Thursday, 29 September 2011

My latest annoyance with the military's treatment of families comes from Birch's school

She is enrolled in a DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) school because we live on post. For the most part, I love it. Her teachers have been outstanding, she has a host of extracurricular activities, and her needs as a highly gifted student are being adequately met. It is a safe, warm, friendly environment for her.


(There's always one of those, right?)

I recently attended a deployment fair at the school. As part of it, they had a workshop called "Parent to Parent". In the room were five families, all of whom were married couples with children. In this case, the fathers were preparing for deployment. During the entire session, they referred to the fathers as fathers and the mothers as "caregivers". We were never once called a "parent". We are merely "caregivers," on par with babysitters and grandmas who move in when a single parent who is away. Not to knock on the contributions of actual caregivers, but I'm a parent, dammit. Quit talking to my husband like he's the only parent in the room. I have more face time, more school involvement, more responsibility with the day-to-day life of our children than he will ever have. I am not saying that in a bitter way--it is just the way it is.

I'm already degraded to being a leech with the whole "beneficiary" and "dependent" labels, since moving my family to follow my husband around the country effectively ended my career. Now I'm "just an Army wife." I've dealt with that just fine, but slap me in the face with "caregiver" when we are referring to my children and I will bitchslap you right back where you came from, assholes. I am their mother and I've worked really fucking hard for that title.

Let me be clear--on a personal level, the teachers and administrators are wonderful. They actually know me better than they know my husband because I am the one who is always there. I'm pretty sure they couldn't pick him out of a crowd, even if he was wearing his nametape. The system, however, including the family support system created by the Military Child Education Coalition, regards me as a "caregiver."

I was already pissed about this, but the letter Birch brought home yesterday pushes it way over the top. It is a letter from DoDEA regarding its "biennial Customer Satisfaction Survey."