Why we need to redefine what it means to be a man

Until recently, my brother-in-law was the boss of the New Zealand Electoral Commission, an independent body that runs the elections over the ditch. To say it was a complex, difficult role, a blast furnace of brutal politics, is an understatement. The agendas in front of him were like hissing snakes and buzzing chainsaws, yet he juggled them with ease. I greatly admire his cool, keen, calm intellect.

But he doesn't do that any more. I don't know the details, but his tenure wasn't renewed last year. At a guess I'd say he shot a little too straight.

So with his law degree, his extensive management experience, his encyclopedic knowledge of world politics, he finds himself cooking, picking up the kids from soccer and keeping the washing at bay, as he ponders what to do next. My sister runs a successful yoga business, so he now supports her, makes it easy for her to do her work.

A fork in the road

My experience is very similar. I have been a magazine editor, media executive, business owner, creative director and journalist. These days, by choice, I find myself a content and communications consultant. At the moment, my major client is ... my partner. As her business grows, it's taking the time and attention of us both to manage the expansion.

Luckily we work together well and have a lot of mutual respect, but let's be clear – she's The Boss. We have a 20 year age difference. I may have a lot more experience than her but it's her business, her IP and her clients. Sometime I help with writing and strategising. Other times I help by cooking, going to the supermarket, changing the cat's disgraceful litter and ferrying her to meetings so she can spend time on her multiple phones, managing multiple social media accounts.

Redefining manhood

Last week, my brother-in-law and I chatted in his kitchen, as he chopped veggies and put the rice cooker on, whipping up a dinner for eight. Once upon a time, we were both, when viewed from the outside, powerful men. As we swapped recipes and discussed our kids, talk turned to who we are now. What defines us as men, our suits and ties and our bank accounts, or who we are every day as fathers, partners, lovers and ... homemakers?

A giant leap

It's a growing problem in sport that when top-flight athletes are are suddenly no longer able to compete on the field, through injury or retirement, they lose their sense of self value. There's been a number of high profile suicides and hospitalisations recently – including Wallaby Dan Vickerman and league superstar Greg Inglis – as a direct result.

I think it takes a big man to be comfortable no longer being 'the big man'. Women everywhere support their partners by keeping households running and wiping snotty noses while their men bestride industry and commerce. So too, should men, when the shape of life demands it.

Wheels of change

Sure, it's sexist to even suggest that it's somehow different for men to be the supporter and run the house while she earns the money. But we live in a society where men are judged on their work and status. It's been that way ever since Ugg caught more woolly mammoths than Ogg, and he got paid out around the campfire.


I have always joked that one day I'll be "writing my book on the balcony" while my partner goes out and kicks the business goals. And it's quickly coming true. So I'm happy and proud to do what I can to help make that happen. As I should be.

Now, I've got to go and ask The Boss what she wants for dinner and nip to the supermarket. It's one of the most important things I'll do all day.

Have you ditched the office in favour of taking care of the home? Share your experience in the comments section below.