I've been on major catch up with my reading over Christmas. Magazine articles that caught my eye have been slowly piling up by my bed. The first I've been eager to get through is from GQ's anniversary issue: '2013: The Birth of the New New Man' (Jonathan Heaf and Matt Rudd). Not sure if it was the title or the accompanying image of the 1987 Athena poster of topless man with baby that held more sway.
Like every other young girl, I too had a large print of L'Enfant on my bedroom wall. If only I knew then that parenthood is not as dreamy or sexy as man and baby. For women (as Heaf points out) this eighties New Man was all 'just longing and make-believe'. For men it was 'an ideal that was unreasonable for any man to live up to'. Perhaps the icon of Adam Perry with baby was a tad ambitious for the 80's man. 25 years ago a man playing domestic God, taking on more of the household chores, putting his career on the backburner and becoming daddy day care would have got more than just a raised eyebrow.
According to GQ, in 2013 we couldn't be closer to the new man icon and unlike their fathers and grandfathers, New New man doesn't feel threatened by a partner's earning power or worry that focusing on domestic harmony will affect his career. Really? Although we've come a long way since the 80's, claiming that young men are now 'driving forward this cultural change' is a tad over zealous.
Surely what Heaf actually means is that these men are battling through a storm on an old raft barely keeping them afloat. The choices are limited, change course and prepare for the unknown or throw yourself in and end it there and then. GQ concludes, 'Men are now comfortable in a place that feels far more natural - that of an equal'. Surely this depends on a person's environment. It will only feel natural when society and different cultures get on board with it too.
In witnessing the birth of his third son, Rudd hits the nail on the head - it's about sharing. Not about one sex constantly challenging the other but about being on the same team. And he's right - men who are real team players probably don't get enough credit for the jobs they share.
Personally I think it comes down to influences. Parents, society, media and if they all ditch the archaic views on gender stereotypes then we might all have a chance of living harmoniously. Share, share share! Whether it's house chores, the kids' dental appointments, car insurance, bills or cooking dinner, work as a team and share the load.
The highest percentage of men agreeing that childcare should be equally shared in a relationship, are based in the North West (72%), as opposed to 60% in London and the South East. Good job I moved up north then.
Apparently 60% of men would consider being a stay at home dad. I find that men who were raised by strong career women have more respect for equality than those who weren't. I have friends who have shared six months each of maternity/paternity leave and friends who will argue that it should be a mother's responsibility. In a progressive society, nothing beats equality.
Rudd holds his four-minute-old son and looks to his future: 'One day he might go to university. One day he might even get a job, if robots and women let him. All he has to do is get the balance right.' Undeniably that's the key, getting the balance right.
Apparently a man's identifiers for success and wealth have changed since the 80's and as Heaf puts it, 'The word is enrichment'. Absolutely. I think that's true for all of us. Striking a balance in life with family, career and a harmonious household highlights more success than ever before.
My son is almost 4. Recently when taking him and a friend's daughter to the park, she wanted to ride his scooter. This left him to push her baby doll and pink pram along the road. I hate to admit it but for a split second I was alarmed. My alarm of course came from how I was raised (fearing what others would think). My son on the other hand, took charge of the pink buggy and pushed it down the street, although rather erratically so the baby was half hanging out, but nonetheless I was proud.
He might only be 4 but every time he helps me with the washing, loads the dishwasher and tidies up his toys, I know I'm encouraging this advancement of the 'New New Man.' When his future wife wants to shower the credit, please send some my way.