I’ve got a story to tell you that I’m betting you can relate to.
The other day, my husband put eggs in the pan for his breakfast and then walked away.
The ‘nice’ thing to do would be to stir the eggs so they didn’t burn. But they were his eggs. He knew the plan. He walked away.
It took everything in me not to stir the eggs. Not because I didn’t want to help my husband. Not because I’m a jerk.
I simply have to put a stop to the all-too-familiar pattern of me, as a woman, being the one to help. To step in and fill the perceived gaps I see.
I continued making my smoothie and walked out of the kitchen.
And his eggs were fine.
Why was it so hard for me to not stir the eggs? It makes sense because of a term coined by moral philosopher Kate Manne called Human Giver Syndrome. This term might be familiar to you if you’ve recently read Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, a book I highly recommend.
Human Giver Syndrome suggests that one class of people, the human givers, are expected to offer their time, affection, attention and bodies to another class of people, the human beings. I’m sure you can guess which role belongs to which gender.
As women, we’ve been taught to ‘look after’ - look after our children, our husband, our friends, our household, our workplace, our beauty, and everything else in between.
Giving is so ingrained in our self-worth that we look for ways to give even when nothing is being asked of us. My husband didn’t ask me to look after his eggs. He’s a fully capable adult man who can make his own eggs and fulfill his own needs. But it was soooo hard to not stir those eggs.
I had to remind myself that if he requires my help, he will ask for it and I’ll be happy to assist.
I recently asked my Instagram community to share their own examples of stirring the eggs:
- Always asking my kids if they’re hungry when no one is asking for food
- Constantly volunteering my assistance when no one is asking for help
- Rearranging the dishwasher in front of the person who just loaded it
- Turning down the stove
- Offering unsolicited advice
- Stepping in and undermining my husband when he is disciplining our child
- Reminding my husband repeatedly to make a doctor appointment
- Doing things in bed that I don't really like at all
- Organizing my kid’s backpacks for them instead of allowing them to be responsible for themselves
- Verbally challenging people’s logic and beliefs
As you can see, Human Giver Syndrome comes in all sorts of shapes, forms, and sizes.
When we give of ourselves under the compulsion to give, we can undermine the other person by making them feel incapable of looking after themselves or solving their own problem. It’s OK to wait and allow the people around you to ask for what they need of you. It's OK to not be needed.
Can you think of an example where you can work on not stirring the eggs? Leave a comment and let me know.