fbpx The Unique Challenge of Being an Army Mom

Pregnancy And Postpartum Life - Postpartum Life | November 10, 2022, 6:01 CST

The Unique Challenge of Being an Army Mom

Soldiers speak out and the Army listens, enacting a new directive to help parents.
Sarah DiMuro

Written by

Sarah DiMuro
A uniformed army mom smiles as she crouches down to hug her child.

Army Capt. Kelsey Boursinos and her husband were excited when their assignment in September 2021 took them to Hawaii, a dream location for a military couple with a toddler.

However, it wasn't all luaus and leis in the Aloha State. As active-duty officers (her husband, Spyro Boursinos, is also an Army captain), they're required to provide the Army with a family care plan within 30 days of arrival, outlining who would be responsible for their 2½-year-old daughter if they were deployed. They didn't have family nearby and knew no one in Hawaii.

"You have to essentially pick a stranger and ask them to care for your child," Kelsey Boursinos said. "It can seem a little bit forward as well to ask someone you barely know to get a piece of paper notarized, saying they will essentially care for your child if you were to deploy."

The concerns of parents

While assembling a family care plan is a significant challenge faced by Army parents, it's by no means the only one. Just ask the moms of the popular private Facebook group the Army Mom Life. In fact, it was the singular efforts of the group's administrators, Maj. Sam Winkler and Staff Sgt. Nicole Edge, that led to the April 2022 signing of Army Directive 2022-6, titled, "Parenting, Pregnancy and Postpartum."

It all started when Winkler and Edge took to social media, tweeting about concerns of the group (such as getting back into shape for physical training tests in six months after pregnancy, deploying with a newborn) to senior Army leaders, capturing the attention of those in charge. This led to Winkler and Edge, along with other members of the Army Mom Life group, working with top Army officials and policy writers in the Pentagon, the final result being the Army Directive, affecting more than 404,000 Army parents.

Capt. Fiorella Esafe, M.S.W., of Jacksonville, Florida, is pleased with the new policies, one of which allows mothers a year to get back into shape after pregnancy, as opposed to the previous six-month time frame.

'Policies like this [directive] allow for us to be good parents and good soldiers.'

"The year extension made a huge, positive impact, because it gave me more time to lose the [baby] weight in a healthy and safe manner while still being able to breastfeed my son," Esafe said.

The directive also gave Esafe more time to stay home with her baby instead of frantically trying to produce enough breast milk for the duration of a deployment.

"After six months, I was expected to be ready to leave my son and go on missions. However, with the new policy, that has been extended to a year," Esafe said.

Winkler said she also would have appreciated this extension several years ago when she had to leave her 9-month-old for a tour in Afghanistan, and then a few years later, when she had to leave her 5-month-old for her deployment to Kuwait.

"I think policies like this [directive] allow for us to be good parents and good soldiers," Winkler said.

Sacrificing career goals to grow their families

Another important addition to the directive is the increase in the time allowed when recovering from an event such as a miscarriage. In 2016, Edge, the founder and lead administrator of the Army Mom Life Facebook group, suffered a miscarriage and required a medical procedure but was granted only two days of convalescent leave.

"I had to take two weeks of chargeable leave so that I could mourn the loss of my child and grieve, while trying to get myself back to a place emotionally so I could handle being back at work," Edge said.

Under the new directive, a woman going through a similar experience is now entitled to 42 days of leave, allowing time for their body and mind to recover. It also allows Army fathers to take leave.

Sgt. Caroline Vargas, also an administrator for the Army Mom Life group, appreciated the changes in the directive addressing professional development guidelines, because a soldier's career relies heavily on attending professional development schools for promotions.

"Before [Army Directive 2022-06], some moms fell behind their male peers because they could not participate in or complete those professional development schools due to pregnancy or postpartum periods," Vargas said.

Now they can attend such programs, and their career is no longer hindered by having a family.

Recent changes and updates to military legislation have provided more opportunities for parents to balance kids and military life, but some, such as Boursinos, argue there's still more work to be done. For Boursinos, extending the time allotted to finalize a family care plan would definitely be at the top of her list.

"The Army has come a long way in advocating for change that benefits all parents in the military, male and female included," Boursinos said, "However, I think we have a long way to go, and I won't stop advocating until we get there."

Sarah DiMuro

Written by

Sarah DiMuro