Anyone who watched this season of the Rachel Zoe Project knows the central tension was the stylist's husband's desire for a child. Rodger's demanding biological clock soon became somewhat ludicrous. But as writer Dave Mills asks...is that the problem?
Women are expected to want kids — with our ever-shriveling eggs and ticking clock (and even our floral counterparts' need to protect fertility), it's expected that we melt around babies and keep a subconscious tally of our declining years of fertility — even as, ironically, we shoulder the burden of preventing pregnancy. Men, with their years of potential fatherhood and supposed biological imperative to spread one's seed, are free of this. In society, not only are they liberated from the pressure to continue a family line, but are popularly held to be so adverse to reproduction that mentioning a baby wish is considered tantamount to relationship suicide in all but the most committed of couples. This author would say it's more than that: that there are societal pressures in place that equate manliness with not wanting children, and discourage those men who do from expressing it. In his words,
The sad truth is, there's still a social taboo against men expressing their longing for parenthood. It's fine for us to say we'd love to have children ‘some time in the future' and it's perfectly acceptable, even cool, to be a doting dad once they're born, but it's somehow unmanly for us actively to yearn for a child of our own. Male baby angst is less talked about. The common assumption is that men are in no rush to give up their freedom and settle down. They are nagged and cajoled, and sometimes duped, into fatherhood, rather than choosing it for themselves.
In a way, it's easy to dismiss. When Rodger whined about wanting a baby, it seemed like a pretty big burden to place on his wife's career — not to mention body. But woman's choice or not, a man's desire for a baby should not be qualified. While just as a man who stays home with a baby should not be canonized, neither should the odd man who wants a kid. But by the same token, it's nothing to mock. Nor, for that matter, resent. It may seem easy for a man to say, but as Mills suggests, society's gender roles are tough to break out of and, as we all know, effect everyone. And indeed, many will probably sympathize — partially — with the words of one commenter who declares,
I am fed up reading this claptrap about men and their menopause and being broody. Give them monthly periods and real menopause then they will know how lucky they are. Shut up moaning men and do the gardening or the decorating and leave the women to moan in peace.
(What gardening and decorating have to do with anything I don't know, but suspect it at least partially strengthens the argument against stereotyping.)
I think part of it is, we love the narrative of the man who is "tamed," be it by the right woman, family or the bonds of domesticity. Think — well, any Katherine Heigl movie, not excluding the latest, in which a roguish, loutish, reluctant Josh Duhamel is brought to his knees by an adorable baby. Any perusal of the Harlequin rack at your local bookstore will reveal whole genres devoted to the theme: ranchers and lawmen and executives and bush pilots and "Italians," all tamed by unexpected babies and their tough-but-vulnerable mothers.
And yet, a quick survey of my partnered friends revealed that at least half the men in their collective lives were pushing — at least half-heartedly — for kids. "He doesn't realize what this would actually mean," wrote one, "and I think women are more inclined to. But it still makes me feel...unnatural or something." And there's the rub. When can we get to the point that what people feel becomes the logical definition of nature? Both masculine and feminine minds, apparently, would like to know.
Why Can't Men Be Broody Too? [Daily Mail]