The Caregiver: The Archetype We Take For Granted

We're doing a series on Jungian archetypes, which are popular character development tools. Jung drew his inspiration from the same iconic social roles found throughout ancient traditions of tarot, alchemy, and mysticism.


Our declining population has taught us that the caregiver is taken as undervalued. We're in a strange and wonderful era. You may blame feminism or economics for the lack of babies, but the story is very simple.

The widespread availability of birth control allowed women to plan their families and pursue careers. The first generation of children born to the increasing number of women working outside the home were the latchkey kids. Siblings raised each other with limited supervision. The next generation was traumatized by helicopter parents as society collectively overcompensated for their previous period of neglect.

As working mothers became working grandmothers, free labor, in the form of caregiving, dried up. But, society could not turn back; two incomes were now necessary for a household to survive. And here we are. Women are exhausted, and there are fewer babies.

I love reading about wealthy men who encourage women to be mothers. We've had four generations to realize that income doesn't reflect the value of a person's labor. Four generations to realize that society is built on the free labor of women. Four generations to adapt, and instead, we're collectively cracking the whip and insulting the people who create the future.

Yes, for those of you who want gender-inclusive language, anyone can be a caregiver, but just as the CEO is almost exclusively the domain of males, it still typically falls to the elder able-bodied women in a family to put others first.

Where do we go from here? Laugh our way to the apocalypse? Start farming babies in artificial wombs?

The caregiver is the archetype ripe with tension and conflict. They don't all ooze maternal instinct without a care in the world. They're at the heart of every civilization, and they make daily decisions that steer us into each era.

Caregiver Role

They're empathetic but practical. They have the wisdom to identify the needs of others and the initiative to take responsibility and see those needs are met. It takes a strong character to sacrifice for others.

Let's do the world a favor and stop writing the caregiver from the perspective of a child. Those warm feelings and the trust that made our world a beautiful place - the story our caregivers showed us - were not the whole truth. That unburdened vision of love was part of their labor to make us feel secure. It's a fantasy for the child. Leave it in childhood and give caregivers their due recognition.

Caregiver Archetypes

Molly Weasley - Harry Potter 

Hagrid - Harry Potter

Olena Tyrell - Game of Thrones

Baymax - Big Hero 6

Marry Poppins - Mary Poppins

Esmeralda Weatherwax - The Discworld Series

Katara - The Last Airbender 

Alfred Pennyworth - Batman

Marilla Cuthbert - Anne of Green Gables 



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