By Mel Cooke
From a Man’s point of view
A COUPLE of weeks ago, a woman set me straight – and seriously so – when I brought up one of my favourite topics, giving men credit for stepping up to the plate and taking on responsibilities in their families.
Why, she asked, her nostrils twitching (and when a woman’s nose twitches you know she isn’t just smelling the roses) should a man get credit for simply doing what he is supposed to? Why should it be a big deal when a man carries his children to school, while when a woman does it, it is taken as a matter of course?
She was speaking from the background of having a partner (sort of; much more ex than current) who does make a huge deal out of doing the ordinary things which are seen publicly, while falling down terribly – and deliberately – on the huge things that people do not see. So keeping the kid is a major accomplishment and a huge production, but saving for her tertiary education is not even a remote thought. Picking her up from school is a grand exercise in show-and-tell, but teaching her the basics of manners and discipline gets lost in the mix.
It got me thinking, because I (and suddenly, after talking to her, I did not feel too great about it) have always insisted on getting my props for being involved in my family. Not simply being there, but being involved. I have always been the one to demand that my contribution be acknowledged or call attention to what I am doing, maybe because I feel that men do not get enough credit.
But after that lady’s impassioned, though brief, speech, I naturally got to thinking if I should be clamouring for credit about something that should come naturally. And, as she puts it, could it simply be that with so many fathers out there who withdraw from the parenting process at about the same time they withdraw their private part after that crucial moment of procreation, a man actually doing the bare minimum of what he is supposed to somehow becomes some special being?
It gave me serious food for thought and I tried to put myself in a woman’s heels, especially a woman who is separated from the father of her child or children. There she is, being basically a single parent (that term is, you should all know, totally redundant) juggling home, school, work and being a mommy at all times. And she gets absolutely no credit for it, save for the cursory ‘you’re managing really well, as usual’ now and again. However, her partner, present or former, gets ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, admiration and close to national honours when he turns up at the doctor with the kid in tow.
Damn, that must be absolutely galling.
Developing on that, I asked myself if I am actually being as good a father as I purport myself to be. Have I been simply doing the things that I ought to do, things which are very ordinary for a woman, and running down credit for it because I am a man? I have yet to assess myself properly and come to a final judgment, but after that woman set me straight, I do know one thing: I won’t be blowing my trumpet anymore (well, maybe just a little …).