Recently there has been an explosion of literature aimed at empowering and emboldening young girls. But what are we telling young boys?
Are we encouraging them in the same way to be truly free to be whatever they want? Or are we reaffirming the same, old notions of manhood being based on a narrow set of character traits and career choices? How can beautiful young boys grow into confident, compassionate, happy men?
Since the birth of his daughter, followed by the arrival of his son, Rob Sturrock has focused on being an active and present father. But this isn't always an easy road for dads. Fathers face stereotypes, judgement and isolation – particularly around paternal leave. Man Raises Boy takes on this new era of fathering with Rob's down-to-earth approach in sharing his own experiences, alongside extensive research into other dads 'doing it differently' – including Tony Sheldon, Adam Liaw and Bernie Shakeshaft.
Rob Sturrock is an author and working father. He has written widely about his experiences of being a working dad and juggling the responsibilities of home and work. Rob has been published online in Women's Agenda, Mamamia and Circle In, as well as in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Huffington Post. Rob has also appeared on all national television networks to talk about his views on fatherhood and is considered a leading voice in parenting debates
Man Raises Boy
Allen and Unwin
Author: Rob Sturrock
Question: What inspired you to write Man Raises Boy?
Rob Sturrock: My children were my main inspiration for the book. In fact, my daughter was inspiring me to be a better person before she was even born, while she was still in the womb! For the longest time I never wanted kids nor thought I'd have them. But the emotional drive they have given me has been profound, almost magical. As I say in the book, they are the lights and loves of my life, and I work hard everyday to be a better person, and a better father, for them. I feel my book is also a legacy for them, and my grandchildren if there are any. After I am gone I'd like the family to know what values I tried to live everyday and what really mattered to me.
Question: What advice do you have for a father raising a young boy in the #MeToo era?
Rob Sturrock: I would tell fathers to take the time to understand what #MeToo is all about. It can seem like a daunting, scary topic, but don't be afraid. Admit vulnerability, ask for help, do some reading, and crucially listen to the experiences of the women in your lives. It took me a while to get my head around what #MeToo means, and my initial explanations to my wife about what I had learnt were way off. I kept coming at #MeToo from self-centredness, but this movement is about men acknowledging the massive power imbalance that exists in society in their favour, and recognising that abusing this power, on small and large scales, will no longer be tolerated. Men aren't being held to a higher standard, we're being held to the standard that has been there for a long time but which we've casually ignored. The path forward for our young boys has to be built on equality and respect for everyone, not a winner takes all approach to society.
Question: Who did you interview and collaborate with for Man Raises Boy?
Rob Sturrock: I was thrilled to interview six terrific dads, at different stages of the fatherhood journey, because the book is about encouraging men to add their voices to discussions about parenting and gender equality. I spoke Tony Sheldon, before he became a Senator, when he was head of the Transport Workers Union, and Scott Connolly at the Australian Council of Trade Unions, because I wanted to expand the conversation beyond suited up dads in corporate jobs. We spoke about how hard it is for blue-collar workers in industries like transport, manufacturing and construction to get decent time off to be dads because of the nature of their jobs. I reached out to Masterchef winner Adam Liaw who talked to me about the importance of giving young boys independence to explore the world and forge their own character. Some of his perspectives really surprised me and make for interesting reading. I also spoke to Tim Hammond, who has a beautiful story about trading life as an incredibly talented and promising Federal MP to be present at home with three small children. I chatted to Australia's 2020 Local Hero of the Year, Bernie Shakeshaft, about his work in helping boys from disadvantaged backgrounds find friendship, camaraderie and love through the BackTrack program. For some of these boys, their own families had given up on them, so Bernie's story was truly inspirational. I also chatted with the lovely Darren Chester, a very decent man who is the Federal MP for Gippsland. We talked about how Darren remains present in his grown kids' lives, and the premium he places on listening carefully to his children's views of the world. Each of these dads enrich the book in their own way and I'm incredibly grateful to them.
Question: What's the main message you hope readers take from Man Raises Boy?
Rob Sturrock: That the relationship between fathers and sons is so crucial for our boys in understanding manhood and masculinity, and we must do so much more to cherish, value and celebrate this relationship. Fathers are this incredible, almost untapped resource for filling the world with decent, compassionate, confident, respectful and genuinely happy young men. Fathers can gift their boys a bigger, brighter, more inclusive and accepting version of masculinity than they themselves inherited. But to do that, as I write in the book, men have to start thinking harder about their role in the family and in the workforce, and start questioning what they learnt as a kid, especially in the #MeToo era. We've only just begun to liberate masculinity, and we need to see more male leadership to eradicate gender inequality.
Question: What advice would you give a Dad-to-be?
Rob Sturrock: For any dad-to-be out there, congratulations! You're about to embark on the best job you'll ever have, and it will nourish your soul more than you can imagine. My first piece is to use the nine months of the pregnancy to emotionally prepare for fatherhood. Get your head around the new responsibilities and challenges heading your way, but also let yourself be excited and daydream about your bub and falling in love with them. There is nothing like it. More practically, and this is really important, start determining how you will reshape your work life so you can be the dad you want to be. Wrap your work life around your family, not vice versa. Talk to your manager about taking paid parental leave and using flexible work arrangements. These discussions can be awkward and hard, but they matter, and the earlier you have them the better. And when your bub arrives, remember that you can be an amazing, nurturing, tender and compassionate carer just as great as mum. Being a parent is a set of skills you develop, and the only way to develop them is on the job. Good luck!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Man Raises Boy
Allen and Unwin
Author: Rob Sturrock