Our own identity and how we define ourselves is absolutely integral to our self esteem. It is why in 2010 I struggled so much when I became a mother for the first time. I was no longer any of the labels I had proudly amassed during my life and was an entirely different one which was pinned to my chest like a name tag that you have to wear at one of those baby groups. Sometimes it didn't even say my name, I was simply 'Lola's mum'. And that's ok. That's ok If you realise that the stage is transient and, in the grand scheme of things, brief. That's ok if you are able to talk to other people who feel similarly stripped of the pride of the medals we have fought for those formative pre baby years. And that's ok if you can carve out a precious slice of time to pursue other things that you can use to puff up your deflated self esteem and that earn you a new label, a nice shiny one that states your full name and place in the world.
But I didn't do any of those things until after my third child so really it wasn't ok, I wasn't ok.
Now I blog and I talk and talk and talk. And type and type and type. I belong to a tidal wave of mum bloggers who pride ourselves on our honesty and our refusal to abide by the stereotype of a housewife or 'mumsy' mum. I belong to a straight talking generation who filter our faces but not our feelings, who can shame companies who patronise us and our pushchairs with a quick tweet and who have the potential to influence the new mums who are hot on our heels with life hacks and career advice.
But what about the men? I mean, sure, there are established dad bloggers and networks but let's face it is not enough to reflect the fact that the times they are a - changing. Women are still more likely than men to be the main stay at home parent but with each year that goes by the smattering of dads at the school gates is increasing, and rightly so. Men are much more likely to be the head of their domestic kitchens (thank god in my household) and so much more than just the 'jester' parent who returns after a long hard day in the office, pecks their child on the cheek after a quick bit of horse play and then settles down with the remote and some slippers. Their roles in the homes are changing at the same rate as our roles in the workplace. Again, rightly so. It's still too slowly in my opinion but it is happening. And so the modern male is working hard in the office and in the home. They are no longer seen as the 'babysitters' which is apt since when they are looking after their children they do not morph into teenagers looking to earn a few extra quid at the weekend. They are basically juggling the same lives that working women have done for ages but, and this is a big but, without the emotional release that women have built up around ourselves like a forte of self preservation.
They are doing it without the support of each other.
As the identifiable roles of what it means to be man and what it means to be a woman are blurring the means in which we are able to talk about how this makes us feel should be universal. I think nothing of saying how hard I find it to bring up 3 children having left my career in the delivery suite after my first child. I talk about how it makes me feel to have lost that sense of self. We need to talk about how stay at home dads have also experienced the same loss. We need to talk about the pressures that the men who work full time and also do the nursery pick ups, the school drop offs and wrap around care feel. But most of all we need to talk about how men's workplaces may not have caught up with their home lives in terms of building modern men. I've written before about how after having my third child my husband, who had taken 2 weeks unpaid leave, was asked to go into the office for a meeting precisely zero working days after I had given birth. Just to clarify he had taken holiday - he could have actually been on holiday, but he wasn't - he was sleep deprived, giddy and excited about getting to know our new baby, not to mention caring for our 21 month old and a 4 year old. I can only presume that had I been the one with the full time job then the same would not have been asked of me - obviously there is the fact that I was the one who had to physically give birth but aside from that - did he not deserve the time he had taken off to bond with the baby and help resettle our other 2 children into family life as I did?
In order to address the stress of modern lives for men and women, we need to talk about it, we need talk about how it is evolving and we need these open conversations to flow from our homes and into our offices. Thus far women have saturated the market for starting conversations about parenting and the stressors it presents. It's time to redress the balance.
Now it's your turn to talk about parenthood, identity, the work life balance and the stressors that life presents. Consider this my contribution to the conversation.
I, for one am listening.
To read about work life balance, parenting and life from a male point of view please take a look at the following:
HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around men to highlight the pressures they face around identity and to raise awareness of the epidemic of suicide. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, the difficulty in expressing emotion, the challenges of speaking out, as well as kick starting conversations around male body image, LGBT identity, male friendship and mental health.
To blog for Building Modern Men, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read our features focused around men, click here