Salute to Spouses Blog

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Military establishes parental leave program for moms and dads

The U.S. military is giving families more time after adding a child to the family, and allowing them to determine the best way to use that time. More importantly, the military is recognizing that every family has different needs.

The Department of Defense recently directed the services to re-align parental leave programs to become more flexible with the needs of individual families.

Under the new policy, military members are labeled as primary caregiver and secondary caregiver. Military mothers will automatically receive six weeks of maternity convalescent leave immediately following birth.

The primary caregiver will then receive an additional six weeks of leave that can be used at any time during the first year of adding a child to the family. This encompasses families that have a birth or adopt.

The policy allows the parent who did not give birth to be named the primary caregiver and stay home with the child for six weeks, an enormous benefit to military members who are balancing family and work life.

Previously the military only allowed mothers to take 12 weeks of maternity leave immediately after birth.

Also, secondary caregivers are now given more flexible leave time. The Navy and Marine Corps has allowed secondary caregivers 14 days of non-chargeable leave while the Air Force has given secondary caregivers up to three weeks off within the first year of birth or adoption. Again, families can determine who is the primary and who is the secondary and use that time to balance all of their work and home responsibilities.

Finally, perhaps the biggest change is that the time-off allowances apply to non-married parents as well, the biggest sign that the military is recognizing that not all families are the same.  

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