Learned or innate?

It is no secret that I am a ‘caretaker’ which is really not the right word. Yes, I do take care of everyone in my orbit, but as I sit here and write this I think “It’s an egotistical position” – I do everything for everyone because somewhere in my head I’m thinking “If I don’t, who will?” and “I can do this better than they can.” – That’s ego.

The question is – was this learned or innate? Am I naturally a person who does or was I forced to at a young age and it just became hard-wired?

I was 7 when my brother was born and the mother gave him minimal care and attention therefore it fell to me, a 7 year old, to pick up the slack. I can’t honestly say how that evolved but I do remember when my brother was around 3 he was outside on his little bike and fell and one of the other kids yelled for the mother, she went out and I was right behind her. She picked up my brother, still crying and yelling for Mommy and when he saw me he reached out his arms. Yeah, the kid was 3 and thought I was his mother. So there you go.

There is nothing unusual for a child to take care of a child; or for a child to take on the mundane running of a household – cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. – in large families that’s pretty much how it works out. Except – I don’t come from a large family, I just come from a family where the mother checked out after her first child was born and the second and third were unwanted and pretty much uncared for.

By the time I was a teenager I was pretty much in charge of everything. I don’t think I ever thought twice about it – tho I did question, to myself, why I was left out of some of the big decisions because, hell, I was going to be the one who had to implement and oversee them.

Even my jobs – I was always the assistant to a top executive and not only did I take care of business I took care of their personal lives as well. When I started to work for small companies, instead of large corporations, I was often called the ‘Office Manager” or as I called myself, the ‘Office Mommy’ – I was taking care of everybody not just the owner of the company.

Same position I had in the family. Same position I have had in all my personal relationships.

My husband has become more disabled since his fall last Summer, and in the last 2 months his physical stability has deteriorated greatly. His balance is shit, his hand tremors are ridiculous and whatever he contributed to the running of our little household before, he can no longer do. So everything is on my plate. And I’m tired – physically and mentally and emotionally tired. I’m just trying to keep one old man and 2 old cats alive and well cared for.

My question is why – Did I learn to be this way or was I born this way?

11 thoughts on “Learned or innate?”

  1. So hard to know — but I think being female can be a big part of this, too (which leads back to your original question, of course).

    Wish I lived nearby and could sit with you a spell in the midst of your many caretaking responsibilities. It’s one thing to decide to take on those tasks, it’s another to feel like you have no choice in the matter.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. So females are born into domestic slavery, eh? Which is how I think of it – I think I will go with learned behavior because that makes me feel better for some strange reason – like, I don’t have to be this way, like all those bad relationship decisions, based on me be a doormat take care of you person was/is based on my need to be liked (I won’t even go so far as to say loved) and yadda yadda yadda. And yes, I feel I have no choice in the matter at this point. I can think back fondly to those years when I was my only responsibility. Good times!


  2. You see what needs doing and do it and I have no idea if it’s learned or not, but I think it’s just the way we are. In my family and also at work I was the ‘somebody’ – as in ‘somebody has to do it. So that thinking means you are a very tired somebody. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps, but I can identify times when I only did that for myself – everybody else was on their own (aside from work related job duties – what I got PAID to do). Do you know that all the years I worked in offices (which was like my whole working life) I never made coffee? And no one would dare to ask me either LOL


  3. Hey Grace, a very provocative and thoughtful post – learned or born? The other aspect is, at that point [your brother] what choice did you have? You didn’t respond as a caretaker – you responded as a person with a big heart and more importantly as a family member, so your protective instincts cut in.

    Is the person who cares a natural carer or a learned carer? I think first and foremost it comes from deep within … whether you are a good person or not. If you then decide to care for people in that caretaker role .. then the wisdom is acquired, the skills are learned and honed and the acceptance is because you are happy to do so.

    You could simply have just looked at your mother, your bother’s arms reaching out way back aways and thought Meh, whatever and walked away.

    But you didn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it’s a really good question- I’d guess that perhaps it is a part of your nature in some respect, but I think you don’t give yourself enough credit for rising to the occasion and making choices to be a good and giving person!

    Liked by 1 person

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