Over the past few months, we have been collecting video clips of men and women answering the question – “what is a real man”? Although some of the descriptions and words used are different, one of the things to come out so strongly, is the importance of a man to provide for his family. It is expressed as a duty, something that is absolutely fundamental to the success and growth of family life in Africa. It is seen as one of the fundamental things that define a real man.
Yet providing for our families is often not easy. The financial strain many are under means that we don’t manage to earn sufficiently to buy everything that the household wants, and sometimes even needs. As a man, we work longer and longer hours, and feel more and more pressured to provide the unrelenting appetite for the financial needs of the family. If we are unable to work, lose our jobs or cannot find a job that pays enough to send children to school, or put food on the table, the overwhelming sense of failure can lead many men to depression. This sense of failure can lead some to destructive or abusive behavior, and completely withdrawing from family life. The constant nagging and asking from the family for money and things, can push a man beyond his limit, and sometimes can see no way out than to live somewhere else to earn more money to send back to his family. The burden of financial provision for so many becomes a huge chain around the neck, that slowly and surely suffocates life, love and hope for the future. And it is a chain that is reinforced by wives, children and relatives again and again.
Yet there is a new norm. Provision for our families, as a man, is not just financial and material. Yes it is important but not fundamental. It does not define who you are. Provision for our families is about ensuring that we can provide the emotional, spiritual and physical support for our wives and children. Provision means working hard to find ways to play with our children, no matter how exhausting the day, so we provide for their emotional well being, by being present in their lives. Families don’t need men to just work, eat and sleep. But family is so much more than that. So much more fun. As men step outside of the limited confines of this restricted duty, and reach into their families to provide what they can in leadership, love and listening, they will discover that the family will come to them. Often a women will have an affair because she receives emotional support, or emotional understanding from a man other than her husband. Sometimes it is not about sex to start with, but becomes that. This is not to excuse women, for seeking love outside the home is wrong, but to shed light on the fact that husband need to know that to provide emotional support and love to his wife, does not necessarily appear in his pay packet. As a husband draws near to his family, often he will find an openness and willingness to work together for the material and financial needs of the family to be met, from within his family. The family, feeling loved and understood, will then begin to create an environment where discussions on finances can take place and be shared, and each member of the family take responsibility for their portion. No longer does financial provision become his sole responsibility, but by providing for emotional and spiritual leadership in the family, he himself receives support emotionally and spiritually. He receives affirmation as a real man, and can then be released to fulfill his whole duty to provide. This means a new freedom, and joy in providing leadership and love of his family, which is more important than purely financial.