MS ELLIOT: Men – you can be strong and still have a good cry

They come in all sizes. Tall and short, fat and round. Thin and lanky like a walking noodle. All colours, all shapes, and all personalities. Grumpy or grinning. Positive or pessimistic. Men!

They plough forward, onward. Thrusting through life, with no time to multi-task. Problem-solving. Decision making. “Just answer the question!” And they’ll decide right now what they want, no mucking about. Who has time for doubt?

For men, there is none of the self-flagellation that is encouraged by the women’s magazines. None of the time-wasting fascination with celebs’ lives.

But instead, a self-certain, independently-minded confidence to know they are a MEN – and in this world they are kings.

In Steve Biddulph’s excellent book Manhood, he questions how we are raising boys today to be healthy, confident men for the future. He suggests we look at ourselves, and our culture, and try to create a world where a man can cry, can show his feelings and still be considered strong.

Breaking the mould of what men think they should be like, and making a new model of masculinity.

He suggests we rule out some of the negative stereotypes, the gangs and the drinking culture – cast them aside. Positive role models are needed for boys, at school, in the media and at home.

In a modern world, men can be strong and kind; fair, understanding as well as in control.

Wonderful, happy, healthy men are needed for all of our society – to be good partners to the women in their lives, to be good role models for their children, and to be caring sons’ to their ageing parents.

Looking at what local dads are doing, I was pleased to find out about the existence of a great group for fathers in Worthing: They champion the rights of dads who are at home, taking time out of work, setting aside their own careers to provide and care for their children.

I see loving dads all over the place: in our busy shopping streets, at the church Gymboree, playing on the beach. They wrap their children warmly in a coat of adoration. At the playgroups I go to they may still be in a hairy minority but their numbers are growing. And in a recession that has hit so many families, I wonder whether a surprising by-product is that children are winners: their parents are at home more. They might have fewer toys, but they might have more hugs.

I’m not saying mums aren’t important – of course they are! But dads bring a new energy and a different relationship to their kids’ lives.

And for mums on their own, like me, a dad who is missing can bring an extra dimension to their broken heart; the scent of the man who went away, the dent on the pillow that’s not there any more. And I see the older ladies in Worthing, reluctant widows, who lovingly nagged a man for 40 years only to find out that one day he didn’t come back, and their hearts are breaking, too. Where are the men in their lives? And the ladies dress themselves warmly, pull a comb through greying hair and wonder – will my son ring today?

Ms Elliot is a writer, traveller and creative type. Mother of one and a disastrous cook, she is a native Londoner but has lived in the South Pacific, South America, North America... and now Worthing. She will be sharing her experiences as she finds her feet in her new home in a new town. You can follow her on Twitter:@MsElliot1