Mark Goodson says a good man
is one who participates in domestic duties.
The expectations of what makes a good man are changing.
My father is a great man. I’ve never seen him wash a dish or grease a pan. While too young to remember, I doubt he ever changed a diaper. But he brought home the bacon. My mother stayed at home to care for the house and raise us kids before we started Kindergarten.
I’m a father now. Recently, I read to my son a “Little Golden Book” entitled Daddies. Daddies do everything in the book while mommies stay at home or go shopping. Published in 1953, this book is a relic of a male-dominated workforce when single incomes were more likely to sustain a home.
The Pew Research Center provided 5 empirical facts that reflect the shift to dual-income households. Here’s what we know:
Fewer dads are their family’s sole breadwinner.
Dads’ and moms’ roles are converging.
Work-family balance is a challenge for many working fathers.
Today’s dads say they spend at least as much time with their kids as their fathers spent with them.
More fathers are staying home to care for kids.
The 21st century father is expected to handle more domestic responsibility.
A good man in the 50s supported his family. A good man today also supports his working wife. Naturally, this shift also engenders a share of stress and strife.
I recently supported my wife through graduate school. During that time, I was the sole breadwinner. I took on extra work, side projects, part-time jobs. I was extremely proud when I saw the aggregate income on the tax return doubled my base salary. But this time period proved two things: 1) my salary is insufficient; I need my wife to work for our family to live comfortably and 2) taking on a larger domestic role hurts my pride.
There is no point in shucking that second fact. During her finals period, I cleaned, cooked, washed and folded laundry, and put the kids to bed. The hardest part (in retrospect) was swallowing my pride to do those chores after a long day’s work.
Not being the sole breadwinner was cited by Dr. Leonard Sax in his book Boys Adrift as a contributing factor to the “failure to launch” phenomenon. Sax describes a plague in male motivation stemming from—among many things—internet porn, video games, educational systems, and the decline in the role of the male as the vocational head of the home.
As domestic roles converge, it is important to redefine what it means to be a man. I am learning to change my expectation of what it means to be both a father and a husband. Manhood now requires more from us. It requires more humility and more strength. In the 21st century, men need to work harder than they have in past generation and in a multitude of roles.
The perception that domesticity is emasculating needs to be smashed. A good man sacrifices for his family; a strong man puts his family’s needs ahead of his own.
“Manning up” may mean rocking the baby to bed at night so your wife can get her rest. It may mean waking up early to cook breakfast, or vacuuming the living room floor. But manning up still requires men to man up.
So man up. Support your working spouse. Wash a dish. Fold a pair of pants.
Humility is the answer, and the great men of history have it in abundance. Humility does not mean being servile or subordinate; it means understanding how I rightly fit in this world, in my family.
Our manliness does not have to be set upon the chopping block, only our egos. And I think a good man realizes this.
Photo: Mark Goodson