The caring stereotype and why it makes me mad

There was an advertising feature about carers in an Irish newspaper yesterday. Perhaps you saw it? Perhaps it gave you a nice warm fuzzy feeling reading about that wonderful 'army' of 187,000 dedicated carers. Or perhaps, like me, it made you mad.

I am not in any way criticising the family that features in this ad, but it does fit the caring stereotype that society has come to expect.

A kindly, loving, sensible, middle aged women who cares out of love and needs nothing more than the occasional break for a bit of light shopping or drinking tea with friends and crafting Christmas cards.

And that is very admirable, but not all carers are like that.

Not at all.

Like the rest of society, carers come in all shapes and sizes and life styles. They also have different hopes and dreams and aspirations.

Some are still children, giving up the best years of their lives to help their parents or siblings.

Some are young women (or men) who care for children with special needs. They are fashionable and feisty, and respite may mean a chance to run a marathon, read a book all day, drink tequila all night, shop in New York for the weekend. Others have to give up careers that they loved and miss and cannot find anything in the home that replaces the intellectual stimulation of work.

Some are broke, but apparently 'carers don't look for financial reward'. Except that State payments like the carer's allowance is not a reward, it's an income, and a small one too. It's essential money to live on, as many carers cannot hold down employment.

Many carers are angry at society and the state, and their lack of care or interest. The idea that once people become carer, someone waves a magic wand and they suddenly become selfless saints is wrong.  Clearly some do. But many don't. They may become angry and resentful instead. Poor and depressed. They may feel as though there brains are dying, that real life is passing the by.

Sometimes this can lead to tragedies. We've all read about elder abuse and murder suicides involving special needs. But carers are caught in a bind. If they ask for help, they may not be given support. Instead they may be blamed, and their loved ones removed from their care, no matter what the mental, emotional or physical consequences for all involved.

Painting the lives of carers and their dependents in pretty pastels just prevents people from getting the help that they need. It may prevent both leading more fulfilled and happier lives.  A little bit of charity patronisingly handed out to make everyone else feel better is not the answer.


Sorry President Higgins, but the reason that many of us are quiet is because we're knackered. It's not by choice, and many of us can't shout or march for our rights because we can't leave our dependents, and sometimes we can't bring them with us either.

When carers are only described using words like brave, dedicated and selfless, it soothes the conscience of the rest of the population. Allows them to ignore the real needs that are out there.

As for me? Well I don't think  I will ever be a stereotypical carer, which is one reason why I don't go public.

I want to see carers breaking out, dressing up, going on dates, even dancing on bars like the lead characters from the fabulous Netflix series Grace and Frankie. Obviously they are not carers though.

Obviously not carers.


But if they were? Well that would be a caring stereotype that I could celebrate!


NOTE: I'm pretty certain that I've written about this before, but it's worth saying again...



20 comments:

  1. Nail - head! Carers need help and support and they, and their dependents, deserve as much of a life as anyone else.
    I had never looked at it this way before but you are absolutely right.

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    1. I'm so very glad that reading this has given you a new perspective, thank you so much, it's reminded me of why I write this blog :)

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  2. I currently support a lot of carers - all ten ish years old, looking after siblings and parents alike through no fault of their own. It's heartbreaking to see them struggle through their lives doing what they gave to. I ease any burden I can. Great post x

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  3. Amen...
    I care because I have to, I feel guilty when I complain, I will never be a saint, I will never fit into a cozy pigeon hole and I detest the limitations caring puts on me. Am I sorry I'm a carer? No... nobody could care for my partner like I do.
    Do I wish I wasn't a carer? Yes... It would mean my partner was in good health.
    Do I want recognition and praise? No... I want to perform my caring role and have the ability to pursue my dreams at the same time.

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    1. Well said Rob: I should have included something like this in the post, but as usual it was written in a bit of a rush while I was making the breakfasts, so I forgot a few key points, thank you for your important contribution.

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  4. Love it. We don't want individual praise and attention, just the chance to go dancing on bars again ;)

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    1. I think you could teach me a few steps too, Steph!

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  5. I didn't see the ad but can understand why it made you feel as it has! Supposedly it was there to offer some recognition? But if it's recognition they want to give then why not give it in real, actual help?
    Well said :) xx

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    1. I suppose I think that there is an idea that carers should be a certain way, it allows people to think that carers are 'other', a while strata of society that people would rather not think about, except when they read 'inspirational' stories that confirm their prejudices xx

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  6. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This perception that all carers are selfless, sweetnatured individuals who just need - as you say - the odd coffee break or time to do a bit of crafting in order to give them the strength and energy to carry on sickens me.

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    1. It's not fair on those who need a bit more.

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  7. Sometimes, the carer needs caring and that's perfectly fine. We're all human.

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    1. They do, and we are, thank you for your comment.

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  8. Rock on! Most carers don't have any choice about the job. That's the part few people talk about -- it is not a "selfless choice" but an obligation, sometimes. It comes with love and some fulfillment but doesn't always feel like the thing a person would have aspired to given other options. Painting the situation with such a rosy brush ignores the gritty everyday. Thanks for saying this!

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    1. Or at least very little choice... Thanks so much for your great comment :)

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