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.

Are you being equal with the Me Time?

Are you being equal with the Me Time?

Or is ‘ME’ time really short for ‘MEN’ time?

We have all heard the idioms:

– Fix your oxygen mask first, before helping others.

– You can’t pour from an empty glass.

– You need to have ‘me’ time in order to be your best self.

This is all true, however, a lot of men I talk with tend to be quite generous with the ‘me’ time they give themselves.

Perhaps overgenerous. And I wonder about their female partners, who are usually looking after the kids whilst this me time is enjoyed.

Some play sports or go bike riding. Some have regular nights out. Some frequent the gym. Some like to work on their cars, or in the garden. The list goes on.

None of this is bad.

Recently I was talking with a good friend who rides regularly. He has a young family – same as me – and I was lamenting about how I would love to join him for a ride or a run, but I was finding it so difficult to fit the time in.

He responded with something along the lines of “You just need to make the time. It makes you a better dad, husband etc.” And then he used the oxygen mask analogy.

The reality is though when he is out for a ride (often 2-3 hours each time), his wife is home with 3 young kids.

There is no equivalent ‘her’ time – at least not as visible or structured.

She has often joked that she should tally up the ride time and cash it in for a couple of months in Fiji. Whilst she jokes, I sense she may still really want to cash in a bit (or a lot) of the time she has earned.

And this is a common occurrence amongst the fathers within my network. Regular – perhaps excessive – ‘me’ time at the expense of their partners getting some time for themselves.

The large majority of these men are employed full-time, whilst their partners may work part-time hours, and almost all of these men out-earn their partners.

By contrast, I hear from women that their ‘me’ time often includes doing the grocery shopping alone – 30mins of child-free time at the shops is cherished.

Compare that to the ride every Saturday morning that goes for 2-3hours. Or the round of golf every Sunday. Or the regular Friday night out with mates.

Does bringing in more money, give the entitlement to more ‘me’-time?

Yes, fix your oxygen mask first, but make sure you aren’t taking all the oxygen.

True, you can’t pour from an empty glass, but that doesn’t mean your glass needs to overflow, whilst your partner is running on empty.

Being your best, whilst your partner is struggling, isn’t really you at your best.

Equality starts at home.

Whatever ‘me’ time you are taking, make sure that it is equal to the ‘me’ time that your partner is getting.

With research consistently showing that mothers take on the lion’s share of caring and household duties, it is worth taking a deeper look at where both of you are spending your time each week.

Maybe it’s time to do an audit.

My Hands Are Full

My Hands Are Full

For the last 18 months, I’ve been, and still am, the primary carer for my daughter on at least two days of the working week (plus Sunday).

My wife and I have split responsibilities so that we both do paid work 3 days a week, 3 days a week we are the primary carer for the kids (we have 3), and Saturdays we are all together.

It is not easy to coordinate. And starting and running a business during this time has been particularly challenging.

Both of us realise though that the person looking after the kids on a particular day will, on balance, usually have the tougher day, and needs the ‘hunter/gatherer’s support from the moment they have finished ‘gathering’ for the day.

This is a promise we make to each other, and we try our best to leave our other work at work so that we can be there for the other person.

Personally, I have found it particularly difficult to manage my own expectations of what I can commit to regarding my business.

I’ve been thinking “I only work 3 days”.

Through coaching, I realised that that simple phrase was actually making me feel inadequate. An unconscious narrative that I should be working 5 days in my business, and was subsequently putting pressure on myself to make up the other 2 days outside of standard hours.

I wasn’t logging off, and I was trying to do work when my daughter slept or was otherwise distracted. I was working at night when everyone slept (and I should have been sleeping too).

I then transitioned to thinking “Actually, I work 3 days”. And realised that I needed to contain my work commitments to these days. Having this bleed into home life, wasn’t an option.

But again, through coaching, I began to appreciate that I was still actually devaluing my domestic/caring duties because they weren’t ‘paid’. I still felt the pressure to think about work, when I wasn’t at work. And my other job suffered.

Despite my recognition that caring responsibilities are, actually, the harder job.

The reality is “I’m working 7 days. I have 2 jobs.”

My new personal narrative is that “I’m a father and husband first. My second job is as a business owner, coach and facilitator.”

And, with this in mind, and looking back at the last couple of years (which admittedly have been the hardest of my life), I’ve never been happier.

AND, I think I’m better at being a gatherer.

There is a lot of pressure that we, and society, place on ourselves to be the hunter/gatherer, and to be the best hunter/gatherer.

The difficult lesson I’ve learnt this year is that we should instead perhaps focus on being the best partner and father first (or whatever this other ‘job’ is for you).

In the scheme of things, no one really cares how good of a hunter you are. But the important people care about how good you are at your first job.

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.