Since 2001, more than two million American children have had a parent deployed at least once, and more than 900,000 children have experienced the deployment of one or both parents multiple times. Military families relocate 10 times more often than civilian families — on average, every two or three years. Because watching a parent deploy and moving around a lot can be difficult, children in military families experience high rates of mental health, trauma and related problems, according to Do Something.
Moms are shamed for how their parenting decisions affect their careers, how their career decisions affect their families, and for their decisions in general on a regular basis. They're constantly subjected to other people's unsolicited opinions, judgments and unasked-for advice — and, often, they're damned if they do, damned if they don't. Military moms witness a whole new level of mom-shaming, however. Moms serving in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard are often asked a gamut of questions about their careers and families — questions are often rooted in a total disregard for the nobility and bravery of these moms who are serving our country.
Here are some of the biggest questions military moms wish people would stop asking them.
1. How Can You Leave Your Kids?
Many military moms are often asked how they leave their kids for such long periods of time.
"The questions I get the most are: How can you leave your kids for so long; don't you miss them?" says Julia Marroquin, who serves in the United States Army. "I am a pretty sarcastic person, so I usually respond with a pretty sarcastic remark like, No I don't miss them at all. I get sideways looks a lot, but no one tells me directly they think I am doing anything wrong. I know for military moms, and even military dads, the most important thing is to have a strong household. My husband is very supportive of my career."
Marroquin has deployed four times and, every time, her husband supports her and pushes on. He sends her care packages with letters and pictures, and they set days of the week for FaceTimes with the family. She also writes a daily journal for her children so she can read them the things she wanted to say to them every day when she gets home.
"I think those are the things that help make the time go by faster. When it is closer to the time for me to come home, we start planning our family trip. My husband and I take a trip just the two of us and then we take one with the kids. My kids and husband are very proud of me, and I think that makes it easier, as well. As long as you have a strong family foundation waiting for you to come home, it makes what everyone else thinks irrelevant. I know a lot of people think moms should stay at home. I would tell them, Welcome to 2018!"
2. You Had a Family That Young?
Many military families are young because the military offers incentives for married couples.
"My husband and I got married out of high school because I was going into the army, and the military offers better housing incentives for married couples, like on-base housing," says Lucia. "We sort of just started out life together at a young age, and after a few years, it made sense to grow our family. People always ask me why we had a family so young, but it was just a natural course of life for us — and it works for us."
Lucia's husband works from home in graphic design consulting, so he stays with their two sons while she's away. Her parents live nearby, too, so they're always there to help out if he needs a hand while she's away.
"Of course, I miss my family, but this is what I signed up for," she says. "It's my job, and I hope to teach my kids the power of discipline."
3. Isn't It Unfair to Your Kids to Move Around so Much?
Military families move around often between bases. Studies show that it can be difficult for children who are at a school age.
"My family moves around a ton because of my work, so my kids have changed schools twice, and friends and family are always asking me how it affects them," says Janelle. "They're still young, seven and nine, so it obviously affects them. It's not easy, that's for sure. They have to find new friends, join new sports teams and engage in the community in new ways every time. But they're also getting to meet new people all the time, experience new places that other kids never get to see, and they do keep in touch with some life-long friends that they've made over the years."
Distance doesn't destroy true friendships, and Janelle's kids are learning that and building real, strong and lasting relationships, she says.
"It's not a bad life — just a different life for them."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.