One of the questions people have asked me when considering the military and thinking about their future is, can I have a family? And while serving as a military mom can have challenges and require sacrifices. Many women have and continue to serve in the military after having children. Not only have moms continued to serve in the military since the law changed in 1975 allowing women while pregnant to continue to serve, but some women even served as moms before the law was changed. And things continue to improve for families in the military as the military works to change policies and continues to focus more on supporting its members and their families.
Military Mom Benefits
One of the biggest changes that have happened in recent years that makes it easier for moms to serve in the military is the changes around both maternal and paternal leave policies. In the past few years, military branches have worked to extend post-pardon leave from six or eight weeks to twelve weeks. Partner leave and adoptive parent leave have also been extended to 12 weeks. Giving families more support at home. When my son was born in 2016, military partners only received 10 consecutive days of leave to support families at home. This extension gives members more time at home so families can adjust to their new life with their infant.
Another change for moms in recent years is the time spent at home after giving birth before deploying or leaving for extended training. In the past, it could be weeks after giving birth that you were expected to be ready to deploy. While I was serving in the Air Force the rule was six months post-delivery. Today, that time at home has been extended to twelve months giving moms more time at home.
Military Mom Challenges
But there are still challenges. On my podcast, Women of the Military, I have talked to women who have talked about the challenge of being both a mom and a service member. How they were able to find the balance, the ways they received support, and how hard it was to leave for deployment. Leaving can be difficult and sometimes moms talk about the guilt they feel when they have to leave for a deployment. But they also talk about how their kids were able to cope with them being gone and luckily technology makes it easier to stay connected even when you are far away. I also loved hearing from retired Brig Gen Carol Eggert who has children who are grown up and they expressed how proud they were of their mom while they were growing up and continue to be proud of her service today.
Military Mom Resources
If you want to serve and you have kids or want to continue to serve after you start your family you can. Better yet, you don’t have to do it alone. Not only are more women available to be inspired and to gain advice. More women are sharing how they balance military life and mom life. In retired Col Rojan Robotham’s book, Working Moms: How We Do It, not only does she share experiences from her own life of balancing both mom life and motherhood but also the other stories of women who continued their careers in both the military and civilian life. And there are other books written by women Veterans sharing the experience of moms in the military. Patricia Qaiyyim collected answers to questions about military life from moms in her book Moms in the Military. There are also children’s books that feature not only dads in the military but moms as well, such as the Captain Mama series.
Also, there are opportunities to connect with others via social media. There are groups to support military women on various social media platforms. Some of those groups even have a subset group specifically for moms who have served in the military.
Ultimately, you can do anything you want. What is right for you and your family is your choice. It will take hard work and likely will require some sacrifices. But continuing your service after motherhood is something you can do. And there is a community of support that can help you in your journey. Read the books I mentioned, and reach out to other women that are in your unit who are moms. Learn what tools and resources they use. Remember you are not alone. You don’t have to figure it out by yourself.
Are you a young woman considering military service? Check out A Girl’s Guide to Military Service to get all your questions about military life answered and help you thrive in military life.