Men Need Help Removing Their Armour

Men Need Help Removing Their Armour

Patriarchy hurts men.

It is a system that drastically needs to be challenged and dismantled for everyone’s benefit.

Patriarchy’s continued impact on women is actively challenged. Progress is there but it’s slow and encounters frequent setbacks. 

Comparatively patriarchy’s impact on men is often sidelined and doesn’t garner as much attention.

Men speaking against patriarchy feels like an oxymoron or the ultimate betrayal. Who wouldn’t want to be a man in a patriarchal system?

The answer, as I’ve witnessed, is most men.

From an early age, a lot of men find themselves placed in the role of an armoured knight, a naïve soldier of the patriarchy. We are expected to be ready to face any challenges that the world throws up and emerge victorious. 

The origins of this ‘role’ derive from the inherent need within a patriarchal system to proactively challenge and fight other patriarchies. This requires literal man-power, and men willing to go to war, and make the ultimate sacrifice.

Compelling the majority of men to be prepared to give up their lives, requires considerable indoctrination. Indoctrination tells you that if aren’t willing to put everything on the line, there is something wrong with you. If you aren’t strong enough to perform when you are needed, there is something wrong with you.

A lot of men, throughout their lives, are expected to be strong, resilient, and unwavering in the face of adversity. The armour we wear is a collective construct of stoicism, emotional restraint, and the belief that seeking help is a sign of weakness. This armour protects us from judgments and vulnerabilities but can hinder growth, emotional well-being, and the ability to form genuine connections.

It can become an inseparable part of a man’s identity, shaping his perception of strength, vulnerability, and weakness.  

“Be a man” and “man up” are phrases that are uniquely conveyed to the male gender. And interestingly there is no female equivalent for the word ‘emasculating’.

Choosing to step out of this defined role, often brings ridicule, bullying and exclusion, as many men can attest to. 

It is a very difficult thing to do.

Just as a knight requires the assistance of squires to help him remove his armour, men often need support and understanding to dismantle the protective layers that have been built or imposed over time. Breaking free from the shackles of traditional masculinity is not a sign of defeat but a declaration of courage and growth.

Friends, family, mentors, therapists, coaches and support groups serve as the modern-day squires, offering a helping hand to assist in the delicate process of de-armouring. 

They encourage men to embrace vulnerability, express their emotions, and seek help without feeling inadequate. This support network helps men understand that seeking assistance doesn’t diminish their strength but empowers them to face their battles more authentically.

Just as a knight feels relief and liberation when his armour is removed, men experience a similar sense of freedom and peace when they shed the societal expectations that have bound them for so long. 

It allows them to stand tall, unencumbered, and authentic in their feelings and experiences.

Underneath this armour they find themselves. And others start to see the real them too – instead of another reluctant knight within the patriarchy.

Removing the armour doesn’t diminish their heroism; instead, it showcases their bravery in confronting their struggles and evolving into their true selves. 

Let us acknowledge this, extend our support, and create a world where men can be proud, unshielded, and truly empowered.

5 Hacks For Making Memories this School Holidays

5 Hacks For Making Memories this School Holidays

How are you keeping your monsters (sorry, I mean kids) entertained in the school holidays?

With 3 young, high-energy kids (one with ADHD) school holidays can often feel more about survival than making memories.

More and more dads are taking responsibility for the school holidays, which is excellent news for everyone.

Here are a few hacks I’ve stumbled across.

  1. Hide and seek – this is an amazing mindfulness activity. Having the kids silent and still for a few minutes is bliss. Savour the seeker role by mindfully counting to 100 – nice and slow – whilst breathing deeply. Then take your time to find them, maybe also taking the opportunity to tidy up the house as you go. My kids tend to prefer it if it takes more time to find them anyway. Repeat, many, many times.
  1. Make at-home playdough – I have a fool-proof / kids-proof recipe for made-in-the-microwave playdough. It’s great because the kids help with making it (can’t really go wrong), they dye it their favourite colour/s and then spend heaps of time playing with it. You can also make as much as you want, which is handy when you want to replace the mixed-together brown. Send me an email if you want me to send you the recipe.
  1. Invest in Costumes – Having dress-ups handy fills in a surprising amount of time, and channels creativity and energy in less destructive ways. Keep in mind, that anything can be a costume. My boys love being rolled up in a blanket – sometimes they are slugs, sometimes they are burritos. Either way, it slows them down, and there are big smiles on their faces. My boys also love the simplicity of a bucket helmet. Not everyone needs a Captain America costume to be a hero. Cardboard boxes are also very versatile and can be costumes or craft materials.
  1. Be Present – Multitasking is an absolute myth. It’s rapid task switching and the research shows that you end up doing neither activity well. Trying to work at the same time as looking after kids doesn’t work for me and I’ve found that it makes me more stressed and not my best for the kids. A better method is to give them time when I’m fully present and engaged and give myself 100% to the activity. Then after a while, I find they usually want some time to themselves or they get engrossed with an activity (like the playdough) and I can use that time to cast an eye over some work. Quality time over being half there always seems to work in our household.
  1. Embrace the mess – I’ve discovered that if my expectation is that we need to keep things clean or keep the mess contained, I am inevitably disappointed and grow frustrated. Alternatively, if I assume that something is going to be a Category 6 mess, I am much more tolerant and everyone ends up having a better time (including me). A bit of mess takes a similar time to clean than a lot of mess – e.g. throwing the kid in the shower, so rather than working to contain the mess to little portions, give them permission to go for it.

These hacks don’t work 100% of the time but they are definitely worth a try.

You might also like to read this other post about managing with kids at home for the holidays.

Good luck.

Would you buy your son a pram?

Would you buy your son a pram?

When my son turned 4, we bought him a pram.

It was one of three things that he really wanted, and he had mentioned it frequently in the lead-up to his birthday.

Interestingly, I found myself evaluating and re-evaluating my gender biases. It revealed about me, to myself.

A lot of which I’m not proud of, especially considering one of the reasons my son wanted a pram was to ‘be like daddy’. Shouldn’t this gift have been a no-brainer?

Seeing how much joy it’s brought him, I don’t regret the decision for a moment. I’m ashamed that I had any second thoughts in the first place.

I’m ashamed of my hang-ups, but it’s helping me to grow, and challenge the biases that are still entrenched.

I’m proud of my son, and he gives me lots of hope that his generation won’t face some of the stereotypical gender expectations and stigma that my generation does.

As a kid, I would have never asked for the pram. Probably my dad would never have bought me one.

That’s progress.

Here of some of my learnings and reflections from the weekend:

– It’s actually very hard to buy a non-pink pram. The toy manufacturers really aren’t helping with this. But we did manage the find a green pram, even with a boy on the front. Representation matters. ‘What’s wrong with pink for a boy?’ you may ask. (Well, that’s a whole other post and discussion).

– A LOT of people (family, friends and strangers) felt the need to query “Did you buy him a pram for his birthday?” They didn’t ask this question about the other presents. My mother in las actually asked this question as my son opened the present in front of us. No one asked this question about his other gifts.

– I found myself being drawn into responding to this query with “Yes, it’s what he really wanted” as if I needed to defend our choice. Or “Yes, but we also got him a bike” (I can’t believe I felt the need to say that). Thankfully, I did stop myself at “Yes.”

– I found myself needing to summon the strength to take the pram with us to the park. Which is massively ironic considering I was taking a pram with his younger sister. I was fearful of the looks, the questions and the judgements. But I left my hangups at home and strolled proudly to the park. Prams side by side on the footpath. We had a lot of fun.

– His older brother and he fought over the pram and the baby doll at the park. And my eldest son (6) actually got quite upset that the birthday boy wasn’t sharing and he wasn’t getting a turn.

Perhaps, deep down, every boy wants a pram.

Why doesn’t Brittany want our sympathy as fathers?

Why doesn’t Brittany want our sympathy as fathers?

If you are struggling with appreciating this point of view, you are not alone.

It is tempting and ‘well intended’ for men to react to what is being discussed by Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame, with genuine sympathy. Sympathy that may come from our experience of having daughters, sisters, partners, friends, mothers, grandmothers, or granddaughters.

However, the urge to want to protect the women in our lives may actually be contributing to the problem much more than we think.

Firstly by presuming that the women in our lives require protection and placing ourselves as protectors, we unconsciously place women in an inferior role to ourselves and reinforce the patriarchal system in which men hold authority and power (over women).

This is benevolent sexism. 

Benevolent sexism is seen in ‘chivalrous’ or ‘fatherly’ behaviours.

Yes, help your fellow humans. But if you are only opening doors for women and not others, or if you instruct your daughters to behave a certain way which you don’t also expect from your sons, then there may be some benevolent sexism that you are not yet aware of. 

Benevolent sexism also makes us more susceptible to hostile sexism. And we probably are more familiar with those examples.

But hostile sexism often arises from benevolent sexism.

When a woman acts out of place, refuses to conform, or doesn’t respect our patriarchal authority, hostile sexism rears its ugly head.

It’s how a lot of domestic and sexual violence is initiated.

See the problem?

It should not be about ensuring the women in our lives have built a house of bricks to protect themselves against the big bad wolves that are out there. 

By doing so, essentially what we are saying to the wolves is “harass someone else”, “abuse someone else”, “rape someone else”. ‘Go visit the house of sticks or straw’.

Instead, we need to turn our attention to our sons, brothers, partners, friends, fathers, grandfathers and grandsons.

We need to ensure that the ‘wolves’ are not allowed to freely roam the corridors of our schools, our workplaces, our streets, our parliament.

We need to educate each other, be uncomfortable with each other, and confront each other.

When a wolf emerges, women will feel safe only when they know that an army of fellow humans will be there to help them, and not side with the wolf.

The wolves are there in plain sight. Some dressed as sheep.

Start with confronting the wolf in the mirror. Because he is there.

When you find him, send me a message and I can help with what to do next.

Working Parents and societal change

Working Parents and societal change

This week has been a week of transitions in my household, as it probably has been for many working parents.

Our eldest son started back at school, and our younger son is back at daycare.

PLUS, coincidently, my wife has returned to her practice this week, after taking parental leave.

For me, it’s involved juggling around my schedule and availability to assume the primary carer’s role for our youngest – 9-month-old, Lizzie.

Looking after a baby by yourself is tough, and the third time around doesn’t make it much easier.

Even tougher is trying to run a business between naps, pickups, and playtime. I didn’t have this added pressure with the other two, as I took leave from my employers instead (self-funded through annual leave and leave without pay).

📣 So here’s a shout-out to all the people that are doing this currently – and somehow making it work.

📣 And a special shout out to the dads doing this.

Third time around for me, it is definitely encouraging to see the progress that had been made – just in the last 5 years – to normalise dads being the primary carer, and to normalise dads juggling work and caring responsibilities throughout the week.

This time around, I haven’t encountered the “change table is located in the women’s bathroom” issue (although, I think this is still the case in some public toilets).

This time around, the unhelpful comments are much less frequent. No one has commented about me “playing mum” or “minding the baby” or how great it is that I’m giving my wife a break. But there are still some comments – the most recent was from a lady that praised my “Mother’s rock” when observing me settling my daughter.

This time around there are also a couple more dads at the park (still not that many though). But the biggest change is that the mothers seem less cliquey, more willing to talk to me, and more willing to include me as an equal in their parenting conversations.

It is progress in the right direction – which makes this transition much easier this time around, despite the added pressure.

The last couple of times I’ve done this, I said a massive thanks to my employer and my team for supporting me through this time. This time I am my employer, and I don’t have much of a team.

So instead I want to thank Australian society for the progress that has been made. Progress which is supporting me through this time. 🙏