Jeanne was born in a large family, and she was 7th in the birth line. She struggled to be seen because the mother was remarkably busy, and the father, authoritarian as he was, never spared a moment to connect emotionally with his children. He was both physically and emotionally distant, and the mother was left to take full care of the children, the farm, and her small business. Jeanne felt unseen, and she struggled to attract the attention of anyone who could notice her. To be seen – that is the message she received – you must be useful in order to be recognized – she undertook the role of taking care of her mother. She would do everything possible to ensure that her mother was ok, and worried incessantly about her wellbeing. Roles were reversed. This developed into a personality for Jeanne, and she continued taking care of people even when it was not requested. She was constantly scanning whether people needed something. She chose the helping profession as that guaranteed the fulfilment of this need. Oftentimes, Jeanne was exasperated, especially when she felt that people took advantage of her. She could become resentful… however, her need to be needed was her survival tool. Jeanne developed a co-dependent behaviour.
Caretaking is a dysfunctional, learned behaviour that can be changed. Once changed, one can experience more peace, more harmony, more contentment, and fulfilling relationships. Caretaking is rooted in insecurity and the need to be in control, while caregiving is an expression of love and kindness. Here are some differences between the two:
|Based on love and kindness||Based on insecurity and the need to control|
|Feels right and re-energizing||Is exhausting and frustrating|
|Honours and respects boundaries||Crosses boundaries|
|Gives freely||Gives with strings attached|
|Practices self-care||Neglects self|
|Feels good and doesn’t worry||Excessive worrying and concerned about rejection|
|Based on empathy and empowerment||Based on taking over other people’s problems and fixing them for them|
|Takes full responsibility of own’s actions||Blames others if things don’t work right|
Jeanne had to learn to shift from caretaking to caregiving as an adult. She had to heal her childhood wounds for her to be happy. She learned to be aware of her own needs and assess her motivations every time she reached out to others. She did this through the following:
- Listening to and valuing her inner child
- Owning up to her motivations
- Talking with a trusted person about her struggles
- Developing a self-care programme
- Setting aside time for herself
- Healthy nourishment
- Developing and enhancing her spiritual life
- Doing activities she enjoys
- Having a good social life
- Doing personal healthy things she had been putting off
- Cultivating an attitude of gratitude
- Believing in herself and her capabilities
- Finding her purpose and pursuing it.
Jeanne is still working on her own self-development, but she has come a long way.
If you find yourself caretaking, ask yourself some hard questions, and work towards transforming this. If you need support, do not hesitate to reach out, for it takes a village to bring up a child.