Last week’s Striking Mums post was about style but when I talk about labels this week I am not talking about designer ones. I am talking about the labels used about us by ourselves and others, the things that I said to identify us.

Like other mums, I carry the labels of woman, daughter and mum. For me sister is a bit complicated because officially I don’t have any but blood-wise I have at least three sisters. I guess that goes to show that adopted was always a big label for me marking me out as different from people at school and so on. Mum used to do her best to say it actually meant chosen but then and now I tended to focus on the fact that it must also mean rejected. Identity matters and I think adopted people often feel that keenly because by the time they become aware, one of their identities has already disappeared. Is that why I insisted on keeping my maiden name as part of my married name I wonder?

Perhaps you have a religious label. I am a Roman Catholic and have heard a few negative labels about that one in my time.

You become a pupil at some point carrying some sort of loyalty to your school and perhaps like me you go on to become a student. I went to Cambridge and there are huge assumptions made about people who carry the “Oxbridge” label. Apparently I should be highly intelligent, posh and rich – really?! At university, the label of our subject area was huge so that “lawyers” tended to stick together and one subject area’s student may well look down at students from another group. As a collegiate university, there were also labels attached according to which college you attended.

Entering the workplace, I joined the charity world so inevitably the do gooder label made its way into my world along with expectations of amateur work performance. Wrong again. Yes I did good and sometimes got paid for it too but I took pride in my wrk and delivered often with very limited human and financial resources.

You become a mum and the media will do its utmost to convince you that you are inadequate in some way or to set you up against other mums that are not exactly like you.

I remember my Mum defined people as well-to-do, rough or like us. I guess labels act as shorthand way of describing and assessing people at best. On the other hand, shouldn’t we be seizing the power and selecting our own labels?

In a lifetime, people will give you labels and some of them will change a lot.

I once was told I must be a vegetarian as I was so skinny. That was clearly a very long time ago and now I carry the fat or obese label and hate it.

People who get close to me will comment on how much I talk but if you don’t know me well that might surprise you as I will be the quiet one in a social setting if I am feeling unsure.

My mum’s friend always used to say how beautiful I was but nobody else has ever really thought so perhaps with the exception of my own children.

Other labels folks have used about me over the years include:

Sensitive
Moody
Cute
Uncivilized
Broad
Inspirational
Sweet
Sulky
Bright
Kind-hearted
Hard-working
Smelly

1. If I gave you a label and pinned it to you and you were allowed to put just 3 words on it, which would you choose?

2. What labels that others have used about you do you think are spot on?

3. Has having a particular label ever got you into trouble or held you back?

4. Does or did one of your labels mark you out as very different from others in your circles?

5. Which label are you particularly proud of?

labels

In the blogging world, I think labels can be dangerous too. On either a monthly or yearly basis, I see bloggers allowing their self-belief to be defined by a score, a nomination or an award. We are more than our blogs and we are more than any commendation for our blog that happens to come our way through whatever reason (sometimes hard work, sometimes a stroke of good luck and sometimes through a whole lot of self-promotion) Our blog labels like other ones may change over time. One day we may be a granny blogger and not a mummy blogger. I might suddenly develop a new interest, blog about it and become known for that instead of whatever I am known for today.

I guess that is a good way to conclude. If we don’t like our labels, we can change most of them. If we do like our labels, we should celebrate them.

I have more to say on this I think but for now I am going to close or this post will be too long.


64 years ago my Mum and Dad got married.

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They met two years previous to that when my Dad was on home on his last leave from the Royal Navy. Mum had reluctantly agreed to attend a New Year’s Eve party with her friend. She recalls trudging across farmer’s fields to get there. She was with her friend, another Irene, and they met my Dad and his best mate, Colin.

Dad always said he knew he would marry my Mum as soon as he met her. He nearly blew it altogether by standing her up on their first arranged date because his Mum disapproved of him going out with a Roman Catholic.

That hiccup got resolved when they met at a dance hall and they started courting. The other Irene and Colin were going out together two so it was quite the foursome. Colin and Irene married and I suppose it was inevitable that Mum and Dad would follow suit.

The photos of their wedding are lovely – two innocent young adults starting out on life together. They had a weekend in Blackpool prior to this happy day and both have reassured me and I believe them that they had single rooms and there was no what my son would refer to as funny business.

Mum did not choose a white dress and had her own individual style in a blue suit. Dad looks smart as he always did. Both were incredibly good-looking.

Like with most weddings, there was a little drama. Mum fell out with one of her sisters before the wedding so she did not attend. Most of my Dad’s family did not attend due to Mum being a Catholic. Mum used to recall walking into the church and seeing one side almost empty. They had to stay outside the altar rails and various other sanctions for being a mixed marriage.

Their honeymoon was in a borrowed caravan at Cayton Bay on the East coast. Mum said she knew she had made a good choice when Dad warmed her nightie for her before bedtime. That story has always touched me.

They started married life in a tiny house and were thrilled when they go a police house with Dad’s new job.

Almost 2 years after getting married, they had one son and another followed 14 months later.

Dad kept his faith and my mum hers for 10 years. Dad always attended Mass with her on Sundays and converted to the faith after a decade of learning all about it.

They were very involved in church and community work. Their social life revolved around the church hall and the Irish National Club with the occasional Police Ball where Mum tended to turn up looking like a film star.

Mum had a gall bladder operation which left her unable to have other children. She longed for a daughter and in 1969, they fostered me and the next year made it all official with my adoption.

What were the strong points of their marriage?

They loved each other.

They really did the bit about being there for each other in sickness in health, for richer for poorer and all that.

They both were rebels – I knew this about my Mum but it took me years to work out that Dad was rebellious too.

She was talkative and he was taciturn unless there was something worth saying. They were both great story-tellers.

She has a ribald sense of humour whereas he tended to be more strait-laced about things.

They put each other’s mental wellbeing. When Dad was being bullied in the police force, Mum told him to leave despite not having a back-up plan financially. When Mum was ill with her nerves, Dad for a period was Mum and Dad to me,

They cared for the other one’s family. Mum cared for Dad’s grandma and parents. Dad helped her when my Uncle attempted suicide and when my other uncle was diagnosed with terminal cancer taking him into the family home.

They prepared for death by teaching each other the roles the other had carried in the marriage. So Dad learned how to cook and clean. Mum learned about finances and DIY or at least Dad tried to teach her but she soon lost interest.

Dad would do anything for Mum. If she wanted something, she got it. If she wanted to go anywhere, he would get her there. If she wanted to try something new, she would have his backing.

I did not really see how much Mum was totally behind Dad too until after she became ill with cancer. She was so concerned he would not manage without her. After she died, Dad told me how she forgave him for silly misdemeanours like leaving her at home with two young boys after work whilst he went to the pub with colleagues. He got a shop after leaving the police force and when he got a new job, she kept the shop running for 11 years with young sons around her legs. When the stress of a case he handled late in his insurance career got to him, she supported him when he took early retirement.

When I think about Mum and Dad I think about home and always feeling secure there. I think of great conversation and lots of laughter. I think of explorations and travel.

Sadly, they did not quite make their 60th wedding anniversary missing it by just over a year.

They are reunited now and doubtless saying “Isn’t it about time you got yourself to bed, lass?”

Kenneth and Irene, Irene and Kenneth – it just worked.

marv

I can’t quite believe it is time to do my weekly reasons to be cheerful post again. Funny old week in which I lost Internet access for a few days which is not good news for a blogger. Anyway I am back whether you missed me or not.

Here is my smile-inducing stuff this week.

1. I did not throw anything through the window when the Internet problem showed up. I took it in my stride and did constructive things with the time I usually spend online. I must be maturing in my old age.

2. I have caught up with things today so am feeling much more on top of things. I did not like having to post Striking Mums late as I know some mums look out for it on Thursdays.

3. My teenage son came home with a milky bar after me telling a story about how my parents used to bribe me to behave in church by giving me one during the service. He often brings me little gifts out of his own spend which I think goes to show what a lovely son I have.

4. The same son is now on the Special Needs register which pleases me as one day someone might actually accept that he has a condition as I am pretty sure he has something possibly dyspraxia but getting a diagnosis seems nigh on impossible.

5. My younger son went to the GP yesterday as he was complaining about pains around his body. The GP gave him a really good check and thinks the pains are probably the aftermath of a mild infection and that they will pass in time. We are to go back for blood tests if that proves not to be the case. My son was worrying and now feels a lot better.

6. My daughter continues to be gorgeous putting styles together and having her own very firm opinions on things.

7. Him Indoors has worked late this week which suits me as I have chilled early evenings doing my own thing and then enjoy his company when he gets in.

8. We went to an superb presentation on the Autumn Night Sky at Winchester Science Centre on Saturday night. I know feel so much more confident about constellations and will be looking out for them. Have always felt clueless on such things before. The children were gripped as the presenter was so passionate and humorous and linked the starts to stories of Ancient Greece.

9. On Sunday, we visited Butser Ancient Farm on its last weekend opening of 2014. We went round a variety of roundhouses and a Roman villa. We learned about food by tasting it, enjoyed the herb garden, tried on armour, played with Roman numerals and enjoyed time with pigs, sheep and goats.

10. We have good plans for the weekend ahead.