Like I do every day, I was scrolling on Facebook when I came across a friend’s comment on a post about why women should or shouldn’t change their last name when they get married. Since I decided to keep my maiden name, I got sucked into the comments.
Considering the page it was posted from is called Feminist News, I agreed with most of the responses, but it got me thinking about the reasons why other women and I may decide to keep their last names. Of course, everyone has their reasoning, but the common thread on this particular post seemed to be because I already have a last name.
From the time we are little girls, it is assumed and even expected that when we get married, we will take on our husband’s last name. How many times have you doodled your name with your high school crush’s last name surrounded by a big puffy heart? School crushes, celebrity crushes, you name it. I did it just as much as everyone else, but when the time came to decide whether to take on my husband’s name or not, I went against my middle and high school doodlings and chose not to.
While it’s a time-honored tradition that has been carried out for millennia, over the past couple of decades, more and more women have been shaking that particular apple cart. About a quarter of my friends and all of the women in my family have kept their maiden names. Funny enough, though, my now 91-year-old grandmother recently told me that if she could to do it all over again, she may not have changed her name. I must admit that given her generation, I was surprised by this.
But why the shift? Why are more and more women choosing to move away from tradition?
WHY DO SOME WOMEN CHOOSE TO KEEP THEIR MAIDEN NAME?
I can’t speak for every woman who has kept her maiden name, but I can tell you why I kept mine.
Something changed in my early to mid-twenties. I was in a serious relationship with someone for six years; we lived together, loved each other’s families, the whole nine yards. Even though I was nowhere near ready to get married, I started thinking, what if? What if we did stay together and I married him? How would I feel about giving up my name? He wasn’t the man I ultimately married, but it was then that I started to think that maybe I wouldn’t change my name after all, and here’s why . . .
MY NAME IS MY IDENTITY
I have a lot of feelings about my name. It’s mine, and I have always loved having my family name. It’s who I am.
Not taking my husband’s family name doesn’t mean that I am snubbing his family or am less committed to our marriage, but his name isn’t my name. His heritage isn’t my heritage. His name isn’t my family name; it’s his. The people who carried his name before him don’t tell my story; they tell his story. It felt strange to me to take on a name that I didn’t have an attachment to.
Thankfully, my husband never batted an eyelash when I decided to keep my maiden name. He knew long before we got married that I most likely would, and he never let it bother him.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?
I admit that sometimes it can be a pain to have a different last name as your children, but here is where my name situation may be a little unique. I have two children; one has my last name, and one has my husband’s. My oldest child is mine from a previous relationship, and he has my name while my youngest child has his father’s last name.
As much as it sometimes bothers me not to share a name with him, I will never share a last name with one of my children because of my situation. If anything, I would rather he have my last name, so both of my kids have the same name. Regardless, at seven, my youngest doesn’t seem to care that my last name is different from his. To him, it’s normal, and he doesn’t know anything different.
A NAME CHANGE IS A BIG PAIN
I was 35 when I got married. Thirty-five years is a long time to settle into a name. Not only that, I had a career back then where I had an established name and email address. Changing it would have been a real pain in the neck for my clients at the time. I could have kept my maiden name professionally, but the thought of also having to change my name on my license, social security card, credit cards, bank accounts, stock, IRA, 401K, and everything else made my head spin. Plus, it’s expensive! Those little fees add up.
THE END OF THE LINE
I don’t feel that just because I am female, I shouldn’t also be allowed to carry on my family name. While my grandfather was one of six children, and all of them had children of their own, I am one of the last to carry our family name. My grandfather had three sisters and two brothers. Of his siblings, his sisters had mostly boys while he and his brothers had mostly girls. That left just two males to carry on the family name.
My son, my cousin, and a third cousin are the only three males left with our family name who may have children someday.
IN THE END . . .
Everyone’s situation is unique, and in the end, you do what is right for you and your family. Women now have more options than ever, so if you want to buck tradition and keep your maiden name, go for it. More and more women are keeping their maiden name, and it is no longer all that uncommon. In all honesty, I have run into more problems because my husband and I don’t share a bank account than not sharing a last name, but that’s a post for another day.
What about you? Are you a traditionalist who did (or will) take your spouse’s name, or will you keep the name you were born with?