Mums and labels

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.

10 Comments

  1. Ojo Henley October 23, 2014 / 3:59 pm

    Wow Kate, really going to have to think about this one!! I think inspirational and friend are the labels I’d give you xx

    • Kate Davis-Holmes
      Author
      October 26, 2014 / 6:50 pm

      I would be/am proud to be your friend. I still don’t get the inspirational one but I accept that more than one person thinks so and I need to honour that.

    • Kate Davis-Holmes
      Author
      October 26, 2014 / 6:50 pm

      And I find you really interesting and want to know so much more about you too

  2. Sarah Christie October 24, 2014 / 7:59 pm

    I would add supportive and caring, Kate you have so helped me so much my blogging journey. I value your opinion and professionalism and yes inspirational, you inspired me to send an email that has
    resulted in me helping others, thank you x

    • Kate Davis-Holmes
      Author
      October 26, 2014 / 6:51 pm

      I am so pleased that I planted a seed that turned out well and I am sure that will just keep on going helping others with diabetes or affected by it and I love that.
      You made my day when you were so pleased to meet me at BritMums Live.

  3. Sarah Ebner October 26, 2014 / 5:54 pm

    This is such an excellent post. We are all given labels and sometimes they can be hard to throw off and we can feel defined by them. Parents need to be careful not to do this to their children too. I also agree that we need to be careful not to label ourselves – either through our blogs or because we feel shy or confident, or any of those other dangerous labels. They can all-too easily become self-fulfilling.

    • Kate Davis-Holmes
      Author
      October 26, 2014 / 6:52 pm

      You have really made me think Sarah. I was once told I was my own worst enemy and your comment reminded me of that. I learned from the person who said it and I will learn from you too

  4. Hannah October 27, 2014 / 3:28 pm

    A very good post. I think my words for you would be caring, loyal and inspirational. Whether you liked the last one or not 😉

  5. Rachael October 27, 2014 / 5:11 pm

    Hi Kate

    As I said on twitter, I love this post! Labels can be dangerous sometimes – if we start to believe those that don’t serve us. As you suggest, they can make up part of our identity so it’s important to celebrate the positive ones! I could go on a bit here so instead I’m going to answer the questions you posed:

    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?

    Imperfect. Authentic. Happy

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

    Over sensitive (although I prefer ‘highly sensitive’ – it means the same thing!)
    Optimistic
    Open

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

    The oversenstive one – it depends on the interpretation and also what I do with this trait!

    I was labelled ‘a great PA’ for a while… Which I think I was, but as I started to believe that was ‘who’ I was I allowed it to hold me back from what I really wanted to do/be. It became so much a part of me that the first time someone called me a ‘great writer’it felt uncomfortable even though it was what I wanted (and a big part of who I am!)

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

    As a child I was the only brown person at school. I was labelled (incorrectly, no-one understood that I was mixed race) and hatefully. Any labels that have marked me as different since then haven’t really bothered me – or I haven’t noticed them!

    5. Which label are you particularly proud of?

    Equally proud of Mother, Sister, Writer and Coach. Someone said a couple of years back that I was ‘A natural coach.’ That felt right and became part of my identity along with ‘a good writer’!

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