Are Providers Real Men? Are Real Men Providers?

I remember listening to an interview with Canadian author Margaret Atwood at a time when I was not sure what direction to take, what profession to pursue, what field to go into. What about being a writer? The occupation as such wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts but more so the acknowledgement that this woman sounded like she knew who she was and was solid in her role and station in life; she had found her niche, her raison d’être, she had a proper profession – and she was respected, sought after and earned a living. Her job description gave her an activity and an identity; it was what she did and who she was.

I had tried many things and would try many more, take up many employs and fill various roles. Earning a living was important of course, but more so was the wish to put an end to the seemingly endless search for purpose and meaning in life. And finding a befitting professional role to fulfil would do the trick, I thought.

What did other people do? Even though I never felt directly discriminated against, a man’s role seemed to be more easily defined. I observed male friends drift into the role of supporting a partner and then a family and share their life and their resources with them – provide for them in other words.

And then there were questions that mothers would ask their dating teenagers. I observed this especially when I went to school in the US. If talking to a girl, they would ask what the boy’s dad did for a living. With teenagers, a mum might ask whether the young man was earning a living and question whether it was enough. I found that very strange at the time and remembering it now, it got me pondering:

  • Do men claim the role of provider or is it widely assumed to be a foregone conclusion?
  • Is provider the one and only one-size-fits-all job description for boys and men?

And there are more questions: if there is an expectation that men are the providers, when does it start and how do they get to hear about this job description?

  • Does the provider role come in the form of an invisibly woven thread in the cute blue baby boy jumpsuit?
  • When and how do boys and men become aware of this expectation?
  • Does anybody ask how they feel about this supposedly predestined role?

And further:

  • Do boys and men have a say or even a choice in the matter?
  • Do men like this role or do they think there is no other way, play along and make the best of it?
  • Do some men like to hide behind the provider role to get other people and, especially and over time, their partner off their back?

And more generally:

  • Are real men providers and the others are not?
  • Do men use the provider label as an excuse for some of their not so great behaviours?

Definitely more questions than answers here, and some very personal questions at that. But it doesn’t stop with the men of course, it concerns women just as much:

  • Do women stay with their male partner because he is a good provider?
  • Is the provider role an essential ingredient in turning a relationship into an arrangement rather than basing it on and building love?
  • Does this arrangement allow women a certain degree or even a whole bucket load of irresponsibility?

Overall, is it possible that the expectation that real men shoulder the responsibility of being providers is an imposition to put it mildly, if not a set of shackles and a huge burden? And what does this do to the men, the women and the relationship between men and women? What would life and relationships be like if the provider role for men was not a foregone conclusion?

For more on the subject:

Is there another way where responsibility, truth and self-care come first and providing is part of caring and a development, but never a foregone conclusion? This man talks about responsibility, self-care and truth and doesn’t even mention the provider role once: Are We Taking Responsibility for Our Own Lives?

On a woman’s perspective of how roles restrict and shackle us, you might like to read: The Roles We Hide In

For a great demonstration of what purpose and commitment brought to a man’s life and that being the provider by virtue of his pay is not the end all and be all – far from it: Gardening Leave? Meh.

By Gabriele Conrad, Goonellabah NSW



412 thoughts on “Are Providers Real Men? Are Real Men Providers?

  1. If you ask me I would say: working is important for all of us, for every man, every woman, young and old(er). We are not made to have too much spare time, we are made to work. Working gives us purpose and and usually an opportunity to connect to people. Working is healthy, we benefit ourselves, but also our partners and friends benefit. I observed a close relative last month go from finishing her study and internship to having a month off, before her first job will start. The first week she liked it and now she can’t wait to start working tomorrow.

    1. Your friend’s example just goes to show that life is work and work is life; we soon tire of all this apparently free time and go to seed, as I call it. We lose our rhythm and can easily forfeit purpose.

  2. There is the obvious discrimination and then there is the hidden discrimination and we can fall for or subscribe to either. The moment we make ourselves less though and fall for either illusion we don’t offer an alternate way of living life that will get rid of not being true to ourselves.

  3. Society itself sets up the role for men to be the providers and for women to think that they need to find a husband who can provide for the family, because it keeps us divided and separated, there is much to be said for sharing and working as one.

  4. Showing us that there is an extent of huge lovelessness that we have accepted in our relationships with each other.. That we are only willing to see what we need or want rather than what is true for all of people.

  5. I feel the provider role of men is insidiously fed to them by family first then school and finally society also demands it, but on the positive side I know of several men who are currently enjoying allowing their wife to be the main provider whilst they take care of the kids, so something is shifting in society.

  6. Roles keep us in the illusion that this is who we are, men for eons have been looked on as the provider, and way back in history what was needed for the family only men were able to do. Roles kept us safe where by we could function within that arrangement but with no true connection to the innate qualities that we truly possess. Suicide as a way out, is becoming common with men in country areas where because of certain situations they are not able to provide for their families as they once did , so instead of being able to feel and express their hurts, sensitivity and venerability, they become depressed, and with seemingly no way out end their lives.

  7. When humanity connects to its inner heart, and is no longer driven in pursuit of the illusions that are in their path and in their way, then question of roles will be redundant because everyone will be bringing all that they are.

    1. I love the simplicity of this statement, and its truthfulness. No posturing, recognition or accolades needed, just service to all and the All.

      1. Making it all about people first in this world, will actually save mankind. For it re-connects us to an old ancient warmth that we can call Love = Brotherhood.

    2. It is a lovely thought that we could drop all the roles that in truth have been given to us by others and instead live as our true selves. And this is not an impossible dream but really only a few simple steps or choices away.

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