What’s so great about being a guy?

So what’s so great about being a guy? When you look around at many of our so-called male role models, it’s hard not to weep quietly into your tea.

Add to that a long-overdue reckoning for millennia of casting women as second class humans, at best, and being male doesn’t feel like a positive thing. And yet, here we are, here I am.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been internalising all this negative stuff about my gender that’s been stirred up by the likes of Donald Trump and an acute awareness of all the ways guys can be real dicks (metaphorically and literally).

While much of the critical sentiment about men is warranted, the males whose behaviour has given rise to it don’t particularly care. Those of us who strive daily to be better representatives of our half of the species wind up being dragged down by the rest.

The downside of that is that it’s difficult not to internalise that negativity. In the process, we surrender our power to have a positive impact in our relationships and on the world around us.

There is a list of reasons

When I noticed I was in that unpleasant space, I decided to address it with a little emotional hacking. I decided to come up with answers to the question, “What’s so great about being a guy?”[1]:

We’re physically stronger

Generally speaking, males tend to be physically stronger than women.

Yes, that is a pretty broad generalisation and it may only really be accurate in terms of brute strength. Most of the women I know are not to be trifled with.

That comes in really handy when there are heavy shopping bags to carry up stairs and children who want to be picked up (and who are, quite frankly, a bit too old to be picked up).

Carrying stuff
Image credit: Priscilla Du Preez

Of course there are often other things that need to be lifted, packed away and otherwise handled. These sorts of tasks may seem menial but they need to be done and, if you have a special lady in your life, she’ll appreciate it.

A subset of this is being the family pack mule. For some reason, family outings almost always result in me carrying not only most of the bags we insisted on leaving our apartment with but also whatever our kids acquired along the way.

I’ve come to regard back pain as an achievement badge of sorts. I wonder if there are achievement levels?

We can be the hero

Eradicating spiders, cockroaches and other creepy crawlies is not just a man’s job but these dastardly creatures give us opportunities to be our family’s hero.

I am not a fan of the bugs that emerge from the depths of wherever they come from in our home. I’m also not ashamed to admit that it took me a little while to learn to suppress a scream and the urge to flee when I saw them emerge from underneath a couch or kitchen counter.

Once I took that Big Boy step, I became pretty efficient at capturing these hellspawn and tossing them out a nearby window[2]. I also earned my wife’s and kids’ respect and admiration.

I still scream with my inside voice at times but, as the saying goes:

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.

Learning new domestic skills

Women are traditionally expected to deal with all the domestic stuff while men do whatever it is men are supposed to have done while the domestic stuff is being taken care of.

Clearly that is unfair to women who have also been expected to handle that child-rearing stuff and still make themselves useful in the job market.

Thankfully, most of the men I know step up and take on domestic and child-related tasks too. The benefit of being a Modern Guy is that expectations tend to be pretty low (I’m referring to our expectations of ourselves – women have always expected us to do more and have generally been disappointed).

So, increasingly, we do pitch in and do things like laundry (with appropriate amounts of soap and water), dishes, cooking and wiping our children’s bums. When we do, we experience that sense of achievement those other deadbeat guys rarely do.

Cleaning the toilet, for example, is pretty crappy (in all senses of the word). At the same time, that sense of satisfaction at having obsessively cleaned the bathroom and rendered it safe for our families, is almost tangible.

When we do our share of the domestic stuff, we prove to ourselves that we are more than the jerks we are so often compared to.

Being your little girl’s Daddy

One of the biggest advantages of being a guy is the opportunity to be your little girl’s Daddy.

Image credit: Caroline Hernandez

This one is difficult to describe to a guy who isn’t a father to a little girl but it is definitely one of the best things about being a guy. If you’re lucky enough to have an opportunity to be one, of course.

Perhaps this old post will help explain what it’s like a little better:

Soosh’s love between a Dad and his daughter

Teaching your son to be a better man

Women have an important perspective to share with boys when it comes to teaching them how to be better men. At the same time, they learn so much from seeing how their male role models conduct themselves.

This is both a tremendous responsibility for fathers as well as a privilege. Raising a son is an opportunity to shape the future of human relationships in a small way.

If we, the fathers, can figure out how to be better examples of our gender, we will hopefully also produce a new generation of men who are not trapped by the idiocy of their predecessors.

This role reminds me of that saying, “Healer, heal thyself”. As we learn to become better men, we pass on some of the lessons we learn to our sons and give them a better foundation for their relationships.

Image credit: Clem Onojeghuo

No PMS

From what I’ve heard about PMS, I am grateful that I only experience the external manifestations of it now and then (and when I do, it seems pretty mild – my wife is awesome that way).

I’m sure that when our daughter reaches puberty (the prospect of a teenage daughter terrifies me), it will be somewhat more interesting.

Either way, I’m glad it isn’t something I am biologically capable of.

Incapable of being pregnant

Pregnancy is a wonderful thing. It is the means by which we have our children.

I appreciate the opportunity of contributing towards a pregnancy and ensuring that some of my more annoying personality traits are preserved in our children. Beyond that, I am happy to be a guy because I don’t have to physically go through pregnancy.

Certainly, I understand that there is much about pregnancy that is wondrous and men will never really appreciate the extent of it.

At the same time, after seeing my wife go through morning (leaning towards general) sickness; massive discomfort; months of having our darling child stamping on her bladder, and other less than blissful pregnancy-related experiences, I am ok being on this side of it.

Pregnancy still strikes me as an odd way of creating children. It probably made a lot of sense, in evolutionary terms, when our species was constantly on the move and had to carry everything.

Bottom line here: I’m grateful that we were able to fall pregnant and have our two children. That women can do this astounds me. It is amazing and should, in itself, be a reason to treat women with orders of magnitude more respect.

Beyond that, I’m glad that being a guy means I don’t have to actually experience it first-hand.

Image credit: Mon Petit Chou Photography

Dressing badly

Women seem to be under so much pressure to dress well. From what little I understand about this pressure, it seems to be more about meeting other people’s expectations.

There are certain contexts in which I feel the need to dress better (job interviews and weddings, for example) and I make an effort there. Outside those situations, I have become fairly relaxed about what I wear.

For the most part, pants and a decent shirt tend to cover the basics. I also feel that being a Dad means that dressing like I am still in the 1990s is excusable because fatherhood somehow takes the place of fashion sense for most men.

Now that I think about it, dressing appropriately for situations that require it and not embarrassing my wife are the broad guidelines that dictate what I wear when I go out in public. I also keep telling my wife that the 1990s will come back into fashion but she isn’t convinced.

In short, as a (roughly) middle-aged guy, I’m glad that I get to dress pretty much how I see fit (within the parameters I mentioned already) without feeling the pressure that, I imagine, so many women feel.

On a related note, don’t be so quick to criticize cargo pants. They may seem like a fashion aberration but they are essential to the Dad role of being the family pack mule[3].

Dad jokes

I think there is a gene that controls Dad jokes. It lies dormant until you produce children and they reach the age where they can understand puns and sarcasm.

At that point the gene turns on and you have the dubious ability to not only tell dad jokes, but find them funny too.

Like dressing poorly, this feels like a privilege of being a Dad. I also see it as a form of pre-emptive revenge on our children who, I’m certain, will cause me to go gray and lose my hair far too soon.

Dad jokes are potent weapons of mass embarrassment and their potency only increases the older our kids are (at least until they have kids of their own and the jokes somehow become amusing).

Sure, mothers tell jokes too but there is something special about Dad jokes that makes them especially embarrassing. They’re a kind of guy super-power and I enjoy having them.

Just to name a few reasons

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, being a guy is complicated. There is a joke about lawyers (well, one of bazillions) that goes: “99% of lawyers give the rest of us a bad name”.

It isn’t quite as bad being a guy but there are plenty of males out there who seem to be making a concerted effort to make the rest of us seem like the human equivalents of cheese mould.

We have a responsibility to set better examples for our children and represent our gender in a more positive and constructive light. It isn’t always easy. Even the most sincere of us have an innate tendency to stupid things.

Being a guy is a work in progress. There is always room for improvement and I think it’s important to find that balance between being our flawed selves and striving for something more socially acceptable.

In the meantime, let’s not lose sight of the good things about being a guy and celebrate the small victories. The alternative is to surrender to the air of despondency that chokes us, moment to moment.

Let me know if you have any other reasons to celebrate being a guy in the comments. I’m sure there are loads more.

Featured image credit: Danielle MacInnes


  1. Feel free to suggest other reasons in the comments or in reply on social media. I’d love to add even better reasons to this post.
  2. Conventional wisdom suggests pulverizing these creatures but consider the mess you’d need to clean up afterwards.
  3. See the bit about being physically stronger near the top of this article.

Being a Dad is mostly the stuff you didn’t intend doing

Laura-Kim has been publishing a series of Father’s Day posts and she asked me to make a contribution so I wrote a post titled “Being a Dad” one afternoon, while I was sitting at a park with our kids.

The thing with “Dad posts”, especially when they are written for a Father’s Day series, is that it is tempting to delve into the profundity of fatherhood. I’ve certainly written those posts before.

Fatherhood is what happens when our kids disrupt our plans

This time around, I wanted to focus on an aspect of fatherhood we often don’t focus on because, well, it’s a little embarrassing. You know that saying that “(l)ife is what happens to us while we are making other plans”?

It occurred to me that much of being a Dad is like that. We have things we want to do, either with our kids or on our own, and those things are often not what our kids want to do.

I thought I had something meaningful, profound even, to share about the magic of being a Dad and then I was interrupted.

I was at the park with my daughter at the time. She asked to push her on the swings and I lost my tenuous link to what I thought would become a deep insight into the source of the magic of fatherhood.

As I pushed her higher and higher (these kids are crazy) I tried to remember where my thought train was derailed and failed. Instead I found myself captivated by the sunlight in my little girl’s hair and I realised that she isn’t such a little girl anymore. When did that happen?

Instead, our kids have a tendency to pull us out of our plans and send us down another path (usually a paved path in a park towards an inadequate hiding place). Sometimes being a Dad is recognising that our kids’ impromptu plans are the more important ones.

With that, here is my post. I hope you enjoy it (I certainly enjoyed writing it):

Being a Dad

When you are finished reading my post, go read the other Dads’ contributions to Laura-Kim’s series:

My letter to my Mom thanking her for what she did for me

When Michal contacted me a couple months ago about contributing a letter to my Mom to her post series titled “A Letter to My Mom”, I agreed almost right away. I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally put into words some of my thoughts about what my mother did for me from my perspective as a parent.

It is virtually impossible to appreciate what our parents do for us when we are children. We have no real frame of reference. It’s all really about us and we’re mostly oblivious to what our parents go through as they learn how to be parents themselves.

My mother became a Mom when she was 20. That may seem old in some cultures but I think the rest of us can agree that is pretty young. My Dad was only 25 when I arrived.

I don’t think I had the maturity or emotional capacity to become a parent at 25, let alone 20 (in fact, I’m certain I lacked any reasonable dose of either). My parents raised me, my sister and my brother as best they could and without that elusive Parenting Manual that never seems to arrive when our children do.

With my Mom in Jerusalem in early 2016
In Jerusalem with my Mom, early 2016

The three of us now have families of our own and it’s only really now that I have an inkling of how my parents must have felt as new parents.

I’m still pretty new at being a Dad (about 9 years in) and I’ve learned that being a parent is mostly about doing the best you can to keep your children alive, clothed, fed and happy.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes, some of which I have shared and some which you’ll never hear about. I think I’ve also done a few good things too. Mostly, being a parent is a learning experience. It happens moment by moment and there are days when it all seems to be so easy. There are other days when I can only barely keep the doubts and worry at tolerable levels.

When I look at other parents, I see other people also trying to figure this stuff out. Some are better at some aspects of parenting and not so great at others. There are, of course, the parents who really seem to have figured this stuff out and I’m constantly envious of them.

Mostly, though, none of us really have the “How to Be An Awesome Parent and Never Let Your Kids Down” manual. We just muddle along and aim to make fewer mistakes that can’t be resolved with years of therapy when our kids are older.

So, this was what was running through my mind when I sat down to write my letter to my Mom.

http://allthingsmomsydney.com/a-letter-to-my-mom-from-paul-jacobson/

I’m sure she feels guilty about mistakes she feels she made as a mother just as she is (justifiably) proud of the many great things she did. One of the things I wanted to communicate through my letter to my Mom is that whatever mistakes she may feel she made don’t matter anymore.

What I take from my experiences of being my mother’s child (at least in the first two decades or so of my life) have inspired me to be a better parent to our children.

When I think about how to deal with a difficult situation, I don’t think back to some dark, tragic moment in my childhood where my parents let me down (there really weren’t any). I think back to the happy moments, the positive lessons I learned and the times I felt loved. Those are the childhood experiences that shape me as a parent today and will in the years and decades to come.

So, after all of that I have two last things to say. First, go read my letter to my Mom. Second, thank you Mom. Love you lots!

Thoughts about my father and fatherhood on his birthday

Today would have been my Dad’s 66th birthday (I think). My father’s birthday is always a pensive day for me and I miss him a little more on these anniversaries.

On days like today, I often find myself trying to conjure up memories of what he was like as a father. I wonder how he would deal with all the little situations we encounter each day? I don’t have many clear memories of my childhood and yet I sometimes have a sense of how he would behave in random situations.

Being a father isn’t easy. We have our own personality quirks to muddle through at the same time we are learning about how to be better dads and parents to our children. There is always room to improve, to give our kids more attention, play more with them, be more present.

On one hand, it seems I can never live up to my expectations of myself as a father and on the other, I wonder if each step towards meeting them is all we can really do.

Even though I almost always feel like I am falling short of my expectations of what it is to be a good father, perhaps having those expectations is a testament to my father. He wasn’t perfect (none of us are) but he set the bar pretty high by his actions and by what he was able to do in the short time he was alive.

To say that I ask myself what my Dad would do often is an understatement. In many ways he guides my actions as a father even though he passed away years before I became a father. That makes the journey a little easier and his loss a little more meaningful.

“I just don’t want to make your day worse, Dad”

“I just don’t want to make your day worse.” My daughter’s tearful words to me before bed hit me like a proverbial shovel (or whatever proverbially hits people). I paused and explained to my little girl that her Dad had a tough day at work.

“You and your brother make my day better,” I said to her, “not worse. Definitely not worse. It’s not your fault that I was grouchy. That is my fault. I let my day upset me and I’m sorry I was grouchy with you tonight.”

I told her I love her very much and turned off the light. She turned over, went quiet and soon fell asleep. I sat with her like I usually do, this time in the growing realisation that letting myself become so caught up in my day stress-stuff meant I was putting strain on my family, my refuge from it all.

Trying to be a better Dad

When I find myself anxious or upset during my day about some or other stressor, I keep thinking that I should be able to handle it all better. After all, I’m 40 years old and I’ve been through more stressful things than this. When do I start behaving like the grown-up I am supposed to be and process my stress in a constructive manner?

It isn’t Father’s Day in Israel today but considering I’m formerly a South African and it was Father’s Day there (and elsewhere) today, I’ll go with it for now. Father’s Day is a celebration of fatherhood (yes, and an over-commercialised event, blah blah). It is another reminder to me of how fortunate I am to be a Dad to our amazing children.

In recent days, I think I have lost sight of that a bit and I let myself be snared by my stresses. This adult thing isn’t easy. It seems there isn’t really a manual for that one either.

I suppose all we can do is try be aware of our behaviour; get better at letting go of the crap we can’t change and change the crap we can. Most importantly, don’t lose sight of the people who make it all worthwhile: our family and friends.

If all else fails, I hear crying in a manly way into your beer or brewing a perfect flat white helps. I’m partial to Mumford & Sons’ Wilder Mind, but that could just be me.

Image credit: Pexels

Soosh’s love between a Dad and his daughter

Snezhana Soosh has shared a beautiful series of illustrations of the love between a Dad and his daughter that are just wonderful. She published them on Instagram. A number of sites have published the images, including Good Things Guy and Bored Panda:

I love Soosh’s illustrations. Here are some of my favourites:

I just want to head home to my little girl now …

Spare a thought for working Dads

Some fine print to save myself from being beaten by hard-working Moms

This post is about working Dads. Before I get to that, here is a quick disclaimer: Moms don’t receive nearly enough credit and, thankfully, there is a wealth of stuff being shared online highlighting just how much mothers actually do. The term “stay at home Mom” should be banned and replaced with “Mom who works a double shift at home because she doesn’t get the day off at the office”.

That said, Dads are often portrayed as goofballs whose primary contribution to being parents was that disappointing, drunken performance that one night about 9 months before the child arrived.

The next disclaimer is that my wife did most of what I describe in my typical day last year when I was doing evening ulpan classes.

Sure, there are fathers who fit that cliche but there are plenty of working Dads who do so much more and they don’t receive nearly as much attention as they should. I thought I’d share a typical day in my life, not to brag (I always think I could do more for our kids) but to point out that working Dads really work for their families! I’ve touched on this before, so feel free to pause this post and read my earlier one:

Something for the awesome Dads

A typical day in my life as a working Dad

Out the door by 5:30am

I have two alarms set. The first goes off at 05:00 and the second at 05:10. The reason for this early start is that I start work at around 6:30 (7:00 at the latest) so I can log enough time to return home for my second shift (more about that below). My routine is pretty much the following:

  • Dress fairly quickly;
  • Pack my breakfast to eat at the office;
  • Do teeth and hair (nothing fancy – just making sure it doesn’t stand up);
  • Leave notes for our kids;
  • Kiss my wife goodbye; and
  • Head out the door between 05:20 and 05:30 (usually closer to 05:30).

I usually walk to the train station (15 minute walk, more or less) but sometimes take the bus if I catch it in time. My train leaves at 05:48 and I arrive in Tel-Aviv in time to start work at about 06:30 (if I miss my usual train, I start work just before 07:00).

I don’t have time to eat breakfast so I do that when I arrive at work while orienting myself for the day. If our babysitter can fetch the kids 3–4 four days a week, I wind up working over 10 hours a day to make sure I accumulate enough time to compensate for the days I have to leave earlier to fetch the kids from aftercare. It mostly works out although I am still working out a few kinks.

Changing shift after work

Ideally, I work till about 4:30pm to 4:40pm when I leave to catch a 5pm train back to Modi’in. I arrive home at about 6pm to take over from our babysitter who would have fetched our kids from aftercare earlier that afternoon. On days she can’t fetch the kids, I finish work in time to catch a 3:30pm train and then hustle to fetch the kids from aftercare when it finishes.

Gina is doing ulpan (Hebrew classes) two evenings a week in Tel-Aviv so on those nights (or when she has something on at night after work), I am generally pretty busy with –

  • taking the kids to the park for a little play time after school when the weather is ok;
  • making sure homework is done;
  • bathing the kids;
  • making supper (I enjoy this part although it sometimes means we eat a bit late, depending on what time I arrive home and whether the kids have playdates);
  • helping Aaron make sure his bag is packed for the next day (I’ve been slacking off a bit with this lately and often leave the actual check for Gina);
  • putting the kids to sleep;
  • washing dishes;
  • making school lunches and my breakfast for the next day; and
  • some or other home task like cleaning, laundry or something along those lines.

I have a deal with our kids to leave a note of some description for them in the mornings when I leave because I usually leave for work before they wake up. This is usually the last thing I do before getting into bed and passing out (I am aim to be asleep by 10:30pm at the latest or I can’t function the next day).

I tried waking them to say goodbye but it was a bit of a disaster because they didn’t go back to sleep and the whole family was up way too early.

Weekends are a little easier

Friday is the start of our weekend and I get to sleep late … till 6am, at least. The kids still have school so I’m usually up around 6:15am to get them out of bed, dressed and packed for school.

Gina and/or I then get them to school and spend the morning cleaning, shopping for the weekend (shops generally close early afternoon on Friday) and we then fetch the kids late morning from school.

Friday afternoons and Saturdays are mostly focused on the kids. Now that the weather is warming up it is great park weather and the kids love riding their bikes so I spend a big chunk of the weekend fighting my urge to hide in a man-cave after the week and spend time with them instead.

Oh, Gina and I also try really hard to spend some time together but kids tend to want to override that.

What’s the point of this?

There are many working Dads in our community and elsewhere who work even harder than I do. The point of this post is to give some insight into what my typical day is because I suspect many of the Dads we know have similar days.

So, yes, working Moms (and even so-called “stay at home” but really “work even harder” Moms) have a lot on their plates between work and family life. No question about that. My wife had my typical day all of last year while I was doing ulpan classes and this year is my turn.

As much as we want to celebrate the work Moms do, don’t forget the working Dads who also work really hard and make sacrifices for their families every day. Maybe swing an infographic or something along those lines our way now and then? Just a thought.