Mental Issue Faced By Men - The Pressure Of Being The Breadwinner

A lot of studies have examined the disadvantage of gendered role expectations in women however new bodies of research are now looking at how this may be harmful to men too


In a society where gender roles are still being challenged, most men still identify themselves to be breadwinners. Even as little boys, they are encouraged to be ‘strong and not cry’. Showing emotions, seeking support or help in males are all perceived to be a sign of weakness. The image that men are supposed to portray is that of the strong, silent and dependable kind who is always in control and ready to be the savior. They are not supposed to display their emotions and definitely not in public. This image is displayed in so many of our films and TV shows. It is encouraged by our male celebrity role models. However, not every man lives up to these heightened and exaggerated concepts of masculinity. However, some concepts are so ingrained in males like being dependent on no-one and strong enough to solve your own problems that they still linger on maybe even unconsciously.

A lot of studies have examined the disadvantage of gendered role expectations in women however new bodies of research are now looking at how this may be harmful to men too. Men are expected to be breadwinners and make a greater contribution financially towards the family than women in a traditional role. So if for whatever reason, men are unable to do that, it has a great impact on their mental health. 

Men who make a lot more money than their partners may approach breadwinning with a sense of obligation and worry about maintaining breadwinner status. Women, on the other hand, may approach breadwinning as an opportunity or choice. Breadwinning women may feel a sense of pride, without worrying what others will say if they can't or don't maintain it. A recent study concluded that Men with the worst psychological well-being and the worst health were those who made significantly more than their partners. In the years when men were their family’s only earner, for example, they had lower psychological well-being and health scores, on average, than in those years their partners contributed equally.

Add to that the fact that men are expected by society to not ask for help or to always be in control and the consequences can be dire. The statistics on men’s mental health does not make pleasant reading. While serious mental illnesses may be more common in women than in men, men are much more likely to commit suicide. Three out of every four suicides are conducted by a man and suicide is actually the biggest cause of death for men under 35. Men are also more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, something often intimately interlinked with mental wellbeing. Moreover, men are much more likely to suffer in silence and not seek help. 

With more families having both partners working and contributing towards the financial burden, the social image is changing for the better. The men need not feel the sole burden of being the breadwinner or constantly worrying about losing their job and livelihood. The complexities often increase when the woman starts earning more than her partner and ego clashes start happening if not handled sensitively. The sly remarks from others definitely do not help matters. Signs to look out for in your male partner that the pay cut/ laying off/ or wife being promoted is not having a positive effect on him maybe irritability, anger outbursts, lack of motivation, sleep or appetite disturbances and social isolation to name a few. 

As society changes, so do the gender role definition. More males opt for paternity breaks and sharing of the financial burden is not such a rarity but more of a norm. Also interestingly, when women go on maternity breaks, men tend to be more stressed as the role change of becoming a father along with the pressure of being the sole earner in the family with added expenses of having a baby all play a part. As we bring up a new generation, allow the boys to cry and say it is okay to have emotions and show them too. As they grow up watching their parents share not only financial burdens but also the responsibilities at home, here’s hoping that breadwinners and homemakers are no longer associated with one gender.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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