Humility and Caregiving as a Man

Archie Bunker, Jerry Lewis, and Rambo - what do they have in common? These were a few of the more common male media stereotypes that I grew up watching on television and in the movies as a young boy and teen in the 1970s and 1980s. It was not uncommon for me to see all 3 types of men portrayed in one evening.

Each seemed to find their way on the silver screen or television screen and each showed men in very different lights and each had an effect on me in some way.

Archie Bunker was bossy, cared mostly about himself, and really only dealt with life on his terms. Jerry Lewis was goofy and his characters seemed like a farce to me. He seemed to deal with the issues of life through slapstick comedy except for one weekend a year, his Labor Day Weekend Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Rambo was a tough guy who found solutions through his relentless pursuit of physical conquests over opponents trying to beat him down.

The masculine stereotypes

Each of these man types taught me that I should deal with my challenges through bullying or intimidation, comedic deflection, or physical victory.

Sure, there were some other better role models in the media and a few in my personal life, but I spent so much time watching these types of men as a youth - I learned to deal with life's challenges in some unhealthy ways for me.

I became the stereotypical baby boomer male who didn't want to ask for directions because it showed weakness. I didn't want to admit pain. I wanted to gut it out. Yet, in my current experience as a co-caregiver for my mother-in-law who lives with Alzheimer's, none of these work for me.

None of these coping mechanisms or strategies help, and I don't think they ever did in any part of my life.

I have learned to rely on other people at times, especially when it comes to asking for help while caregiving. Pride has left the room.

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The value of being real

I need others in this and I feel okay about it. I am okay with telling others that this current challenge is rough. I am okay with venting. I am okay with asking others to join me in serving my loved one. I don't have a problem with reaching out.

Sure, there is a sense of duty and obligation at times and just doing what should be done without expressing my feelings about it. There will always be that, but I have learned the value of being deep and real with others when it is needed and appropriate.

I never want to squish everything I feel and find myself always needing to joke or worse yet, be angry at the disease and its effects on our family and take it out on everyone.

Overcoming masculine stereotypes

I want to be mentally healthy and for me that means understanding that I need help. Mr. Rogers understood this.

He was a television role model from my youth that I didn't watch nearly enough. His advice was to find the helpers, that they are out there. There are people who love to serve and help as part of who they are. Go find them and you get what you need.

It takes a certain level of humility to find the helpers. One must admit that they is not always enough.

Taking care of my loved one with Alzheimer's is requiring me to unlearn decades of unhealthy ways of coping and relating and I am grateful for it. This is a journey that requires me to look at the map and ask for directions. What about you? Can you ask for help, when help is required?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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