Profile of a Professional Caregiver

This was given to me by a nurse.  She said that it had been circulated at her labour/delivery unit and caused a real stir among the staff.  The first time you read it, the reaction is “Oh yes, I know a lot of caregivers like that.”  The real value is to read it several times and take it to heart for yourself. 

Profile Of A Professional Caretaker
1.            Caretakers usually have grown up with a strong parental injunction, “Don’t be selfish”. Consequently, they go through life masking their self-concern. They turn all their attention to the concerns of others and largely ignore their own emotional needs. They live in a constant fear of being indicted on the charge of “selfishness”.

2.            Caretakers are usually lonely and emotionally undernourished. They operate in an emotional trade deficit. They give enormous amounts of compassion to others and never get enough emotional nurturing in return. They have many friends but few intimate, nourishing relationships.

3.            Caretakers are always subject to depressions as a result of their stroke deprivation. This stroke deprivation results largely from the caretaker’s unwillingness to receive compliments or care from anyone else. They are afraid to accept care from others for fear it would jeopardize their role in life.

4.            Caretakers are predictable, steady, useful and safe. They are sensitive to the needs of others. They are also boring! They are not particularly enjoyable because they only smile and rarely laugh. (A spontaneous, raucous, belly laugh is of great therapeutic value.)

5.            Caretakers have much difficulty remembering names, even the moment after an introduction. They are so preoccupied with their own self-consciousness (“How Am I Doing?”) they don’t pay attention to others.

6.            Caretakers wear sweatshirts with a message on both front and back. On the front we see, “How Am I Doing?” On the back we read, “Try Harder!” All emotional transactions of the caretaker are designed to gain approval.

7.            Caretakers are usually very harried. They over-commit their time and over-promise themselves. They are usually running late because they cannot break away for fear of encountering disapproval.

8.            Caretakers are afraid of their own anger as well as the anger of others. They avoid conflict at all costs and direct all their anger toward themselves where it is safely converted into depression.

9.            Caretakers are only able to exercise assertiveness when they are attacking social injustice or acting as advocates for their clients. They rarely assert themselves in direct self-interest.

10.          Caretakers are almost paralyzed when it comes to asking for what they need emotionally. They would much rather withdraw or pout than ask for nurture.

by Thomas Wright

  ______________________________________________________________ I don’t think there’s a “cure” for this way of being but it is nice to be able to get those raucous belly laughs by looking at my own behaviour.  A few years ago, the women in my Midwifery Study Group were invited to a Christmas dinner party.  I said “Let’s make this the most fun thing that has ever happened.  What should we do at the party?”  This created a lot of perplexed faces including my own.  We all knew how to do a great birth but we didn’t know how to have fun—I was hoping that the other women would know and that was what motivated my question.  The best I could come up with was “Let’s all wear red to the party!”  Whoo-hooo!  One of the other women came up with “Let’s play board games!”  That was it, so that’s what we did.  We actually did have a ball that night and laughed until our stomachs were sore but that planning conversation was such a demonstration to me that I’m severely crippled in the area of horsing around and playfulness. Gloria Lemay


11 thoughts on “Profile of a Professional Caregiver

  1. Yipee, I’m a recovering professional caregiver! So much of my ‘recovery’ is about getting back to self-care. I just had a 2 1/2 hour lunch today alone at my favorite vegan restaurant- no reason- just cause my soul required it. You are really on to something here. We (especially us women) bleed ourselves dry for others because its seen as a virtue- it is not. Its a recipe for an unhappy, unfulfilling life.

  2. When I met my husband, he asked me what I do for fun. I was stumped. The answer was “nothing”. How pathetic is that?! We have since had a TON of fun together, but it’s easy to let life get too busy and lose the fun.

    Thanks for the reminder…



  3. Yes! But you gotta watch for the sort of beating yourself up that goes like: wow, I’m such a little “helper”, God, how annoying, people must think I’m soo boring, I should go out and make some friends, find an interesting hobby, DO something for eff’s sake. Ah all the ways to torture ourselves!! 😀

    • ITA, Irene, that would be more of the same. As far as I can see, you’ve got to have some sort of an “act” to be in the world. “She who serves” is as good as any of the acts anyone has except maybe “He who emancipates South Africa” but that one is already gone 🙂 So, relaxing about our nuttiness and getting a sense of humour about how earnest we are is the only way to be with it.

      I’ve just had a week with relatives staying with me. Really got to see how territorial and controlling I am about my kitchen. . . not pretty, especially when I’m covering it up with “hostess of the year”. Luckily I had an idea that it might be a bit of a long time with guests so I created a context for the time. My context was “generosity”. Every time the controlling, territorial creep started to come out in me, I’d remember the context I had created and was able to drop all that automatic behaviour. I cried when the relatives left and I really miss them.

  4. well, number one, i read the title twice as crazy care givers, so i really had to slow down and concentrate.number two i will have to get back to you on what i do for fun..sigh.

  5. Oh dear. So let’s not wear shirts with “how am I doing” and “try harder” with respect to Having Fun hard nuff and good nuff.

  6. Thank you, Gloria. So thought provoking, and it will be a useful tool at our Indiana Midwives Association conference November 8-10, whose theme is “Healing Our Wounds.” Excellent timing for us, seriously!

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