Caregiver or Babysitter: Who’s in Charge of Your Mind?

A few weeks ago I introduced you to a part of your mind I referred to as “Crazy Rabbit Brain.” Today I want to introduce you to other characters that may live in your mind – “The Babysitter” and “The Caregiver.”caregiver-or-babysitter_


This is not a blog about who you hire to babysit your children. Sorry to disappoint if that is what you are looking for. I instead am referring to the part of yourself that looks after your mental, emotional and physical health. The part of you that makes the decisions for your present and future activities. I call her your “Caregiver”. Do you have a healthy Caregiver in your head that is looking out for you? Or are you stuck, like so many of us, with nasty “babysitters” instead?

The Healthy Caregiver

A great caregiver is awesome. She has your long-term goals in mind. She monitors every aspect of your life and works hard to keep things in balance. She reminds you to take some time for yourself. She allows you to indulge once in a while. She encourages you to stop and pay attention to what’s going on around you. She reminds you of the things that are important and notifies you of things you might forget. If life is good, The Caregiver is generally balanced and has a healthy place – setting up boundaries and limits. She expertly negotiates a rhythm of busyness and rest.  But when life becomes too busy or stressful she occasionally gets replaced by the babysitter.

The Babysitter

“The Babysitter” comes in occasionally when the caregiver is overloaded, focused elsewhere or perhaps on a vacation. Babysitters are only after short-term goals. They are concerned with the quick fix. Do you recognize any of these going on in your head?

1. Bonbon Babysitter.

This sitter hovers over you scanning your world for tension or bad thoughts and immediately produces chocolate or chips or a drink to make everything better. She is soft and loving and doesn’t want you to feel anything bad…ever. Have some comfort food you deserve it. Drown yourself in this bowl of ice cream and everything will be okay. Don’t think about that honey, take this it will make you feel better.

2. Boot Camp Babysitter.

This battle-axe puts you to work. She is relentless in telling you to work harder and longer. She tells you giving 110% is the path to success so push harder. Stay up later. Get up earlier. Work faster. Multi-task. Say yes to everything. Do more. Go above and beyond always…for everyone (except yourself.) She pours on the guilt when you sit down. Nags you relentlessly if you do something just for fun – it’s a waste of time, it’s selfish. Give more. Do more. She’s crazy pushy and in your face

3. Bubble Babysitter.

Look over there! Distraction is this babysitters tool. She watches for when you might stumble close to something painful and she steps in and quickly redirects you. Check Facebook. Check your email. Check Instagram. Check Twitter. Don’t think about what someone said to you. Play this game. What’s on sale? Look over here! Chase this!  With a sweep of her hand, she has you focused elsewhere.  Think positive. Smile! She specializes in making sure you “keep the peace” even when you really aren’t feeling peace.  Your world could be crashing in around you and she’ll assure you just need to think positive.  Bubble Babysitter likes to sometimes team up with Bonbon Babysitter for endless hours of eating while serial TV watching. When she teams with Boot Camp you end up playing games for hours thinking the next level is a worthy goal.

Do any of these sound familiar? Which babysitter is most likely to take over in your world when things get stressful?

Why is the Babysitter in Charge?

We all have them to some degree but our inner Caregiver generally keeps them in check and doesn’t let them get too out of hand…most of the time. But for many of you, these babysitters stepped in when you were very young to protect you from things you couldn’t handle. She shielded you at the time when you weren’t old enough to handle the difficult things that were happening in your world. She had to be your caregiver because no one else was doing it.  For others she stepped in when something in life dealt you a harsh blow…and then she stayed

The good news is you’ve grown enough to face things as an adult.  You no longer have to listen to the “babysitter”  She’s not the boss of you!  If you don’t address the situation she will hang around trying to keep you busy, distracted and comforted and you’ll miss out on the important things in life.

The Problem with Babysitters

It’s time to get rid of the temporary babysitter and bring on an excellent caregiver. Why? Babysitters that end up taking over for extended periods of time always end up doing these 4 things:

1. They add more problems

These babysitter do not have your long-term interests in mind. They try to fix problems in the short-term with no vision for the long-term. Feeling better right now doesn’t help in the long run. Excessive eating and/or drinking when stressed causes weight gain and health problems which adds stress which keeps you on a carousel of pain.  Keeping the peace for everyone else while ignoring your own inner turmoil will blow up some day.

2. They distract you from what you are really supposed to be focusing on.

Keeping endlessly busy doesn’t allow you to focus on what is essential in life. It doesn’t give you time to reflect. It leads to burnout. Distracting yourself doesn’t allow you to do your best work. To think deep. To pull out the best of yourself from the depths of yourself. It keeps you on a surface level tending to the trivial.

3. They steal the good things in life.

“When you numb the bad you numb the good.” (Brene Brown, Rising Strong) You can not selectively numb the bad stuff in life and still allow the good to come through. When you shut yourself away from to avoid pain in relationship you shut yourself off of love in relationships.

“No matter what we use, we can’t selectively numb emotions – when we numb the dark, we also numb the light. When “taking the edge off” with a couple of glasses of red wine becomes a routine, our experiences of joy and love and trust; will become duller too. With less positive emotion in our lives, we are drawn to numbing. It’s a vicious cycle.” (Brene Brown, Rising Strong)

Image result for i'm exhausted from being stronger than i feel

4. You end up becoming who you don’t want to be.

When you get in a rut of distraction, avoidance, and busyness you’ll find stuff starts to come out of you that you don’t like. Instead of loving people you judge them. You get more critical and less accepting. You get offended easily. You lose your temper more than you’d like. You yell. You close up. You either shut up and the nastiness rages in your head or you open your mouth and say what you really hadn’t wanted to say. You end up pretending. Have you seen this sign: “I’m exhausted from trying to be stronger than I feel.”

Babysitters will end up exhausting you. They were only meant to be temporary and not take the role of a parent. You need to hire a Caregiver.

How to Fire Your “Babysitter” and Hire a “Caregiver”

1. Recognize it.

This is often the hardest step.  Starting to pay attention to what is going on your head is huge step in a positive direction.  So often we think the thoughts that have rumbled around up are normal and can’t be changed.  But they can – if you start to notice them.  You have to see where the imbalance is before you can address it. Can you be honest with yourself? Who is running your inner world a reckless babysitter or a careful caregiver.

2. Find out what the babysitter is distracting you from or having you avoid.

How do you do that? It’s actually can happen fairly fast – just stop listening to her and note what comes up. Stop avoiding, eating when not hungry, distracting yourself and when you notice yourself being drawn to those activities.  ask yourself why?  Why am I obsessively checking my phone?  Why am I standing with the fridge door open?  What am I really looking for?  Decide you are going to find healthier more long-term solutions to the things that are bothering you. Chances are you picked up this babysitter when you were either too young or in too dark of a place to look after yourself. When you stop listening, you’ll start to hear all the stuff that the babysitter has been protecting you from. And I’ll warn you, it’s like cleaning out a closet – usually things get messier before they get better. Don’t despair though…

3. Get the help you need to hire a long-term excellent “caregiver.”

If you’ve grown up under a babysitter’s care, chances are you will need help learning what a good caregiver looks like. Take advantage of the world of options available to you. There are therapists, counsellors and coaches. There are pastors and mentors. There are online sources and in person sources. There are support groups and help lines. There are people who have been where you are from Al-anon to Weight Watchers to a wise neighbor. And there is God.

4. Admit you are being called to something greater.

Babysitters were never meant to provide for you long-term. I personally believe if you are struggling with any of this and you are looking for a way out, it’s because God is calling you out. You weren’t designed to rule the world. You don’t have to fix everything.  You have to start heaving the weight of the things that are keeping you over-busy and  distracted on to Him.  He’s actually been looking out for you the whole time.  He created you for something better and you know it. You know it because He is the one whispering that. There’s more to life. It’s not over. You hear it in your spirit. In your few quiet moments. He wouldn’t place that there if He wasn’t going to help you find a way back to wholeness. Ask…and you will receive. Seek…look hard, you’ll find. Knock…bang on that will open.

I’m here for you. Let’s talk about getting rid of that sitter and growing that caregiver. trish@4ulifecoaching

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