Years ago, as a reporter covering the immigrant community in Washington, D.C., I wrote about two seemingly unrelated, but ultimately inter-connected phenomena. The first had to do with a high rate of domestic violence among immigrants. The second was about a high rate of alcoholism among immigrant men.
Experts explained immigrant families often go through a transitional crisis brought on because immigrant women can adapt much more easily to our society. Women have an easier time finding jobs and they are more adept at learning at least a rudimentary form of English that allows them to better interact with society at large.
As a result, particularly among Latino immigrants, men whose culture raises them to believe that they are their family’s providers, instead watch their wives take on that role. Invariably, this role reversal has a profound effect on the psyche of these men, whose often turn to alcohol to deaden their low self-esteem—and to domestic violence in a misguided notion of quashing doubt about who’s in charge.
I have thought about that phenomenon a lot recently. A year ago, I was laid off from an executive job running a local daily newspaper. I was considered a community leader and a strong voice for minorities and I relished that role.
Now, I’m a house-husband. I continue to look for work, but I also typically pick up around the house, chauffeur my children to their activities and ensure they’re fed during the day. Meanwhile, my wife—who has long labored in my management shadow—is blossoming as a columnist at the same newspaper from which I was let go and is emerging as a powerful voice for minorities and equally an equally powerful voice for women. She’s our family breadwinner.
Suddenly, I can relate with those immigrant men. This role reversal plays powerful games on one’s mind, especially when one comes from a Latino culture that demands strong men who are their family’s providers and source of security.
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In short, my wife is weathering our country’s economic crisis much better than I am.
But instead of venting through alcohol—or violence—I find escape through writing. And it’s my intent to chronicle this journey for the benefit of Mamiverse readers from a man’s perspective.
My family is going through trying times and I feel responsible. Intellectually, I know that millions of others families in this country are having equal difficulty and that I am the victim of an uncertain economy. Emotionally, however, I can view myself as a failure if I allow myself that indulgence—and the temptation to do that grows with each day that I fail to find employment.
Intellectually, my wife is supportive and continues to be the strong, hard-working woman whom I fell in love with. Emotionally, she’s scared—much more frightened than she lets on.
Intellectually, my three children understand what a lay-off is and they understand what is happening to the newspaper industry that I have been a proud member of for more than 30 years. Emotionally…well, there’s the rub. And that’s what keeps me awake night after night. Emotionally, I don’t know what toll this is taking on them.
Friends, particularly friends of faith, say this is only strengthening them, that this is my opportunity to teach them by example—and to demonstrate my own faith in God.
One component of my faith is my unerring belief in something that Jesus said: The truth will set you free. My unerring hope is that by sharing my family’s journey that, collectively, we can discover the meaning of that truth.