Revenge of the Caregiver

As an account person, I pride myself in my ability to manage – manage time, expectations, projects and people. You might even call me a control freak. Michael, our creative director, would argue that because my archetype is a caregiver I have a need to create stability and I do this by caring for others. You’d think those skills would be very beneficial to motherhood. For the most part they are, but I guess you can go too far.

An archetype, you ask? Allow me to explain…

The father of archetypes, Carl Jung, believed (in simplified terms) that archetypes represent your personality, your behavior and response/reactions to situations of all calibers.

Identifying and embracing the archetypes in our own lives is no different than developing an archetype for a brand. While the process may be a bit more elaborate during the brand identification, the similarities are uncanny. Corporations regularly employ archetype identification measures to properly create and execute the voice for their newborn brands. Coca-Cola, Harley, Johnson & Johnson have archetypes – can you name them? (Answer: Innocent, Rebel, and Caregiver)

Back to me and motherhood. This past weekend I took my kids to the community pool where we not only swim, but enjoy the oversized sandbox. In theory I can relax in the sun while watching my kids play in the sand. In actuality my “caregiver” archetype (read: control freak) kicks in and I find myself managing all things sandbox. To an embarrassing level I am engrossed in the kids play, offering help for building sandcastles and ensuring order around the coveted water spout. All the other parents seem to be able to enjoy their quiet time in the sun.  Not me.

This is all fine, I guess, but there is a time and place to step back. A common parenting philosophy is “Let the kids be and they will figure it out.” That is very, very hard for me. But I had an eye-opening experience this past weekend. I was managing the building of a sand mountain when this (rude) six year old girl wouldn’t let my son Michael get at the water spout. He tried a few times but she just wouldn’t have it. When he finally got the courage to speak up for himself, she actually took his bucket from him. At that point, I couldn’t help myself. She saw me coming and saw the look on my face and quickly gave the bucket back. But for me, there wasn’t stability yet, so I couldn’t let it go – I had to approach her. I had to lean in, get to eye level with her and sternly (but quietly enough for the other parents not to judge me) say, “Now you’re going to drop your bucket and walk away so everyone else can get water.” She did. Part of me felt great – I defeated the bully and the kids had access to water. But most of me felt disappointed that I didn’t let him learn on his own how to deal with others. It’s an important part of parenthood and my actions didn’t do him any long-term good.

After that I backed off. It took all my might but I didn’t offer suggestions, didn’t manage any of the exciting sandbox projects and even let Michael deal with an unfortunate toddler who wanted to knock down his latest creation. And I’ll try again next week. (Unless that little girl is back.)