Like most people, I see things through my own experience. I am a woman and a mother. Many times I notice gender bias and differences in expectations as they relate to me differently as a woman, than others who are men. I am more likely to pick up on biases like work place roles, communication styles, strengths and challenges unique to women. And how many “systems” seem stacked against us for different reasons.
But today, on Father’s Day, I want to rev up my empathy engine and recognize the challenge that most fathers, at least in our culture, suffer gender bias of their own. As moms, we have compete cart blanche and even an expectation of being “soft, tender, loving, affectionate, and vulnerable.” But for men its not so easy.
We teach young boys (who grow into men, and some into dads) that these qualities are signs of weakness. Crying is for babies. Showing emotion is a sin. Especially if it is anything other than controlled and in charge.
So how do men learn how to be “soft, tender, loving, affectionate and vulnerable” fathers? Well, many don’t. Unfortunately it is tough for them to access permission to do so, since our culture values tough guys and super heroes who offer little in the way of a delicate nature.
But for those men who DO find the courage to show up fully, I say “I recognize and see you, and Well Done!”
Because I know its hard to go against the societal grain of gender roles. Because I know there is an internal battle raging between the pressure to be tough and respected, to be a “guy’s guy” of sorts, and wanting to be able to hold your child close to your chest, hold their small or big hands, pick them up when they cry and laugh until crying from joy or gratitude. These two worlds are not compatible in most homes, and it takes true courage for men to nurture and express these parts of themselves.
The payoff though, can be exponential and ongoing. Any man, young or old, that allows his parental nature to grow in his relationship with his children, opens the playing field for true love, connection and belonging to emerge. Children need tenderness, understanding and hands on care from their dads, as much as they do from their moms. And children whose fathers show up for them in this way, not only give them this gift, but also give them permission to be emotionally present in their own lives. Especially, when they grow up to potentially become husbands and possible dads with kids of their own some day.
As noted a few posts ago, courage is one of my favorite topics. On Father’s Day, I want to recognize the courage fathers have to draw on, so they can interact in a way that is expected from women. In this scenario, women may be the lucky ones, since no one sees our physical and emotional attachment to our children as weakness or something to be ashamed of.