My wife, Fiona, and I have recently been watching Breaking Bad together and we’re hooked. There’s something deliciously macabre about watching how far one normal man can fall and how far he will go. I’ve already watched the show so I know the answer to this but I love watching how my wife reacts to each new low Walter finds himself in and drags Jesse into. However, there was one episode we were watching where the following was said to Walt:
“And a man, a man provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.”
And that’s the whole motivation of the show. It’s about a man providing for his family and completely missing the target in the process. But how hard does that quote hit home? How many men live under those words? A man provides, because he’s a man.
my wife’s earning potential is always going to be more than mine
I know those words. Those words have been spoken to me; by media, by society and in cases by other men I know. Before I got married those words were resonating inside of me. Fiona is a doctor whereas I am lucky to have a job but have no qualifications and few career prospects. Ultimately my wife’s earning potential is always going to be more than mine unless I get very lucky or win the lottery. So when we were going to get married I had to ask myself ‘how can I provide for her?’
Fiona has told me that other female doctor friends find it hard to date because men are put off by the fact that they’ll earn more than them. While Fiona and I were dating I found it hard because I had to watch my money when I took her on a date while she could easily spend more on me. I don’t resent the fact that my wife earns more than me but I don’t think I am the only man who finds this, for some reason, uncomfortable. All this is brought into focus as we plan for our future to start a family and I ask myself now ‘how can I provide for my children?’
A man provides comfort, he provides time, he provides strength
I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably never earn more than Fiona but there is so much more that a man provides his partner or children with than money. A man provides comfort, he provides time, he provides strength, he provides security, he provides love. At times he will provide money and will work hard to do so. At other times he will take time from his work to be a loving presence in his home. Sometimes he will give up his job all together to provide care for his children.
Society is changing for the better when it comes to rights for women. The walls that have prevented women from having the same jobs, rights and positions as men are slowing falling down. This is a great triumph that we are to applaud. But while the role of women in society changes, men have to be prepared for their role to change as well. For centuries a man’s position and value has been found in working and providing financially for his family, but it is no longer feasible for a man to be labelled the bread winner when their partners can earn more or just the same. This will be a hard transition for many though and society needs to play catch up on valuing men on more than just how much they earn.
By Gareth Malcolm