Sending Single Mothers Into Combat

Published 27 Mar 2017

Women in the army may not comprise even a third of the armed forces, but they have become commonplace and their numbers are increasing. During war time, children do not only part with their fathers serving in the army, as in the wars of 60 to 100 years ago. Today, many children have to part with their mothers, too. The parting becomes more affecting when, later on, the parent becomes a POW, physically incapacitated, or worse, die in battle. It becomes a consolation to the child, however, when after he loses a parent to a war, he still has the other to raise him. The tragedy is when, at a young age, the war would leave him with neither a father nor a mother. Being a single mother, especially when she is in a circumstance where her husband has died or has no more intention of sharing the responsibility of raising the child, should be a special case with which the armed forces should consider before sending the female soldier into combat. Single mothers should not be allowed to be sent into combat in order to eliminate the risk of a child’s losing the only parent he has.

It is important that a child have both father and mother figures with which to emulate, each gender contributing his or her particular traits and values upon the child. However, life is never perfect, sometimes a marriage becomes unsuccessful or one party dies early, and this leaves the child with only a parent to take care of him. In the case of a divorce, minor children are usually placed under the custody of the mother because the court believes that during his formative years, the mother can better nurture the child. It is fortunate for the child when, after a divorce, the father remains actively engaged in raising him and bonds with him so that the child feels that he still has two parents though they live in different homes. If the mother happens to be a soldier and is sent into battle, the child can still develop well psychologically as his emotional needs could still be satisfied by the father. The point is that if the child could not have two parents, he should at least have one to take care of him.

The misfortune lies, therefore, with single mothers who get no support of any kind from their past husbands, be it because of abandonment or his early death. If she is sent into combat, it is not even the fact that the child would be left motherless for the duration of her service that is worrisome, but the possibility of the child’s being motherless (and thus, parentless) for good. Every war claims hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. Fighting in combat is like waging a battle with Fate. One does not know what may happen. A single mother must not be allowed to face that risk. Furthermore, even going away for a year or two may have psychological effects to the child who needs a mother’s constant presence in his growing-up years. A surrogate to fill her place, even if they are grandparents or close relatives, would never be the same to an actual mother providing daily support and love. When young children go to school they see every one of their peers being driven to and from school by their parents. Single parents have become commonplace, too, so that one parent is oftentimes enough in contemporary society. But being without one, being an orphan, subjects the child to a certain stigma among peers.

Women could be sent into combat. Even mothers could be sent into combat. But the army should take special consideration when it comes to single mothers, specifically those whose ex-husbands would not be able to care for the child in the same way that the single mother has been caring for him. Every child needs at least one parent who can give him enough time, attention, love and support during his growing-up years. Sending a single mother to combat exposes her to the risk that her child could be left with no parent in the world in case she dies in service, and that risk is just not worth taking even in the name of one’s country.


Applebaum, Anne. (2003, March 26). When women go to war. Washington Post.

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