Todd Mayfield is the co-founder at Fearless Men’s blog. He believes that manhood isn’t defined by pink vs. blue, being overtly sexual, how many chicks you get with, or being a total fool in public. He’s certain that manhood is defined by choices. Daily, weekly, yearly, over and over again. The choices to sharpen, refine, and grow.
To Todd, manhood is taking responsibility and living with the consequences.
I grew up in the Bay Area of Northern California. My elementary school looked like a run-down inner-city project. It was pretty beat up. We still had tan bark to soften our fall from monkey bars that I still to this day deem dangerous.
Nearing my teenage years, my parents moved us (older brother included) out of the mesh of cities into the central valley, and lived in the suburbs for ten years. My childhood was upgraded by Super Nintendo and sand at the playground.
Starting junior high was tough. I was a tall, awkward, lanky 6th-grader. In fact, I think other kids called me “Uncoordinated.” It was brutal. The other junior high pretty-boys with nicer shoes and better basketball games owned the land. A slow-witted introvert like me didn’t stand a chance.
Fortunately, one cocky kid tried to beat me up one day towards the end of 6th grade. This moment changed my life. I won. He walked away bleeding. And I walked away with more than 15 minutes of fame. I was famous THE REST OF THE MONTH. The next year I kept getting into fights and kept emerging victorious. But I never became a bully. I just never backed down. I grew more confident, but ultimately I was still pretty much the same introverted kid.
I went to high school with most of those same classmates and never got in another fight. But people were still doosh’s. Still self-absorbed adolescents.
Here’s the weird part: some of them still are. I moved to Texas for 8 years and now I live in San Diego. But, at 29, I meet guys my age that still haven’t emerged from adolescence.
How is it possible to not emerge from high school or university a man? If someone has left home and been in the workforce for a decade, they should have attained a deep sense of responsibility, correct? Why don’t 21st century males become men and take care of their own? Get (or stay) out of debt, raise their kids well, take care of their wife, and maybe even their parents and siblings if they need a helping hand? For me, it was challenging. It wasn’t automatic. Growing into manhood was a choice, a continued commitment day by day of who I am going to be and who I am becoming.
I don’t have all the moral and philosophical answers for you. I could probably muse for a few pages and give you the answers to the meaning of life, where Sesame street is, and how to punch someone in the throat in case you get attacked while playing basketball as a 7th grader. But the World Wide Web might explode and you wouldn’t be able to read awesome blogs like Work Save Live anymore.
Let me say this, before we get to practical rather than philosophical points: boys don’t become men on accident. It’s a choice. A series of right choices. Consecutive, consistent decisions that are not self-centered. They are others centered, and a man feels an internal burden to serve others and live for something greater.
Each of us has to wrestle with that, and don’t try to do it alone. Do it with community and family around you. Lone Rangers die young.
Boys become men not just with inner fortitude, but with practical action and wisdom. Here are some leading points I think will help us check ourselves, and lend a mentoring hand to someone else on the journey of manhood.
I’m not here to write about motherhood or being a woman. I’m not an expert on that, and can’t really write on the subject. But I can write about the positives and negatives I’ve seen from fathers.
Having a strong hand or a harsh voice with your wife or children is a way of the past gentlemen. Bouts of anger and a tone of abrasiveness is poison to a household. Take it as your responsibility to be a nurturer. It’s not just a woman’s role. We are to cultivate and mentor our kids into something greater.
Be nurturing to your wife. Encourage her in her dreams and goals. Does she desire to go back to school? Have a career path? Volunteer for an organization? Talk it through and dream with her. Fostering her dreams will only bring you too closer.
A man I once looked up to said this about his wife and him, “She is the beautiful, budding flower. I am the dirt.” He wasn’t getting down on men, he’s saying that he wants to be the nurturing and life-giving soil to the woman he loves.
What is the character you want your children to have? Exemplify that to your kids. You can’t deposit into other’s something that you’re not.
Kids spot a lazy dad before they know what laziness is.
“Dad let’s wrestle!”
“No, I’m too tired/watching TV.”
Show a true, energized interest in your fam. Make the investment in them now, or pay the price later.
There is more than one valid opinion on this. And your family has to come to their own conclusion. The ultimate goal is that with combined-or singular-income you are paying all the bills and saving a healthy nest egg. Who should bear the weight of this? The man or the woman?
I write the following to reader’s of both gender:
There are so many factors to consider, and here’s what I would encourage you to process through and decide for yourself:
A. Just one of us earns the money.
Is it the man or the woman? Is it based solely on who is going to make more income?
B. Both of us earn the money.
Would you both feel satisfied if the woman made more money than the man? If you feel dissatisfied, is this an internal feeling of the husband alone, or is it because of something that’s been stated by the wife?
I once dated someone who made about $15,000 more than me. It didn’t bother me at all. She told me that it wouldn’t bother her as long as it didn’t bother me. This was an odd statement to make in my mind. And she actually brought up the subject multiple times. It never got to the point where I felt insecure, but I did communicate that if that meant something to her she was going to have to get over it. I certainly didn’t want her making less money!
If we’ve emerged from adolescence we should have the emotional consistency to provide emotional support to our partner. When we still live in the teenage zone-irresponsibility, not investing in ourselves properly, filling our lives with trivial meaning-it will be hard to provide the relationship strength our significant other needs us to provide.
Neither spouse should feel the lone burden of making all the financial decisions. Nor should one spouse be left in the dark of what’s happening with the finances. If one person takes a stronger load with the financial responsibilities of the household, that person should be very open, clear and consistent with where the finances are at and bring that person in to the financial goal-setting towards the future.
If you find yourself getting “nagged” or even “begged” to get more stuff done around the house a day of reckoning is coming! Don’t ignore this communication. If you’ve promised to fulfill some honey-do’s then get your butt in gear. If you’re frustrated, it’s time to utilize your communication ability and get aligned with expectations.
Don’t think you’re the only one that likes to mow the lawn. Talk about what you don’t mind doing and what they don’t mind doing. You can each first volunteer for the stuff you like to do. After that, be sacrificial in volunteering for the stuff that your spouse doesn’t like to do.
As we’ve emerged from adolescence, we must continue to make a concerted effort to continue to develop ourselves. That’s not just with career development, but with relationship development as well. If you’re improving your character, and aiming to improve your relationship with your spouse, you won’t just be a boy, but a man. Step up, take responsibility, love your wife, and enjoy the journey together.
Editor’s Note: While I’m on vacation, it’s been a HUGE help to have a few bloggers provide some great guest posts in my absence. I want to specifically thank Todd for writing up an excellent post today and I want to encourage all of my readers to visit their site when you’re finished here (Fearless Men). This topic they’ve written about was something I specifically asked them to discuss as I think it’s imperative for all men out there to understand what it takes to truly be one. Our world is ridden with children masquerading in men’s bodies – “adults” that have yet to actually grow up – and that fact plays itself out in wives that have been abandoned by their husbands (emotionally in most cases), families that lack leadership, children that don’t have real fathers, and faithless/lost men chasing after things other than He who deserves it. As Todd said: step up. Be the husband your wife needs and the father your child deserves.
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