The Fathering Dilemma

The following is taken from a recent online article about male loneliness:

“We need to recreate institutions that not only encourage fathers to take on the mental load of parenting but also support them to do so. The expectation of fatherhood should not be based on a paycheck and how many hours we work. Financial care giving is certainly important, but so is the bond that we have with our children, our family and our community.

It can be hard to make friends as a man, but we need to step away from our isolated lives and step back into our community. We can do it through volunteering for a local organization, joining a hobby with regular meetups or simply joining a men’s community.. We have to put ourselves out there on a personal level and actively work to make friends.

Men’s lives literally depend on making that connection. This is the truth of the male loneliness epidemic. Right now, it’s the bonds with others that we need more.”

I have no disagreement with the overall issues mentioned. However, as usual, the devil is in the details. Agreed that the expectation of fatherhood should not be solely based on a paycheck. The problem is that many men, especially those with young children and stay at home spouses, feel enormous pressure to earn sufficient income to maintain a decent life style and save for college tuition. Trying to be a supportive father while being dedicated to providing leaves little time for activities in the community or for maintaining old friendships and seeking new ones. If providing is eased by a dual income household it increases the demands on being a supportive father sharing in the necessities of child rearing. 

The articles suggests recreating institutions that encourage and support male friendships.  How can your recreate something that never existed or no longer exists?  The institutions that in previous generations helped men make friends are not congruent with current fathering demands.  Going out with work friends for a beer after a day in the office or on the factory floor used to be a fairly common practice for a man to unwind from work and be in the company of other men. Unfortunately, seeking male companionship after work means missing after school activities and neglecting household chores thereby putting extra burdens on a partner.  Similarly, the traditional male organizations – Elks, VFW, American Legion, etc. – are disappearing because of the changing roles of today’s fathers. In addition, many volunteer fire companies and rescue squads are switching to professionals which diminishes the opportunity for a man to serve his community in that role.  The other suggestion to volunteer for a local organization faces the same problem with time.  Volunteering that is not a family activity means taking time away from supportive fatherhood.  That leaves joining a men’s group that doesn’t take much time from fathering as the only alternative.  Local men’s groups are a great outlet for men to bond and share their life’s journey in the company of other like minded men.  Most men’s groups meet in the evening two or three times a month and the benefits of men’s work is so appreciated by their partners that it  mitigates the loss of time from the family.

Unfortunately there are many communities that do not have men’s groups. All it takes is one individual willing to take on the role of organizer and post the group on meetup  Many churches offer rental space for a non-denomination group to meet for a reasonable fee easing the location obstacle.  The last hurdle, which I have encountered over the many years I have participated in men’s work is to get isolated or busy men to take the initiative to join a group.  Despite the need, many men are trapped in their routines and miss out on the benefits of joining a group.  I believe that increased media coverage on the issues of male loneliness that promotes and highlights men’s groups as an alternative would be extremely helpful in letting men know that there is an answer.