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I am 33 years old and have two girls under the age of two, and an 11 year old son. I am not married but have been in a relationship with the same man for six years. He has a 13 year old son and a 12 year old daughter. All together we have five children. I want to join the Army. I’ve talked to a recruiter already. We were ready to move forward with our plans and my man was very supportive at first. But his family is changing his mind. They think my girls are too little and that I would be abandoning them by enlisting. I love my man, but he’s a struggling DJ. He has baby mama drama that doesn’t get better. Is it a bad idea for me to join the Army?
Ready to Enlist
Dear Ready to Enlist,
Let me start off by saying that I am not an attorney. My very first piece of advice is to suggest you seek the opinion of a lawyer before making the decision to enlist. While it is my personal opinion that military service in no way makes you an unfit parent, there is case law that says otherwise. There have been situations where single parents or dual military couples have lost custody of their children as a direct result of their military service. Every state has different laws, and you need to find out what your legal rights are before proceeding. Army recruiters don’t usually hold law degrees either, so they may not be aware of these cases and may not think you need legal counsel.
As the father of two of your children, his opinion does matter… and if that opinion is being influenced by his parents, then their opinion does make a difference in this situation. When a single parent enlists in the military, they are required to develop a Family Care Plan that determines who will take care of the children in the event of training, separation or deployment. Because he is the father he will have to be a part of this planning, so it is important that he is on board with your decision. Sit down with him and have an open, honest conversation about why he originally thought it was a good idea, and what changed his mind. Maybe he is frightened at the prospect of you enlisting, or maybe he is unsure that he will be able to take care of the children on his own when you have to be gone. Express to him your reasons for wanting to join the Army, and offer solutions to any reservations he may have. Perhaps he has lots of questions about supporting a woman in uniform. There are great groups of men who are holding down the home front and helping each other navigate the military lifestyle. (Have him check out MANning the Homefront.) If he does get on board make sure that you, once again, seek legal counsel and get all of your custody and other issues officially dealt with (signed by both parties) before enlisting.
I applaud you for considering service to your country. It is an honorable career choice… one that only 1% of the population are able or willing to pursue. I believe that by enlisting you will be setting a great example for your kids, and especially your little girls! You will show them that it is okay to be a strong, independent woman who makes bold choices. They will see that when faced with hard times you can buckle down, work hard and provide for your family. They will know first-hand that service to country is an honorable and noble choice. And they will learn that a woman can be anything she wants to be and does not need a man to support her financially.
But I also hope that you will get all of the information and legal counsel necessary to make sure that your service is a positive decision for your whole family. Your children are your first priority.
All the best of luck!