I consider myself a feminist. Some people say that feminists are aggressively in favour of women’s rights, and don’t really like men, or believe in Men’s rights.
Despite the word feminism being derived from the word female, feminism is not about being pro- woman or anti-man. Feminism is about equality and choice. It is about all people whatever their gender or sexual identity being able to choose their role in life and their role in family.
What I think is missing from modern feminism is the human history that is built in to our very fibre, our genes, our evolution. Once we become parents, this becomes very apparent, well it did to me anyway! Here is why……
Traditionally in Western society a woman’s place was at home with her children and a man’s place was in the workplace earning the money for the family. This history is relatively recent, but as far back as our ancestral memories stretch, we understand that similar has always been true. Women have always given birth to, and raised children, nurtured, cared for and fed children and men. Men have always provided, showed strength, hunted for food, carried logs for fire, built structures for shelter, provided women with what they need to nurture children.
Disclaimer – This is an opinion piece and is based on my observations and experiences. Many men and women will not relate to the descriptions below but many will, hear me out though and let me know what you think in the comments.
In general, Mothers, due to their inbuilt qualities of nurture, understanding and care have developed a brain for ‘managing the family’ or what I call ‘carrying the ball’. By managing the family I don’t mean doing everything.
Many men are sharing care of children or are stay at home dads, they are very willing and capable of looking after kids, cleaning the house, cooking, and doing school runs. By managing the family, I mean thinking everything, planning everything and carrying the weight of all of the families needs around in their heads and on their shoulders.
So many mothers that I see in my counselling and coaching sessions, tell me that they are stressed and overwhelmed with the sheer weight of carrying the family’s knowledge, mental diary and wellbeing needs around with them.
Being a mum who works full or part time doesn’t mean that you don’t continue to carry this weight and this is one of the pitfalls of modern feminism. Mothers are unable to ‘hand over the ball’ or ‘share the ball 50/50′ they are unable to let go of this extra weight they carry, not because they are control freaks or don’t trust their partners to handle it, but because it is built into their very fibre to carry it!
This is not an attack on Dads or about one partner not doing enough. This is not about Mums making a choice to do everything, this is about neither parent knowing how to share ‘the invisible ball’ equally. It is not in most Dad’s nature to carry it and not in most Mum’s nature to drop it.
I feel like fathers carry a burden in their bones too. The burden of providing (money, food, answers, strength) for their family. I have spoken to a lot of stay at home dads or dads sharing care who feel unworthy because their partners earn more than they do or that they don’t feel like they are ‘providing’ adequately or enough. I don’t have all the answers to these dilemmas just yet as I am still trying to unpack them, but I have found some very interesting information and tips to share:
I don’t have all the answers to these dilemmas just yet as I am still trying to unpack them, but I have found some very interesting, related information and tips to share:
- Brené Brown – a beautifully spoken researcher, social worker and teacher who has done some amazing research on shame and vulnerability. This is relevant here as she says, “messages of shame are organised around gender. For women, there are whole constellations of often contradictory expectations that, if not met, are sources of shame, but for men, the overarching message is that any weakness is shameful.” You have got to watch her over at Ted Talks; both her talks are amazingly powerful as are ALL of her books.
- I have also been thinking a lot about the best way that men and women, particularly couples, can get help and support from each other, while respecting these innate gender differences. What I have come up with so far is………Just ASK! This relates back to Brené Brown and her research. Truly asking for what we need is admitting we can’t do it all and being vulnerable. Coming to terms with vulnerability as a positive attribute and not a sign of weakness, is vital for both genders. Brené says that vulnerability is the antidote to shame, so step out into the arena, be seen and ask your partner for help or listening when you need it!
So in summary, men and women think differently and have different priorities that are built into their subconcious. Mothers feel the pressure to carry ‘THE BALL’ even if no one is putting that pressure on them, it is built in. Most fathers do a fair share and don’t shirk their responsibilities, but still feel like their partners need something more from them, but neither can work out what.
Women feel shame if they drop the ball, if they can’t do it all. Men feel shame if they perceive any signs of weakness in their behaviour or actions or are unable to provide what their partners need in order to nurture their children.
Mamas, ask for what you need and be specific, eg. “Hey hubby, I need you to take on planning the meals for the week and not just cooking them, I need you to decide in the morning what to have, take something out of the freezer if necessary, do the prep and cook the dinner. I need you to do this as it is making me feel overwhelmed and stressed. Thanks darling, you are truly the best”.
Papas, (you need to read this too Mamas) vulnerability is not weakness. Tell your partner/wife what hurts you, what confuses you and what you need from her. She will not laugh at you or reject you or tell you to toughen up. She will tell you that she loves you and thank you for sharing with her.
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