Question for Military Women

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by Academy_Questions, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. Academy_Questions

    Academy_Questions Member

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    Any military women (or any men who have insight), i was wondering what your family life has been, while active duty military (any branch). I have wanted to attend an academy and be in the military for years, but it just recently hit me that the service commitment could greatly interfere with raising a family - which is something that is VERY important to me (as is eventually being a "stay-at-home mom".

    This is something I had never considered before, as the time commitment never seemed to be an issue - i've always wanted to serve. Could anyone share their experiene? Or possibly some experiences of others they know? I would greatly appreciate it.
     
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    AQ- for sure this could impact your ability to be a stay at home mom. The service committment potentially will leave you obligated until you are about 30 years old (8 years total of active and Reserve commitment combined)- not ancient in your quest to have kids but certainly something to consider. Do women get pregnant, have children and then go back to duty? All the time. Is it a strain? Yes it is (especially if your husband is on active duty as well). Do mothers and couples manage? They do but it takes a lot of coordination and a detailed support plan for your kids in the event (which is pretty likely) that both of you are deployed at the same time.

    As a personal example of the life you can expect: my wife is an O6 (Colonel) now in the USAR- we were both on active duty together and she made the decision to leave active duty when she got pregnant with our first child. That turned out to be a good decision as I wound up in a sand box not long after my son was born and her unit also had deployed. She went back into the Reserves after I got my 20 and retired from active duty, and has subsequently has had 2 deployments totalling about 2-1/2 years in Afghanistan. During that time I was the primary care for our 4 year old daughter while my wife was really almost in outer space as far as my daughter was concerned (her second tour was command of a very small FOB in Paktika with very little communication opportunities home- we were lucky to get calls about every other week and emails but almost no attachments as the connection was really poor. I think that lack of communication really bothered her as a Mother). This deployment was doable for us because we were able to afford a live-in nanny, but if I had to work without that kind of help it would have been a challenge indeed. I can't speak for my wife but I believe that she has very mixed feelings about all of that time away from her daughter (and my son but by then he was in HS and presumably understood somewhat better). That is the saga of a female Reserve officer- I can tell you that you would be facing more deployments as Regular Army Junior officer.

    However- lots of women face this same decision and they deal with it. Those are decisions that really only you can make- and they really need to be honest assessments of how much importance you put on being a stay at home parent, because the Service really demands that it is the first priority and your family must be juggled around.
    If you PM me I can ask my wife to touch base with you and give you her unfiltered perspective.(She's off on Army duty now for a month so I can't just grab her and ask her to do so). I believe that she would tell you that the Army is far better for women now than it was 30 years ago but it still has some real challenges especially for mothers.
    Good luck
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2009
  3. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    It can be done, but it takes planning, perseverance and strength of mind.

    The first window of opportunity for Navy women is usually the first shore duty rotation after the sea duty. I know many officers, all ranks, who have managed AD career and motherhood both. I know several who made captain, with a career doing the usual sea-shore rotation - including one who now has 2 daughters in naval aviation, 1 via a SA and 1 via NROTC. Some make other choices and leave AD, either completely or go Reserve. A Reserve career is a fine way to go, but there will still be possibilities for full activation and deployment in this wartime environment. Military bases offer childcare at certified child development centers, and there is a period of maternity leave.

    At about the 5-8 year point, all officers, men and women both, regardless of service, usually have a period of time where they consider all the puts and takes of continuing on a military life. Many say, that's not for me, too hard. I have known many men who have left AD for family reasons. The system is designed to shed people along the way, and it an individual choice for everyone.

    For someone just starting down the SA path, there is plenty of time to think about that.
     
  4. mombee

    mombee Banned

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    On another recent thread, the necessity of “hitting the ground running” and “not getting behind the eight ball” has been suggested for those recently commissioned. While I, in principal, applaud this advice, I wonder what happens for legitimate exceptions to those who, for one reason or another, must take an alternate entry into active service. Are their careers doomed from the start. What about the 2nd Lt at AFA who is asked to stay at the academy and assist coaching the football team for a year? What about the WP grad who signs up for immediate grad school programs? What about the USNA grad who is in the bottom of her class, obtains a January flight school commencement date and hits Pensacola to six months of pools? What about the young CG Ensign who is the unwitting victim of a horrific automobile accident requiring extensive surgery and rehabilitation? And now where you know I am heading. What about the female grad who accidentally gets pregnant on her honeymoon?



    As posters have pointed out on anther recent thread, she may be viewed unfavorably by her peers who deem all such events as an attempt to relieve herself from her assigned duties. By stating that her career is jeopardized, perhaps infers that her leaders are not willing to work with her and bring her career up to speed.



    Women are a viable necessary part of the modern military. They allow our enlistment standards to remain high. They perform equal to their male counterparts. Eliminate women and we would require a draft. Not treat them fairly and we will not recruit the ‘best and brightest’. I see the above attitudes as antiquated and not conducive to the successful future of our military. What kind of signal are we sending the young women, highly interested in a military career, that a freak occurrence of nature, unique to females, can derail their hard to earn four year career preparation before it even commences? As leaders, is this not a challenge which must be successfully overcome, not a problem to complain about? As parents, is it not an acceptance and wholehearted support of what is necessary for a capable modern military? For retirees/ex service people, is it not an admission that perhaps they are living in the past, and the world has moved on to a better place without them?
     
  5. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Bruno for a second there I thought you were a friend of ours, because the exact same thing happened to them. Most of the AD women I know do one of 2 things when they decide to start their family.
    A. Separate from the service.
    B. Spouse separates from the service.... which is becoming very popular.

    It is a very hard and personal decision, but as someone who is a Mom, don't live your life too far ahead of you. What happens if you don't get married until you are 32? Will you look back with regret that you didn't roll the dice...would you be saying if I knew when I was 18 that Mr. Right wouldn't come along until I was 32, I would have tried!

    You are young and there are many roads you have yet to travel. However, I know many AD AF women that have kids and they seem perfectly content. One of my friends retired ly as O-5, she has 2 boys, both were planned pregnancies. They waited for about 8 yrs to have them, because she wanted to get her career off to a strong start. She had them when she was an O-4, knowing that at 20 yrs and 1 day she would become a stay at home Mom.

    I also have a friend that did regret it, because she married an AD AF, she resigned her commission as soon as possible and decided to do guard. She thought that would be great because she got to make money and keep her independence. When Gulf I broke out her hubby was in Turkey, we were stationed in the UK. Two days later her unit was called up as back fill to Germany. Imagine trying to get a family member to fly with 1 days notice to pick up your 2 small children. In the end it did work out for her because they allowed her to transfer to another guard unit in the states, but when she came back she handed in her resignation. She said it was 9 mos of pure hell because she had to worry about her spouse over there and always waiting for the shoe to drop that she would be sent too.

    Finally, for me it would not be so much about having the children, but the fact that you are not guaranteed to be assigned to the same place. The Lancers commander is assigned at SJAFB in NC, her husband flies a different fighter so he is assigned to Shaw AFB in SC. You can't live that far apart. Another friend who was a JAG was given an assignment to Alconbury her husband was assigned to Lakenheath. They will try to accommodate, but remember stuff like that happens. One of you may be accepted to PME and the other doesn't, that means one of you will stay behind. Now imagine a yr later you get accepted to PME while they are moving on to the next assignment. Do you turn it down (career suicide for making O-5) or do you live 2 yrs apart? That is the hard part, it is very difficult to have 2 AD spouses since as you get higher up, the actual job will become the driving force...i.e. go to the Pentagon or got PACAF hq. I.E Take the Pentagon job that might be less prestigious, but easier for your spouse to get a position, or do a self imposed remote since there is no job for your spouse, but you would definetely be in a better promotion position.
     
  6. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    There was a time when women were required to resign when they got married.
    I think women who are entering the service now, have plenty of options that were not there a generation ago.
    There are more and more dual career military couples - as many ways as you can think of combining a career and family, I have seen it done. There are lots of role models out there now.
    The Director of Admissions at West Point is a Col who is married to an Army officer and has children.
    One of the TAC officers last year at West Point was pregnant (I assume she has since given birth).
    The wife of the Commandant at West Point is a grad herself. She served 5 years and got out and had children.
    I have known quite a few women who have combined a career in the Reserves or Guard with a family. In some cases, "one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer" is enough to enable a Mom to otherwise stay home; of course now there is a great chance of being deployed at some point.
    I have a friend who retired after 28 years in the AF - enlisted then reserves. She absolutely loved it and found the time away from the kids refreshing. She could contribute and be a mom.
    I know another Mom who had her kids in her mid 30's - she retired when they were toddlers after her 20 years because she didn't want to be deployed leaving a 2 and 3 year old.
    I know a Retired Army officer who had 5 kids, spread over 15 years. Her husband retired at age 38, he was enlisted, she started enlisted and went OCS. Anyway, after he retired he was the house-husband and stayed home.

    Fantastic advice.
     
  7. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    You would not be able to be a "stay at home mom" through those 5 years of active duty service, but you may be able to take on the role while in the reserves.

    As for Mombee's comments, yes, all of those examples would put someone behind their peers. I would not understand how one "staying back" to coach football would be a justifed use of tax payer money for a newly commissioned 2lt.

    Is it possible? Just, not in those first 5 years (as far as being a stay at home mom).

    No recommended becoming pregnant in that firs year out if you're the one in uniform. I know JAM and Mombee don't agree, but I also don't think they've served in a unit that this has happened in. It's not good for anyone. I would plan on waiting until you have your feet and you've established yourself with your unit.
     
  8. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Pregnancy happens, sometimes planned and sometimes not so planned. I think that LITS is correct, please be very careful in those first early yrs. For AF women and Navy women many of your schools which you will attend right out of the SA will wash you back due to your pregnancy. I.E. UPT, you will automatically be put on casual status. What does this really mean, it means that you show up to your 1st op assigned 1 yr behind your peers. So what's the big deal right? The big deal is you are 1 yr later from making IP and that makes it hard for you to get those plum jobs like Weapons shop, and FCC, thus 7 yrs down the road and your are up for O-4, you don't have those squares filled and you go from DP to P. However, they all do, and when the promotion rate is 70%, and you are sitting with a P I can guarantee you they will be the longest 3 months of your life...passed over and you can be RIF.

    Now am I saying it is all over? NO. What I am stating is that you will have to work harder to catch up and that is hard when the baby is teething at 6 mos and you have no sleep.

    Also there are many career fields that in the AF you would still call them the bankers hours (8-4) Many of the AF nurses have their children very young because it does not affect their career. Many female pilots opt to plan their pregnancy after their 2nd op base (@30 years old) and purposely take a desk assignment, so that they can continue their career track, fill that additional square and still have a child or 2.

    I think where LITS is coming from is the operational world where women are treated as equals, but if she gets pregnant they lose a body due to regs. This does not make those left to pick up the slack happy campers. I don't think he is saying no women, he is saying pregnancy has an enormous impact in his branch.

    With all of that said, I will go back to what I say when my kids would say I can't wait until I can go to college. Don't wish your life away, enjoy today, because you won't have it tomorrow. If you want to serve than serve. If you get pregnant and still want to serve than you will find a way to do it. You can have both, but accept the fact to have both you will sacrifice something from both.

    In a way this conversation is like the how to become an astronaut thread. First, it is a small chance that it will occur, unless you purposely try to attain it. Second, the hurdles you must clear first are enormous...get a nom, get an appt, graduate, hopefully get married before getting pregnant and getting pregnant. What if you found Mr. Right he is AD also and your 1st assignment is to Europe, you than say let's enjoy Europe because we'll never have this chance again, than you get the dream assignment to wherever, then you say after this assignment, than he gets deployed for a yr, and there you are 8 yrs down the pipeline and you can say goodbye and be the stay at home Mom. You got to have your military dream, and your family dream, without ever sacrificing one thing!

    BTW as a woman who gave up her career to follow Bullet around the world, and had the luxury of being a stay at home Mom, shuttling the kids to soccer, bball, school, making lunches, cleaning toilets, and the ever favorite everyone of your kids get chicken pox at the same time, it is not as Pretty as you think. Let's see my day was wake up with the kids, dress them, feed them breakfast all by 7 am, take them to the pool, come home, let them play while I clean and cook, get them dressed for their sports, come home bathe them and put them to bed. Bullet's day, get up go to work talk to adults not 5 yr olds who still need you to put the straw in their juice box (unless they are stone drunk...hehehe), double turn flying an amazing jet, miss the sports, come home eat the leftover dinner and find me asleep in bed at 8 from exhaustion. I don't regret it, but trust me while I was busy shoveling snow off of the roof of the house (you do that in AK) and he was in Vegas, I was not a happy camper. I have no 2nd thought about what we decided, but with hindsight sometimes I think I would have been a better mom if I worked because I would relish the time I had with them instead of sitting there thinking I have to get home to get their baths done, so hurry it up coach with the you are all so great speech!

    IMHO the best bc in the world is spend two days as a stay at home mom withe 3 kids under 7, you will re-think twice about quitting your job.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2009
  9. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    This is where you are wrong and made assumptions - at least on my end I can't speak for anyone else.
    I would never recommend that a young woman starting her career - whether the military or otherwise; go get pregnant early on. It is NOT ideal. Will it set one back careerwise? Sure, early on but the impact on one's entire career will depend on what sacrifices, if any, one is willing to make. It's not for me or anyone else to judge whether or not a pregnancy is intended or not intended. Employers don't belong in the bedroom.
    That said - once it happens, I do think it is highly inappropriate for her Commanding Officer to suggest or recommend or demand that she abort or even suggest that she "did this" on purpose. There are lots of shammers out there - men have their own way of shamming. To accuse all women who decide to keep an ill-timed pregnacy of shamming is insulting to all mothers who leave their young children behind on deployment.
    Fortunately, we are moving to a point where women CAN have children and a successful career - HOW they do it and what sacrifices they choose to make is up to them and their families.
     
  10. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I don't think there is one commander that would ever suggest that, unless he had a career death wish, since IG would be involved before the end of the day.

    I don't think anyone was stating that this was their way of getting out of the bad juju's, but more to the fact that if she does get pregnant, even by mistake (the only 100% effective bc is abstinence), it leaves the squadron, patoon, brigade, etc in a lurch. There is something called C status, lose a body and you might lose C-status.

    This thread is really about can she have them both, not about bringing over the conversation of the pregnant mid in an indirect manner.

    Fact is she can have them both just like any other working woman, she will have to make sacrifices, it is up to her to decide if she is willing to pay that price.

    IMHO, if Bullet's and my DD came to us, we would tell her go for it! The chances of marrying your hs sweetheart is 2% out of the SA's, it happens, but it is rare. Don't make decisions that are life altering based on ifs. I am a realtor in No Va and I can tell you, that 50% of my military clients that are married, have husbands who are now stay at home Dads. 25% have made the decision that she will be stepping out after this assignment and he will continue his career, the final 25% will make the decision in 3 yrs when their assignments come down.

    I think it is more important to stress that she may marry a military member and how difficult it is to get joint assignments. Her spouse maybe Airborne for the Army, that is a volunteer assignment, and unless something has changed, everybody assigned to the 82nd must be jump qualified. If she declines to volunteer to be a jumper, the closest Army base is in another state, and all the military guaranteed was that they would post them in the same theater...not great for a marriage when she is at Fort Polk and he is at Bragg! Also they get commissioned and married the same day at the SA, she is sent to one school for her specialty he is sent to another. It is very difficult to have both of them assigned to a place that is the best opportunity for their career, unless 1 has a generic job (i.e. JAG, nurse, doc, finance, etc). Specialties like helo pilots of different helos makes it harder. Look at Jeannie Flynn, she flies the f-15E and married a pilot that flies a 16 . He did not want to give up his career, she didn't want to give up hers, so the best the AF could do was assign him to Shaw and her to SJAFB. They have children, they have 2 homes, and they see each other when they can, but as a CC her job is 24/7. BTW let's remember Jeannie is the poster child for female pilots, her career was made back in 91/92. Just like, Fifi, the 1st thunderbird pilot (and I love her, she has the attitude my sex means squat...and she is a 15E pilot who calls a spade a spade)

    Look at Gen Gould the AFA commander, his wife, is an O-6 with reserves because they decided to work it that way. When he was at the Pentagon with JROC she was working there too for the AFA.

    Pregnancy is one issue, but another question that plays into the equation is the DADDY! She can have them both, but if Daddy is AD it will make her life very very hard.

    Only a few weeks ago we lost a strike eagle, the speculation of why it took so long to release the info, was that the wife is AD and deployed in Iraq, she is not a flyer. My hats off, my bows to her, my utmost respect is given to her. She has elected to stay and finish her tour, her husband will be buried in October when the Rockets return. Now to the OP, that is real life, they had no children, but it is important to realize the father of your children maybe military and the 2 of you will need to be strong together if you are both called up. The father of your children maybe stay at home Dad. Yet, the real reality is at 18 you probably have yet to meet that man, so don't think about something that is 5-10 yrs down the road.

    BTW Bullet and I were one of those 2%, we met when I was 18 and he was 19. I was not military, he was ROTC, we got married 5 1/2 yrs later after he finished UNT.

    Finally, FWIW, I openly will state I have an issue with the military, I feel that as a flyers wife, it is wrong to give them a different CFA...when a jet goes down, you need to be able to carry out your wingmen. To allow them to run slower, do less push ups or sit ups is bs...our DD can do as many as our DS's. She can run faster than our youngest, there is no need to set the bar lower. I have lived with the fear that she could not drag my 6 foot 200 lb husband out of the pond, because we do this. Maybe the system should be re-addressed, you want to fly, than you must meet the mens standards, since we are not going to guarantee that the package only goes up as guys only or girls only. When it is your son or your husband, you too will want to know that they have the physical ability to be on the same level when bullets are flying or dragging a body out of the water. Before you shoot me, remember I have both sons and a daughter.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2009
  11. petermcd123

    petermcd123 Member

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    Both my parents were active duty for 20 + year in the Navy

    They made it work really well, but it did involve alot of after school and early morning programs, and the most time we spent together was in the car.
     
  12. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    As, I believe, one of few female officers (now a former officer) on these boards, here's my advice.

    First, you absolutely cannot predict today how your life will turn out in terms of marriage and kids. Cannot.

    Second, one of the myths propogated in the heydays of feminism was that a woman could have it all: great career (not just job), wonderful marriage, great kids w/whom she spends a lot of time. Not going to happen, whether in the military or outside. If you're lucky, you might get 2/3. But it's tough.

    Third, if you want to have kids while in the military (or in a civilian career), the key is to plan it to the best of your ability. Getting PG such that you can't deploy with your unit is frowned upon -- not b/c you're trying to get away w/something but your unit is counting on your skills and your not being there puts them at a real disadvantage. Thus, "smart" career-minded women do their best to time the birth of their kids either while on shore duty or in a way so as not to impact their units.

    Does taking time "off" to have kids impact your career? It can, whether you're military or civilian. When you take 3-6 months away from work on maternity leave, all of your colleagues (male & female) are moving ahead. They're learning and doing new things while you're not. Have 2-3 kids, and you can be talking upwards of 18 months (maybe more if you're on bedrest, etc.) away from work. Depending on the job and your personal abilities, it may set you back in comparison to your peers or it may not.

    Fourth, if you plan to have an active career of any kind, you need full-time child care. That can come from your spouse, a parent, or a third-party. But you will not be able to spend all day with your kids while also working full-time -- and this holds true in the civilian sector as well.

    It is a real juggle -- in the military or civilian world. It comes down to what's most important to you -- career, marriage, kids -- and then sorting out your life so as to suit your priority(ies). It is why some women don't marry or don't have kids. Or abandon their careers -- at least for a time.
     
  13. Gen2

    Gen2 Member

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    These are examples I have seen in the Coast Guard:

    Women who enjoy their 5 year commitment and then say it's time to move on to another role in life or in their family. They wouldn't trade the SA or 5 years for anything but they have another path to take and don't look back. They are confident in who they are and what is possible for them in life!

    Other women opt for the 2 year sabbatical. I don't know all the details (someone here probably does) but it's open to both men and women for any number of reasons. The active member leaves the service, with the understanding that after 2 years they will be able to rejoin. No pay or benefits during that time frame. It leaves a door open. Some come back and some don't, but liked the option being there for them.

    Some women make the career work: Pregnant during grad school or shore duty, having a single family member live with them to help with children, or civilian spouse is SAHD.

    It is very hard to say how your life will turn out at your age. It's good to go in with your eyes open and draw upon other people's experience. Remember there are alot of unknown variables in your life that have yet to reveal themselves to you.

    Always know your first priority and go with it (children, education, family, career, whatever), and when you follow your heart and not the opinions/expectations of others, you'll be just fine!

    Blessings.
     

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