Do You Care to Engage in Caregiving?

Learn about how you can understand your own ambitions to give care and how to enact them at work and in life!

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We often think about ambition as being related only to “making it” in your career. But, did you know that recent research suggests that people may vary in their ambition to care for others? What makes people more likely to want to care? How can you make sure that caregiving is distributed more evenly at work? Read more about this interesting work below!

What is caregiving ambition?

In the workplace, people often divide themselves into those who have “jobs” and those who have “careers”. People think those who see their work as a career (instead of just a job) are more ambitious. But, in life, we often think about our obligations to others as duties, instead of as more of a calling. For example, driving your partner somewhere, making a meal for your family, throwing a party for a coworker, or lending an ear to a stressed colleague, are often thought of more as chores.

But, there are differences in how people view these actions! Those who have a caregiving ambition are more likely to want to provide care to others. Caregiving ambition can also apply to those who want to provide financially or materially for those they care for. This is because caregiving can either be providing direct aid to someone or doing something that helps them grow.

So the first question to ask yourself is – are you a person with a high or low caregiving ambition? Do you prefer direct or indirect care? Which of your colleagues are high or low on these ambitions? This might help you to better understand how to prioritize your day. It might also help you to better understand your coworkers.

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You can show your caregiving ambition – even in small ways!

What causes caregiving ambition?

The way you are raised can have a lot to do with whether or not you strive to give care. Females are much more likely to be socialized to feel like they should be direct caregivers. Society teaches men to feel like they should be indirect providers of care. This means that many more women end up being direct providers of care at work and at home. For example, women may be more likely to feel pressure to offer emotional support to others or to help someone who is struggling. It also means that men feel pressure to perform at work and to make a large salary to provide indirectly for others.

There is likely natural differences in the extent to which people feel compelled to care, both for men and for women. So, another great question to ask yourself after determining if you have low or high caregiving ambition is “why”? Do you feel pressure to show caregiving behaviors? Or maybe you have had to downplay your desire to care? Whatever your true tendency is, rediscover it! You may be missing out on fulfilling that need.

Life stage can also affect whether or not you are interested in giving care. Those who are younger, may need to be more self-focused to get themselves on the right path. During middle-age, people tend to have more caregiving responsibilities in general and are more likely to have dependents who need care. Older people are likely to want to give back to those they love, but are more specific in who they care for and how. Either way, where you are in your life may change your caregiving ambition. So, get ready for some changes as you embark on your personal journey!

caregiving ambition 2
To some people, chores are chores. But some see them as a way to show care. Only if you truly have a strong caregiving ambition should you agree to take chores on all the time, though!!

What does caregiving ambition mean for you and your company?

If you don’t have a match between your ambitions to care and your current work-life situation, you may feel more conflict between work and life overall. You might also feel like your work and life enrich each other less. On the flip side, if you do feel you are able to match your caregiving ambitions to your life, you will feel less conflict and more enrichment. In other words, it’s good to understand your caregiving ambitions and fulfill them (or not).

As mentioned above, women tend to bear the brunt of providing direct care at work and at home. Likewise, people expect men to be financially successful to directly provide for others and for their teams. Both of these situations can create unnecessary stress if they don’t mesh with what you actually want to be doing.

Women may feel overwhelmed by direct care and employers should make them comfortable to have conversations about their caregiving burden. Companies and managers can provide women resources to help reduce that burden. Similarly, employers should make men feel comfortable with being more caring at work and being available to provide direct care at home. Creating a culture that doesn’t judge men that take time off work to care for family members will help men that have a higher caregiving ambition meet that need.

If everyone understands their true ambitions and organizations provide a space that allows all employees to feel comfortable flexing their work and life in a way that allows them to achieve these goals, we will all be better off. Care – in families, at work, in society – is so important. Let’s figure out how to harness care in an authentic way together!

What do you think? Are you high or low on caregiving ambition? Do you need to make some changes to better align yourself with your ambition? We have talked about care before, so we would love to hear your thoughts below!

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