Wednesday, 25 April 2012

In Praise of our Menfolk

No matter which way we look at it and whether we like it or not, we have evolved from a hunter gatherer society.  Since time immemorial, our roles as men and women are very different, very specialised and pertinent to the capabilities of our gender.  There is no getting away from the fact that we are very different.  Both mentally and physically.  We don’t think the same way, we don’t approach situations the same way and we don’t act the same way.   Men are simply physically stronger than women, and the argument could be made that some women are mentally stronger than men.  It’s widely known that men can’t multi task whereas women seem to do this with ease.  Think feeding the baby, talking on the phone and drinking coffee.  All at once.  When men take a phone call, they stand up to do it.  They stop peering at the computer screen to sign for a DHL document.  Genetics can be held to account for a lot of things; for example, eyebrows from Great Granddad Joe, or height from Great Aunt Maud, but it gets much more specific than that when it comes to the doing of everyday things. Let’s go back to the days of the caveman men, where they allegedly dragged their mate around by the hair.  Remember that Britvic ad- the original of the species?  Basically, men are the hunters, the providers.  Back then, light was natural and came from the sky; the only manmade light was due to a roaring great caveman fire and not a little switch on the wall.  Mr. Cave Man left at 9am carrying not a briefcase and a set of car keys but a club for bashing his prey.  According to Steve Biddulph in Raising Boys hunting was very much a team activity, requiring ruthlessness, a certain amount of recklessness and a lot of muscle work.  “Once the chase was on, there was no time for discussion.  Someone was in charge, and you did what you were told or else.”  So in other words, if he loses his concentration, he dies.  Multi-tasking had no safe place for men back in pre-historic times; the hunter could lose his concentration and die.  Back in the home place (some things never change) the work of the woman was equally important.  Who can argue that raising a family is one of the biggest and challenging jobs, and back then Mrs. Cave Woman did not have the luxury of television to keep the bairns occupied whilst she skinned a tiger for dinner.  The women folk had very different jobs to do; jobs that required dexterity which was handy for berry picking.  Women were sensitive which is necessary for childcare.  A bit like that movie “How to make an American Quilt” women had the opportunity for group discussions, similar to today’s stich and bitch sessions.  So in a nutshell, Mrs. Cave Woman’s work called for consistency, lots of caution and attention to detail.  Think feeding kids at regular intervals, making sure they are wearing suitable clothing and keeping little socks on little feet.  Mr. Cave Man’s job came with a certain amount of risk and danger to their lives. They needed to be ruthless and never take their eye off the ball or they could pay with their life and the family would perish as a result.  Because of the way cave women worked, evolution saw to it that our bodies became smaller.  But we are better able to continue and put up with things.  Men’s bodies were and still are superior when it comes to strength but small things like flu hits them harder than women.  Nice get out of jail clause there; don’t blame the men when they complain about man flu, blame the ancestors.  So back to today now that we’ve looked at where we came from and how we think.  When a woman discovers she is pregnant, especially with her first baby, she immediately starts nesting.  The house must be just so, the baby’s room has to be perfect and that nappy bucket which is on offer in Lidl at the weekend, is suddenly the most vital piece of baby equipment, why doesn’t he understand? And him, the poor feker, what he’s really thinking is, “shit!  How am I going to provide for this baby?  I might be unemployed next week!”  even when faced with The Big Stuff, our priorities are just different.  We’ve all got our own individual idiosyncrasies, our little quirks that drive each other mad.  But I reckon it’s easy to put up with half a dozen silly little things, like mucky boots trekked in over the floor, rolled up socks in the wash, changing the mirror in the car when he drives it (grrr!), not refilling the kettle, putting empty cartons back in the fridge and using the last of the shampoo. But who’s counting?    Years ago, it wasn’t the done thing for the man to be seen helping around the house.  Through no fault of their own, probably because they were never made do it, they didn’t know what a nappy looked like, let alone put one on a child.  But today it is expected of them.  And that is a good thing.    Most of our menfolk do it without argument.  So a lot of the time they may not do it the way we would like them to, but mismatching socks and the four year old wearing the two year olds clothes are not the end of the world.  Just comical.  In the same way that we as mothers are never going to change in our approach to raising our babies, the menfolk and their laid back attitude are pretty much set in stone too.  We have to accept them in pretty much the same fashion we expect them to accept us.       

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