My brother-in-law Mark lost his job last week. Like any other weekday, he arrived at his office at 8:25 am, likely scanning his Blackberry on his walk across the parking lot to see what his busy schedule held for him. But instead of a day filled with meetings and customer calls, he was promptly ushered into a conference room, sat down by an HR rep, and summarily laid off. Thanks much, but we just don’t need you anymore.
To Mark, the sudden loss was devastating—and not just for economic reasons. He loved that job. His view of who he is as a man was largely defined by that role—a vision scratched out forever by an accountant’s pen.
Mark is certainly not unique in his outlook. It’s common for a man to define himself in terms of what he does in his profession. I think of times when I introduce myself to a man at a social event or at church. We will say our names to each other, and then the conversation inevitably turns to a mutual exchange of, “And what do you do?”
Not all men are as career focused as Mark is, but their view of themselves usually remains tied to something else they do—maybe a hobby, sport, or involvement in the community or at church. After all, these are just the sort of tasks in which we see ourselves “making our mark” or “making a difference” in the world.
Mark’s experience from last week, however, reminds me just how replaceable a man is in any of these roles. When I resigned from a company several years ago, I remember secretly hoping that I would get an email from a coworker a month or two later that said something like Boy, we need you back … You were so much better than the new guy … It’s just not the same anymore. But I never got that email. I too was far more replaceable than I imagined.
However, as I talk about in my new book The Expeditionary Man, a man has one role in which he is irreplaceable—as a father. There is no replacement! As the father of my three sons, I am the only one in this universe positioned to live out the principles of healthy fatherhood. I am the only one entrusted with this adventurous responsibility of guiding them from childhood to adulthood. My wife is right alongside me as a partner, of course, but our father and mother roles are clearly distinct. We complement, rather than override each other. A mother or another relative can compensate and fill in if a father is not living out his calling, but it’s never the same.
What an exciting truth this is for Mark and every other father! It’s the one role in which a man is never going to be laid off, terminated, canned, or shelved. He’s irreplaceable!
Rich Wagner is a husband and father of 3 boys who lives in Massachusetts. He is author of numerous books, including a book for fathers, The Expeditionary Man.