Women have often tended to disregard themselves and continue to do so often without men having anything to do with it. But it is just not right to continue to demand certain attitudes from women, simply because they are women: it no longer makes much sense in today’s society in its process towards gender equality. Despite the civilized and civic movements now in progress in search of this equality, and given the inevitable convalescence following an activity that raises suspicions, fears, conflicts, hopes, supports, agreements and disagreements, it will take some time to achieve the goal. It is necessary for everybody to be on the alert on the many different factors that may be delaying the desired result.

Picture by Carmen Bort .

‘ There’s nothing wrong with being a caregiver or conciliatory or generous ‘ .

It would not be a good sign that we would be applying today the same type of efforts as when we started this evolutionary path 20, 50 or 70 years ago. Nor that we continue to place the focus invariably on the same arguments. If we did that we would perhaps find ourselves in a loop, which dissipates strength and where you lose sight of some of the realities that exist in the problem of inequalities based on sex.

It is the particular responsibility of women to redo or modify some of these realities – conscientious men being responsible for some others. We shouldn’t give so much power to that specific type of man that overrides and undermines a woman’s ability to ‘be a human being’, as this may blur the contribution of those who clearly help society to be better through their openness and the facilitation of this equality.

Women have been given the ancestral job of the caregiver, a fact that sometimes brings them unwittingly close to submission. This grates, because it inevitably gives rise to the figure of a domineering actor, something that we clearly reject. However, tucked in the loop of what has been happening for a while without even the right to complain or, more precisely, without any right at all, the cause is often attributed to a domineering figure. But the fact is that, apart of course of certain realities in which there is such a character, there are times when the ancestral pattern remains even if there is no request for it. These acts of submission that I call ‘ benign ‘ (they really are not, but as they go unnoticed they are not identified as a major cause of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion experienced by many carers, men and women) are camouflaged in the tendency of women to facilitate the healing of their children, the care for their elders, the whole balance of the home, the welfare of its members … This benign submission occurs after performing daily concessions to avoid conflicts, waivers through which others can get their wishes or conditions accepted, and even based on women’s felt need not to be rejected, compared, misunderstood …

There is nothing wrong for a woman to be a caregiver or conciliatory or generous. Impositions that lead her to do something that basically would not want to do or feel she doesn’t have to, but that she is unable to refuse, are the ultimately power that force her to become a subdued woman, even if it is a self-imposed work. Her certainty that not to do so would leave undone something which requires care or attention, will sooner or later generate an excess of responsibility that will have the effect of progressively blurring her identity. At some point, she will maintain a state of frustration and some anger, also against herself for not being able to say no. But she could not do so because her conscience will not allow her, or maybe due to her feeling that she can understand and better address the situation.

Being a caregiver does not necessarily lead to benign submission. But the imposition, even though it is self-imposed, without the possibility -real or not- of rejecting it, can cause the submission. For the woman, the focus is not only divided into the self-imposed tasks, but also among the consequences arising from a guilty conscience which the woman also assumes when she rebels inside or reveals herself her own wants and needs, when these are incompatible with the work of taking care of others. Many eventually undergo a level of self-demand that is not requested from them but that they themselves have created and for which they even refuse to grant themselves a few hours of exclusive dedication.

Society needs the generosity of men and women. And, as part of this ability to give to others, they need to learn the importance of self-care and self-recognition. There is no doubt that learning to not always be postponed is a journey that requires courage to recognize their own needs. Also apply to others to provide attention for the actual need (for example, many ‘ benign ‘ submission carers will need to ask their relatives to help them care for the elder in need, although not that the relatives themselves care for the elder). If masked by guilt, women will never be able to become satisfied and the loop will become overwearing.

Self-attention does not mean neglecting the other. Self-disregard as a regular way of life is not always a prerequisite for the betterment of everything else. That everything goes well should not always depend on forgetting one’s own needs.

Maribel Maseda has a Nursing Degree from UCM University, is a consultant psychiatrist and expert in techniques of self-awareness. Author of works such as Speak to Me, The Initiatory Board, and The Safe Area.

Translated by Arturo Guillén.