Armin Brott isn’t an active duty Marine anymore, but as a father, veteran, writer and radio personality, he is still fighting the good fight. He said he wages an “ongoing battle” to convince men that fathering is as important as mothering.
“Dads and moms do things differently,” he said. “We have this idea that moms are better, but we’re just different.”
Brott is the author of several parenting books, including “The Military Father,” and is the host of “Positive Parenting” on American Forces Network radio. A shorter version, for civilian audiences, has been on the air for about 17 years. For the past two years, Brott has been producing a second segment for AFN focusing more on military family issues.
As a veteran, Brott sympathizes with active duty fathers and their challenges. Deployment and other extended separations can undermine a military father’s confidence in his role, which makes rejoining his family harder than it already is, Brott said.
“A great part of a man’s identity is feeling loved and needed by his family. If [men] don’t feel needed and we don’t feel wanted, then what’s the point?” he said.
“If you come back and you’ve already seen stuff and done stuff that no one should have to see or do, it makes it harder to relate again to the family and for them to relate again to you.”
Brott said staying connected on some level during a separation helps families to reconnect more smoothly after homecoming. Navigating these challenges requires creativity and an understanding of what works in individual situations.
“Kids are going to express their pleasure or displeasure in different ways,” Brott said. “A 2-year-old may run and hide behind mommy [at homecoming.] The 6-year-old may just be so overjoyed and want to tell you everything that happened minute by minute; your teenager may just be pissed because you promised to teach him how to drive but you didn’t.”
Preparation and planning before a deployment and purposeful actions during deployment will make a difference.
“Looking at recent statistics, it’s scary (for military families)” Brott said. “The optimistic part of it is that when the deployed spouse is prepared before they go … when they have some sort of system in [place] to stay connected while they’re gone, then when they get back home, there is some suggestion that this could help with the divorce rate and the suicide rate.”
He said he often hears from guard and reserve families, who tend to be isolated from the military community and its resources.
“Quite often their kids are the only military kids in their school,” Brott said. “Adults can deal with somebody flippantly saying ‘Oh you’ve been out playing, soldier,’ but [then] you have a fourth-grader who says ‘I saw your Daddy get killed on TV.’ There’s insensitivity that’s not deliberate necessarily but still harmful.”
Combat stress is another common subject. The normal residual effects of living in a war zone, whether or not they add up to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress, are still disruptive to a family.
“The absolute perfect responses you want in a combat situation don’t play out terribly well in a living room,” he said.
Though he covers these subjects in the military segment of the show, Brott sometimes includes them in the stateside version of the show as well.
“I think it’s important for the civilian audience to understand what’s going on too,” he said.
Brott said his best advice to military families is to keep seeking answers and looking for resources.