There is an epidemic predominantly affecting men. While men may hold more positions of power, more jobs, higher pay, and own more land, this is only limited to privileged men. But there is a crisis that cuts across different intersectionalities—loneliness. Studies show that loneliness and isolation increase the risk of depression, anxiety, stress symptoms, and psychotic disorders.
Loneliness is affecting men disproportionately. Women have social circles as workers, mothers, wives, or in different settings such as church. Men don’t have as many social equivalents and even when they do, the intimate connections are few and far between. Many men have also shared that the friends they had when they were younger become more distant as soon as they start families. The male loneliness epidemic is affecting fathers more.
How loneliness affects fathers
Fathers find it more difficult to form bonds, especially as they grow older. This is because of the workload that they experience and how much time they have to dedicate to their families. This is true for househusbands as well. They don’t get any meaningful connections from a workplace that a working dad may have.
Richard Reeves, author of Of Boys and Men states that men are experiencing a modern deficiency. Men are no longer connected to the institutions that used to drive social life before. This includes religious institutions, jobs, sporting events, and family get-togethers. Studies found that men seek out more solution-oriented friendships than women who prefer emotional connections. However, as men grow older, those who don’t place great value in friendship are less likely to get emotional or practical help from friends. The Importance Of Female Friendships
Fathers find themselves in situations where they can’t forge new bonds. They also find it difficult to maintain old bonds, especially when their friends have older kids or no children at all. There are limited support systems for fathers outside of their marriages. Some are lucky enough to have immediate or extended family they can rely on. However, not all fathers have this option as many family members may be located far away from them.
Fathers experience loneliness even within marriage. Many find it difficult to express emotion and vulnerability because of patriarchal expectations to be providers and emotional bedrocks. Some spouses may also struggle to offer support because they have been conditioned that all men are strong, stoic, solitary figures. Fathers find it harder to seek advice or show vulnerability to other male friends.
Women have also been making strides in equality. They are no longer fully dependent on their spouses to earn a living. In many cultures, women can now own land, vote, and get jobs, even after becoming wives and mothers. While they do still experience a disproportionate amount of labour, women have lives liberated from the needs of men. Conversely, men have not evolved to accommodate this new reality. Some still expect women to pick up the pieces and when they become fathers who only have superficial friendships, a full-time job, and a wife who is actualised, they don’t know where to process their emotions. Wives are no longer their therapists, sounding boards, cheerleaders, mothers, and assistants. Many men end up feeling isolated and lost because they don’t know how to cope or address this gap.
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How lonely fathers can be helped
Not all fathers are created equal. Many are enmeshed in communities that are healthy, hearty, and helpful. But these communities are insular. There aren’t many widespread communities where a father in crisis can reach out at any time. However, not even legal institutions take into account the needs of fathers.
In Kenya, fathers only get two weeks of fully paid paternity leave. The law was changed in 2021 to include fathers of adopted children. As of 2021, the International Labour Organisation stated only 133 of 185 countries provided paid paternity leave for fathers. The average paternity leave is 1.3 weeks. This leads to the worldview that men are only valuable for their capitalist output. Legal labour provisions don’t take into account men’s emotional needs. How To Cope With Depression.
Pop culture also shows fathers as bumbling buffoons who couldn’t take care of a child without a woman’s intervention. While incompetent fathers do exist, there needs to be an address of the patriarchal standards that have led to this. Women are conditioned to be the only ones who deal with child care and domestic labour isn’t valued as work. Men aren’t generally raised to take care of the home and children and the only work that is valued is monetary. Many movies and books need to stop perpetuating the narrative that men are incapable of child care. Relationships: The Fair Play Method Of Dividing Housework And Childcare
Fathers need community. Many churches and social institutions offer meetings and social services for mothers, especially new mothers. Fathers also need to establish organisations for themselves where they can address any unique problems they are facing. Australia has the Dads Group to provide support while the US has The National Home Dad Network. Kenya has the Fathering Together group to provide mental health support for fathers of any age. Groups like these that don’t discriminate between working, divorced, married, and stay-at-home dads and provide unique support are the first step in reducing male loneliness among fathers.
There needs to be more health, administrative, and educational changes to facilitate an evolution to help with men’s mental health. Men also need to take on more caretaker roles to help push a holistic change to a better society where the burden of care isn’t solely on women. Men can also find more ways to create friendships such as creating social groups for the dads of students who attend the same school. It’s up to men to create the intention to battle the loneliness epidemic facing them. Ultimately, the bonds they forge can be what saves their health.
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