However, sarcasm is usually seen as a sign of competence. As a result, the stern boss, the hard-boiled detective and the rude doctor are all coded cultural archetypes of the male. Emotionally open masculine personalities have not yet completely replaced them. Fantasy soccer coach Ted Lasso, all smiles and positive self-talk, is funny as it defies model. In fact, it’s Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots coach, whose motto was “Do your job,” who has won six Super Bowls.
The way men burn out as fathers also reflects the way they adapt to the breadwinner spirit. In one study, researchers in Belgium found that while mothers scored higher on a parental burnout scale, fathers quickly displayed burnout and its negative consequences: escape delusions, suicidal ideation, and child neglect. This means that given the same level of parental stress, fathers reacted much worse than mothers, putting themselves and their children at greater risk of harm.
“Fathers may be more susceptible to the demands arising from the role that is categorized as gender and not seen as integral to being a man,” the Belgian researchers wrote.
A skeptic might see this as evidence of the weakness and spoiled men. However, researchers see it as a sign that societies need to do a better job of preparing men to share the burden of parenthood.
When men encounter problems at work or elsewhere in their lives, they are less likely than women to talk about them, in public or private. Written accounts of male burnout are hard to find. Men are 40 percent less likely than women to seek advice for any reason. The well-documented crisis in male friendship means that many men have no one other than a spouse or partner to whom they feel they can open up emotionally. Single men often have no one at all; When they burn, they may do so on their own.
The main problems that characterize men’s burnout—characteristic cynicism, unpreparedness for fatherhood, and reticence about their struggles with work and fatherhood—share roots in the ethic of the stoic duty our society has instilled in boys and men for decades: Go to work, and shut up about it. If you can put food on the table, you are a good father.
The spirit of the breadwinner is the masculinization of a noble ideal – even those who do not work still deserve to eat – to be shared by both men and women. It is a resource for countless people who work in difficult conditions so that their children do not have to. It’s also hard to live up to. This ideal was devastating to many blue-collar men, who attached their self-worth to the idea that they were dependent even as their job opportunities dwindled.