In support of International Men's Day 2020, Tim Taylor, an Associate Solicitor at Hastings Legal and member of our Property and Land Law Reform Law Sub-Committee, has written a letter to his 16-month-old son Ben, reflecting on two of the three core themes of this year’s International Men's Day: 1. Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys; and 2. Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity.
Although you’re just a wee riotous toddler at the moment, one day you will be all grown up; making your own life choices and charting your own course through life’s ups and downs. I therefore hope that you will read this letter one day, as I look to play my part as a positive male role model in your life.
Look after yourself; be kind to yourself and others.
You will have fantastic experiences in the future, when you feel truly alive and the master of your own destiny. You will also have hard times, when it feels like the world is against you and you feel powerless and sad.
For what it’s worth, my advice for you during the good times is to savour every moment and feeling; as they approach, occur and subside. Celebrate your wins, and do all you can to help others succeed along the way.
Conversely, during hard times, keep events in perspective and remember that “this too shall pass”. A wise person said long ago that “It is not what happens to us, but how we react to it that matters.” Look for solutions, not for problems.
I try to be a positive male role model for you by following the above advice, in various different ways.
You have already noticed me taking ten minutes or so each morning to relax my busy mind and positively reflect on the miracle that is our existence (some people call this meditation). You probably think I’m sleeping during this time, but I promise I’m (usually!) not.
As you know, we regularly go running together already (with you in the running pram), as consistent exercise helps us stay healthy and strong.
Another of my habits that you might think is strange is journaling (in “Daddy’s book”, as you call it). This serves two purposes: it helps me stay accountable to my goals and aspirations; and it acts as a “brain dump” of useless information each day.
Taken together: meditation, exercise and journaling are some of the things that I do to look after my wellbeing (both physically and mentally). They help me feel positive and healthy, so I can enjoy each day with you and Mummy. Staying “match fit” in this way helps me to enjoy the good days, but equally it helps on those difficult days, when things aren’t going our way.
The final point I would make about looking after yourself is about what is often called Work/Life Balance. For us, this means how much time/energy/attention I dedicate to you and Mummy; and how much time/energy/attention I dedicate to my work. I try to do the best I can at home and at work; but I also realise that I can’t be in two places at once. For now, we have decided that 8am-5pm Monday-Friday is for work, and the rest of the week is for you. This gives us a good balance at present, as we have lots of nice time together, but I also have time to do my work.
A Positive Perspective
I’m not going to pretend to understand what being a “good man” or “being manly” means to other people these days. For me, it means being a positive influence in all areas of our lives and caring for others. I suppose this isn’t gender-specific advice, because for me being a “good man” is the same as being a “good person”.
Gender is a complicated topic for other, much smarter people than me, to advise you on. All I can say is please don’t behave like you think you “should” just to fit in. Be yourself – it's hard work pretending to be someone you’re not. Grow and nurture friendships and loving relationships with those who respect you for who you are.
Is a man’s role simply to be a tough protector and provider, and a woman’s role simply to stay at home to keep the house and raise the children? No – I certainly don’t think so – far from it. At home, you regularly see me doing the cooking and cleaning. You also see Mummy going out to work. We are lucky that we are able to share these responsibilities within our family.
I hope you grow up to be comfortable in your own skin, with the confidence to be vulnerable and honest - in a healthy way - with yourself and others. Tell the truth, especially when it’s hard to do so. Be patient, but don't suffer pessimism gladly.
Please remember that talking about how you feel and asking for help when you need it (and we all need a little help sometimes) is a demonstration of true character strength, not a sign of weakness. I can’t give you a definition of what being a “good man” means, but I have found that being optimistic, caring and genuine is a good place to start.
Try to be yourself, to be kind to others, and to enjoy the journey.
Lots of Love,