As we grow older, those little people you have created and the family network you have established, your tribe so to speak, become increasingly important to you. The big picture of your life becomes more prominent and the details become less significant. The tasks become less vital and the relationships more a priority. Ironically, what we really wrap our identity around though, is our #career; although, most don't even have careers, but rather have jobs, in spite of our entire childhood being about what we're going to be when we grow up - overworked, stressed, and under appreciated, right? We wrap our identities around what we can produce, what our job title becomes, and how others can judge us regarding our work performance.
This week it occurred to me that essentially every man I have worked with in my practice has shared that his fear is failure, in one way or another, typically with their family or their work responsibilities. They fear being able to protect or provide. Not long after Ahmaud Arbery was shot, I listened to a man, who is black, share that his entire role in his family is to keep them safe, but he said, "you can ask my wife and any of my children what they love the most about me and it is because I keep them safe. How do I do this now? How can I protect my family if I can't even jog outside without fear of being shot? I can't protect my son who lives out of state, who loves to run to keep fit. I can't protect him." What really struck me was he never shared this fear with his family because again, the burden he had to carry was demonstrating to them an unshakeable strength.
Other clients have shared that they are overwhelmed with the responsibility of adding another child to their family and how they will cover the cost. Men worry about fixing up their houses as their wives near birth. Fathers return to work within days of adding a new little one to their family, taking almost no time to bond with their newborn and be present in this life transition. Women often feel abandoned, left to manage the homes and care for the children, while still in their early recovery period. They were overwhelmed before they birthed!
When I attempt to talk about wellness with my male clients, many share that their families and work responsibilities consume so much of their time and mental capacity that they haven't any real room in their lives to dedicate to optimizing wellness. They don't care about their lipids or the increasing size of their belt line. They don't worry about blood sugars or increasing blood pressures. They feel they are fine, in spite of acknowledging that they are stressed, essentially every single day. Many aren't sleeping and some share episodes of #rage. They aren't living the life they desire. They don't have time to prioritize the very thing that they require to live a life of vitality, the very thing they need to well care for their family, and to do so to their very best - their own health and happiness.
How do we get to where we want to be, before finding ourselves at the end of our life and realizing, we've missed it? How do we position ourselves so that we aren't carrying the weight of all the tasks that pile up in our adult lives but also prioritize our own needs and spending time with our littles? How do we lower our #expectations at work so we aren't investing more than our boss, or even the company owners? How do we balance our work ethic so we aren't doing the work of five employees or getting taken advantage of without fair compensation for our commitment? Why do we martyr ourselves, literally sacrificing our own health for improving production outcomes? Where do we draw the line in the sand?
How do we honor ourselves and be present for our children, and still be the noble protector and provider? Maybe I won't really offer a lot in this post beyond causing you to pause and think. I have been the provider for my family for most of my adult life however, and for the past five years, I have been a #single mother, providing for my three young children. I do have full custody and carry the load of assuring all their needs are met. Two have special needs. My burden is ever present in my own mind's eye, but admittedly, I don't fear failure. I know I am resilient and I know I am giving my best. What I fear is depending on someone else, or becoming a burden.
Not raised as many male children are in our society, taught that I must carry the burden of having to protect and provide for one's family, maybe my mindset is altogether different than what I am seeking answers to in this post? Maybe I can't really identify or contribute to the solution? However, I feel the message girls often receive as children is to not make too much noise, to not be a burden, and to be quiet and meek and pleasing. Asking for help violates those deeply rooted beliefs. Each of these circumstances - girl or boy - create the same sort of circumstance it seems - the earnest, deep seated need to do more and be more because as we are, we aren't enough.
Might we be the generation to change this, to create change in our children's mindset? Might we teach them to prioritize themselves, to acknowledge their worth, their value, their own needs?
How do any of us avoid missing it?
How do we avoid missing opportunity to implement the life habits that derail dis-ease, illness, obesity, addiction, and missing our littles growing up without our having had time to invest in them as we desire? How do we turn our focus on what and who we fear we will really fail? The cat's in the cradle - and the silver spoon.