This isn’t a rant about toxic masculinity. On this Father’s Day, my mission is for you to be inspired by men.
If you’re like most people you’ve never considered what the masculine ideal looks like. But most of us can think of a man in our experience that we admire.
It’s time to illuminate those men that don’t get the press coverage because they – like so many other things that are right with this world - don’t scare the shit out of you.
The Men I Admire
Often on our mission with Jack’s we cite a 2017 study on male caregivers by AARP, in which it was demonstrated that 78% of men who are caregivers reported having no help. What I’d like to consider is what’s different about the about other 22%. And more specifically what’s different about the men in that 22% that sought out that help themselves. That’s a group of men that I admire.
In our most recent podcast episode I begin telling my caregiving story about my early years as a father. But let’s be clear. What we’re talking about here is not fatherhood. We’re talking about caregiverhood.
Caregiverhood's the Real Challenge for a Man
Caregiverhood is a much bigger challenge than fatherhood. Because when I say caregiver what I mean is someone who’s taken responsibility for a loved one with a catastrophic illness. And for the men we serve that catastrophic illness is cancer. Of course, many men who are caregivers are fathers too. The fathers who are caring for a child with a catastrophic illness probably come to mind first. But there are also many of these men who aren’t fathers. As I see it creating more humans with your sperm has absolutely nothing to do with how much of a man you are.
In my experience as a primary cancer caregiver for my loved one with metastatic colon cancer I’m pretty sure I never asked for help. But I did have help. I was simply lucky enough to have family and friends that insisted. So, while I may be in the 22% of men who had help, I’m not in that smaller percentage of men who sought it out. I was not a man I admire.
I Was Not a Man That I Admire
What’s funny to me is that in my day job I coached men who were leaders of large construction projects. I’d seen it time and time again, when the schedule gets tight, the stress levels rise – men predictably do the opposite of asking for help. They retreat and they isolate. They’ll go from 10 to 15 to 20 hour days, whatever it takes to get the job done. I’d tell them, “you can’t win a football game by running the ball on every play yourself, you’re gonna burn out.”
I preached at these men how to build a team, the exponential power potential we have when we’re bold enough to let others be the magic. And then I’d go home and strive to be the magic myself as a caregiver. A total hypocrite.
The question I’ve wrestled hard with is, why are us guys so prone to facing our challenges alone?
The Fragility of Manhood
What I’ve come to understand is that men aren’t the problem, manhood is. We don’t have a simple ritual anymore where we can show people the tattoo we got that proves we’re a man. Manhood is this ghost so many of us are chasing that’s impossibly hard to earn, and easy to lose. It’s paradoxically fragile.
And paradoxically as I examined the men who are caregivers in that 22% that refused to face their challenge alone, I noticed these men aren’t fragile at all. Quite the opposite.
Those men aren’t chasing a manhood ghost. Those men contacted us and our community partners immediately after they learned they became a caregiver. Those men quickly built championship teams around themselves and their loved ones. Those men are bold enough to let others be the magic. Those men understand that they owe the people that love him the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with him in the face of his challenge.
What I’ve noticed is different about those men is they aren’t driven by the constant “status anxiety” that drives so many of us. They aren’t afraid they might not measure up. They understand they aren’t the center of the universe. They understand that becoming independent was only the beginning of their journey into adulthood.
If you ask me, these are the men who are modeling the masculine ideal that our era needs. These are the men that I admire. These are the men that inspire me.
Who are the men that inspire you? Who is a man that you admire? What does he do that impresses you? Tag a man that inspires you in your comments and shine a light on him!