Positive Masculinity Contributor - Dominique Lewis
Content Writer for Positive Masculinity, Cell Culture Bioprocessing Specialist in the Field of Biotechnology
The single-parent era has been on the rise since the 1970s, and my childhood happened to look a lot like the product of this statistic. Growing up in a single-mother home taught me to be independent, strong, and self-sufficient. Although, these traits never distracted me from the fact that there was an important father figure missing that caused me to lack guidance, healthy dependency, and a greater sense of leadership and responsibility. The emotional suppression, hyper independence, and lack of identity negatively built up until I got to spend time with my father in my adulthood, receive understanding, and see his perspective.
Culture played a large role in the way my family responded to tough circumstances. There is a negative patriarchal stigma that most men from the Caribbean grew up with – in the pre-millennial era – that resulted in apathetic and emotionally suppressed sons, fathers, and grandfathers. When it comes to being vulnerable and sharing emotions, these actions are unheard of or too uncomfortable to pursue. My brother and I grew up with a small portion of my father’s involvement. He contributed to our family with what he was capable of giving financially, although the time to bond was lost as we grew accustomed to his absence. I grew up seeing my young father’s enthusiastic heart for children begin to harden as my mother took custody of my brother and I. With partial custody and barely any time to visit his children, my father grew cold. He was always told, since childhood, that the strongest way men react to difficult circumstances is by being tough,“not letting them see you sweat or cry”, because “men don’t cry”. This tradition caused him to pass on the unproductive legacy of indifferent men.
In my adulthood, I found more opportunities to get to know my father including attending university in his common area. He allowed me to live with him and his wife, taught me how to drive, and assisted with any issues I ran into while attending college. These hours with him were necessary and restored the time that I had lost with him during childhood. These moments also presented many chances for him to witness and participate in my emotional life and vice versa. I had the opportunity to watch multiple psychological and educational videos with my father including a few about how repressed emotions are linked to childhood wounds. I came to find out that most of my adult struggles, including lacking trust in others and hyper-independence, are directly linked to feeling that I wasn’t fully secure in my childhood. My mother did all that she could to support my brother and I, but her struggle to do so was always evident and lacking the support of my father’s presence. As I shared this truth discovered in therapy, I created the space for him to share information about his relationship with my mother as well as the reasons behind his absence in my childhood.
Once I started to attend personal therapy and share with my father the knowledge that I believed to be life-changing, our discussions became deeper and more restorative. He was able to open his heart and be vulnerable as I opened up about the deeply rooted rejection I held as an adult as a result of not having the example of a father role in my life. He mentioned the obstacles he had to face in the midst of being in a toxic relationship with my mother. He felt powerless and depressed as my mother took my brother and I and moved us an hour away from him. He admitted to me that there were more proactive actions that he could have taken to get closer to us that he did not take, and he confessed how immature he was at the time that he became a father, in his early twenties. I was able to develop an understanding of the situation he was in financially and emotionally. I always wondered if his absence was based on selfish ambition or to financially support his family. He explained to me that though he was distant, he was working two jobs to be able to create a better life for my brother and I. He continued to share how he wasn’t able to go to college due to his parents’ financial struggle; therefore, he worked harder to make sure that both my brother and I were able to attend university, which we both did. Eventually, I began to forgive and confide in him a lot more after discussing the aspects of my childhood in which I felt at a disadvantage due to his absence and not knowing why. I believe that our relationship will continue to grow as we have more moments of understanding and hearing each other out such as this one.
I encourage every person who wants a closer relationship with their father, mother, spouse, or any significant person in their life to pursue vulnerability, therapy, and be a pioneer. When a brave soul wants to see a difference in the world, the change begins with them becoming the pioneer. The common quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world” became a life motto for me. In my family, specifically with my Jamaican father, I unconsciously became the pioneer of breaking the unhealthy, emotionless masculine cycle through attending personal therapy. Addressing present mental issues constantly led me down the investigative path of going through childhood wounds and attachment styles. As I shared the information that I learned about the lack of a fully present father role, I experienced my father’s hardened heart turn soft. He acknowledged his past behavior and lack of guidance at the time. He also recognized how the lack of his presence in my most impressionable, formative years put my brother and I at a disadvantage long term. This experience humbled both my father and I. Forgiveness became a transformative remedy for both of our hearts.
Currently, as I’ve been introduced, encouraged, and educated through Positive Masculinity, I’m learning how much of a common and pressing issue that unhealthy masculinity is in our current society. This organization is constantly teaching me to take on a renewed mindset when dealing with difficult circumstances involving my father and other men in my family and in life. There are centuries of complicated patterns tied to unhealthy masculinity, therefore it won’t simply take a few weeks or months to heal and transform toxic, learned habits. This ongoing, personal experience and my connection to Positive Masculinity are constant teachers and testimonies to me of the rewards of pursuing and advocating for healthy, positive masculinity. I will continually put the principles and knowledge that I’ve learned about healthy masculinity into practice in my life and even share these life-fulfilling principles with my father who’s evolving into the positive masculine man that he aspires to be.
Gongla, P. A., & Thompson, E. H. (1987, January 1). Single-Parent families. SpringerLink. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4615-7151-3_15?noAccess=true
Khetan, H. (2022, June 8). Reclaiming Masculinity in Mental Health. Positive Masculinity Blog Posts. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.positivemasculinitynow.org/post/reclaiming-masculinity-in-mental-health