There seems to be something of a crisis in male identity and it’s easy to see why. Long gone are the traditional male roles, replaced by technology or increasing equality. I don’t blame either of those things but they have led to what might be viewed as societal emasculation.
For example, hunting has now been replaced by lazily clicking on a supermarket’s website. Warfare, whilst still happening, is not encountered by the majority. Bands of brigand soldiers don’t come roving through town slaughtering everyone in sight and taking all the good cutlery. Now we have epic RPGs to replace this experience. Or, if becoming a warlock isn’t your thing, Game of Thrones.
This extends to the idea of the man bringing home the money. When your wife earns pretty much the same (if not more) than you, it’s hard to declare grand-eloquently that you are working all the given hours to put food on the table and therefore you shouldn’t have to clean out the cats again. Not unless you want to be wearing said food.
This shifting lack of role is only emphasised by fatherhood.
It seems like you should have a role so secure that it is written in italics. I am a dad.
But when you start deconstructing it a bit more you realise that there is no such thing as a dad. And frustratingly, even if there was, the role of a dad keeps changing.
To begin with, I was some kind of late night service station on the motorway of childhood providing food and toilet facilities. I also overcharged for beans on toast and smelled of urine but that was for only tangentially connected reasons.
Later though, I became an entertainer. My range of silly noises, funny faces and all round levels of jocularity would put any courtly jester out of work. Unfortunately, this has spilled over into my professional life and so I will now inadvertently make little robot noises when handing out work to my students. They don’t find it as funny as the boy does. Or I do.
I’ve maintained my clown status but also added protector, preventer of falls, cook, life guard, cleaner, bard, comforter, chamber maid, tickle monster, soothsayer and chauffeur. It’s honestly like being a squire to a demanding and boorish lord.
Most recently however, my role has been quite clearly defined.
And whilst that might not be as adventurous as defending my farmstead from an orcish warband at least I have a purpose in life.
That is what drives a lack of male identity, a lack of purpose. Sometimes we can define our roles ourselves. More often than not, we need someone to shape it for us.
Nine month olds seem perfectly placed to do just that.