Josh's Story | Calling all Care-Receiver Stories | Daminger Dispatch
The original manuscript I sent to my editor was about 120,000 words, and the published book is closer to 95,000 words. (I was told that the average book should be less than 100,000 words, or else the size and shipping weight become cost prohibitive.) So obviously, a lot was edited out. Over the next few newsletters, I’d like to share some of my favorite stories that we had to cut.
The following excerpt was originally in Chapter 6. I find this story timely, as the United States is facing the end of Roe v. Wade, and as we reflect on the role of racism in the tragic loss of life in Buffalo over the weekend. (Pearl, Ruth, Andre, Kat, Celestine, Margus, Heyward, Aaron, Roberta, Geraldine.) Amid so much depressing media coverage, it is important to share positive examples of healthy masculinity and of men who are intentionally trying to foster empathy and awareness in the next generation. For this reason, I am sharing Josh’s story today. I can’t help but wonder what my country would be like if there were more Joshes in leadership positions.
Josh grew up with a mom, a dad, two younger brothers, and a large extended family. He identifies as white and rural. Josh was raised Mennonite, and although he does not practice anymore, he believes the Mennonite community helped him become the man he is today. Josh moved around a lot as a kid, and never really felt as if he fit in. Middle school was especially hard. His family had little money, which made him feel othered at school. But he was tall and athletic, and that combination earned him a sort of respect in a culture that valued sports. Kids rarely messed with him, and Josh managed to successfully fake his way through school.
Josh was conflicted about being a first-generation college student, but he had a clear purpose back then – he wanted there to be less pain in the world. So, he took an internship in the domestic violence response section of the local police department. “At first, I wanted to go into law enforcement, because I thought the greatest source of pain was from bad guys who were serial killers or rapists. But I learned that most pain and trauma comes from family and acquaintances. Not the stranger danger that we sensationalize.” Later he got an internship at his university’s women’s center. During that internship Josh connected his own experience of class discrimination to gender oppression, and found a mentor in the organization’s director.
In college, Josh met his wife and found a kindred spirit. “It was important that she didn’t reinforce masculine norms. I can be my whole self with her. That was important for us.” A few years after graduation they married, and Josh continued his violence prevention work at a university.
Josh and his wife eventually had two kids, who at the time of our interview were eight and eleven. Over the years he has worked full time, part time, and had stints as a stay-at-home-dad. He told me that staying home full time was more challenging than anything he’d ever done before. I asked what kind of father he tries to be, and how his work has influenced his role as a dad. “I try to live what I preach… I am raising my boys to be good people, not good men… and I think it is especially important for them to have emotional skills. I try to role-model vulnerability, I talk about and encourage them to be both empathetic and vulnerable… No parent is ever going to be perfect. But we can do the best we can.” Josh talked to me about how he believes white people need to work to “see” racism, and how men need to work to “see” sexism. He has worked with his boys, from a very young age, to “see” that gender assumptions harm everyone, including themselves. “First, they have to understand it. And then they need to empathize with it. And then I want them to be grounded enough that they have the confidence to point out sexism when they see it.”
Josh also had some good advice about raising boys to support anti-violence. “From the time they were little we’ve talked about consent and respect. It starts small, around tickling and rough play. And then as they get older, they understand that stop means stop. We talk about making good choices for our own body, and respecting the choices other people make about their bodies.”
(Josh is a pseudonym. All the names in my book were altered to preserve anonymity. And I am pretty sure that “Josh” is a subscriber to this newsletter – so if you are reading this my friend, thank you for sharing your story.)
Feedback needed! I am working on a wee writing project around caregiving and friendship, and I am looking for ideas. So, my question for you is…. how have friends cared for you in the past? What care have you received that you most appreciated? Maybe someone remembered an important event, brought dinner over when you needed it most, or stepped in when you were sick. Any and all stories are welcome! The more creative the better. Feel free to add a comment to this post, or send a direct email to me email@example.com.
Several years ago, when I was in the early research stage for my book, my friend Amber forwarded me this article with a note that said, “you’ll love this.” She was right! That article was by Allison Daminger, who had coined the term cognitive labor. I exclusively use that term now to describe the invisible work necessary to make a household run, and I prefer it over emotional labor or emotional burden. I think the word “emotional” is coded for women, and frequently regarded as a negative characteristic. Plus, the invisible work in the home isn’t necessarily emotional – but it is indeed cognitive. As Daminger explains, cognitive labor is a lot like project management. Cognitive labor is the anticipating, identifying, decision-making and evaluating that goes on all day, every day, in all of our homes.
Thank goodness for friends who forward you random articles.
This week, Allison Daminger featured my book in her newsletter, the Daminger Dispatch. I am a subscriber to her newsletter - and hope you consider checking it out, too. Daminger posts every two weeks, and uses substack to highlight issues related to her research.