If we want it all, we’re doomed.
That’s what Andrew Hankinson thinks. He wrote about it in last week’s issue of ‘Shortlist.’ You know, the free magazine you see sitting in piles on bus shelter benches. ‘Men’s Mission Impossible,’ the article was called, and it bemoaned the current state of the (male) nation.
According to Hankinson, there’s pressure on us men to excel, to be it all: husband, father, lover, handyman, success story, money-spinner. Unfortunately, all those balls are up in the air and we don’t have the skills to keep juggling.
We all feel under immense pressure to succeed. Every man, woman and child. I feel it, that’s for sure. I’m just not always certain where the pressure is coming from. Is it the pervasive influence of the media? Is it the expectations of society? Is it my own conflicting sense of insecurity and ambition? Or is it something else entirely?
I’m 25, married, and currently working 12 hour long night-shifts in the complaints department of a major bank. I’m also, much to my chagrin, an aspiring novelist.
But there’s very little money in the novel-writing business. And I know this. I’m under no illusions. For the last year I was studying towards an MA in Creative Writing and working part-time. I wasn’t earning much, and, if I continue along the uncertain career path towards writerdom, I won’t be earning much for the foreseeable future.
As I’m married, I’m part of a two-person team and, to be honest, for a long time now I’ve felt like I’ve been letting the side down. To my eternal shame, my wonderful wife picked up the slack for the best part of this last year, working a ludicrous amount to keep us afloat, whilst I had my head in the clouds, tapping away at short stories and essays and the opening chapters of my novel. I have realised since that I was unwittingly putting my writing first and thereby failing massively as a husband because of the financial burden I was placing on my wfe’s shoulders.
I think a lot about what it means to be a husband. Traditionally, my role would have been to be the sole provider. That isn’t expected anymore. Even so, I ought really to be making an equal contribution, otherwise the pressure’s on my wife, and that’s incredibly unfair. And, I feel, socially unacceptable.
But what do I do? My wife would never want me to give up my dream of being a novelist. She would blame herself if I did. At the moment it’s not even about one of us providing for the other. Neither of us are in lucrative enough positions to do anyway. It’s about making equal contributions. We’re a young couple, without children.
My wife would find it socially unacceptable if I were the sole provider at the moment. We haven’t decided yet what our roles will be when a mini-one-of-us comes along, but I imagine that that will mark the time when we think about having unequal financial contributions.
Part of me definitely wants to be able to able provide well for the love of my life, to remove the dreaded money-anxiety and keep it a comfortable arm’s length. I suppose that that is gender-related.
Every man wants to be seen to be able to take care of the people he loves. I am often aware that I’m not doing that properly, and, to be honest, I’m not sure how and when I’m going to be able to start.
It seems I want it all: to follow my dream of writing the next great British novel, and to provide adequately for the person who means the most to me in the world. I wonder what it would be like if the roles were reversed. Hopefully, I would be like my wife, nothing but gracious, supportive and uncomplaining, but perhaps I would grow resentful about having to slave away to finance her dream. Oh dear, none of this sounds very cheerful.
Thinking about all of these things raises a weary, incredulous smile in me. Andrew Hankinson’s article quoted a confounding statistic, which stated that the average father works 46.9 hours a week.
Hold on a minute. If more women are working now, why are men still putting in that many hours? Is that the way the world works? Crudely put, it seems the workforce doubles and then the workload triples. Are we destined to always be behind the curve?