Every now and then a story or opinion piece appears in the media about how the idea of male roles are changing.
Some of the time the focus will be on how men are confused, how they don’t know where they fit in any more.
They saw themselves as the sole breadwinner but now their partner earns more than them (and perhaps these men find themselves working under a woman as well, which further complicates things).
And because she’s out earning more than him, that means she’s not at home looking after the kids, so that’s now something they have to do a lot more of. And probably more of the housework and whatever else they had thought were jobs for ‘‘women’’.
While I do feel some sympathy for these guys, I also fail to understand their predicament. That’s because, on a personal level, I simply cannot relate to it at all. Perhaps I’m an enlightened male (after all, I did a whole year of women’s studies at uni), maybe my life-long hopelessness at traditional male jobs like ‘‘being handy’’ and ‘‘fixing the car’’ coupled with helping to look after my four younger siblings long ago blew apart the idea of male and female roles, or I’m just totally stupid, but I just don’t get why these guys are struggling with anything.
I’ve never felt insecure about my wife working, nor has it ever bothered me having a female supervisor (in fact I’d hardly given that much thought at all before I started writing this column).
As for looking after the kids, I just can’t understand why any guy thinks that has anything at all to do with how they’re perceived as a man.
What man wouldn’t want to be involved in their kids’ lives?
I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night for feeds, changed nappies, pushed prams, read books, played games, dried tears, combed hair, learned to tie ponytails, put in hair clips and loads of other things and never once thought ‘‘oh my God, this makes me feel like less of a man’’.
I’m more likely to think ‘‘I’m a father’’, accompanied by an expression of faint amazement - even after five years I still find the fact that I have a child a little gobsmacking.
As for housework, I’ll pitch in with dishwashing, ironing, laundry, vacuuming and the nightly pick-up of our daughter’s toys she’s left strewn across the floor. And I do it without that lame ‘‘hey look I ironed a shirt! Pat me on the back for doing some of your work!’’ thing some guys still do to their partners.
When I look at my male friends I’m none the wiser either, because they’re all the same as well. They’re happy to look after the kids, cook dinner, share the breadwinning – or even give it up altogether if their partner is earning enough money.
So I don’t get why some guys are tying themselves in knots over their attempts to ‘‘be a man’’, especially when their definition of ‘‘being a man’’ is so restrictive and out of step with today’s world.
Instead of facing a struggle to fit into this masculine role, it’d be much easier if these guys simply gave up and got on with life.
That way, they could do whatever they wanted – like take their daughter to day care, cook dinner and change the oil in the car – and not worry about whether they look like more or less of a man in the eyes of others.
In the process you set the definition of a man by your own actions rather than taking the backwards approach of having to tailor your actions to fit with someone else’s idea of a man.
And, who knows, you might even discover a hidden love of ironing.