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Growing up with a dad who wasn’t around much, how does a boy learn to be a man? Owen Marcus talks about his journey.
My father wasn’t around much. He left at 7 AM for his commute into New York City, and didn’t get home until 7 PM—which wasn’t unusual for men, then or now. Men of his generation felt their primary responsibility was to provide for their families, which left my mother as my primary parent. Between her and my teachers, the vast majority of my adult interaction was with women.
I didn’t know I was missing anything. My friends’ dads were no more available (a few were even less available due to their drinking habits). I am sure they loved their dads, just like I loved mine. But when you don’t see someone regularly, you never get really comfortable with that person. Interaction doesn’t feel easy or natural. I can remember a subtle tension when my dad was around. The times I would “help” my father with chores, I would try extra hard to do it right because I wanted to show him how good I was. He was a kind man, but looking back now, I can see I felt like I was with a stranger—a stranger I had to impress. On family vacations, that tension would dissipate a bit, as we all grew re-acquainted with each other. But after two weeks, we’d go back to the same routine.
A couple of generations of American men have now grown up with our dads who were gone for most of our waking hours. Unless you are the rarity where you lived on a traditional farm or lived above your family’s business, you probably didn’t see much of your dad.
My mom was a great mom. She was always there. She cooked healthy meals before eating healthy was the thing. She baked a dessert every night, helped us with our homework, and took us to our events. She also stood up for us when needed.
I had great teachers, too. Mostly women (before high school, the only male teacher I remember was the gym teacher). I learned how to make these women happy. I learned to be a good boy, not misbehave, not be rowdy and not question their authority.
About Owen Marcus
Owen Marcus meets weekly with his men’s group, operates a private practice and recently wrote the book Grow Up, Guys – Your 9-Step Path to Releasing the Remarkable Man Inside You. He believes as men we aren’t bad or broken – we never got to learn how to be the man we want to be. He blogs at www.owenmarcus.com.