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Were you your family's caregiver growing up?

Posted

I've been thinking about this based on some nurses (and other helping professionals/colleagues) I have known and my own work with battered women/rape survivors, etc.

I've noticed that lots of people in the helping profession grew up in families where their role was the "caregiver," "rescuer," "parent to the parents," etc.

(Can you tell I was trained as a family therapist?! :rolleyes:

I'm wondering how much this plays into nursing as a career choice, the

comfort with the role, yet the resentment of it as well. I'm not judging here, just describing a pattern I've noticed. I think the ongoing need to get approval for being "good enough" is part of it too. Pleasing, even those for whom what we do will *never* be enough.

Please comment! Babette

Limik

Has 20 years experience.

I must admit, I was the "caregiver" in my family. I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family where both parents usually weren't around. I also had to take care of my brother who is younger and mentally retarded. I've never associated my childhood with the reason I went into nursing, but maybe I should have. I tend to try and "manage" my family now and do have difficulty giving up control even though my kids are growing up. Either way I am glad I am a nurse, it is just the right fit for me.

Limik

We had a family tragedy when I was 17. Although my family had been pretty functional prior to that, mom and dad both withdrew from life in different ways (dad became extremely religious and mom was so depressed I thought she'd commit suicide for sure -- she had not previously been depressed that I ever noticed). I was the one who was there for my 11 year old sister for the next year, until I left for college. I

But I didn't go into nursing for a good 20 years after that. :)

I think your observations are correct to a point for some nurses. I see some of this in myself personally.

Perhaps we tend to recreate the chaos in our childhood by involving ourselves with others' illnesses; repeating a similar pattern. Perhaps this is a root cause of burnout for many of us who lived through difficult childhoods with dysfunction, addiction, and caretaking roles...and we now are still trying to 'fix' things as nurses, but what we do is never enough. Just like when we were kids.

I don't think this applies to all nurses, but definitely some of us. :stone

Not the case for me or the vast majority of my friends who are nurses. This was brought up when we were in school and talked about the co-dependency thing, but it just didn't seem to fit most of us. Most of us went into nursing because we wanted a good job.

NotReady4PrimeTime, RN

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PCVICU and peds oncology. Has 25 years experience.

I took over responsibility for my younger brother and sister when I was eleven. That's when Dad fired the teenager hired to babysit after school so he could pocket the money and save it for his Friday night poker games. Mom worked 3-11 as a waitress/short order cook, and Dad worked shift work and a second evening job pumping gas. We lived in a tiny rural town and I could see the gas station lights out by the highway, from the kitchen window. I knew that I had about 10 minutes from the time the lights went out until Dad got home, so could get myself to bed and pretend to be asleep. I don't think he ever caught on. Then when I was 13, my mother got pregnant. She was no longer working and was totally miserable at the idea of having another child in the house. She had hyperemesis, whether physiological or not, so once again, I was up. I cooked and cleaned and did laundry and yardwork and all the other tasks that needed attention. When my youngest sister was born, Mom was not expecially interested in caring for her, and I stepped in. I felt like that child was mine, for the first five years of her life. Then I got out... married at 19 and pregnant within five months. In some ways I feel like I've been mothering someone for 35 years... with no end in sight. But I'm not complaining. It's part of what made me who I am, and I kinda like me.

All_Smiles_RN

Specializes in Cardiology.

I was also the "caregiver" in my family. My parents were busy with their own "social" lives and didn't have much time for us. Being the oldest of 4 children, I sort of took over from the time I was 13. I never equated this situation with the reason I chose nursing. I chose nursing because I love children and want to help as many as I can.

...Jennifer...

UM Review RN, ASN, RN

Specializes in Utilization Management.

I was the "sickly one." My mom would've made a fantastic nurse, she always took great care of me. Part of what made the difference for me was being sick and in the hospital, and as a bored child in a hospital for weeks on end, the student nurses would teach me things.

Learning things really was a great distractor from the pain and discomfort that a hospitalization entails. Once when I was in an awful lot of pain, one nurse taught me a little self-hypnosis technique that worked so well, years later, I was able to have my children naturally by using the technique.

Anyway. When I was about 17, a friend of mine got into a really bad car accident. Seeing her, I realized that I didn't feel repulsed by sick and injured people like my buddies did. They were completely clueless as to what to do to help. They'd be perplexed and scared, and I'd be plumping pillows, combing hair tangled with blood, and grabbing emesis basins and feeling useful instead of sitting around staring at the walls during a hospital visit.

So I guess that's why I became a nurse. Well, that and the fact that for a long time, it made me feel like I could have some power over Death. Like we nurses pushed it away or something.

Now I know better, but I still feel like I'm doing something useful for people, and in a way, I'm giving back all the wonderful care that I got from my mom and the wonderful student nurses of St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, NY, back in the '60s.

I often think of those students, and what a huge impact they made on my life, and I've even wondered if it was possible to get in touch with them, but I'll content myself with telling you this much, so that you students will realize what a contribution you make to the care of sick people that we'd remember, forty years later.

I'm becoming a nurse in part because of my mother

I always tried to support her both emotionally and physically

She becomes very sick once she has something

It lasts for a very long time and she takes her illness very hard not just physically but emotionally too

She needs someone to be beside her

She needs attention.. she cries

And it's nothing but negative thoughts that I'm trying to talk her out of

I want to know how to take care of her better

And she has older parents that she wants to live with once I'll move out and I know that she will need my help with them too

WOW! what a thought. I WAS the caregiver in my family. My mother is a severe alcoholic, and I raised my brother and sister from the age 11.....as she was in and out of rehab, and dad was always working. Never thought of this before...

akcarmean, LPN

Specializes in Home Health Care,LTC.

I've been thinking about this based on some nurses (and other helping professionals/colleagues) I have known and my own work with battered women/rape survivors, etc.

I've noticed that lots of people in the helping profession grew up in families where their role was the "caregiver," "rescuer," "parent to the parents," etc.

(Can you tell I was trained as a family therapist?! :rolleyes:

I'm wondering how much this plays into nursing as a career choice, the

comfort with the role, yet the resentment of it as well. I'm not judging here, just describing a pattern I've noticed. I think the ongoing need to get approval for being "good enough" is part of it too. Pleasing, even those for whom what we do will *never* be enough.

Please comment! Babette

Growing up I was also a caregiver in my home. Taking care of house, supper, younger brother and sister. I didn't want anything to do with nursing when I got older. I wanted to go into business. Worked at a bank for 5 years and then my first son was born 3 months premature. After spending 70 days in NICU is when I decided that I wanted to be a nurse. I didn't get my chance until 8 years later but I made it to my LPN. Now with 3 children I am going back to school for my RN -BSN. My youngest is 1. I guess I like a challenge or I nuts LOL !! I really guess it depends on the person and their self esteem and what exactly their home life was.

rnmi2004

Specializes in private duty/home health, med/surg. Has 10+ years experience.

No, I wasn't. I come from a functional, close-knit family; we did (and still do) take care of each other. I always loved babies, though, and I want to work in L&D someday.

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