Men and their jobs; why are they so utterly defined by them?

Honestly this is one of those concepts I have a really hard time wrapping my head around.

As a woman, when asked how I would identify myself, the first thing that pops into my head is ” mom, wife, sister… and then writer.” With my husband and so many other men I know, when questioned about what they do, and who they are, their immediate response would be, “professional career, then father, husband, brother…”

Of course, the fact that my husband feels so utterly defined by his professional status label is a point of major contention and distress for him, as he’s currently not practicing said profession. The profession he spent over 11 years studying and working towards. And so, not having this label to hang onto- this identity to present to the world, well it’s soul crushing for him.. and I honestly don’t know how to help him reinvent his identity and his sense of self.

I know my husband is not alone in his feelings. Whenever we are out at any kind of function, or meeting new people, almost reflexively, when we are introduced people immediately shake his hand and say, “So what do you do?”. And then there’s that uncomfortable, awkward silence where he feels the needs to explain- or just plain-ignore the question… so we haven’t been “socializing” all that much.

Of course I understand his feelings of inadequacy, as men in our society are unfortunately so utterly defined by what they do in their professional careers and not by who they are, what they stand for, who they love and what they contribute …and well it just stinks.

Would love to hear your thoughts- especially if you’re with a guy who is also in a transitional period in his professional life– how are you dealing?


  1. isabel says

    You are so right! Us, as women, don’t fully grasp this concept. My husband was an investment banker on Wall Street for 15 years where his profession, and his salary, defined his worth…TO HIM NOT TO ME! He was laid off for 2 years and struggled to find himself a new identity as the career and skills he acquired were gone. He was vilified for being an investment banker because everyone hated and blamed the Wall Street types. He finally got a job as an executive recruiter and he really likes it and is doing well BUT he feels less than because his salary is not what is was. He worries constantly about money, even though we are financially stable. I wish, too, that I could ease his worries and his feelings of inadequacy. It’s a tough situation!

    • Hank says

      Men are defined by our jobs because nobody will take care of a able bodied man for long. Not the government and certainly not most women. Yes we can be other things but i am answering this one question. If we can’t take care of ourselves financially we certainly can’t take care of a family and that’s how we define ourselves. Offering love or sex will not be enough in the long run and your partner will demand you pull your weight. If you reverse this a woman can possibly quit her job stay home and raise children, work part time, our not return to work at all. Men don’t generally have these options even in today’s climate. You can kick a husband out of the home but it’s difficult to kick your wife out and still keep your house so it’s cheaper to keep her as they say. i have many male friends that take care of the women at home, their working ten hour days while she tends to the house with no kids or teenage kids and guys providing for them are happy with this arrangement. rarely will this be true the other way round.
      Without our jobs we don’t exist, no one would want us and it would go down hill from there. It will leave you with three options if your alone in this. Homeless without hope, Illegal activity including violence or the last thing you can control, your own demise. This is worse case, most can drag themselves back up to some form of respectability. This could account for some of more men being homeless or committing suicide especially if your wife takes you for all you got and forbids you to see your kids. Also if women start taking on more jobs and pushing men to the curb these things will be common place, especially the violence. Ladies your Frankenstein is ready.

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