Long ago, there was Ward Cleaver. He wasn’t much of a Dad – in fact, he wasn’t even real. But the father in “Leave it to Beaver” was a strong figure all the same because he was, without a doubt, clearly in command of the world around him. The 1950s was an age of men – a time when Rosie put down her riveter and settled in to raise the kids and do the wash and, if necessary, get a prescription for Valium from her doctor.
The black and white images might still flicker on the teevee sets of our minds once in a while, but they stopped being relevant a long time ago.
Women of today were generally told as kids that they could be absolutely anything they wanted. As a result, many still feel that they have to do everything. A friend recently told me of the triangle of expectations for women – be a mom and all the things from the feminine world, earn a living and support your family, and look damned good the whole time.
Obviously, this is impossible and nearly every woman fails to meet the expectations set for her by her world from time to time. It causes tremendous stress on families and society as a whole.
Meanwhile, the expectations for men have drifted along to become … I honestly don’t know what they are. I have yet to find any man who can articulate the role of men in today’s world. Some of my friends have quietly grumbled that at some point they are nothing more than a sperm donor.
I won’t profess to have any of the answers to this, but it seems to me that things have gone from one far extreme to the other in two short generations. There’s no reason why women can’t and shouldn’t be able to do what they want in this world. Yet it remains true that most of the emotional energy of raising kids eventually falls on them if they make the decision to do their part for the next generation. Increasingly, women find that this is the easiest part of the expectations triangle to just leave out – until they hit about 40, that is.
Somewhere in here there is a role for men. Society as a whole has yet to even try to define what that is, so we drift along. Hey, this wasn’t our revolution, right? So it has passed many of us by and left us feeling a bit useless.
I see this repeated in the next generation of young boys, kids who are told to sit still and play nice and be all the things that little boys full of growth hormones have so much trouble doing. Many of them do it very well, although far too many need help from Ritalin. The rest have the little boy squashed out of them in neat little rows where creativity and energy work against the ever so essential standardized test scores.
The girls? They seem to be getting a message even more complicated than their moms. Somewhere between the pouting Lady Gaga and the swooning Bella most of what the media tries to cram into their heads defines them by how they use their sex. I don’t think that was what the revolution was supposed to be about, either.
I won’t tell you the answers to this one. I’m just going to pose the question and see what you have to say today. But I can tell you that I don’t know of any guy out there who really wants to just sit in his armchair and smoke a pipe like Ward Cleaver did after a hard day at the office. So what can we do?