A few years ago, Justin Lioi attended the funeral of an acquaintance’s mother. Before the man delivered the eulogy for his Mom, he looked at his 6-year-old daughter sitting among the mourners and reassured her, “Daddy’s not crying, he’s just sweating.”

“Even at his own mother’s funeral, he didn’t feel free to show emotion,” says Lioi, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, in Brooklyn, New York, who specializes in treating men and fathers. 

“I work with a lot of guys who are so disconnected with their emotions that we talk a lot about why they feel like they can’t cry or feel angry or show emotions in front of their kids,” Lioi says. “There’s such a fear that, ‘If I let it go at all, I’ll go down the hill into emotions I’ll never be able to get out of.’”

It’s a lingering stereotype for a lot of men that being stoic in the face of tough emotions is part of the job of being a dad. They feel duty-bound to make their kids, and partners, feel safe, and sometimes, that entails pretending they don’t feel sad, scared, or worried. The pressure to keep it all together is particularly high amid the pandemic; many parents are dealing with additional stresses about income and job security, keeping everyone COVID-19-free, and the day-to-day pressures of being cooped up together without normal coping mechanisms or much alone time. For a lot of fathers, keeping up a strong, positive front is challenging.

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