The strange backstory behind the military's new paid parental leave policies

"Daddy's Uniform" via  flikr user Patrick Malone

"Daddy's Uniform" via flikr user Patrick Malone

Last month, I wrote gleefully here about how the military had expanded maternity leave to 12 weeks for women in all branches (a boon for most—but a cutback for the Navy and Marines, which had previously approved 18 weeks). Men would receive 10 days of paternity leave. Not equitable, but an improvement, nonetheless.

Well, the architect of that modernization, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Brad Carson, has resigned under pressure from lawmakers after what the Military Times called his "disastrous" confirmation hearing. (There, Sen. John McCain called Carson's efforts around personnel reform, "an outrageous waste of time and resources." Various reports note that McCain was mostly peeved that Carson had overstepped his boundaries before being officially confirmed. But, still, man.) Carson's last day is April 8.

That's a loss, it seems, but Carson's vision will live on, allowing thousands of military families to humanely transition into parenthood. He even helped pass a provision to help service members freeze their eggs and sperm in case of injuries during combat. And his proposals for longer paternity leave (14 days instead of 10), longer hours for military daycares, and expanded access to mothers' lactation rooms (imagine!) are still on the table.

Lots of days here on the T5T blog, I'll write quippy lists or share my own kids' cute artwork about breastfeeding. But let's not forget the more serious stories, and the allies we've got in the Fifth Trimester, too—the people who stick their necks out to make more sensible policies around new working parenthood, sometimes even risking their careers. Mr. Carson, thank you.

Expect a military baby boom in exactly nine months

Get it? Boom.

Get it? Boom.

You've probably heard the great news that Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently announced that all branches of the U.S. Military will now grant 12 weeks of paid maternity leave to mothers in the service. What you might not have heard is this big, huge, giant, ugly asterisk: 

*[big huge asterisk]

This actually downgrades the 18-week leave that was passed back in August for the Marines and the Navy. But, since it's the military, they're kind of regimented about the whole thing, and Navy/Marine mamas who become pregnant by the magical date of March 3 will still qualify for their 18 weeks. ("The date of pregnancy will be determined by a privileged medical care provider," according to this release from the Navy. Privileged? How?) Which means, I hope, that a whole lot of couples are doing their best to make it happen, and make it happen fast, so Thanksgiving can be extra thankful this year.

Official U.S. Navy file photo

Official U.S. Navy file photo