Methods: This study relied on secondary data analysis, grounded in interpretive phenomenology, of in-depth qualitative interviews that were originally collected to inform the development of a reintegration intervention for military parents. Participants were 7 NG/R mothers who were parenting at least one child under the age of 6 at the time of their interviews.
Results: Key themes included gendered experiences, reunion and loneliness, wanting more time, and unfamiliar mothering challenges. All participants were their children’s primary caregivers, and immediately transitioned back into this role on returning from deployment. The difficulty of balancing mothering responsibilities, work and school was a consistent message. Peer support, in both personal and professional contexts, was highlighted as being highly important. Participants also described how difficult it was to mother while privately dealing with unmet mental health needs, following deployment-related trauma. Among those who sought professional help, problems with systems level service delivery were discussed.
Conclusions and Implications: Understanding the meaning and value servicewomen draw from their professional and mothering roles is essential for developing effective interventions to support them. Findings indicate the importance of a flexible suite of service options, and interventions that meet perceived needs, most importantly child care, social-emotional support for children, and peer-based parenting support. For NG/R mothers, who may live far from base, community-based services are important; thus, civilian social workers and other professionals must develop specialized knowledge, skills and experience to provide appropriate support. The described effects of PTSD symptomatology on personal well-being and relating to children during reintegration align with findings from the civilian literature, but also highlight the important need to study the effects of PTSD on mothering and mother-child bonds within a military context. Further research is also needed to better understand the other unique stressors facing NG/R mothers, single mothers and mothers experiencing PTSD symptomatology during reintegration.