Let’s spare a moment of silence for the overburdened boychild
There is no living species on earth that remains encumbered with expectations and responsibilities like men. By virtue of being born male and bestowed upon the mantle to be the heads of homes or communities, they are expected to exude strength, leadership and capabilities to provide.
These expectations and responsibilities placed on them can be traced back for centuries where traditional gender specific roles had more prominence in society.
Today, they are expected to be the breadwinners, display intelligence and emotional quotients, be successful leaders in companies or own their own businesses, ‘collect’ additional dependents for himself in the form of wives and kids as well exude mental and physical strength to protect his dependents- and himself.
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But while meeting these society expectations, the perceptions of what it means to be a man and how to be masculine continue to create pressure on men to step up and meet society’s expectations. They especially become overburdened when they personally realize they are not up to task and the society continuously reminds them of this.
But see, we should spare them a minute of silence and think about what this really does to men. By overburdening a man – especially one who lacks opportunities to improve himself, society greatly interferes with his mental health.
In the recent World Suicide Prevention Day marked in September 2023, it was found that more men than women commit suicide in Kenya by three to four times. Some of the reasons listed for this were mental illness, depression, stress, frustration with economic difficulties, loneliness and broken relationships.
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Many did not speak of their tribulations. Society has made it a norm where men are expected to ‘man up’ and face challenges without breaking down, figure out how to handle their responsibilities and not let their dependents- including extended family- down. Suicide is just but one of the deadly outcomes of overburdening them.
These expectations and responsibilities also leave men burnt out and exhausted. Daily 9-5 jobs and sometimes working over the weekend means many men have no time to bond with their families or have a social life. This is why you will find in many homes, mothers have better relationships with their children because ‘dad was never around’.
Let us spare men a moment of silence in this because they too are social beings who would also like human comforts and joys, not being treated like a decorative ornament in the home who lacks a proper identity about who he is.
We must also realize that these expectations and responsibilities create a crop of men who end up being lonely and sometimes isolated. They work hard, they struggle in silence fearing judgement and backlash and they are expected to do it with shoulders lifted up and a smile on their face.
We must cut them some slack! We must learn to celebrate them for who they are and what they can achieve, not what society expects of them.
And while at it, let’s spare them a moment of silence at how unfair they rarely get international days to celebrate their gender, but when they do, it is on the same day as World Toilet Day.