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Men To Fathers

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“All ships rise with the tide,” my mentor, Smiley Williams once told me. Think about that as our thought for the week. Do you realize how important you are? Do you realize how everything you do has an impact on someone’s life, though you don’t give yourself credit? Well it does.

Recently the Atlantic Monthly magazine cover story “The End of Men…by Hanna Rosin brought discredit to men. Her opening salvo gave some distressing if not ‘wake-up everybody’ news. “Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in US History. Most managers are now women…for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same.” She continued to say “for years women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality, but what if equality isn’t the end points? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?” Talk about role reversal!!

Joseph and Elizabeth Pleck talked about the way fathers’ roles changed on the decades. Fathers went from the distant breadwinner of the1920s to the New Age new father of the 1990s. As the roles changed many things happened. You saw Rosie the Riveter come into the picture while men were away fighting against evil in Europe. A feminization process that had begun during the depression when in many cases women were the principal is not sole bread winner caused many young men to lose an understanding of what role man played. World War II and the post-WWII iconography gave back to men some of the bragging rights not being the breadwinner had stolen.

Many men went back to school; got an education, but with the advent of the women’s movement of the 60s and the 70s, more than the bra was burned as the pill sanctioned a woman who no longer saw herself as barefoot and pregnant. Men just did not realize how important it was for them to continue to get educated in a society that was about to take no prisoners. The women around them didn’t look back.

Rosin aptly points out; men aren’t even in the starting blocks for many of the opportunities generated by the more computer literate world as men dominate just two of the 15 jobs projected to grow the most over the next ten years? What are those jobs? Janitor and computer engineer. Rosin points out that women have everything else—from nursing to child care, food preparation to home health assistance. Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress indicates that many of these new jobs are “the things …women used to do in the home for free.”

So what are we to do? Men, what tide will you raise? What are you going to do?

The first thing I would suggest is get a copy of the Atlantic magazine and read the article. I could tell you portions of what’s in it, but it should be your job to see what you need to do to be competitive; to understand that women nowadays are doing the chasing; making the demands; naming the salaries. So they can expect food on the table when they come home, if they are the one bringing home the bacon. Some of you men may not like what I’m saying, but ‘it is what it is.’ If you don’t get it now, you never will! Educate yourself, or like Philip Jackson, of the Blackstar Project in Chicago says about black men in particular: “Educate or die.” And men are dying a slow horrible death as their sons and daughters watch this.

What can mothers do about this? Insist on your man being your man. Encourage him to get an education. Don’t let him deny his family the right to life and the pursuit of happiness. Tell him to get up off his butt, get work, until he can find a job. Many men don’t want work. They want a job. You may have a college education, but you can’t find a job in your area of expertise, something you can use that degree to earn the dollars you feel is yours to claim. But you might be able to find ‘work’ at McDonald’s, Wal-mart, or even ‘cutting lawns’ until someone recognizes your potential. Potential doesn’t put food on the table, money in the bank, or a roof over someone’s head. Be a father to your children and patriarch your family. Get your sons to get away from the video game and help.

Help…that’s a simple term. It’s a verb and a noun. Get them to learn responsibility. Make them help around the house. If they are about to go to college and have never washed their clothes, who’s going to do that? If they are about to get married, whether it’s your son or daughter, and they don’t know how to cook, who do you think is going to do that? If she’s making more than he is, do you think she’s going to be okay with working all day and then coming home with an expectation that she’s going to cook his dinner, wash the dishes, and pick up his dirty laundry? Hello!!

As Rosin discusses, women are getting to the point they don’t need men for anything. They can make demands based on the fact they see themselves as equals. That’s an important epiphany. They are our partners, something that for years it has taken the counter man-movement to understand. So mothers stop coddling your son as if he is still a baby. I’ve been down this road before, and feel strongly about how mothers weakened their sons like Eleanor of Aquitaine did to Richard the Lionhearted.

Men need men to be men, but men need women to help them understand how to feel, how to react, how to relate. When your husband asks you ‘why don’t you let the boy do his own clothes?’ Understand that he’s relating to you that you are easier on your son than you are on your husband. Or when you husband tells your son to do something, don’t criticize or take up for that lazy boy who wants to get out of work. Encourage him to listen to his dad, particularly if his dad is there. In 40% of the homes, that’s not the case!

So remember, raise them to leave. Encourage them to get work. And remember, if they are working, that’s money coming in, just like the tides, and all ships rise with the tides.

“People are either anchors or balloons, don’t forget that.”
Jonathan K. Rose
from “Murder Behind Closed Doors” by Jere Myles

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