I’ve been struggling how best to talk about this, hence this protracted delay in my blog entry.
Then I came across this article about rising suicide rates among males in Singapore, which triggered my thoughts, not just about the cruelty of lives prematurely snuffed out, but also the very thing that lies at the heart of my recent (and still ongoing) struggle.
To quote the article: “We live in a society that stresses the importance of masculine qualities as a measure of success. As a result, we grow impatient toward behaviours that seem to depict weakness. Men are typically expected to be tough, stoic, and financially stable. The slightest hint of vulnerability can be seen as an imperfection. This has to change. Men and women alike need to know that it is okay to be less than perfect and we need to educate the public to understand that a supportive and encouraging environment is far more beneficial than a judgemental one for our society.” (as said by a spokesperson from Samaritans of Singapore)
I can’t help but wonder if people really understand this. The truth is that we may need another century to pass before we can see any sea change in attitudes towards gender roles, and what really defines us and our intrinsic worth. Is it really all about career titles, corporate ladders, business networks, ballooning bank accounts, and fancy cars/houses/vacations/as well as attention-seeking selfies posted ad nauseam on social media every waking moment?).
For now, I just know that as I watched Jaedon last Sunday play his violin in a rehearsal gathering of young violinists for a public performance this weekend, there was a sense of pride for me, because I felt like I had something to do with getting him there (and I don’t just mean I took him to the rehearsal venue!).
Or openly celebrating how Caleb noticed today that when he dropped first one tiny toy shovel and then another, they made different sounds when they landed on the same ground (due to the different plastic materials each were made from). Cos visibly cheering and celebrating seemingly innocuous learning moments like this in front of SEN kids is supposed to bolster their self-esteem. And in turn, my accomplishment as an enlightened caregiver who’s done his homework and knows the importance of celebrating even the smallest of feats of discovery and success.
While I am quite literally holding tight to such simple achievements as a way to prove my worth, identity and rightful place in society, others would probably laugh and ‘pooh pooh’ these “achievements” of mine (though not likely to my face cos that would make them look unkind).
And that really brings me hurtling back to earth in a messy heap and the sad reality that, in the eyes of the world, the above said “achievements” mean nothing.
You see, while people do say in front of me that I am such and such a ‘noble person’ for choosing to be a SAHD, these same people would never seriously consider it for themselves. With the roller-coaster feelings I’ve been dealing with these past weeks about self-identity and worthiness, I suspect these people knew this inevitability and chose to avoid this life choice, while clueless me had no idea until I took the step to be a SAHD.
The proverbial “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”?
So the score? Society 1 Me 0.
But it’s time I stopped keeping score, and start letting go of this achievement orientation that society imposes on me, and men like me. This, as I continue to move to the beat of a different drum, and a different purpose, no matter what others think of me. No matter what society continues to propagate.
If not for me, then certainly for my boys, and the values I wish for them to embody when they grow up into manhood.
Values that will keep them on the straight and narrow, never faltering or vacillating because of unreasonable and exacting societal expectations.
Values that will see my sons avoid the fate many other men didn’t, as these recent findings in the article show.