Monday, August 31, 2009

Still more demands on the "good mother," in an age of women in combat

"Soldier's Service Leads to a Custody Battle at Home" is the headline for a story in today's New York Times. It tells of Leydi Mendoza's ten months' service in Iraq with the New Jersey National Guard, only to return to the U.S. and find that her former partner is challenging her right to see their young daughter. He claims it is too disruptive for toddler Elizabeth to spend more than a few hours with “a mother she doesn’t really know or recognize that well.”

Here's an excerpt that gives an overview of the child custody consequences of the increasing deployment of women soldiers:
Custody disputes involving returning members of the service have long been an unpleasant fact of military life, but the increasing number of women involved in combat overseas has brought new wrinkles. The Pentagon does not keep statistics on such custody disputes, but military family counselors said they knew of at least five recent situations around the country like the struggle over Elizabeth, in which a mother who served overseas is fighting for more access to her child. Some advocates say an unspoken bias against mothers who leave their young children has heightened both legal barriers and social stigma when these women try to resume their role as active parents.
Mendoza had a "family care plan" that the military helped her negotiate with Elizabeth's father, but it is apparently not enforceable. Now, advocates for folks like Mendoza are saying that the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, which protects service members from losing their jobs or their homes, should also protect their access to their children.

I've seen mothers get judged harshly for all sorts of situations and "behavior," such as the one written about here, but I must say that this story about a soldier mom--with no choice about her deployment--really takes the proverbial cake.

No comments: