I am Provider
When my son was born, it was the most incredible day. I won’t lie, it was quite nerve- racking as unexpected complications arose during childbirth. However, my wife and I were grateful that he made it. I clearly remember holding him in hospital; a tiny newborn with drips and tubes in his little veins which he needed to survive those first few days. I recall feeling overwhelmed with how vulnerable he was at that very point in time. He was totally dependent on my wife for nourishment and comfort, on the IV drip in his little hand and the other medical support he was receiving hospital. There was little that I could do at the time apart from support my wife by reassuring her through this difficult time in our baby’s life.
Up until that point in my life I only really had to look after myself. Apart from my big clumsy oaf of a dog, Rusty, I didn’t have much responsibility for the survival of anyone else. Sure, I was also a qualified teacher, a high school chaplain and the chaplain on the World Surf Tour. I had responsibilities, people I was accountable to and students that were in my care. However, this was nothing like having a child. It wasn’t like I could leave my newborn baby and just go for a surf or a fish. My priorities shifted and when I became a dad.
Prior to having a child, I could travel on a whim for extended periods of time. I could leave for work at 4:30 am and return at 6:30 pm repeatedly without thinking much about this. However, now that I held my helpless baby boy, something shifted in me. All of a sudden, I knew what it really meant to provide. Not in a monetary sense, but on so many other levels. Working tirelessly was no longer viable for our family. Working a small week here and a long week there was not going to cut it anymore. My wife needed me more than ever now. She needed consistency, practical and emotional support. I helped with what seemed like never ending nighttime waking, feeding and nappy changes. She needed me to reassure her that she was doing a good job and that things would be okay. She needed me to be present, emotionally connected, spiritually strong and mentally sound.
This is not some spiel about machoism and providing like the cave man did, and it’s not some anti-feminism, chauvinistic propaganda. However, this is a challenge to simply take a stand as a man and reconsider what it means to be a true provider. To understand who you are, identify when you need to step up, and consider how to provide on a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual level to your loved ones. Finance does play a role; however, security isn’t all about money. I believe a lot of men out there are striving to work and work endlessly in order to “provide” for their families. After all, isn’t this what we were taught by our ancestors. Their pockets might be full, but they might be emotionally bankrupt. At the end of the day, their families need a husband or a father, not merely a paycheck. Sometimes providing involves deciding not to go to work, because your wife is unwell and needs help caring for your child. Sometimes it means to be more available and to provide quality time, love, companionship and empathy. Sometimes providing also entails knowing when to stop and ‘provide’ for yourself.
Being a provider can be taxing on a person. Especially when you are often giving and thinking of others. When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to climb up this beautiful, big fig tree. This tree provided us with plenty of good times. It was our playground and fort, it provided shade, it was a home to many animals and provided them with food. Although this tree ‘gave’ a lot, it could not survive if it didn’t receive adequate sunlight, water and minerals from the soil. In the same way, we need to nurture ourselves if we want to be effective and healthy providers in the long term. This means you need to be able to identify when you yourself are in need of some provision and nurturance. You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask for support. The most effective mentors I have in my life, also have mentors or counsellors they go to for support on a regular basis. Many men I have spoken to have shared with me that being vulnerable in this way seems to them like weakness. The well-known research professor, Dr Brene Brown, researched this very topic. She delivered a powerful TED talk about the power of vulnerability. In her popular book named The Power of Vulnerability, Dr Brown stated that vulnerability is actually our most accurate measure of courage from which great qualities are birthed!
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” (Brown, B, The Power of Vulnerability, 2013).
Personally, I want to provide for my family and give them the security they need in all aspects of life. Fortunately, I have also learnt that I need to stop and ensure that I am able to sustain providing for them. Having the courage to be vulnerable and seek support is a rewarding experience that has positive flow-on effects for whole family.
Is it time for you to reflect? To flip your view of ‘providing’ on its head?