“Today I read an article in Web MD that male caregivers were more likely to leave their wives than female cg to leave their husbands, so kudos to all you guys that have stayed with your wives!!!”

That is a quote from one of those in the Caregiving Spouses group.  It started a stream of posts wondering why that might be so.  In that stream of conversation came the statistic that 40% of Caregivers in general are male.  I am reporting what was written about male Caregivers.  I have no formal verification that what was reported is accurate.

Assuming that more husband Caregivers leave their wives than the other way around, there are some things that I and others mentioned might be part of the reason that is so.  It is hard to talk about this without unfairly stereotyping men and women.  As is the case with most generalizations, it is not true that anyone is bound to be a certain way.  Each of us is unique and needs to be judged on who we are and what we do, not some external sterotype.

With that said, my generation and my parents’ generation grew up with certain assumptions about the roles of men and women that may play into how each does in the caregiving role.  I can remember my Dad standing in the kitchen, the room with the coffee maker, calling out to my Mom, asking for her to get him a cup of coffee.

Dad was not harsh and demanding, it was just the way it was.  Mom wasn’t meek and mild, she stood up for herself, but it was just the way things were done in our household.  By the way, even though I grew up that way, and Mary Ann did as well, I would never have gotten away with such a silly request.

The culture of roles in my experience was that men were often not raised to be caregivers.  Mom did the cooking and cleaning and child-rearing, and Dad went to work, took care of the home repairs and outside maintenance of the house and yard.  He also took care of the finances.  Mom and Dad talked about decisions.  It was not that Dad ruled.  They just each had roles like the ones they grew up with.  Dad was born in 1901 and Mom in 1907.

Dad bowled, golfed, watched boxing and wrestling on television (after we finally got one when I was eleven years old).  Mom did lots of sewing, was active at church, doing what then was perceived to be women’s tasks, most often serving others in some way or teaching children, singing in the choir.

For those men who grew up in that sort of setting, taking care of someone else was moving into pretty foreign territory.  I have to admit, that the caregiving model of behavior has been quite a stretch for me.  I grew up at least as self-centered as most males of my generation (again a risky generalization).  I am flying by the seat of my pants here.

I joke about not doing a good job of providing meals.  While I am a reasonably intelligent person and certainly am capable of cooking a meal, the pattern of what to do and when to do it when cooking is not in that portion of the brain that I call automatic pilot.  It is the place in which the “never forget how to ride a bike” sort of information is kept.  Every time I think about preparing a meal, I have to start from scratch, figuring out every element of the task as if I have never done it before.

Yes, I put colors and whites together, cram the washer full and just switch the dial to cold water only so that everything won’t come out the same color.  Sewing buttons on is a ridiculously challenging task.

I suspect that for some caregiving husbands who bail out on their wives, the difficulty of the tasks, their inexperience with doing them, their selfishness and stereotypical view of who should serve and who should be served, combine to overwhelm them, and they just run away.

It seems to me that whether male or female, there is one simple reality.  We made a promise out of love for one another.  We gave our word.  To run away seems silly.  To where would we run?  Our broken promise would go with us wherever we went.  What exactly would there be to be gained that would be worth having?

I have had the privilege in forty years of ministry to be allowed to see into the most intimate corners of the lives of many hundreds of people.  For the most part I have seen men and women alike who love and care for one another, honor their commitments and keep their word to one another.  It is the way to live with meaning and purpose the lives we have been given.

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