Sharing the Choice
In the supermarket checkout line, I overheard two 60-something grandmas talking about their kids' baby-naming dilemmas. Grandma One lamented that the parents-to-be ignored all her lovely suggestions, like Karen and Diane. Grandma Two shook her head at the whole complicated business, and reminisced:
"Back when my kids were born, I just told my husband what names I'd picked and he didn't interfere."
“Didn’t interfere.” I've talked to countless 21st-century expectant parents, and that is one sentiment I've never heard. Rightly or wrongly, it summons a vivid picture of that 1970s family...a picture that doesn't include a lot of late-night feeding and diapering on Dad's part. He wouldn’t want to “interfere” with his wife’s child-rearing. Most moms today wouldn’t stand for that, right? And yet…haven’t you heard a mom say something like this?
“I figure he gets the surname so I should get the first name, it’s only fair.”
“I’m the one who has to give birth, so I get the final say.”
“I just waited until I was deep in labor and he was feeling so guilty that he agreed to whatever name I wanted!”
I understand the impulse. Pregnancy and birth are huge undertakings, and it’s tempting to claim naming rights as part of your reward for a job well done. And yes, most kids do still bear their fathers’ last names. But moms, before you cut your partner out of the naming picture, think about what precedent you’re setting by declaring this first major parenting decision a solo domain.
The choice of a name is one of the first ways you bond with a child. Unlike choosing a stroller or decorating a nursery, naming makes you stop and imagine your child’s whole life to come as a member of your family. When the time finally comes to call your new baby by her name, the dream-turned-reality can be a magical moment. Moments like that are best shared. They’re building blocks of the affection that keeps you going through the ups and downs and long nights of parenthood.
Even a single mom might think about ways to share the joy of naming. Sure, it’s your decision. But letting loved ones into the decision process, letting them share the excitement, can help build your baby’s early connections with people who will be an important part of her life.
This not to say that you have to give in when you want the name Eleanor and your partner wants Ashley. Just think twice about going for the straight power grab. Finding common ground or negotiating a compromise on names sets a good precedent for the many decisions that lie ahead.