OK - in at the deep end - I care for my Mum, I’m male, and single – suddenly, society thinks this is wrong! Why?
Let’s get straight to the point, I’m unmarried! Therefore elements of society believe I must be gay! (No offence to any gay readers intended).
Yet ask one of the agency carers about a subject I brought up this afternoon – when, in the past, I visited Amsterdam’s red light district, or Hamburg’s Reeperbahn. Sorry to be so forthright, but some people would label me as being gay, which I’m not, though there are many gay men, and indeed straight men, who would undoubtedly carry out the same caring role as me.
This is not about sexuality, or discriminating against people who care. This is about why we care. We care, because we love – period! Don't judge us on sexuality, or the reason why we choose to care. That is our choice - a choice we are free to make.
My relationship with my Mother has always been close, but such a relationship doesn’t define anyone’s sexuality. Society however seems to have a different view. A view which, until recently, also affected me. I wouldn’t admit to being a full-time caregiver for my Mum, because I was afraid of how I would be judged.
Things have changed!
Why? Because I’m proud, and happy to be so. I’m now confident enough to admit to others what I do, because I’m proud to be an advocate for my Mum, myself, and others in similar circumstances. Being a caregiver to someone you love, is possibly, aside from having a baby, one of the most rewarding roles you will ever encounter in life. Ultimately, because of the final outcome, it can also be one of the most painful.
My life has been varied, and by comparison to others, exciting. My Dad was in the army, we lived in Germany for much of my younger life, including four years in West Berlin, at the height of the Cold War, and Northern Ireland, at the start of the troubles.
I also served for twenty six years in the Territorial Army (UK equivalent of the US National Guard).
Taking all of this into consideration, why are male caregivers regarded in such a way?
Caregiving has for far too long been regarded as a female role. Everyone has the capability to care, regardless of gender - nature only too clearly proves this - from the humble male stickleback, caring for his offspring, to the big apes, where the alpha male not only continues his genetic strengths, but also protects his hareem and offspring.
Role sharing within human society has existed since the days of hunter gatherers - the industrial revolution changed much of that. The male became the breadwinner, whilst the female stayed at home, to care for the family – very much a recent concept, in the course of human history.
Too many of us are now willing to place the care of elderly parents in the hands of others, rather than doing it for ourselves. Why?
In many ways, society dictates that they should.
Whilst as a single man with no dependents, it is easy for me to become a caregiver to my Mother. The same is not the case for a married man, with a family, wishing to do the same. This is wrong - we all have the right to care. To care, for those we love, regardless of who they are.
As we get older, and as more of us survive into our eighties, nineties and beyond - there will be an increased need for family caregivers, male or female. Age does not discriminate, nor should society’s perception of caregivers!
Whether you're a male or female caregiver, it's time to speak out! Tell the world we care! We care for the ones who once cared for us! We care for those who, because of an act of nature, were never given the opportunity to care in the first place, or to make that choice. We care - period!
Once a caregiver, always a caregiver!