Boys' Rites of Passage

Our Sons' Futures

Joblessness and its Effect on Manhood

Posted by Thomas on March 22, 2009

We have, once again, postponed Glynne’s Rites of Passage Ceremony. It will no longer be held on April 4, 2009. The venue I settled on was not the most appropriate, so I’m searching again for a better place. I’m starting to believe that my network will not uncover viable donated space; so, I’ll have to pay.

Postponing the Ceremony and layoffs this week at my job made me think about how closely manhood is tied to our work. My thought was “what if I’m the next one let go? Then, how will I execute the remaining components of the Rites of Passage Program?” On a larger scale, when a man isn’t working and isn’t able to provide financially for his family, something on a fundamental level of his personhood is breached.

I haven’t any research data, just personal experience that speaks to this situation. We all know people that have lost their jobs; some have been with the same company 20, 30 years. So, when that identity is gone, especially for men, then what? I experienced this to a degree some years back when I voluntarily left a secure job.

I had been in the auto insurance industry for 7 years and had grown tremendously as a person and an employee under the tutelage of one of the best managers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. But, I maxed out opportunities within my department; there was no more upward mobility available. I talked to my boss about it and she tried her best to make other opportunities within the company available to our team (I wasn’t the only one feeling stifled). Those efforts carried me another year or so, but eventually I decided to leave, my lack of passion began to show in my work.

As a single young man I hopped from job to job without care or concern, but at this point I was married with child and plenty of bills; this was scary. I had a plan though. However, once my plan reached its end I was jobless and needed money in a bad way.

While home during my job search I adjusted to be more helpful around the house. Days I didn’t have interviews I did laundry and cooked dinner and ran household errands. As long as I was able to provide financially for the family I felt like a man, when I was no longer in a position to do that I began to question my manhood.

Is financial support the meaning of manhood? If we answer yes, then there are many, many men in America that are feeling less than a man due to job loss. Coming full circle, I have to consider what will happen if I do lose my job. In terms of the Rites of Passage Program, nothing changes, as a father I am still charged with teaching my son the obligations and joys of responsible male adulthood.

Practically speaking, job loss at this point would mean deep scaling back on the Ceremony itself and maybe even the Quest. Ultimately, manhood is manifested in many ways and my son would witness how a responsible adult male handles the stress of joblessness.

Though this entire blog chronicles Glynne’s Rites of Passage Program, which is meant to successfully guide him into responsible male adulthood, he learns of that responsibility daily as he watches me; just like your son watches you and thus internalizes “Oh, this is what being a man is about.”

In today’s world the threat of joblessness sits at our door. Unemployment isn’t fun for anyone. How we (adult men) handle the stress and strain of such situations teaches them (young adult males) how manhood behaves in stressful times.

In conclusion, will we pray or drink heavily; will we network effectively or wallow in self-pity; will we open ourselves up to possibilities or hold fast to my way or no way; will we take advantage of the abundant resources that exist to help our families or allow ego and pride to bind us to poverty…from this list which path would you want your son to travel?

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