What I notice…
“Parenting is not easy.”
Everyone says it, but what does it mean and why has this become a mantra of the American household? This oft-repeated popular saying rolls off the tongue, but it seems to be often repeated, because the notion is easier to say than understand. Many men in the world find it difficult to be a father and a husband. Fortunately, men can understand where his father wound lies to better understand why he has such a hard time fathering.
Men I see in my practice resonate a common theme that seems to go unnoticed by his spouse or significant other. Even more curtly, the resonance of inadequate parenting ruminates around in the mind of the average father. The father I speak of has no example of a father or maybe even a positive parent, therefore the difficulty of parenting lies in his only visceral representation.
Why is parenting so difficult?
I cannot speak for the women out there, but speaking for the men is something I can do because I am passionate about male relationships, and I have learned how to be a parent, a father, and a man with little to no teaching from male influences in my early childhood. Fortunate for me, I had great women in my life whom lead me to discover great men whom have fathered the boy inside, and afforded me the opportunity to explore male relationships. These relationships have not been without their damages and wounding that often rose to the surface. What draws men to look for and bond to other men, but fail to meet the needs of their own children? What about our own needs as men?
A caring compassionate father is not ubiquitous, but something of a myth. I do not believe the majority of men could tell me what a compassionate father is, nor could they tell me what defines the characteristics of a compassionate father. Men are not totally incapable of compassion, we are, however, incapable of raising compassionate children, interacting with our fathers, and solidifying family ties with our siblings … or so we think and are often told. Jungian analyst Guy Corneau states,
“The fragility of masculine identity requires that these friendships be maintained over time, since identity can never be assured once and for all”
Raising children does not come naturally to the modern man. Allowing in deep emotions that are sparked from a loved one do not sit well either. Often this is mumbled by our lovers as ‘why don’t you get more in touch with your feminine side?’
Where do we get manliness from?
Being a man is not easy. We are required to know all kinds of things. We are expected to know how to raise children…as a man. We are required to be emotionally connected and tuned in to our spouse…as a man. We are expected to have every facet of our lives in order, and we are expected to show the appropriate amount of emotion at the appropriate time…like a man does. In addition to this, we are expected to be father, lover, and role model with zero know how to do any of it. Man up, rub some dirt in it, and take it like a man are all said to us growing up. How are we expected to rub dirt in anything if we do not know why we need dirt to be a man? Too often we men are expected to be leaders in the community and in our homes with little to no teaching from our fathers. We might have teachings from our mothers, but society is not ready for men who are compassionate and respect the opinion of females. Nor is society ready to allow men to lead whom have been influenced by female upbringings.
However, Jungian analysts Robert Johnson speaks to the notion that one can have a nurturing aspect of the feminine and a destructive nature of masculine:
“…every man and every woman comes equipped with a psychological structure that in its wholeness includes the richness of both sides, both natures, both sets of capacities and strengths.”
Most males I know have not had a consistent father in his life. These men are emotionless when in the company of their wives. These men feel the push to run families, but also have little knowhow when challenged. Additionally, these men will take every opportunity to run when faced with the fear of emotions. It has become far too easy for men to become avoidant in their personal relationships and in their romantic relationships. This consistent fear of emotions, family, and failure has produced a generation of men who cannot commit.
Most men feel a drive within to be something. What is this something? Often it manifests as the desire to run or flee from greater emotions they do not know how to deal with. I do not believe most men want to flee nor do I believe men know how to handle the pervasive threat of emotions that are required to be a role model and mentor for their own children. Emotionally connecting to a woman means releasing feminine generalities that appear to be threatening. Generalities that are threatened in the home and solidified throughout society.
What are you question? What are you searching for? What are you running from?
Further Reading in absent fathering, fathering, and …
Corneau, G. (1991). Breaking the silence. In Absent fathers, lost sons: The search for masculine identity. Boston: Shambhala.