International Men's Day - Men need more support than you realise
As a mother of one lovely boy I’m very much outnumbered by the male population in this house. I remember the day I found out I was going to have a boy. We eagerly went in for the scan at 20 weeks, knowing that we could find out the sex of our little bump. The Sonographer took their time just to make sure, but then without hesitation proudly announced .. “It’s …..a BOY!”. There was an audible hush and my husband grabbed my hand and squeezed. I promptly burst into tears and the very timid Sonographer backed out quietly and gave us some space.
I know I was dramatic, but before the haters commence bear with. I’d already set my heart on a little girl, I guess I was a bit man phobic back then. I guess because I’m a girl and I know about those things it seemed an easier option. There were many other reasons for the pink wish but hopefully you can imagine my despair when my hearts desire wasn't met. Since giving birth to my little guy my heart has changed and my feelings towards the other sex have most definitely altered.
As a mother of a boy and if you are one too I’m sure you’ll agree our job is huge. The responsibility to bring up well rounded individuals is one hard task. Each sex has their difficulties, has their challenges in the world but on International Men’s Day I’m singling out the male variety to spread a little love towards them.
I’m a woman, so I’m never really gonna get the male perspective. But I can see where I may have had my heart tainted towards them. I only really had one male role model in my life and as a result led a very female centric life. From school to home and into the workplace women were everywhere. And they were sometimes unkind about their male counterparts. I understand their sentiments. After all the male ego can be a bit of a force of nature and when left unattended can be a little bit unpleasant. However when you cut to the core you have to see it from their point of view.
It’s a man’s world or is it?
To quote the famous James Brown song…
“This is a man's world,
This is a man's world,
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing
Without a woman or a girl”
The thing is we’re all in this together and to diss one sex over the other would be totally wrong. As I say we all have our challenges. Men in particular tend to suffer in silence and the death rate from suicide is far higher for males. As women, mother’s in particular it's’ our job to create an equal world and help our little guys. As women we’ve probably had a head start in this, we’ve been more in touch with our feelings and we find it easier to start the conversation. Men on the other hand tend to bottle up their feelings. Of course that is starting to change and little by little we’ll hopefully start to change the statistics. We started small in our house, the little things matter….like trying to avoid using male orientated phrases like “man up”, like allowing my boy to cry if he needs to and just offering a hug in support no words needed. As parents we’ve talked openly about our feelings and our mistakes especially when we’ve f’ed up with our negative behaviour. Owning up to our faults has allowed us as parents to reflect how we interact as male and female too and how certain jobs have been aligned to gender….don’t get me started about boys playing football.
Cultivating a 21st century man
Bringing up our little dude has had it’s challenges and we’ve certainly tried to squash our fair share of gender stereotypes. Encouraging play of all sorts from dolls to trucks, kitchens to race cars. We hoped as parents to bring up a well rounded loved child. When he was a toddler his favourite colour was pink mainly influenced by his good friend Ella he chose to have a pink cup just like his best friend. This often received strange looks and remarks about what a beautiful girl he was. I often puzzled why someone would select a gender based on a colour and still find it perplexing today. After all it’s a colour and just that. Fast forward and my little dude still loves pink. Except at secondary school he has encountered other questions about his sexuality. I am proud to say my lovely boy dealt very calmly and assertively, when his own sexuality was questioned because of the colour of his drinking bottle.
What’s in a label?
It seems we’re obsessed with labels and want to make sure everything fits neatly into a box. If you don’t fit then many wanna turn their back on you. Surely we should be seeing the individual? This labeling and box fitting spans out not just with sexual preference but also with job choice and career expectation the list is endless and not exhaustive. Sometimes the shoulders of men weigh heavy. As women we do our best to support our husbands, partners, sons but at this time especially with lockdowns and job losses we should be looking beyond this into the community and see where we can help others. I want to address temper and anger here. Because in my experience not only with my son but also with my husband, mental health issues sometimes show up differently to those of women. Instead of tears there is often aggression, instead of talking there is sometimes violent behaviour, like kicking out and breaking things. And while I take a stand for domestic violence I want to just place a pause and say sometimes we have to look a bit deeper as to where that started. Remember as Mothers it’s our responsibility not just to bring up great humans, we have to be able to bring up great men. Whatever they choose to do with their life and however they choose to live it, we must be able to hand them the tools to be able to express themselves however they choose and not stay bottled up inside, kind of pressure cooker stylee.
Support each other
I recently did an interview with my husband for the Tangled Mind podcast with an amazing man Michael Bailey-Brown. We chatted with him about his hopes to support others with mental health issues especially men as well as the family unit. His own upbringing marred by the mental health issues of his Father. He was a strong young man who was also a father himself and knew all too well the expectation that young men face. There are many more groups of support out there for men but we still have a long way to go to reduce the stigma attached. As a yoga teacher I encountered this gender stigma a lot. Although I catered for mixed sex classes I was only frequented by a few males. The ones that did have a go, often only stayed for one class. But the men that did stay truly harped on about the benefits and often remarked how they wished more men found the courage to attend. I sometimes wondered if I ostracized them? I sometimes wondered if I wasn’t making a welcoming environment. But I soon realised that part of them not staying was how others may view those who attended and that was down to the individual to overcome. Those who were secure were often my best students , so open and ready to learn.
So in conclusion I’d like to sing the praises to all those men who’ve reached out, asked for help, got in touch with their emotions and have not shied away from showing them. Have appreciated the Yoga and tried out a class. I salute you all and ask you to fly the flag proudly so others not so forthcoming can see that there is another way.