Men & Midlife Crisis
A freelance journalist, Patricia Robertson, sent me a few questions for an article she was writing for the Globe & Mail, Canada's authoritative newspaper. It appears the Baby Boomer angst has migrated north. I don't believe my answers saw the light of day because when I Googled my name, I saw no mention. So, for my readers, here's the text of that interview:
PR: Why a site dedicated to men and not to women?
Man-o-pause: Women have numerous resources to help them navigate almost any crisis. Men usually rely solely on their mate or significant other to talk about important issues. When a crisis hits, it usually blindsides a man. He can't articulate his experience (much has been written about the different neurological reasons for this) and becomes easily frustrated with feelings of despair.
I dedicated this blog to men because I wanted to provide at least one female voice who expressed understanding with grace and humor and to let them know that they are not alone nor are they crazy.
PR: How is a midlife crisis today different from our parents' generation?
Man-o-pause: Most of our parents lived through great upheaval and sacrifice, either through WWII, Korea, economic uncertainty (18% interest rates in the 80s!), etc. They were a generation who just muscled through their problems. We came of age in the 60s and 70s, when the mantra was "Question Authority?" Unfortunately, few leaders had answers. And so I believe the Baby Boomers try to answer their own questions themselves, often in a vacuum. The Baby Boomers are not a homogenous group. 78 million adults have a variety of special interests and causes. So to think we're all experiencing a "midlife crisis" is false. I believe, however, that once a person turns 40, those early unanswered questions surface. Essentially, many start to question their purpose in life. (You'll notice a secondary theme in my blog addressing this question.)
Our parent's generation was not to question.
PR: How does a man's midlife crisis differ from his wife's?
Man-o-pause: Women are adapting and adjusting constantly through every life cycle. So when midlife arrives, we at least have an awareness and understanding of the midlife transition. Women may complain and whine, but they're talking…to friends, sisters, coworkers and spouse. Men, by and large, suffer in silence. (See Q1)
Men are frustrated and act out--drinking, spending, obsessing. If they want off the rat-race roller coaster, they can't grasp any options. They are still the Provider, with a capital P. It's wired into their DNA. For a man to follow his passion or purpose takes enormous courage in the face of society's expectations. House husbands are viewed with distrust still even 30 years after Kramer vs. Kramer. What about the man who leaves a 20-year career to become a writer? My husband's pursuing his passion with my full support (but he too struggles with this choice.) It represents uncharted waters.
It takes a strong woman to encourage her husband to pursue something other than his pre-conceived path. The stress and strain from the accompanying monetary sacrifice isn't easy. But I'll tell you this: I'd rather have a happy husband than a dead one!
PR: Do you see this passage as a spiritual crisis?
Man-o-pause: All crises, on some level, are spiritual. It's an attempt of the human being (the Self) to transcend the strictures of the past, the limitations of his personality and to evolve to become better than he was - to serve in a greater capacity in the future.
Crisis is an indication that something isn't working. The struggle comes with the "deciding" phase. A teenager is deciding who he is, a parent is deciding how to parent a difficult child, a college graduate is deciding what profession to pursue, and a midlife man is deciding what his future will look like. These are daily struggles we all experience.
But once you've made a decision, then you experience a breakthrough to a path that serves you and, ultimately, humanity better.