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HELPERS AND CARETAKERS, Part 1
COULD I BE A CARETAKER FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS?
This is the first in a series of blogs addressing the topic, Helpers and Caretakers. These blogs correspond to six foster parent training classes that I am facilitating at San Bernardino Valley College on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9 a. m. to Noon, starting October 19 and ending November 5, 2010. If you live nearby and want to attend the classes, email me.
Interestingly enough, I was informed that my title....Caretakers....is politically incorrect because we are not to supposed to TAKE anything from the people we care for. We are CARE GIVERS.
I had a difficult time not sounding defensive as I tried to explain that my title is sort of tongue in cheek. Because I want us to become conscious in this class that probably what most of us do IS care taking and not care giving.
There is a wonderful web article that compares and contrasts caretaking and caregiving. Those of you who attend the class will get a copy of this article. Those of you who attend class here on the blog, check out the link.
In this article, Elizabeth Kufperman tells us that caretaking is a "hallmark of codependency" and originates in insecurity and our need to be in control. In other words, caretakers are probably control freaks! Caretakes like to HELP other people. Unfortunately, the people whom we help end up down a notch . Of course, it is not our intent to put them down in our attempts to help them, but that is what happens and that is why this topic is so important.
WORDS CONVEY MEANING
So what is wrong with helping? Helping tends to imply that the person or persons we are giving help to are HELPLESS. Think about it.
I know words, for some of you, are just words. But a word is very important. It conveys meaning and when we speak that word, it brings that meaning to life, into existence. For example, if I say, "you are really gorgeous," you begin to experience the "gorgeousness" inside you. If on the other hand, some one you think is so much prettier than yourself tells you that you are fat, you begin to experience yourself as a cow or the fattest person on the face of the earth, even if all the objective data speaks totally to the contrary.
So from this day forward, we will not talk about helping people. Instead, we will use the word SUPPORT. When I support you, I support your strengths. I support the part of you that can, in fact, and will, in fact, take care of yourself. I raise you up, so to speak, to be your best.
So yes, the word IS CARE GIVING. As a caregiver, we give the person we are supporting KINDNESS and LOVE. We do not presume to know what is best for them. We do not try to solve their problems. We continue to GIVE support to their inner strengths, their internal developmental process. We support their journey and where it will take them. We do not give up on them when they refuse our advice or direction, or our help. Even if we are giving care to an infant, we humbly recognize that there are forces within the infant that are far beyond any amount of care we can give. When the infant is inconsolable, unsoothable, we don’t back away. It is not about us. It is about their pain, and whatever life experiences have landed on them even at this early stage of the game.
As a caregiver, I catch myself when I realize I am trying to rescue or save rather than Give. It is difficult, if not impossible, to rescue and save without taking over the person’s life.
On the contrary, as a care giver, we GIVE AUTONOMY to the person we are supporting. And we TAKE no credit for their growth and development. We humbly acknowledge the growth and development and express gratitude that we got to be the instrument through which God’s direction and love flowed.
OKAY, so let’s take a moment to identify in our own personal lives, where we experience being taken care of. Make a list, A LONG LIST. What does it feel like to be taken care of?
THEN where in your life, are people giving you care? What is the difference?
THEN make a list of all the people in your life for whom you are a care TAKER. Note how you are taking CONTROL of their lives instead of giving them the gift of autonomy.
Let’s spend a little time talking about what we discovered?
Now that we have begun exploring the differences between care taking and care giving, let’s begin to explore yet another important question.
COULD I BE A CARE GIVER FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS?
So what moved you to become a foster parent in the first place? Or what moved you to take in your grandchildren? Or what moved you to adopt your children?
You know the bottom line is this. It almost doesn’t matter what moved you or what your motivation is as long as you are AWARE and CONSCIOUS of your motivation.
I will never forget a foster parent telling me that the reason she is a foster parent is because she failed as a parent with her own children. They were actually taken away from her. At some point, she pulled her life together and healed her relationship with her children. They were adults by this time. But she was aware that she had missed raising her children and watching them grow. So she wanted to have the opportunity to experience being a mom.
Now, this reason to be a foster parent could be very problematic except that she is aware of it. She is also realistic and knows that her foster children are not going to be particularly appreciative of what she gives to them. She knows that they bring wounds to her foster home and raising them may be even more challenging than it was to raise her own children.
Armed with that awareness, her motivation actually becomes a very powerful force or energy in her fostering.
But what would happen if she wasn’t aware of her motivation? She would be constantly angry with the foster children for letting her down and making her one and only experience of being a Mom just an awful experience. Do you get that? It is very important to get this.
WHAT ARE ALL THE REASONS FOLKS BECOME FOSTER PARENTS?
*Sometimes, folks just enjoy raising kids and when the empty nest syndrome hits, they fill the nest back up.
*Sometimes, folks experience a spiritual calling.
*Sometimes the police knock on your door at three in the morning and hand you your grandchildren and there you are! Instant family once again. And, of course, as much as you may be enjoying not raising children, you love your grandchildren and don’t want anyone else raising them.
*Maybe all of your life, you have been involved in day care, child development centers, or some form of caring for children. At some point, the house has too many empty rooms, so you get licensed and you can do the work you love right there in your own home.
*Sometimes, foster parents will tell me that their parents fostered and it just seems natural for them to be a foster parent as well.
*Some foster parents were foster children themselves and they want to give back.
MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE REASONS YOU ARE AWARE OF THAT BOTH YOURSELF AND OTHER FOSTER PARENTS OR KINSHIP PARENTS WANT TO FOSTER.
DO YOU DO IT FOR THE MONEY?
Sometimes when children are angry with us, they accuse us of being a foster parent just for the money.
First of all, there is nothing wrong with doing it for the money. Secondly, unless you are independently wealthy, you sure in the heck can’t do it for free. How are you going to pay the bills? I would encourage you to tell a child, anytime he throws that at you, "Of course I do it for the money. How else am I going to be able to support us all?"
And why does the comment push your buttons? Why does it make you so angry? What is wrong with doing something you really like to do and get paid for it at the same time? That’s how it works for me as a therapist? I love being a therapist and a teacher. But I also LOVE getting paid for it. Everything I do, I do for the money. It is my only source of income. I do not have a "job" as such.
The bottom line is you could never get paid enough for what you do.
So does it make you angry because you want to keep it a secret that you enjoy getting some money for doing this work?
Perhaps you don’t value you your fostering. I mean a brain surgeon makes a ton of money. You, as a foster parent, are constantly impacting the growth and development of the brains of the foster children in your care. You too are a brain surgeon!! You deserve to be paid brain surgeon wages!! Yes you do! Well, why not?
What you do is not charity. It is hard work. You even come here to class to learn better skills. This is not a volunteer job.
So why do you think your buttons get pushed when they accuse of doing this just for the money?
Well, it is time again to wrap up the day’s class. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE, WHETHER YOU ARE HERE ON THE WEB OR IN CLASS, THANK YOU FOR SHARING.
I appreciate you being here because I get paid that way. I am doing this for the money!
See you Friday for part 2