In a recent movement to redefine what is normal in the way of masculinity the question was posed, what does it mean to be “Man Enough to Care”.
Insights from football players, comedians, actors directors and long-term care experts open the door to the world of caregiving as a male. Traditionally, women are placed under the caregiving stigma, but this traditional mindset leaves out 40% of caregivers. Yes, statistics show that today 40% of caregivers are men. Men caring for their wives, their children, their parents. Men are a big portion of the caregiving population, and it is time to address your role.
This can be especially hard for many men because men are not given the tools necessary to work with problems that cannot be fixed. As the blog puts it:
“As caregivers, especially men who care for others, we have to fight that urge we have to fix everything, rather we need to be present and understand the situation and how we can help in our own way.”
Guilty as charged. Just ask my wife, there is no way she could tell you how many times I try to jump in and “fix everything”. Fixing things makes sense and it is how men are taught to solve problems. When it comes to cancer, where there isn’t a how-to manual or a YouTube video that shows us how to fix it, what do we do?
Robert Espinoza, a caregiver and expert on long-term care explains:
“As men, we’re taught to solve and to be intellectual and make sense of things. And so when a health situation surfaces that actually requires an emotional approach, not a rational approach, we feel like failures.” – Robert Espinoza
Showing emotions is not something that comes naturally to most men. It means exposing something that we have worked so hard to hide. Expressing ourselves in ways that society has shunned. It means being vulnerable.
The Cost of Vulnerability
The cost of caregiving. Without mentioning the astronomical cost of medical bills caregiving is expensive. Most workplaces do not support men leaving to care for their family members. With 70% of households having both parents in the work field and 40% of caregivers being men, we are left with a large percentage of men forced to leave the workforce to help care for loved ones.
This is emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing. Not only are you left with devastating amounts and debt and medical bills piling up, most men have no one they can talk to about it.
Talking about it would mean sharing your emotions and sharing your emotions is taboo across the board for men. Men are taught to suppress their emotions and are left without the resources to express how they feel.
Devon Still is a famous football player who at the age of 25 found out his daughter had cancer. He had the support of his team, his family and his community. He raised awareness and helped defeat his daughter's cancer. All the while, he was never able to express how he felt. As a man, a football player, and an African American, he was taught to have a warrior mentality. He was taught to have a “warrior mentality”, to hide weakness and emotion.
Because he feared vulnerability, many times after FaceTiming his daughter while she was in the hospital, he would hang up and cry. Now, 5 years later, after sharing that experience with his daughter he finds out that she as a 5-year-old would do the same thing. Once they were done talking she would go into the hospital bathroom and cry.
“We could have cried together,” Devon says. His fear of vulnerability caused him to miss out on some of the most beautiful parts of caregiving. Instead, he went through it alone.
About 40% of the 53 million caregivers in America are men
This means that you are definitely not alone. You are not the only one going through this and you do not have to do it by yourself. Reach out to local and online caregiver support groups. Find ways to share what you have been through and express what you are going through every day.
Connect with other male AML caregivers
By joining our AML caregivers chapter, you will receive invitation to virtual support group style meetings as well as educational opportunities on AML caregiving topics. This chapter will start meeting regularly very soon!