Dr. Christensen discusses the topics in her book “Mothers of the Military”


Dr. Christensen presented her research in her book “Mothers of the Military: Support and Politics During Wartime” during common hour. Courtesy of Lismery Luna

Lismery Luna, Copy Editor

On Nov. 14 during common hour, Dr. Wendy Christensen held a presentation on her experiences writing her book, “Mothers of the Military: Support and Politics During Wartime.”

Mothers of the William Paterson University community shared their experiences with the military and being mothers of veterans.

Dr. Christensen is an Associate Professor and Assistant Chairperson of the Sociology Department at William Paterson.  The event was held in the multi-purpose room located in the student center from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

The discussion was sponsored by the Office of Military Affairs (OMA), Student Veterans Organization (SVO), and funded by the Student Government Association (SGA).

Speaking with Dr. Christensen beforehand, she explained what she wanted the audience to take away from the lecture.

“My research was of mothers of service members and the work they do, and the support they provide during recruitment, deployment and post-deployment healthcare,” she said.

However, Dr. Christensen detailed that the reason she focused on military mothers for her book was “to make their experiences more visible to the public because no one really sees a stressed-out mom worried about her kid that is deployed,” she said. 

“That is not shown on TV or anything. So I’m really just trying to bring the experience of mothers to the forefront during wartime.” Christensen said.

It is important to Christensen that people do not forget that the support of mothers of military service members is needed.  “I think for this talk, in particular, making the work that mothers do in supporting their children visible is important,” she said.

Dr. Christensen started her presentation with one reminder: this country is still at war.

“The war on terrorism has been going on for 18 years now,” she said.  She led her discussion with a PowerPoint presentation that had information about how she started her research and how a mother’s voice makes people listen. 

“Mothers have spoken out against the war in powerful ways,” she said. However, they have also supported the war by providing care packages, cards, and other supplies for active military and veterans.

“While mothers can be powerful anti-war voices, the military needs them in order to run a successful war,” she said.

Dr. Christensen started her book as her dissertation. After graduate school, she continued the research by interviewing mothers of military servicemen. When she arrived at William Paterson, she interviewed other mothers of the military in the WPU community.

“It could be about anything, but when mothers speak out, people listen. And war is always an interesting topic of mind,” Christensen said during the presentation.

As she did her research, she became interested in other aspects of the war some people are not familiar with, like why the operation of war is gendered.

Dr. Christensen conducted her research by looking at online content, advertisements and images aimed at parents and she found that “most of them are aimed at mothers being a potential barrier to recruitment,” she said.

Dr. Christensen’s research indicates that young recruits are more likely to get married later in life than their peers. Also, they are getting married much later in life than the veterans of the past, who were more likely to marry in their early twenties. “On average, recruits are a little on the younger side,” Christensen said, so mothers are the ones who have to give permission for their child to go into service, as opposed to a spouse. 

“My book talks about the importance of support; supporting the troops. But what that means politically for mothers. Is it okay to be against the war, and at the same time, support the military? My book raises those questions,” she said.

She discussed that feelings of isolation with mothers of active and veteran service members are common, and how they are critical of anti-war protests, since many of these mothers are generally non-political. For some mothers, it is not about making a statement against the war or how it is wrong. It is about giving support to those who are serving in the military. 

Christensen explained step by step how the recruitment process is designed to include brochures and pamphlets to make sure mothers feel comfortable and safe in sending their child off to war. 

First, military literature starts with stories. Recruiters show recruits mothers being proud of their children for signing up for service. Then, recruiters use narratives that highlight mothers particularly. And finally, there is an emphasis on how their children will grow in the military. 

“It downplays dangerous parts, obviously, but [recruiters] highlight opportunity,” Christensen said. 

Christensen explained at the end of her presentation that military mothers are like a community for each other. Yet, emotional and mental stresses can be isolating. 

But, for mothers who have children in the military, it is important to try to find this balance between their personal feelings of war and giving support to the family they know who is deployed.

“Wartime burden is not evenly shared,” according to Dr. Christensen.