I struggle daily on trying to be a real man. My problem is that I have an outdated or Hollywood version of what a man should be that’s hard to shake. You know the type, think Don Draper – rough around the edges, a bit displaced, not particularly caring or complimentary or open, keeping worries and concerns to himself, and perhaps being the enforcer and quick to anger, the my way or the highway type that likes to complain about how the wife and the kids are a real drag. A real man is none of those things.
Insomnia is an unwelcomed but frequent guest, and to cope I’ll often listen to podcasts. One night I was listening to Fresh Air from NPR, and the guest was comedian Louis C.K. who said something that really stuck with me and I thought it was worth sharing. He’s no saint or moral authority, but he’s got a point.
And, you know, when I first got married and had kids, I thought, you know – I had some friends that I played poker with on Mondays, and I thought the poker game on Mondays is – that’s the water line. Like, if I don’t make that game, I’m losing something. I’m losing something if I don’t make it to that game. It means I’m letting go of my youth, I’m letting go of my manhood – all of things – my independence.
But then after a while, I realized, why would I want to go play poker with a bunch of guys in a smoky room when I could be at home with my family? And I realized that a lot of things that my kid was taking away from me, she was freeing me of. A lot of things that men hang onto when they’re younger, they’re just not good for you. And that there was this huge pride in having a kid and also that I didn’t matter anymore. The greatest thing about having a child is putting yourself second in your own life. It’s a massive gift to be able to say that you’re not the most important person to yourself.
GROSS: Why is that a good thing?
C.K.: Because you’re – because you’ll always – I don’t know – because that’s always going to let you down, you know what I mean? The idea of I’ve got to get me right. I’ve got to get what I want. I’ve got to get – that’s got to be right. That’s never going to quite work. You know, life just isn’t that satisfying. But if you can be useful to somebody else, that you can actually accomplish, you know what I mean? You can go, I did a pretty damn good job today as a dad – pretty good – best as I could. That’s worth so much more, you know?
If you can be useful – which means to somebody else, not to yourself – if you can be useful, it just makes you feel better. So I live in service for my kids, you know? That’s the first priority. And things like my career, they feed into that. They’re part of that because I’m providing for them. But also, it’s just not that important. If something’s not important, it’s more fun. It’s more of something you can look at from objectively instead of having it be this albatross around you.