Recognizing and Redefining Manhood

These days, I probably write more posts about being a parent than anything else (aside from left-leaning wonks, of course). This is as it should be, since I spend a solid 30 hours/week caring for two children under the age of two. Other than respiration and opening large bottles of bourbon, no other single activity takes more of my time.

It’s no idle investment. I’ve tried to dig into some of parenting’s extraordinary payoffs in earlier posts. But I’ve been modest. See, there are other blessings that heavy-duty parenting bestows upon practitioners.

I can change a diaper at blinding speed. I am almost completely immune to supposedly “disgusting” odors. I understand the technical capacities and limitations of many, many strollers. My abs are in the best condition of my life. So are my biceps. I function perfectly fine, thanks, on half the sleep required by most adults. I am the very opposite of impotent (the evidence is crawling all over my brawny shoulders). I have responsibility for—and a measure of dominion over—the daily experiences of two other human beings. 

I am simultaneously a ninja, cowboy, mechanic, special-ops commando, and sovereign. I am, in other words, a real, goddamned man. I am very nearly superhu-man. But that’s not how I’m treated when I stride around town wearing an infant in our family’s Björn. As I put it in an article for the Daily Beast today:

I get a lot of unsolicited performance reviews. Even in my liberal Beltway enclave, dads like me face pretty constant, emasculating ridicule for putting fatherhood above career. Most definitions of masculinity can accommodate shirts soaked with sweat, blood, or ambiguous grime…but not applesauce…Is this as it should be? No. That’s why I think of myself as a “new” man, as someone whose version of masculinity includes shouldering the bulk of our family’s child care. My son weighs more than most cannonballs, and he moves nearly as quickly—it takes a real man to shelter the house (and his sister) from these artillery-grade payload specs.

Read the rest of the article here, if you think you’re tough enough.

Conor P. Williams on Twitter.

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