Before the change, the length of leave granted was dependent on whether the service member was the birth parent or “primary caregiver,” or the “secondary caregiver.” Now there is just one standard of leave across the Defense Department for all parents, said Kyleanne Hunter, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and a senior adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
“Having a standard does a few things. One, it values all parents equally, which is important just when we start to think about norms of who is expected to sort of take the brunt of child care,” Hunter said. “And that becomes very important, because in a lot of the focus groups that have been done by [Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services or DACOWITS] in particular, when they talk to service members about parenthood, and parenthood and career progression, what comes up a lot is that there's this unspoken expectation that women are always the one who have to sort of take the brunt of caregiving in terms of time. And are expected to dedicate their time. I think this goes a long way to say that parenthood is a universal aspect, and that’s important.”
The standardization also normalizes same-sex parents in the military, she said.
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