Balancing motherhood and the mission

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Kimberly Erskine
  • 12th Missile Squadron
It's an exciting time for female service members who balance the mission with motherhood. July alone featured three major decisions assisting military moms and families.  After the Navy took the lead in lengthening paid maternity leave from six to 18 weeks, the Air Force is now starting conversations in extending maternity leave as well.  With these new developments in progress, it makes the process of balancing a high operations tempo at Malmstrom Air Force Base a little easier on working families.  Malmstrom moms are well-acquainted with the demands of working in a career that supports the nuclear mission, but many service members may not be as familiar with the diversity in resources and services, some being completely free for those who work out in the missile field. 

Whether your focus is operating, maintaining or securing multi-million dollar weapon systems or providing critical mission support, our service members need to know that their families are in good hands.  One joint-spouse family from the operations group understands the need for adequate resources while deploying to the missile field.  Their family expertly orchestrates 24-hour missile duty alert schedules and deployments as a facility manager.  They attribute their family's success to good communication and having two daughters who are quick to adapt and understand the situation.  It is also important to take notice of the family environment that is created within squadrons at Malmstrom.  When a missileer family needs assistance, another family often steps in to help, no questions asked.  This creates an environment where we're not just co-workers, but family.

This supportive environment motivated the creation of Malmstrom's first breast-feeding space.  Still in the early stages, this room is located on the first floor of Building 500 and grants access to new mothers who would like a private, quiet space to either breast-feed their child(ren) or to use a breast pump.  The room is currently supported through donated items and volunteers who work in creating a professional, caring ambiance.  The development of a breast-feeding space is important to expecting mothers, especially those with challenging schedules and for those who work in environments that require special electronics compliance, for example technical order compliance.  With the work of a few dedicated young officers, an updated, capsule-approved breast pump was recently added to regulations.  While still in the brainstorming phase, another option entails a pump rental system for missile operators.

While service members may be familiar with the Child Development Center and the Youth Center, not everyone may know of a third option on base - Family Child Care.  FCC providers are trained and certified child care professionals who maintain strict guidelines for the well-being of up to six children that each FCC-certified home can maintain.  Not only is this a great childcare option for military families, but it is also a great business endeavor for military spouses.  This ability to choose and be flexible to the needs of military families is another benefit to the FCC program in providing services like Missile Care and Missile Care 2, amongst other options.  The Missile Child Care Program assists military members who work in the missile field by providing overnight and weekend care while working.  To be eligible for any FCC program, service members and dependents should contact the base FCC center at 731-2116 for more information.

Wing One has fantastic resources at the disposal of both active duty service members and their dependents.  While Malmstrom's service members are professionals and experts in their unique fields, children don't come with technical orders.  The Airman and Family Readiness Center's Bundles for Babies is a beginner's guide to infants (or even a great refresher course) that only takes a few hours and families receive a tote filled with infant supplies.   Another base resource that may be overlooked is the Family Advocacy office.  This office provides a fun Dad's 101 course and they even have an "empathy belly" to help new dads gain a new understanding of a mother's struggles with pregnancy.  They also have a fantastic parent support nurse program where a Family Advocacy nurse will visit new families to assist in answering any questions new parents may have or sharing helpful techniques.

Malmstrom families make military life look so easy when the challenges of this mission certainly can make it tough.  The Air Force has a multitude of resources to make parenting more compatible with the military lifestyle as some exciting changes are coming our way.  The choice to be a parent and to serve our country is made easier with these outstanding resources and pending changes.