My personal story
I: How about your wife, did she work?
R: She worked at home, she raised the children and took care of the house.
I: But she didn't have a paid job?
R: No, she didn't have a paid job.
I: And did she appreciate the fact that you were working so hard or did it give tension in the relationship?
R: No, there wasn't tension in the relationship and that was to do with both of us I suppose. One is that I was doing this and she felt very secure and that was a very huge need of hers that I recognise now and so does she and... But, yes, and we both came from traditions that our families were - don't talk about it - that kind of [incomprehensible word] over the door if there was a [incomprehensible word] over the door. Don't mention it if it wasn't a problem, would have been the way and that's the way we were for a long time and so we've gone with it, it was the process. So, that was another stereotype that I just got on with it and...
I: It wasn't really questioned. That's the way things were?
R: It wasn't really questioned, that's the way things were! (Nodding approvingly) and the other stereotype: I've been stoic in dealing with this rather than talking about it, would have been the way of a man. I suppose I grew up in a household were there was persistent violence on behalf of my father and anything that I was doing that wasn't that - as I sat out to do NOT that - would have been, so therefore was good. That was the strong influence that was there.
I: A strong influence in what way?
R: To insure that I wasn't becoming that in any fashion. Yeah...
I: And so becoming professionally successfully was something else than what your father was?
R: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I grew up in a middle class household, he was a kind of accountant, auditor, in a large family, but there was this persistent violence so... and they... so, and that was never spoken about and that was the un-said thing, it was: 'get on with it'. And it was: don't say anything in case it causes anything, so the tradition was that: don't cause conflict!
I: Don't rock the boat!
R: Yeah, so those... and...
I: Was it very common in Ireland? So that there would be violence and that it would not be spoken of?
R: I don't know how common. Things I know now, 25% of Irish women will say that they have received violence from their partners. That's what the research says and I suspect that understates that and going back 40 years I suspect it understates that even more. And well... violence against women is now spoken about more, I don't think, it's still not ... I remember when it started in the '70 here, I remember when 'woman's aid' started and all of that and the mention of it. It was a taboo subject before. So, it was the elephant in the room in a lot of families. So...
I: And in the family where you grew up, it was only violence against your mother, or also against the children?
R: Against some of the children, because there were 8 of us and I was at the younger end of the age group. I was not on the receiving end of this...
I: And so among your parents that never caused... they never divorced?
R: You know there wasn't divorce in Ireland!
I: Oh, yes, it was not legal?
R: No, this is only... as part of my work I was part of the campaign to change the constitution to make it possible.
I: Right and from when onwards was it legal?
R: Let me think... mid-'90? Yeah...
I: Wow! That's really incredible as compared to the rest of Europe!
R: Yeah, exactly! And so what that meant was huge...
I: So, even if your mother would have wanted to leave, she was not allowed to?
R: But she did leave eventually. When my youngest sister was old enough to go to boarding school, to secondary school, so she was made 'safe'... and… so that would have been around 1969 or 1979, so I was 18.
I: So people would just separate without a divorce?
R: Oh yeah, and unless there was a significant property involved, the law wouldn't get involved. I mean, there were... I'm not even sure there were; there was something called a 'judicial separation' which was a splitting of the property, but only if it was significant... After a period my mother left and then the children that were still living there left together, set out and that would have been 1968 or 69 and that was very strange, that was unheard of.
R: And I started working.
I: And then you felt you had to prove that you would be a different type of father?
R: Yes, yes, that was a journey! I became a father when I was 25 for the first time and so I didn't know how little I knew and my wife was 21 or 22, so a young woman. So here we were with 2 and the children are 5 years apart, so we got better at it!
I: Yes, learning by doing.
R: Yeah! And it was that time, not this time, that when I look back it is very different. Now there is a whole lot more information out there. You know, I watch my daughters and they're mothering and they are learning about mothering and it is very different from when we... we had 2 books: there was 'Dr. Spock' and there was a book called 'Every woman', which was a kind of handbook. But it was only, ‘Spock’ was about babies and 'Every woman' was about women and their bodies, substantially their bodies, there was nothing that might tell me about being a father and all I had was this model that I had conflict with and did not want to become.
I: So you knew what you did not want to be?
I: I think that's something that comes up very often nowadays with masculinity. Most men know what they don't want to be because there is such a negative picture on masculinity and so little positive role models.
R: Yes, and I think - I heard a lot of men talk about it - is that in fact in their needing to want NOT be something, they actually become a significant piece of that. I discovered - my youngest child is now 25 - and by the time he was 10 I had basically constructed a very similar relationship with him as I had had with my father, which was quite distant and harsh and stern and adult-to-adult. And it was what clicked me into changing, the way I lived and the way I thought and the way I was. You know, I set out to change that very directly in the mid-90.
I: Tell me about the change...
R: The change was really about: 'ok, what kind of a man do I want to be?' and: 'what do I want to do and how do I want to be in the world?' and 'How do I learn how to be the man that I want to be?' and I became involved in men's groups and men's development and just awareness, the way things were for me and ... it took me about 5 years to... I stopped working insanely in 2000, to slow down I work an awful less, and as you know I turned 60 this week. I looked around in 2000, I looked around at my colleagues where I was working and I realised that most of them are 10 years younger than me and suddenly I realised: 'I don't want to do this, work this way anymore. I don't want to work this hard, actually I don't need to earn as much money as I was then. I was earning about close to a quarter million Euros a year at that stage, right at the top of that business. To earn that you have to work really, really hard. And I couldn't do it, I lost interest, I couldn't care anymore. And I want to be as involved with other men in men's groups and in working with men and I was much more interested in that. That work certainly doesn't pay a quarter of a million Euros a year (laughs)!!
I: Otherwise, please give me a call! (both laughing)
R: So, yes, I learned to operate with smaller and less flashy cars, I no longer drove fancy Alpha Romeo's and big Jeeps and settled into a much slower pace of living. I didn't do it soon enough, I stopped having regrets about the earlier years, because it has left me now in a place where I can work as much as I want to and I can pick and choose my work. I work sometimes still as a marketing consultant and I choose my people that I want to work with and, on the other side, I work with men and with people that work with men. So, it is two sides and I work for things that I feel passionate about and that give me energy. And it is not so very good right now, the past two years, you know, all about the Irish economy and government spending is cut to ribbons, something like 40 to 60% of my income comes from government spending in one way or another so I'm going through a tight phase. Previously I would have blamed myself for that, about not being successful and not being able to get work and that's a big change for me. To accept that the world has changed and actually I don't have to be able to make it right, which is what I always did. And, you know, I think I constructed a career in making things right. Literally in managing brands and managing people's approach to brands and businesses and the way they thought. That's what I did, you know. I set out to understand people and right across the board, whether it was cars or alcohol or Guinness or politics or divorce, or whatever. That's what I did for a living, you know, making things right. So I realised that I constructed a really good job for men, but it was very, very nerve-racking. Now I work with small groups of men and small businesses. And I can do that on a basis where I can actually built a connection with individuals. And it's much more rewarding, it's easier on me.
(mobile phone of researcher is switched off because it gave signal)
Gender did matter