BELOW IS A TRANSCRIPT OF MICHAEL'S WORDS. MORE RESOURCES BOTTOM OF PAGE.
“That was a bit dramatic, wasn’t it? But hopefully, it’ll all make sense by the time I’m finished.”
“My name is Michael Hughes and I’m one-half of a childless couple and one-third of a podcast supporting the Childless Not By Choice (CNBC) community with Berenice Smith from Walk In Our Shoes and Sarah Lawrence from After The Storm. And it’s called TheFullStopPod.com Look out for us. We’re quite proud of what we’ve achieved.”
“When Jody asked me if I would like to contribute to Father’s Day this year for Gateway Women, of course, I said yes. I admire Jody a lot. I admire what she is, what she does, and what she achieves. And she’s a real inspiration to me.”
“But I thought, what am I going to talk about? Because the audiences are going to be women and that’s not my forte, even though I’m surrounded by lovely women in my life.”
“So I thought I’d try and shed some light on why guys like me behave in the way that we do. Because it’s no secret, we are the forgotten of the forgotten.”
“Now what I’m about to talk about may seem biased towards male and female couples. And that doesn’t mean that our LGBTQIA+ family is any less important. Please don’t get me wrong. But this is all I know. All I know is life with Vickie. And I would feel a fraud if I tried to speak on others’ behalf, whose life I haven’t experienced.”
“It’s quite confusing to be a guy at this time because society’s expectations of what a man is are a little bit different to the way that we have been socialized.”
“Now, I can see that changing, but I’ll speak on behalf of me and my generation. As I look back on my life, growing up in a very British household, feelings were never discussed. Emotions were never shown, and that’s just the way it was.”
“And then early on in the schoolyard, where you’d have to stand up to bullies, and I remember punching one in the face one day, not that I’m proud of right now as an adult, but it was an example of survival. Survival of the fittest, survival of the strongest. Needless to say that that bully was my best friend after that, so I learned a lesson in that as well. The rough and tumble of being a kid, climbing trees; I fell out of a few. And trying not to cry because you wanted to appear strong and invincible. And that travels through the life of most men.”
“And then as I grew up more and I played rugby, you were taught, you were told, “Go out, go hard.” And if you hurt someone, too bad, because they’re weak. And then don’t forget the power of film and television around us. I mean, I was brought up on a diet of Westerns, ‘James Bond’, ‘Our Man Flint’ – showing my age now – and so that also adds to the mix, that also adds to the identity of what it is to be a man.”
“Never underestimate the power of media on our lives, unfortunately. And then it creates this thing where, if you get hurt, if you suffer, it doesn’t matter. You got to move on. On the rugby field, you’d get hit, but you’ve got to get up and you got to keep going.”
“So I hope you’re beginning to understand now why I put the definition of a warrior at the beginning of this video. So when we throw childlessness into the mix, it changes it dramatically. And whenever I think about this subject, a statement that Vicki said to me once always, always resonates with me.”
“When we were going through IVF and it would fail and Vickie would be at her lowest; she would be distraught – her dreams are smashed. And, well, I don’t really have to explain to you guys – that. But nothing was said at the time, but some years later she would say to me, “I never saw you grieve. I never saw you get as upset as me, and I didn’t think you cared.” I’ve reflected on this a lot, because I know there are a lot of other women out there who feel the same.”
“I’m going to introduce some friends now who will help me illustrate what it’s like to be a childless man and the expectations that we put on ourselves and some of the negatives that we have to deal with within our own minds.”
“All right – I can feel some dramatic music coming on. I’ll be back soon…”
“Apologies if you have not seen ‘Game of Thrones’, but it’s a perfect example of the dichotomy of how a childless man lives. Now on this side, quite nicely or unfortunately, depending on your view, the producers and the writers of ‘Game of Thrones’ have fathers over here, kings, lord of the realms, righteous. Well, he’s not righteous, but he was. Righteous people, fair people. People we all aspire to, really, I guess. The warrior. That’s who they were.”
“But unfortunately, all the childless people in this show sit here: Tyrion Lannister, a man of small stature, was never taken seriously. So is it symbolic of perhaps childless men not being taken seriously because they don’t sit in that club? Petyr Baelish, I think, Baelish is probably about there. He was a sleazy, conniving, manipulative sort of guy, and perhaps symbolic of the pedo? Lord Varys, now he was a eunuch. I don’t think that takes any explanation. And then, Ramsay Bolton down here was a psycho. Now, is he symbolic of that man that sits in the park? He’s single, he’s childless, he’s lonely… Nothing wrong with the bloke, he just wants to sit and watch the world go by because, well, that’s what he needs. But all the mothers are shuffling their children away from him. ‘Well, don’t go near him, don’t go near him’. It’s real, believe me.”
“Through my conversations with a lot of childless men, these are the things – hang on, there – these are the things that they perceive society sees them as. And they want to sit over here. Not just because they want to be a father, but because they want to be that warrior. They believe they’re that warrior. They know they’re that warrior.”
“So when you are at your lowest and we’re reaching down for that inner warrior, to be that strong, silent type, if you will – we believe that emotion has no place at that time. Now, I’m not saying this is a good or a bad thing. I’m just saying, this is how it is. And the emotion will come. As I age, I see it come out of me now – I was welling up just at the thought of making this video.”
“So my hope is that you take away from this is that he does care. He really does, but just in a different way.”
“And another takeaway is that because of that dichotomy, because of the way that we perceive we’re being seen, and that we’re not in the club … hang on. Which one is it? We’re not in the club.”
“Childless men need a place to belong. They need a place to feel safe and they need a place they know people understand them. So myself and a few other guys have actually made that place. And we call it ‘The Clan of Brothers‘.”
“It’s a group on Facebook, private. You can look for it. You can find it, but you just can’t see any of the posts on it. It’s all kept within the group. And we’ve had a meetup so far, which has been quite interesting – trying to juggle five time zones was pretty tough, but we all got something from it. And I want to grow that. I want to see that become a place for childless men to feel safe to express themselves in a way that they will be understood.”
“Thank you for staying the distance, and thank you, Jody, for giving me the opportunity to do this on Gateway Women.”
“I think it’s time for some more dramatic music…”
Michael Hughes is the British-born Australian half of the blog ‘Married and Childless‘ (started on Mother’s Day 2016), one of the three presenters of The Full Stop Podcast for the CNBC community (along with Berenice Smith of Walk in Our Shoes and Sarah Lawrence from After the Storm) and one of the Founding Members of The Clan of Brothers, a closed Facebook Group for involuntarily childless men. He is also a World Childless Week champion and has become a leading voice describing the mostly hidden experience of male involuntary childlessness, and the struggles of coming to terms with childlessness as a heterosexual couple. He and his wife Vickie have been together since they were 16 and went through unsuccessful IVF for much of their late twenties and thirties before choosing to accept their childlessness as they turned 40.
More resources for childless men for you to explore
- Gateway Women’s ‘Resources for Childless Men‘ list including groups, books, blogs and articles of interest.
- ‘The Clan of Brothers Group‘ on Facebook (private group as mentioned by Michael Hughes above).
- The Full Stop Podcast’s ‘Clan of Brothers’ episode featuring Michael Hughes, Dr Robin Hadley, Andy Harrod, Ken Fenton and Kevin Roberts.
- Blogs and videos from 2019’s World Childless Week ‘Men Matter Too’ day
- Sikhumbuzo Dube at Shunem Care writing on life as a childless couple and his work as a Christian pastor and psychotherapist in Zimbabwe.
- Dr Robin Hadley’s 2018 guest blog for Gateway Women on ‘Coping with Father’s Day as a Childless Man’
- Sheridan Voysey’s 2019 guest blog for Gateway Women on ‘Father’s Day for the Non-Father’
- If you are a childless-not-by-choice or childless-by-circumstance man, University College London is undertaking academic research into this area (as they have already done for women). Click here to find out more and fill in an anonymous survey.