00 PM evil_fizz said...

Let's see a man get away with the same argument. "My wife travels and there's no one else to watch the kids." That would never fly.

Actually, it would under some circumstances. Chapters for failure to have a family care plan are not uncommon. (I say this as an active duty JAG officer.) How it gets processed depends entirely on your chain of command. I've also seen chapters for male soldiers whose wives aren't able to take care of their kids for reasons of disability and mental health issues, but it's really command dependent.

[The reason that the article says that they don't know the characterization of her discharge is because either is possible under the regulation, although an honorable discharge is far more likely.]


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