As someone who organises our worldwide company celebration of International Women’s Day every March 8th, I know that regular FAQs are “What about International Men’s Day?” and “When is the day for men?” (which reminds me of my eldest son’s retort on Pappendag: “when is children’s day?”) The curious, but sometimes passive aggressive, assumption being that women and parents have a special day that some men and children don’t. “Every day” is the sarcastic check your privilege response.
However, there are special international days to celebrate men and children, which (to paraphrase The Hangover), happen in a month you can Google, and on a day you can ask Alexa: November 19th and 20th respectively. Putting children to one side for a moment (well, they can get under your feet can’t they, and it is their day every day, right? 😉 let’s talk about why it’s important to celebrate men, and particularly male caregivers (e.g. dads of children, and men who care for sick relatives).
But let me start with a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, these views are my own; my opinions no more represent the official views of my company than they speak for all men. Men are all different, just like women, and have a wide range of opinions on this. I speak only for myself. Secondly, and bear in mind the first disclaimer here, it is (in my view) harder for women. For mothers of children, wives of partners, and daughters of elderly parents, more of the caring responsibility falls on women. So if anyone comments “Yeah, but it’s harder for women”, please reply: “See above.”
That said, and hopefully some of you are still hearing me out on this, I do believe that men have a right to talk about their experiences as dads and caregivers, and to be celebrated for this. Men are a figure of fun sometimes, from silly Mr Bean to incompetent Daddy Pig (father of Peppa and George), to the Minions whose creator explained the lack of Minionettes to be because he couldn’t imagine girls to be silly – which of course they can be! (Nota Bene that he also wrote “La Puta” in the movie script …) As the clowns say of Dumbo, men have thick skin, made of rubber, and they can take it.
And yes ;P I am exercising my prerogative to use silly Austin Powers’ “International Man of Mystery” moniker in the title of this post 🙂 I find it a good name because a lot of what men do is by stealth, as it’s often not seen as manly to talk about these things, nevermind do them! Which is one reason that I believe we should celebrate these fine, kind and caring, men.
So why “International”, you may ask. In my experience, and your mileage may vary, the world of work is inherently international. Our customers and clients are worldwide, and it is often necessary to visit them in person. While some companies think foreign travel is a perk, in fact it can be exhausting and stressful, for example if both parents are expected to travel at the same time. It’s great to have the support of grandparents, but if they live in a different city, or country, that is a further complication.
For many of us, work also requires that we live abroad; which is an exciting and eye-opening experience, but also has the challenges of tax declarations, finding work and education for everyone in your family, and missing out on the day to day lives of your loved ones back home. And when someone falls ill back home, it’s not so easy to be there as fast as they need you.
So to all the international men of mystery out there, juggling the expectations of work with the needs of their family; whether that is their kids, their partner, or elderly relatives back home. And especially if you are doing that single-handed. This is your day. You deserve it! Happy International Men’s Day.
Brian Ballantyne is husband to Kate, and father to Gabriel (11) and Daniel (9). As a long-time advocate for women’s rights, he felt it was high time “working fathers” had space to talk about their experiences; which lead him to start blogging #confessionsofaworkingfather on LinkedIn (blog and eBook). He wrote this for free, and views are his own.