Us dads get a bit of a raw deal when it comes to emotions. Not just dads, men in general. And I don't think this 'pressure' comes from our partners because no one loves a declaration of love and emotions more than our partners, right? Maybe it's self-applied pressure? From school? The media? Or is it an inherent, learned behaviour we've somehow come to live with from caveman days? I don't know. Men are supposed to be the 'strong ones' and 'support their family' but does that also mean you can't be emotional and express your feelings? And what does this mean for gay dads? There is no female to 'protect' and 'support'.
As a child my parents never said to me 'Don't cry' or 'Be brave, don't get upset'. But still, as a grown man I tend to always hold onto my tears and refrain from being as open as I'd like to my partner, my friends, my family. I sometimes think there is a stereotype attached to gay men to be more sensitive, more emotional (if this is the case, maybe we are just more at ease with being vulnerable and open?) But that being said, being in a relationship with another man, I would still rarely let out my emotions. It's not healthy.
However, since becoming a dad? Well... everything is different now.
It's like something was unlocked. I guess it was just the sheer force of the emotions I experienced. There was no 9 months of preparation for us. We got the final go ahead at the adoption panel and two weeks later we met our boy. And the tears then began to free flow...
- I was watching the new Bridget Jones movie the other day. Balled like a baby when she gave birth (I didn't even give birth to my child!)
- My husband and I often talk about the future. We got to discussing the day our son tells us he's having a child. I cried at the thought.
- In the car, alone, the other day I was thinking about his wedding day. I got teary.
- Birthdays and our first Christmas together last year, of course I cried at them all. Just having a card (written by my husband) from my son tipped me over the edge. This year there were no tears, so I am getting better!
I'm going to have to reign it in the coming years... my boy doesn't need a blubbering mess of a dad at his school plays. Or maybe that is exactly what the boys of the future generation need? To teach them they can be emotional if they want to be.
If you did a google search of 'Female empowerment' you'd be inundated with resources, websites, tips, classes and more. I don't think the same applies for male empowerment. In the UK in 2014 the highest suicide rate was amongst men aged between 45 - 49 at 29% (per 100,000 suicides). Second to that was men aged between 30 - 44, the core 'dad age' I guess.
What is happening? Men need to know they can be open, that they can talk and that there are outlets for them to do so. We've come such a long way since our parents' days and even more since their parents' days! Guys are a lot more in tune with how they feel and their knowledge on the matter of sharing. But we could still get better. We don't want our boys growing up in a world where they feel they have to hide their emotions only for those emotions to fester into something greater and cause longer term trauma. Let it out!!
Next time a friend, colleague or family member shows a hint of needing to talk... Listen! You might just be the ear they need at that exact moment.
Facts & stats came from The Samaritans. You can search your social channels with #itsokaytotalk and #WorldMentalHealthDay for inspiring organisations and advice.
This post originally featured on www.theunlikelydad.com
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 email@example.com. If you would like to read our features focused around men, click here