Labels – What do they mean?
Labels, we all use them every day to describe ourselves and to describe others. I’m not saying we get up in the morning and state “today I will be a mum”, but we do identify with a label and sometimes allow the label to define who we are, and use it to judge others.
I’ve been labelled many things over the years, including Mrs Jelley, Wife, Sergeant, Inspector, Ma’am, Mum and of course “She who must be obeyed”!
Some of these labels are titles, positions of responsibility, whereas, the others are more personal. The one which will never leave me is Mum.
So, after a lot of years of life, I have to ask myself is being a mum what defines who I am and is the loss of those other labels holding me back from being my true self.
Being a mum is great in so many ways and utterly horrible in so many more. Yet, the joy of parenthood coupled with the sheer despair of reality defines what being a mum is all about, but does it define me or is it yet just another label.
Prior to being a mum, I wore labels of wife, constable, sergeant and inspector. My husband would frequently refer to me as Mrs Jelley when talking to his colleagues. My identity as Louise seemed to have been eroded away. At work, I was either PC Jelley then Sarge and then Boss, Guvnor, Ma’am or Inspector. Within my work environment, it was necessary to have titles as each one determined role, rank, discipline and authority. For 20 years my name might not have changed, but my identity was definitely defined by the labels attributed to me by my work.
So, when I left the police force in 2010, I waved goodbye to a huge chunk of what it was to be me, all because I had been defined by labels and titles for far too long. I had to reacquaint myself with the idea of just being Louise, just being a wife and yes just being a mother. It was not an easy task.
In the early days in the school playground when asked by a new acquaintance, ‘What do you do?’ I found myself explaining the whole career break, career change thing as if that was all I was and somehow I was clinging onto a remnant of that identity.
It probably wasn’t until I finally signed off from the police force and made the decision not to go back that the umbilical cord was finally cut. At that point, I became just a mum.
Time trickles on though, and having just released my first novel Transcending Love, I find myself once again wondering if I have a label.
For the past couple of years, I have been unidentifiable. Asked at so many functions ‘what do you do?’ and although I have been writing for at least three years, I have not once said ‘I’m a writer’.
Why? I ask myself. Well, the most basic answer is fear. Fear of labelling myself wrongly, inaccurately and not wanting to be caught in a lie. Fear that what I have written might be an utter pile of pants so how dare I call myself a writer.
I have decided to clarify this small label issue once and for all. I’ve done a little research. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following definitions:-
Writer (a) a person who has written something or who writes in a particular way.
(b) a person who writes books, stories or articles as a job or occupation.
Author (a) a writer of a book, article or document.
(b) someone who writes books as a profession.
Novelist – A writer of novels.
The definitions for Writer and Author appear self-explanatory, but a further explanation of Novelist I found online defines a Novelist as someone “known or earning a living from writing books”. This makes sense in so far as it is an evolution of the writer, author process.
So who am I? Should I need to explain what I do? And why is it important for people to ask in the first place? In answering these questions I took to the internet and out of 145,000.000 results came across one which I think answers all those questions, for me anyway. A blog by Joshua Fields Milburn titled ‘Life’s Most Dangerous Question: What Do You Do?’
Life’s Most Dangerous Question: What Do You Do?
An extract from the blog reads – Once you scrape away its cheap gold-plating, however, you’ll find a series of irksome inquisitions lurking beneath the surface. Sadly, what we’re actually asking when we posit this malefic question, albeit unknowingly, is:
How do you earn a paycheck? How much money do you make? What is your socioeconomic status? And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you? Am I a rung above you? Below you? How should I judge you? Are you worth my time?
This blog is really worth a full read.
So research done, definitions explained and social purpose set, I find myself fitting the definition of a writer and being somewhat bold even an author but will I announce myself as such when next asked or will I sheepishly skirt around what I do and fall back on good old reliable Mum, OR will I adopt the advice and approach of Joshua Milburn and describe my passions. My answer in the future therefore may look a little like this – I am passionate about writing and books and family life and the wellbeing of my children.
The moral of my tale is do not let yourself become constrained and defined by titles whether former or current. Embrace the moment and be proud of whatever it is you are working on or have achieved. All of the titles whether part-time – v – full time, cleaner, mechanic, lawyer, Prime Minister or Queen do not define the person.
I am Louise, I am writing, I have written a book which technically makes me an author and having launched the book I am now a Novelist.