Has Fatherhood Become the New Mercedes-Benz?
A funny thing happened to me the other day. I’m walking to the supermarket with my boys (5 and 2 years old) and I couldn’t help but notice that ladies were really paying attention to us.
Now, before you accuse me of having an overactive imagination and a huge ego, let me say that I never got the sense that this attention was about physically attractiveness per se, but more about what I looked like in the context of my role as a loving dad. You see, first they’d glance at us, then at me, then at them (my boys) and then back at me with a smile, and I began to wonder, “Hmmm”. It used to be that a tailor-made suit and a Mercedes-Benz were context clues signaling a man’s ability to “provide” and consequently, a tailor-made suit and a Mercedes-Benz made a man sexy. But could it be that for today’s professional women, fatherhood is the modern-day equivalent of a Benz?
For the record, ladies, this isn’t a conclusion or a definitive statement, nor is it meant to apply to all women. These are merely questions I’m throwing out there; a call-and-response kinda thing, so I’ll tell you what I think and look for feedback from you.
The age-old question at the heart of all this is, “What do women look for in a man?” The answer (in my humble view) is a sense of security—be it financial, physical or emotional—or intimacy (and by the way, men look for the same in a woman, so don’t get offended). For past generations it was assumed that financial security was the primary concern for women—after all, women weren’t allowed to have careers or jobs outside the home. But today is a different day. Women have gone from second-class citizens to career-driven professionals and shot-callers who don’t need a man to secure a mortgage, repay an auto loan or even handle the bill at a five-star restaurant. They get married later in life and have children later in life—that is, if they even want to have children, and if they do, they still don’t need a man with adoption and artificial insemination as options. So, for today’s independent women, what has replaced “financially secure” on the hierarchy of desirable qualities to look for in a man?
I guess a lot of the answer to that question depends on what comes to mind when you see good-looking guy “A” in a suit stepping out the Benz versus what comes to mind when you see good-looking “B” guy playing in the park with his 3-year-old daughter. In the case of “A,” I’d assume you see a guy who is educated, connected, confident and assertive with enough money to buy you a house and the latest Louis Vuitton bag. But what is it that some women are seeing in guy “B” that has traditionally been overlooked? OK, yes, you obviously might see “baby mamma drama” but you’d be surprised how many women are willing to overlook it. However, let’s assume for this discussion that guy “B” has a great parental relationship with the mother of his child, or maybe he’s the cool uncle instead of the father. In that case I’d imagine you might see someone who’s fun, sensitive, patient, nurturing, a protector and father for your children. So what might make a woman value guy “B” over guy “A”?
Let’s consider a few things. Women today make up 49.9% of the U.S. workforce and 51% of the country’s “professional” workers. They earn almost 60% of university degrees in America and just the other day a study showed that for the first time in history women are posting higher IQ scores than men. Is there still a gender gap in income equality? Absolutely, but that hasn’t deterred today’s women from, as Wendy Williams would say “doin it for themselves.” So while a tailor-made suit and a Benz is desirable, it isn’t a primary security need for many women who are in a position to acquire those things for themselves. And as we see more women becoming corporate Americans and business owners, and making the decision to focus on their personal career goals, I suspect that the security focus will shift from financial needs to emotional needs, or stated differently from a man’s ability to purchase a house to his ability to make that house a home.
Now I’m not suggesting that there aren’t caveats to this phenomenon. For example, I’m not saying that professional women are suddenly checking for a dude who is unemployed, has no goals, or one whose goal in life is to be a homemaker—as was so eloquently articulated by the ’90s group, Men of Vision in the song “Housekeeper.” In fact, a lot of this “new balance,” bread-winning wives and homemaker husbands is the result of those husbands being laid off in a bad economy. But has this new dynamic benefited professional women who want to “have it all,” the career and the family, by bucking old ideas about a woman’s place being at home, in the kitchen? And will more women open themselves up to the notion that it takes more than money to “take care” of a woman? I’m just asking …
On another note, let me officially welcome you to my blog, “Mansitioning,” also appearing on Transitioningmovement.com. I hope you’ll leave feedback and follow me on Facebook and twitter @mansitioning. Share your thoughts, problems, inspirations, relationship questions, etc. and spread the word.