I had a short reflection this week when I read a story about Clarke Gayford, partner of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who will stay at home to look after their six week old daughter when Jacinda returns to work.
My first reaction to the story was disappointing to me personally.
As I read the headline and opening paragraphs, unexpectedly, I felt sorry for him. I felt as if, somehow, through this action he was less of a man and had less value, and that his partner, not him, was fulfilling the role of protector, securer and bread winner. I felt in a weird way emasculated as if something wasn’t quite right, not just with the story but with our world.
I was dismayed at this feeling…
I consider myself quite progressive, innovative and open to new ideas and ways of living. I (quite reasonably) think that men should be able to do what Clarke is doing, so I really was taken back by my feeling. It was immediate and visceral, not hateful or perpetual, but significant enough for me to take note, to ponder why I felt the way I did and to write about it here.
I don’t have time, space nor skill with the written word to fully convey my thoughts in this blog however I consider it pertinent to express how I feel about topics such as this for two reasons:
- To identify that there can be different notions of reason between the heart and the head. I don’t know why I felt like I did but it’s important to acknowledge that I felt it and to consider it as part of a nuanced and rational discussion about what it means to be a man and to be human.
- Reasoned and considered discussion, particularly by men, for men, about such topics tends to ignore feelings. We’re rational creatures who want to solve problems and this conflict between feelings and reason is not often considered as part of a discussion. It’s important for men to reconcile this divergence in character through honest and open discussion, if we continue to ignore it we will perpetuate the stereotype of Homer Simpson and “dumb but funny man” on almost every commercial.
So today, I’m starting it. I’m admitting that I felt something that I’m not proud of, that makes no sense to my rational brain, but I felt it.
What does that mean about being a man in modern times?
How do we as men engage in nuanced and considered discussion openly and honestly when to admit such feeling is not necessarily politically correct?
How do we find courage to admit the way we feel about the evolution of masculinity and roles in modern society challenging?
Most importantly, how do we rise to the challenge and find that balance between heart and head so we can continue to provide that ever so masculine of ideals of protection and security to our partners and children as a stay at home dad or any other role we play in this complex and crazy world..?
I don’t have many answers to the above but I’m willing to consider and discuss…