Being a recovering codependent and people-pleaser, I have put my “care” tendencies under a microscope to understand where the line is between healthy, loving caregiving and unhealthy, stressful, caretaking. Before taking radical responsibility for my own part in the stress in my life I would’ve used the words caregiving & caretaking interchangeably and I saw myself as a caring, loving, and helpful person. I am so glad to now have a deeper understanding of what is actually helpful and what is simply maddening for all parties involved in the care exchange.
To make this as simple as possible, think of caregiving (healthy) at one end of the continuum and caretaking (unhealthy) at the other. We all understand that in most relationships a proper give and take is necessary for that relationship to be healthy and balanced, but sometimes balance can look different when caring for infants, elderly parents, or someone with special needs. When that is the case, things can get a bit more complicated, however, I still encourage you to find the areas where you can delegate, release the need for control, take time for yourself, and ask for your needs to be met.
When trying to determine if you are caretaking, ask yourself how badly do you want to scream? Caretaking is typically rooted in codependency and stems from feelings of insecurity, instability, and the need to control. Generally speaking, when someone is controlling, they feel unstable, unsafe, or insecure inside and trauma logic says “if you can control the other person, their opinions, the situation, the outcome, etc. then you will be safer, more secure, and even more worthwhile and lovable.” If that sounds complicated and layered, welcome to understanding the very complex human mind.
I digress, here is a little chart I created when I was in the throws of “caretaking, caregiving, caretaking, my head is spinning, omg what am I doing here? I need to check myself!” It really helped me evaluate my motives & behaviors and I hope it helps you too.