Men Lead, Women Support.

There are some aspects of human nature that we are reluctant to address. Usually the ones that aren’t set in stone, that have just enough exceptions, that are a pull you can resist rather than a reflex you can’t help. And the pull that men and women feel towards certain roles is one of the most taboo subjects. But we do feel that pull and not only is there good reason for it, but understanding it can still be useful in today’s society, whoever you are.

One fact about humans is that, as social animals, the ways in which we contribute to society, from our tribe to our partners, are skewed by gender.

In their traditional roles across the World, men assume positions of leadership. What positions are available depends on the society, be it CEO, village headman or doctor. And what each position means also depends on the society, as a doctor in some cultures could be less revered or respected than in others. And how much authority you can command will depend on yourself and how well you and your skills fit into society. After all, an introverted master fisherman in a society where introversion and fishing are unappreciated will be doing worse than an extroverted blacksmith. But men have always capitalized their talents and made effort to become respected leaders of the community. And with this respect also come the resources they need to survive, a greater possibility of a good retirement and a wider selection of reproductive choices. By which I mean, men in positions of authority get food, protection, community and sex. The basics for human survival.

However, women’s traditional roles across the World are positions of support. Again, the availability and respect given to these positions depend on the society and how much their support contributes. And how much respect you are given will depend on yourself, your own ability to be supportive and how well your skills match the necessary skills for a more respected support role. A delicate feminine bride may be adored in a culture where her main role of support is to support her husband. But she would be far less respected in a society where women supported the tribe through toiling in the fields. But women have always supported the men and the vulnerable and made effort to ensure that the vulnerable are cared for and the men can continue leading. And when they were good at this, they were more likely to access the resources they need to survive, captivate a man’s attention and the respect of the tribe and have many healthy children. By which I mean, women in support positions get food, protection, community and sex. Again, basic human survival.

These traditional roles aren’t enforced strategies that every culture forced on its people coincidentally. They developed because of our condition. Firstly before contraception females would bear and breastfeed infants, meaning they would spend more time at home, around the tired hunters and the vulnerable members of society. Secondly, if females were having infants and infants are beneficial to the survival of a group (they are) then female energy would be highly valuable, meaning most energy-expensive activities, such as hunting and wood cutting, would fall to males. Thirdly, when males were taking over most energy-expensive, away-from-home and risky work, then they would not exactly be going to be brimming with energy to clean, tidy, cook, tan skins, weave baskets, feed the vulnerable, etc when they got home. So someone had to do it. These traits probably developed before we became Homo Sapiens Sapiens. As in, when we were still very furry tribes of humanoid primates living on the plains of Africa, these traits were firmly ingrained. So if the pull for men to lead and for women to support is pretty fixed in most humans, but expresses itself culturally, where do we see it today?

Well, everywhere. Firstly, however much people want to pretend otherwise, most relationships still follow the lead-support dynamic. Like in dancing, when you have two people trying to lead you get arguments and injury (at least emotional damage), and when you have two people trying to support not a lot gets done or finished. Unless you are operating as individuals who have no relation to each other, someone ends up taking the lead and someone ends up supporting the leader and the usual pattern is the biological one. Secondly, women are more attracted to support-based jobs, such as teaching, care or secretarial/HR style positions. Men are more attracted to careers and pursue an end goal of climbing the ranks to leadership, be it in banking, religious offices or business ownership. In our personal and professional lives, most men choose to lead and most women choose to support a leader.

Of course, some people will prefer the opposite role, be drawn to it and feel fulfilled in it. And, just as with homosexuality, there is no denying that the pull can be flipped or altered. But what happens when someone can’t fulfill their role, either because of social constraints or inability to fit the position? Then we end up seeing some sort of breakdown in them as human beings.

Men who can’t lead, either because they aren’t skilled enough at their job or because they are being led by everyone against their will, wind up unwell. They become stressed, passive and try and blend into the background. When women can’t support, either because there is no leader or because too many people depend on them, we see the same thing. Women are more stressed by work than men, even doing fewer hours. Men are more stressed by inactivity than women, even when their needs are met. Leading men being led by leading women start to break and can even become suicidal. Supportive women coexisting with supportive men become flighty and insecure. That same thing that creates the pull to begin with reacts negatively to being forced into the wrong role. It realizes it has failed to guard you. You have probably lost social standing, not gained many resources, are not desired by potential partners. So you are weak. So your body gets stressed, encouraging you to either break out of that negative position or just make yourself small and unnoticeable so the tribe doesn’t hurt you.

This is why highly successful women pair up with even more successful men. This is why men are willing to completely reinvent themselves after a few rejections. This is why women suffer more workplace stress in less busy, less physically demanding roles. This is why men in dangerous jobs are often less stressed than men involuntarily on the dole. We can’t change our role any more than we can change our sexual attraction.

But even in today’s society we can make use of this knowledge and use it to our advantage. For example, most women, being supportive and not leading, will prefer to confer or defer decisions than make one on the spot. Most men are more motivated and satisfied by additional status and respect than additional wealth in a job. Most women want to feel like someone is steering the ship when their lives get a little rocky. Most men want to feel like there’s something to fall back on in the same situation.

If you’re one of those who fall into the most common role for your gender, then this knowledge can help you understand yourself and understand those  of the opposite gender. You can use it to see what would make you happiest and to properly look after your partner, children, friends and relatives. If you’re not one of those who fall into the common role for your gender,* then this gives you more insight into how others of your gender differ from you and some grounding from which to make your decisions and better integrate into society. All round, there are some truths you can deny. But this is one of those where denying it will cause more harm than good, to yourself and those around you.

*This doesn't mean being gay or masculine/feminine, by the way, plenty of feminine gay men could easily also be drawn to leadership and a tomboyish girl can be the support in her relationships. All these things may be fixed on an individual level, but are pretty independent of each other.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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Not quite back to normal. Becoming the main earner.

Well, I’m finally back to blogging after the holidays, but hardly back to normal. Which is because I’m going from post holiday cleanup and crazy earning to becoming the breadwinner. Yes, I’m still me. No, I haven’t gone crazy. Yes, I want to still work towards housekeeping and children. And no, I’m not doing this because I desperately wanted to prove a point of some sort.

The fact of the matter is, Jon didn’t particularly like his previous job and I didn’t particularly like seeing what it did to him. He’s retrained, but there will be an earning gap between leaving the bad job and building the good one. We have enough money to live off for several months without earning a penny, but I hate spending savings and we were thinking of using some of that to afford me a maternity leave of sorts after I’ve had the first baby.

So, instead, I will be bringing the money home to support us and not touch our savings at all.

As someone who is self-employed as a tutor, I am going to set about this a little differently to most people. I can’t just take a paycheck for granted. I have in-person tutoring work which will still take up some of my time, but as it doesn’t pay as well I will be reorganizing my students to the mornings. Instead, I will prioritize online tutoring of American, Japanese and Chinese students, which pays better, but involves afternoon and evening work. I will also, in my spare time, continue writing essays, novels, children’s books and the likes, as well as translating for several companies on my books. I will try my hardest to not turn down any work at all.

Jon has offered to help with some of the more menial housework, like washing up, laundry and the likes. However as the end goal is to get him back to where he was, and not to make me the main earner full time, his work takes priority. If we miss out on an afternoon’s earnings because the cooking and hoovering needed doing and he was at a shift, then the fact he’s getting back into work matters more than thirty or fifty pounds.

And we know this is going to be tough. Even in relationships where the woman wants to earn and the man wants to keep house, relationship breakdown can happen after they switch roles. It’s a change of dynamic that just doesn’t feel right to many people.

We do, however, have some fundamental advantages over people who start this expecting to lie back and enjoy the benefits. For example, we both know what we want and what each other wants.

I don’t want to be the main earner. I want to be in charge of things I’m more comfortable doing, bring home the fun money with little obligation besides my minimal £50/week, settle into saving his earnings and having babies and animals.

He doesn’t want to be my dependent. He wants to be in charge of thing’s he’s more comfortable doing, bring home the bread and know where everything is coming from, come home to an orderly house, a good meal and a loving family.

And knowing this helps. Knowing that we both desire to return to the old way ASAP makes it easier. There are no fears that I will decide I want to work and not have children, or that he will decide I earn enough and become a house-husband. Because our desires are out in the open. We like what we’ve done until now and we can’t wait until we get back to it.

On the other hand, not worrying about each other has also made us aware of our and each other’s vulnerabilities. Which isn’t actually a bad thing.

I have never 100% supported myself. I probably could, but I never wanted, had or managed to. From parents, to benefits, to student loans, to Jon, I have always had something I can rely on, a background income that supports me and that I can fall back on if I mess up. Not so here. I must reliably bring in £900/month at least to support us. Which isn’t so awful, but is very scary as a first-time situation, especially as I am going from being supported to doing the supporting.

Jon hasn’t been unemployed since he was 14. He always had the opportunity to choose parental care, benefits and loans over his own blood, sweat and tears, but he never wanted it. He did his very best to rely on as few people as possible. And for the first time in a decade and a half, he is having to rely on someone for financial support. He has to trust me to bring money home without a guaranteed paycheck, to cover our basics and hand him the money he needs without causing a fuss.

We are both going from the known into the unknown, and however much anyone else has worked or not worked, no matter how much our situation is anyone else’s everyday, we are making ourselves vulnerable by walking into an unfamiliar situation.

And all of this makes trust absolutely implicit. You can’t do this without trust. And not the “Sups told me online that trust is vital to financial wellbeing, so you have to just trust me” kind. I mean the actual, observable kind. Think back to when you did that “trust fall” game in school, scouts or even at work. If someone dropped you, caught you and dropped you or refused to let you catch them, people became distant towards them. In principle, it was more of an empathy test than a teamwork test, but the results hold true for anyone. If you fell and someone didn’t catch you, why are you going to throw yourself down when they’re the only one who can break your fall?

We had an incident that briefly scared Jon. I am paranoid about money. Won’t spend a penny if no money’s going in, work on budgeting to save fractions of costs, will deprive myself of things I want if it involves using a card or breaking a large note, won’t trust myself with credit or loans. Paranoid. I’m a person who saves two grand a year on welfare and one grand over Christmas. Which is why I’m writing a money-saving book. But also why I hesitated when it was my turn to get £70 out of the bank to replenish the at-home cash funds. Just for a moment. Just because I hadn’t worked much over the holidays and was wondering how the account was holding up, whether all the students had paid, etc. And he was scared. Because, no matter how normal it is for me to hesitate at the idea of breaking into my account, he was already in a state of concern and he can’t read my mind to divine what the hesitation was. At that moment I, as the soon-to-be-primary-earner was refusing him, in a position of vulnerability, the resources he needed. And that worried him. He was falling and didn’t see how I could catch him. After talking it through, we went to check my account to make sure the money was still doing fine and to get out the notes we needed. Once I had seen the amount, told him how much it had gone up by thanks to December payments and given him the notes, it was on the mend. He had fallen and I had caught him. But that is the sort of trust this requires. Not just promises or hugs: hard, physical evidence of trust in each other.

With all that in mind, am I worried? Absolutely, even if a lot less than when we first discussed this. I’d be crazy if I wasn’t. I feel like when I first moved house. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to mess this up. I need an adult!” But it’ll work out. And at least we know what the hurdles will be when we come to them.

In order to make sure we do well, my goals are:

-make £900/month minimum

-keep the house in order when Jon’s busy

-keep patient with Jon, even if both of us are feeling insecure and neither of us can offer the other proper support at times

-remind myself this is temporary and keep focused on when we’ll be back to normal and able to relax again

Anyway, due to all this the blogging may be hit and miss, but I’ll try my hardest to keep it, like the housework and general socializing, at least at a normal level.

Here’s to a busy New Year and semi-frequent updates on how I do as the main earner!