I've been calling myself the Mama Hen in varying levels of seriousness since maybe my freshman year of high school-- by this point in my life, it's so ingrained in my identity that it's never leaving.
Usually it's not that bad-- I just care a lot about the people close to me, and put a lot of work into keeping all of my chickies safe and happy. I've lost track of how many times people have commented on how actively and ardently I care about them, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
But being the Mama Hen is not without its drawbacks. They are many, and they are serious.
For one thing, defining yourself as a caretaker effectively negates any self-sufficiency, because your self-worth and happiness are always related to other people. You need other people to exist, and you need them close to you.
You feel like you can fix people if you just care hard enough. I'm just beginning to really understand that I can't care and love people better, especially when they're going through some pretty serious shit. That conviction used to get me into a lot of shit... several relationships in high school with college dropouts (I was fifteen, he was nineteen, and I KNEW I could make him all better), socially awkward angstbunnies (too many to name) and epileptic stoner poets with anger management problems who had been kicked out of public high school (my senior prom date).
So, I'm trying not to make the same mistakes again. But it's really fucking hard... At least if you try to love someone better and fail, you've still loved them. But trying to help people in other ways is a lot more complicated, especially if what you need to do is tell the person you love more than anything else-- the person you're willing to go through hell and back for-- that they need to cut the crap and deal with their stress before it really hurts them. "I love you" is a hell of a lot easier to say than "You need to find more effective coping mechanisms than hysterical breakdowns."
Because the Mama Hen doesn't want her chickies in pain-- even if that means taking all of their problems on, because they're more serious and more important than her own.
I love my lab rat more than I can say, and seeing what he's going through tears my heart out, because all I want to do is hold him and whisper in his ear that it's all going to be okay. The problem is, I don't know that. I don't know how things are going to turn out, and I can't promise a brighter day anymore when I know it might not happen.
It's quarter to two, and I'm writing this instead of sleeping. I guess I really suck at this "not taking on other people's problems" thing...