By Courtney Klein, PsyD
Men and especially fathers in our country have historically had a fairly narrow range of models demonstrating how to be an American man. Men have been taught to be the breadwinner, the provider, the strong and dependable leader of the family. But in today’s day and age, men are asked to be a lot more, often without a guide or example for how to do so. Men are often expected to not only hold a traditional role of providing for the family, but to also know how to parent and connect with their children in emotionally sensitive ways, complete a more diverse range of the chores around the house, and to make healthy choices to avoid the “Dad bod,” as well. They are expected to be assertive and dependable, yet also soft and empathic. They are expected to know the latest parenting models while also working towards the promotion in the corner office. This competing set of priorities and expectations make things challenging and I believe men need ongoing support in learning how to adapt to an always changing culture.
This is a tough culture. Modern men are supposed to do it all, with a strong mind and a big heart. Many of these men strive to adopt these new roles and expectation every day, sometimes without good models to follow or reassurance for their efforts. It is rarely acknowledged that men’s identities have grown and developed, and may have expanded to the point where it is actually difficult to do it all. When the 2018 male has trouble pulling off all of this, there is little empathy or support for the complexities of their roles. Instead the feedback from broader culture might be the expectation that with regard to these varied roles men really should already know what to do, how to do it, and be successful. Unfortunately, men often did not grow up seeing this and therefore have no foundational framework for how to perform.
With all of this being said, I give you men a lot of respect and credit for making this up as you go, for adding more roles and aspects to your multifaceted identity, and most of the time for doing it with hard work and a smile. Gender has been a complex topic for many years, and more dialogue is needed as we work to integrate new practices, expectations, and roles. I, as a woman in 2018, as well as a therapist, am grateful for you. I work hard in my therapeutic role to help you recognize the complex aspects of your ever-changing identity and help you find a good balance for yourself. Whenever you doubt yourself or feel genuinely confused about how to excel at everything, I can give you both support and offer strategies for being the most effective in this role and at this time in American life.
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