14 May New Man is the New Woman
I have never asked my daughter why MumAbroad was called as such without a sub-title say DadAboard? After all, there is a Father’s Day as well as a Mother’s Day.
Does the sobriquet and the activities featured by the website stereotype the image of women, and retreat back to the fall-out from the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867 which extended the franchise amongst men but did nothing at all for women in Britain? After a long and well-documented struggle, they have not only acquired the vote but have effectively turned the tables on men as breadwinners, whilst still organising the household, educating the children etc.
I had lost my lovely wife just a year ago, and I was faced amongst other challenges to be that “New Woman” without having the benefit of those traditional female attributes to which I have briefly referred above and to survive in a world where self-reliance had become almost essential.
So it was that whilst chopping cucumber and tomatoes, David Cameron-style, in my kitchen last week, the thought invaded my grey matter that this reasonable skill had not been suddenly acquired but it may have been there all the time. Okay, as I bustled round the kitchen in my Raymond Blanc striped apron, I might have been yielding just a little to vanity but I thought to myself I just needed the right circumstances to bring it to life and flower. In fact so perhaps had been other domestic duties which hitherto, in my life anyway, had been suppressed – cooking in general , gardening, cleaning, polishing, operating the washing machine. Notice I have excluded sewing whose complexities I have studiously avoided.
Interaction with my grandchildren has also become more important to me, achieving this in a more constructive and responsible way. A patriarchal role, perhaps.
I could have surrendered to my natural instincts, regularly slunk into my local supermarket to buy ready-cook meals, hired every domestic service in the book and relied on the compassion and bounty of friends and family.
These skills are, of course, practised and have been honed to excellence by billions of women worldwide who would consider them rather commonplace and indeed obligatory in the context of family life.
So, what am I? What have I become? I don’t reckon I’m a “New Man” reincarnate. That epithet is a relic of gender history. Anyway, I’m too old to be included in that sort of group. “Terribly limp men, carrying babies around on their chest, eating vegetables and giving up drinking” as one Times columnist put it. These men were around for a time until they realised women didn’t want to sleep with them.
No I’m a geriatric, 70’s something guy who, apart from adapting to the traditional activities within the home, hitherto assigned to the female of the species, has become, faute de mieux, a polymath. I still work as an entrepreneur, for my sins, 6-8 hours day , in an industry where of course women are becoming more powerful and influential in management and the boardroom, not to mention creators of successful dot.com businesses like MumAbroad. Not enough of them, I hear you say? Hold your horses; is there no sanctum, no refuge, where male talent can still reign pre-eminent?
I play a lot of tennis, bridge, music and write though not too well, as you can see. I’d like to learn to do all of the above better, and to perhaps to conquer new challenges as well – like drawing and painting.
Now if I appear to have rambled off my main theme, I am in fact, in a convoluted way returning to the mission statement of MumAbroad which of course is a brilliant website for “Mums”. I will certainly click on to it next time I plan to travel abroad.