Lisa Pagan, a former active duty member of the Army and mother of two toddlers, was called up from the "ready reserves" to report for duty this week for possible deployment to Iraq. She told the Army that she had no one to care for her small children if she was sent overseas because of her husband's travel work schedule. The Army refused her requests for postponements so she reported for duty this week with her three-year-old and four-year-old.
The Army now says that Pagan will be discharged, but some are wondering -- was this the act of a mother who had no choice or was it a stunt to get what others have been unable to get?
But my question is this -- what was Lisa Pagan supposed to do? Not show up and get thrown in the brig? Or leave knowing that she didn't have anyone to take care of her kids?
Why do her critics assume that she has options she's not pursuing? I don't know what family support she does or doesn't have, but I know that there are lots of mothers, myself included, who would find themselves in an impossible bind if we had to start looking for alternate ways to take care of our children if we were in Pagan's shoes.
There might be grandparents around, but maybe they're not in good enough health to lend a hand. Siblings? Maybe they are too far away and can't help because that would mean they would have to quit their jobs. Aunts? Uncles? Maybe, but there are really only so many realistic options when it comes to raising our children and not completely uprooting them from the homes and lives they know. And in this economy, it's not realistic to argue that the dad should find another job that would allow him to cut back on travel.
I know there are many military families who struggle with this every day. And probably a lot of them are pretty angry that Lisa Pagan is getting to go home with her children when they can't. But why is it so much to expect for the military to actually take family into consideration when it's making decisions about deploying parents?
I know there's not an easy answer, but I give Pagan a lot of credit at least for the chutzpah it took to be in the face of the Army, to show them the faces of the children who didn't have a place to go or a family caregiver to keep them safe and to make the military see the reality of what it's doing to mothers, and fathers, who thought they were done with military service only to find themselves pulled back in at a different stage of their lives.
If I was in Pagan's shoes, I might have done the same thing because I know I don't have any family members who would be able step up to care for PunditGirl if someone said I had to be gone for a year or more. School and babysitters can only get you so far.