This Father’s Day, let’s look at supporting MEN

Father’s Day is here.  And I want for you to celebrate it by supporting men.  Let me back up.

There are so many articles I thought about sharing with you:
ones on fathers experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety; ones about how to “celebrate” this day if you have an absent father; ones about men worrying about their body image; or ones covering new research about how men wish they could be more involved in caregiving.

My readers have probably noticed, though, I prefer to focus on what strikes a chord within myself.  For the sake of looking at men and women, I am going to use primarily binary language in this blog.  I hope that it can still resonate with any reader, though, as we each share so much responsibility for our society.

As a therapist, I am passionate about serving all adults, including men.  Some female therapists prefer to work with females, given the shared experience.  I get that.  However, it was at my last agency job working with a men’s program where I found my passion for helping men who–in so many ways–have been left in the dust when it comes to empowerment and emotional tending.

Some may scoff at that.  Empowerment?  Isn’t the “Me, too” movement about balancing out how hyperpowered men are in this world?  Shouldn’t we focus on women feeling empowered?

“Sarah,” you may challenge, “let us support women.  Men have had more than enough.”

I identify as a woman and I also identify as being in that weird generation between Gen X and Millennials.  I am proud to say that I was raised around strong women, and I continue to surround myself with those who mentor me.  Throughout my life, I have seen remarkable progress that women have made in becoming, well, “renaissance men.” We are told there are no limits to whomever we become.  We are told to be trailblazers if needed, and that we are as dynamic and capable as any human that has ever existed.  And there are countless scholarships, after-school programs, retreats, summer camps, and voices helping us get there.

On the other hand, I see men being told–not necessarily taught–to be more emotional, present, and heartfelt, while still being everything they once were.

Oftentimes, men have the pressures of being a breadwinner.  They should be strong and fashionable.  They should be gentle and strong.  They should be educated and intuitive.  They should go to work and they should be at home.  They should earn a living and they should support the careers of women.  They should be better fathers and husbands and they should just figure out how to do all it.  I know no person of any gender who is capable of living up to all of these expectations with any amount of sustainability.

As a therapist, I sit with men who have not gotten to cry.  I sit with men who do not get to know how to improve their estranged relationships with their children.  I sit with men who want to raise children–especially sons–with more tenderness than they were given, but they find themselves falling short.  I sit with men who do not know how to handle their emotions with more grace or range.  And I sit with men who do not know how to understand or heal from their traumas.

When I became a mother, I was astounded to see that there were countless groups for new mothers to adjust to this transition, but possibly only one in my large metropolitan area designed for men (and of course, it is a “bootcamp” format).  I was also astounded at the amount of time men were given to bond with their babies and to be with their changing families.  It seems so basic.

With the “Me too” movement, we proclaim that women’s voices and realities matter and that they must be heeded.  That is so true, and yet, we cannot discount men’s spot at the table.

We don’t have room for bigotry, but we do have room for men.  We don’t have tolerance for lies and oppression, but we do have tolerance for men.  We don’t have time for objectifying a person, but we do have time for men.

I am amazed by the tenacity of the men I work with.  They are doing the kind of inner work that many people shy away from.  I just wish more of society could see and celebrate that men–and in turn, fathers–are changing and growing.

May we all be a part of that growth.

By advancing women, we do not have to downplay men.  And similarly, by advancing men, we do not have to downplay women.

If we want our society to be relational with one another, then we must start by tending to all people in society.   Over and over, I remind each of us: we belong to one another.

This Father’s Day, let us–all people–reconsider how we consider men, and in turn, how we consider fathers.  So yes, let us celebrate Father’s Day by supporting our men.

In doing so, the water rises everywhere.

Sarah Claus, MA, LPCC is a psychotherapist in Lakewood, Colorado.  She works with individuals and couples in areas of addictions, trauma, relationships, communication, anxiety, depression, spirituality, and anger.  She identifies as an ally in the Queer community and in the addictions/recovery community.  Learn more here.

 

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