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I just finished watching 3:10 to Yuma, which was a completely enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Like all Westerns, it was a story about What It Means To Be A Man wrapped in a plot involving horses, guns, and manhunts.

What was particularly interesting about this one was it’s emphasis on parenthood – well, really fatherhood, but I’ll take it.

In the story, the good guy, Dan Evans, is escorting the bad guy, Ben Wade, to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison after watching him hold up a stagecoach and helping capture him.

The reason Dan takes on this foolish and likely lethal assignment is to save his family farm, ensure that his young son with tuberculosis has a healthy environment to grow up in, and show his older son, Will, that he is honorable and heroic. For the sake of Providing for His Family and Being a Good Role Model, Dan is willing to die.

Now this might be a stretch, but it made me think of something I hear a lot of working moms tell themselves and others to make them feel better about missing a soccer game, bed time, etc. “By working, I’m being a good role model for my children.” It’s something I tell myself on a regular basis.

Just as I take issue with what most Westerns tell you about What It Means To Be A Man, I take issue with this idea that Being A Hero and Being Honorable the most important lessons you can teach your children. Are they really more important than the many tiny lessons you could teach them every day if you were there to watch them grow up?

I know that working hard and having a successful career isn’t quite like dying to make a point, but it made me think. Are we really trying to be role models or that just a nice excuse that seems less selfish than the real reasons we work? And if we are trying to be role models, what exactly are we modeling?

 

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