Be a man about it. How do you step up to that requirement? Where are our male, father role models who have taken that in a direction which fits with this world? Maybe there aren’t any, maybe the question of what makes a man has been too great for entire generations of men, leaving us lost in a wild land of opinion, bad examples, self-purpose, aggression, competition, oneupmanship, alpha-aspiration…

Cynicism isn’t the answer. Neither is this airless blathering, which always seems to be there when I haven’t written in an age. Must be more personal, that’s the one way. I feel lost, on my own, am I the only one asking these questions? The self-proclaimed websites or movements are too bloke-focused, they aren’t asking the same questions I am.

The last few weeks have been depressingly backsliding. I’ve frustrated, disappointed, angered, let down and upset my new wife, again and again and I can’t put it all down to us moving house. My ‘Oh Shit’ side, sadly influenced by my well meaning but apparently oblivious parents, which always aims to protect, only ever seems to suffocate.

I’ve suffocated my own excitement at moving, at finally escaping Oxford’s toxic influence on me, repressed my positivity, and for what? I believe that being a man is being yourself with full clarity, and I haven’t done that. It’s killed me. It has destroyed my wife. I’m still doing it, still not myself, and we have, basically, moved in. Boxes shouldn’t be obstacles to anything but my ankles.

Babies. Why am I so numb about children? I can’t even see my future, our future (I’m not deleting the unconscious selfish order that automatically came out in) I can hardly see next month. Every day is passing me by. I don’t feel connected to my own life, and yet this wonderful house and its idyllic setting was always supposed to improve that.

There is more of life outside my working day. I come home, home, to a home now not a box that has my stuff in it. I come home and feel there is life to live. I come home and my wife is there. But I am coming home and making her angry. Am I switching off? This week’s first commute has left me a bit zombified, but I’m sleeping well. I do not need more sleep.

Why am I so defensive, so unwilling to say sorry, so quick to get angry or upset. I am surrounded at work by treadmill arguments, Sisyphean discussions, but I am not going to blame the fact I feel indecisive, unknowledgeable, lost, clueless on the fact that I have a job and I can’t change everything I would like to. There is more.

I once lay in bed crying my eyes out at the realisation that, it dawned on me, my greatest ambition, the achievement I most wanted for my life, was to have children, to have a family. I was distraught. Did this mean I was unambitious, that I had small and insignificant vision? I wrestled with feeling distressingly certain that I’d found a truth in myself and feeling that this truth demonstrated something was lacking in me.

As much as many of my issues stem from my relationship with my parents and their own lives and decisions and opinions, I hesitate with each new revelation to explore how much they had to do with it. But I can never ignore how influenced I am and how influencing they are. Was that perception of something lacking demonstrated by them or did I soak it up from somewhere else?

And why do I feel so empty now when I think of children, when my beautiful wife yearns for them and when she asks me “Are you ready? Will you ever be ready?”. That night I held a truth about myself, I knew myself. Was I more of a man then, wrapped in an adolescents bed weeping myself to sleep, than I am now, than I am when my wife asks me to look after her?

That truth remains. I don’t believe I have changed my mind, I don’t believe that I don’t want children. But this emptiness is breaking her heart and pulling mine out. The problems over the past weeks have been sharpened by the move, heightened by stress, but they have been caused by my lack of self-understanding, by me chasing my tail.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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