Motherhood: Balancing the Caretaker and the Warrior, pt 2 The Caretaker

Isis breastfeeding Horus. Statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Picking up from the Last article about The Warrior Archetype, this article is the second part about how the Warrior and the Caretaker Archetypes work with one another to complete a more whole concept of the parenting season of life.

So as a reminder, use the knowledge you gain about yourself as a starting point to make changes upon. We are all in different places along our journey and the journey is not linear but goes in a spiral so sometimes we revisit things we thought we worked through. Judgement and shame have no place here as we are here to learn and grow an evolve.

Let’s jump into it!

The Caregiver

The type of parent we all want to be. She wants to be the perfect, caring parent- generative, loving, attentive to noticing and developing the child’s talents and interests. She is so devoted to her children that she would die to protect their life. She aspires to be adaptive. In infancy, she meets every need of the baby. And as the child grows, she slowly shifts more into a coach or mentor to help teach the child life skills that will aid them in their successful adult years.

The Caregiver who already has a well-developed Warrior can set reasonable limits and boundaries on behavior. These boundaries create clear and reassuring edges of the container in which collective and individual life grows. Her energy is focused on nurturing people and creating situations that help them grow and develop. She creates community, a place where people feel safe and at home.

The Caregiver also represents abundance symbolized by a many-breasted Goddess, or as the martyr symbolized by Christ on the cross. The story of the Caregiver is of the transformative quality of giving and even, at times, of sacrifice. Caregivers know who they are and what they want, but their compassion is even stronger than their self-interest. They care not because they do not value themselves, but because to do so is the highest expression of that value. The caring within them is even stronger than the instinct for self-preservation.

So, here is where you may see where your good intentions of being the best parent you can be can have an almost flawed premise when perfectionism gets involved. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to live up to the ideal image we have in our mind that we end up setting the bar too high to accomplish. Then when we cannot reach that goal, we end up judging and shaming ourselves for “not being good enough”. I started saying “I did the best I could” when I get in that mode of being critical of myself.

For men who do not adopt the Caregiver within are prone to seek mothering from all the women in their lives, thus remaining dependent “Mommy’s boys”. They often compensate for such dependence with misogyny, just as women who cannot access their inner Warrior may hate the men on whom they depend for protection. By learning to be your own Caretaker by meeting your own needs, as opposed to putting that responsibility onto someone else, actually gives us the independence and confidence that we are looking to others to validate or provide. Like mentioned in the previous article, the Warrior needs to hold themselves accountable to living in integrity.

“Many young parents, for instance, get thrown into caregiving roles when they have not yet taken their own journeys or established any genuine sense of a separate identity from their parents or peer group. People whose whole sense of identity comes from the values of their parents or friends or from the fashions and fads of society cannot adequately care for another without maiming themselves. Young mothers often fall into this category, finding themselves caring for children before they have developed their own boundaries or established their own identities. They may essentially be Innocents, with repressed Orphans and virtually no developed Warriors.” -Carol S. Pearson

“If a woman’s Caregiver is dominant, however, she may lose herself in meeting the needs of others, lacking the capacity to say ‘no’ to anything asked of her. She may even feel a compulsive need to respond to needs she has noticed whether or not she had been asked for assistance. Many of us mask our sense of Orphaning by taking care of others. But what we really need and want is to be taken care of ourselves. Young fathers who have not found their own identities may feel trapped in the instrumental role of the Caregiver- the Provider. This means their Warrior is acting in service to the Caregiver roles, and feels trapped. The young man may yearn to be more caregiving but retreats because he feels so inept at it. He may pine to be “man the hunter”, yet feel entrapped in a boring job in order to feed the family. Some men take out their frustration by withdrawing from their families, invoking patriarchal privilege, expecting to be deferred to and waited on, or even becoming abusive.” Carol S. Pearson

Reread those last two quoted paragraphs again. This is where relationships become imbalanced when the individuals in the relationship ignore expressing their own personal needs. Having a balance of expressing the Caregiver in their home life, and then finding an avenue to express the Warrior either at work or an extra-curricular activity.

Big points Carol mentioned..

1) When we don’t know ourselves apart from the mold that society cast us in, then we end up suffering because of it because true happiness comes from gratitude and our authenticity.

2) That the reason we begin to anticipate other’s needs and acting upon them is because we are not seeing or accepting that there is a part of us that is working from a sense of fear of abandonment. If we can keep going above and beyond for others then they will always accept and love me.

3) And deep down the drive is for us to be taken care of like we take care of others. Since we have been abandoned so much, we don’t ever want to abandon those that we care for. The focus must be on self-care (read my article about what self-care) and learning to meet those needs ourselves.

4) Once we learn to care for ourselves, the desperation melts away and clears space for people to authentically step in and show how they want to care for us.

5) If we do not have the outlet for our Warrior, we will feel trapped in the situation. Balance is key. If balance is not achieved, the shadow will express itself in domineering ways.

Other aspects of the shadow Caretaker will be expressed as the Smotherer- a symbiotic state experienced by mother and child. Think of the overbearing helicopter parent who wants to protect their child so much they limit their child’s development of confidence and autonomy. If our caregiving is a way of avoiding our own loneliness and hunger for connection, the potential for crippling the other is big. It is as if the hungry child within begins to eat up the other person to fill its own emptiness. The irony, of course, is that such negative Caregivers devour others while also feeling devoured themselves by the caregiving role.

How much is this resonating? How much of this is speaking right to your experience? How are you using others to feel whole? Are you attempting to live vicariously through your family members to relieve the feelings of entrapment? How do you bring your neediness to your relationship, expecting the person to fill the emptiness you feel?

Woman may express this in their relationship by wanting to do everything together and to keep reliving the original connection at the beginning of the relationship. They may often expect the man to play the role as the Father by supporting and protecting them.

Men may feel threatened by the neediness and intimacy of the woman and assert to maintain their freedom while simultaneously expecting the woman to always be there waiting for them. If the woman fails to be available, they withdraw and put and threaten abandonment. In the extreme, some men don’t want their woman to work, go out with friends, and they become controlling.

Another form of the devouring Caregiver is the Suffering Martyr, who feels that she or he is always giving to others and never getting enough back. They may have difficulty receiving, have low self-esteem and have trouble saying ‘no’. They may use a sense of guilt and obligation they inspire in others to get their own way. Ultimately, they and those they sacrifice for are locked into a prison in which everyone is doing things to please others, but no one really gets what they want or need.

Here’s another big one that I see with my clients, the mother who gives so much that she does not meet her own needs. She ends up draining herself because every bit of energy goes to everyone else that she has none left for herself. That whole saying “you cannot pour from an empty cup”, well this is that. The Suffering Martyr does not know what self-care looks like for themselves. They may know how to fill everyone else’s cup but not their own.

To balance this, they need to develop their Warrior aspects, and in that way get their needs met more directly and honestly through communication. Those around such guilt-evoking Martyrs should stop being immobilized by guilt and develop their own Warrioring ability to set limits and boundaries. Until we also find the Caregiver within ourselves that cares for us as well as we care for others, this cycle will continue.


I want to hear from you! What really resonated for you? What epiphanies did you have? What little changes are you going to make to make positive shifts for yourself and for your family?

7 views0 comments