I’m going to talk about being a ‘blue collar’ Dad today, at least my own experience and my take on one aspect of it. You may feel it’s the same in ‘white collar’ culture, and if you do I encourage you to comment. My experience in the ‘white collar’ world is very limited so far, so I don’t know enough to have an opinion. You may also disagree with me, your experience may be entirely different. I encourage you to comment in that case, too. I love different opinions.
All my life, I’ve made a living in ‘blue collar’ jobs. Despite having non-industry related interests and a university degree, unskilled labour jobs are how I’ve made an income; although that appears to be slowly changing. Blue collar culture is surprisingly complex, but one dominant characteristic is the myriad of social expectations placed on men. These expectations are as nuanced as the culture itself, but for now let’s just simplify it to a basic standard: men are expected to be tough, rugged, and to a certain extent unemotional. What I mean by that is they aren’t supposed to ‘gush’ when they talk about their families. This makes it difficult for a Dad like me to survive in that world.
Being a Dad is so important to me that it makes up the majority of my identity. There is nothing I love more than my children. For the tough and rugged part, well, I’m not a big guy. Years ago, when I was a sailor, I learned how to take care of myself and I developed a thicker skin (as they say). I can take a joke, I can fight if I have to, I can take a fair amount of physical pain, I’m strong, and I can work hard. I suppose I’m tough, but I’m nowhere near what you would call rugged. I’m quite the opposite of rugged. Where I struggle is with the emotional part. While anger is a commonly expressed emotion in the jobs I’ve held, loving sentiment is not. When I talk about my kids, I gush. I love their behaviour – their expressions, their little voices, the way my infant tries to laugh. I love the way they crawl, walk, sleep, and play. In my experience, with few exceptions, this has usually been met with the discomfort of my peers and ridicule.
If you’re a Dad who feels this way you’re not the only one, and maybe it’s going to take more of us to change the standard. Why shouldn’t we gush about our kids? Why shouldn’t we be emotionally invested in our families? Does feeling this way make someone less of a man? Talking about my kids at work has made other men feel uncomfortable, it’s caused them to poke fun and ridicule me, but I’m sincere and they see that. The way they perceive me doesn’t bother me at all. I have nothing to prove, I’m not attracted to machismo like I was in my youth and into my 20’s, and I’m confident in who I am. If you’re a Dad who feels the way I do, it’s okay. Take pride and talk about your kids the way you want to. Gush if you must. It’ll be fine. 🙂