Mothers at War Work-in-Progress Excerpt
Almost half of the more than 250,000 women who have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and surrounding countries are mothers, including many single mothers. How do Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen negotiate the complexities of juggling deployments and motherhood—and how will these stories about deploying mothers shape public opinion about women in combat and about women’s relationship to maternity?
The documentary film and accompanying interactive website, Mothers at War, grows out of Laura Browder’s exhibit and book When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans (with photographs by Sascha Pflaeging). Yet it is much more than a video representation of material that has already appeared in other forms. Rather, this is a project that allows us to explore, in much greater depth, the most loaded issue Browder encountered during the course of her earlier interviews with a wide range of service women, and one in which the gap between the civilian and military understanding is perhaps the greatest. It is the goal, through completing this documentary, to allow a series of mothers with very different experiences and outlooks to tell their stories—and through these stories, to open up a national conversation about military motherhood.
While American culture has always seemed able to cope with the idea of fathers as warriors— think of all those photographs on the front page of your local newspaper, featuring a returning soldier seeing his baby for the first time, or reuniting with older children—we may be less able to handle the idea of deploying mothers, which to many people may bring home more starkly the cost to military families of this seemingly endless conflict. Yet these are stories we need to hear and faces we need to see. It is our hope that Mothers at War will provide a more nuanced look at the challenges and complexities of military motherhood, and force the American public to realize that not only are military life and motherhood not incompatible for many women, but that in many cases the bonds formed between fellow soldiers might feel even stronger than those they have with their children.