Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Caretaking: Good or Bad?

When does caretaking become not admirable?

I am a caretaker, get pleasure out of helping people, and kind of feel like it is my duty to please people. Am I like this because I have been raised as a woman, trained to put aside my wants for others? Or am I honestly caretaking without feelings of resentment of sacrificing my wants, giving and helping because it is a noble thing to do? Anyways, why and when would sacrificing one's wants for the greater good be wrong?

In Africa, at a rare special meal of care-package sent cheesy tortellini, who would help themselves to a huge portion leaving very little for the other 20 people who are eating? It is considerate to take a small helping, sacrificing your desire for cheesy tortellini so that everyone can have some, right? So why at the end of the line do we run out of sauce and tortellini? Why am I the one who gets a spoonful rather than a plateful? And why am I okay with that, feeling it doesn't matter if I get any as long as everyone else got some.

I exist best when alone. Why? Because I don't have to figure out the balance between pleasing a partner and making sure that I am not sacrificing too much. When you are with a partner, life decisions become complicated because you are suppose to consider the other person's needs and desires. You can't just be selfish and consider your own, or can you? And whose greater good would you consider: the most money, the most stable job, the life adventure of living in a poor village?

I easily fall into the habit of taking into consideration other people's greater goods, other people's needs and desires rather than my own. Is that when caretaking becomes non-admirable?

Here in China, I am often asked to drop everything to take care of someone else's want or desire. 5 minutes before a meeting, I am called to be there. 30 minutes before basketball practice, I am called to be there. Edit this 100 page thesis in two days. Of course I will. At banquets, drink the red wine and down the white baijiu (hard alcohol). To this I put my foot down, because I don't drink at all. Often people would sacrifice their time and wants for me if I had some kind of need or want. In this culture it is an exchange of favors, but saying no is not admirable. It is expected to say yes or find some indirect way of saying no. Also, saying no to someone who is hierarchically your superior seems like a big no no.

In a culture, where saying no is not admirable, I easily fall into a habit of caretaking, of always saying yes and doing what others want of me. I don't know how to balance my need to people please and my desire to be my own person who doesn't sacrifice too much.

Also, often, I don't feel like I am sacrificing anything, but then I fear maybe I am being taken advantage of. Am I just way too flexible with no backbone? The thing is often, I don't care if I have to be somewhere with only a 5 minute warning or if a superior says, "No you can't take vacation," I just shrug my shoulders and say, "Okay." But then am I letting others have too much control over me?

Is there an answer? Do you have any advice?

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