The recent announcement by the secretary of defense to allow women into combat roles was certainly long overdue, considering the characteristics of modern warfare. But as a child psychologist, I do have concern for the many more thousands of children who may lose all contact with their mothers while they’re are on duty abroad for many months — or even permanently because of casualties. This situation is enormously different than a stateside job, where a family can be reunited on evenings and weekends.
In a world of true gender equality, men would step forth to participate equally in child care. Yet this has happened only to a small degree in the United States, and it cannot be expected any time soon.
In many European countries, paternal leave for child care is routine, but it is still almost unknown here. Kids are increasingly in the hands of day care workers who are inadequately trained, and even the best of them can never substitute for parents. When women’s roles change and men’s don’t, children can suffer. Who will speak for them? The Pentagon? It is not exactly well known for its sensitivity to children’s needs.