As hard for some may believe but men aren’t invincible. We aren’t immortal and our bones aren’t made out of adamantium. Enter the Neo Father. Admitting this does not make me less of a man – it makes me more of one. As evolved as we are as a human race we often relegate our views on things in traditional gender roles. While women have shown the ability to continue to break stereotypes of ‘bare foot and pregnant’ men are having just as hard time breakout out of the ‘clueless dad’, emotionally distant, “fumbling oaf” archetype. It even complicates it in when you add racial undertones to an already stacked deck (Yes Black fathers DO participate in their children’s lives)– being a modern father is brings about complicated and complex feelings.
Men have feelings? Yes we do.
Do we cry at commercials? Nah – then you’re soft.
Ok maybe – especially if you’re a new father and your nerves are just raw when it comes to anything dealing with children.
My journey to this place happened about 4 years or so ago. I just had a perfect shit storm of luck – it started with us having a miscarriage, then my father was diagnosed with cancer and lastly someone who I managed passed away. I felt alone and isolated. While I had a support system I didn’t use them. I honestly didn’t know how to use them. I was incapable of being that vulnerable with anyone. Where do I begin? How do I explain in a way for someone to understand the pain I was in?
The problem is we do not have safe places to express our insecurities. It takes a special level of friendship with another male for us to become that vulnerable. Which is why often men take to have women friends but if you’re married that becomes complicated. More often than not we avoid it and because of that we do not have an outlet for these feelings.
There goes that ‘f’ word again.
After the person I managed passed two of my employees came in one right after the other and told me that I needed to talk to someone. One of the benefits of my job is when there is a tragedy they have grief counselors on site to walk you through it. I used that opportunity to speak to someone. It emotionally changed my well being and trajectory. In hindsight I probably should have continued to see someone and eventually I will.
Mental health in men is becoming a deadly killer as suicide rates and depression rise. While suicide rates are down for African American men, being diagnosed with depression is on the rise. I’m happy we are breaking the stigma of receiving help is weak or “white”. It’s better than the alternatives our father and grandfathers used – alcoholism. What a world we live in when it’s better to drink yourself into oblivion than to admit something is wrong.
Dad’s need safe places. We need to be able to express ourselves to someone or people who can identify with our plight. It’s important to have those places and rather it’s a private facebook group or a professional – it’s a need you wouldn’t realize you have until you find it. That’s what happened to me. I sought out to find a group to help the blog gain traction and ended up finding a dad support group. Even though I’m not as vocal in the group as most but just observing some of the other experiences from the fathers help me process my internal issues.
The ability to be in touch with our emotions and not be ashamed of them will help us become better fathers. You can be in touch with your feelings and still be manly. Being in touch just means you know where your triggers are – you are able to recognize that you feel something. It helps with the ability to express those feelings from a place of strength and not fear.
Raising a child is an emotional roller coaster. I felt the need to be equipped with the ability to manage being a good father and husband. I had to understand where those priorities can sometimes compete and even conflict. Managing the stress during times of pressure is of the utmost importance. Your family are the most important people in your life – preserving that relationship must be done at all cost.