If there’s anyone who knows how important childcare can be, it’s military families. Many military families don’t have the luxury of having a stay-at-home parent. And when you factor in all the deployments and training missions, many don’t have the luxury of having a two-parent household at all.
All over the internet and social media, parents are criticizing each other for opting to send their kids back to school. In fact, the question “Should I send my kids to school in the fall?” gets over 3 billion results on Google. On Facebook and mommy groups, parents are fighting over who’s sending their kids back and who’s keeping them home. The issue has even caused a rift in my own close friend group.
Here’s the reality: sending kids back to school isn’t always a choice, even if your school district lets you decide between virtual and on-campus learning. For military families, it’s even less likely to be a choice. One of the most common careers for military spouses is healthcare – which usually isn’t remote.
Add to that the fact that military families rarely live where they have extended family, and school becomes a matter of childcare as much as a matter of education and socialization. I am no longer an active-duty military spouse, but I feel the need to stand up for the hundreds of thousands who are.
If a family can’t afford nannies or babysitters (and let’s be honest, most military salaries don’t afford this luxury), there really isn’t a choice to be made at all.
Let’s stop shaming military parents who plan to send their kids to school this fall. It’s a decision that’s personal to every family, every family’s budget, and every family’s circumstances. Two-parent households or families who can afford to opt for virtual schooling or homeschooling are fortunate, not “better” than the ones who can’t. And parents who send their kids to school shouldn’t be made to feel like they are selfishly endangering our society.
Many have stood up for the families of doctors, nurses, EMTs and other first responders who are encountering difficult childcare challenges. Few have mentioned our military servicemembers and the toll this pandemic has put on them. We also can’t forget about the toll this pandemic has likely taken on military children, who are not only isolated from their social groups but dealing with the stress of a deployed parent.
As we debate this issue, let’s remember that a large group of the people who will opt to put their kids in school are the ones defending our country.