Should I take his name?

Lately I've been wondering if I should take my husband's last name. We have been married for four years and have two kids. The kids have hyphenated last names. With my oldest on the way to starting Kindergarten I've been realizing that her last name is going to be a huge pain in the neck. It's incredibly long and hard to spell. It will never fit on a cubby or lunch box. So I'm thinking about how much easier it would be if the kids had Dad's last name only. 

But then I don't want everyone to have the same last name except for me. I think I'd feel left out. But is it a little weird to make these changes at this point? Should I just stick with what we've already done? At the time we got married, it was a feminist thing for me not to do the traditional thing (we are not very traditional people and it took a lot of debate and soul-searching to decide to get married at all) but now I'm more focused on smooth waters for our family as a group. I'm not too worried about career implications as none of my jobs have involved name recognition. 


The other complication is that when I was 24, I legally changed my first name. So if I change my last name too, I'll have nothing left (except middles) of the name my parents gave me when I was born. Not sure how they will feel about that.




July 15, 2012 8:59 PM

This is a tough one.

When I married, I too wasn't convinced on taking my husbands name. He wanted me to, and I wasn't overly attached to my maiden name, so in the end I compromised and changed to the married name socially and on medical records and kept my maiden name for work and most bank accounts and my drivers licence.

Over the years, more and more things have ended up in my married name and I now tend to answer to my married name more than my maiden name. Once I stopped working I found I wasn't using my maiden name much any more and then when I had a baby I kind of liked us all having the same surname. It's also a huge pain in the bottom keeping two different sets of ID with both names.  Over time, keeping my maiden name has become less important to me, and having a 'family' surname more important. In short, I think I'll probably end up swapping over most of my remaining legal documents and using my married name most of the time.  It does make me a little sad that I might lose the name I had for the first 27 years of my life, which is probably why I haven't done it yet.

Sorry to ramble on, but I thought I'd let you know I feel similarly. I decided not to hyphenate my daughters surname, because I didn't want her to have to deal with the 2 surname issue.  I can't comment on how annoying that would be at school but other posters might have more insight.

Have you considered just enrolling your kids at school under your husbands surname, and then you can use that surname socially? Then, after awhile if it is feeling more comfortable maybe legally change.  Can you also consider keeping your maiden name as a middle name so that you don't have to lose it totally?

I'm not sure how practical any of these ideas are for your circumstances but maybe see if you can do a slow transition if it's something you aren't totally sure about.

July 15, 2012 11:51 PM

Would it work for you to move your maiden name to the middle (or second middle) position in everyone's names?

I can attest that hyphens are a headache. My married surname has one, even though it's all one name, and people take it as an excuse to rearrange, misfile, and otherwise misuse the name. (And about half of computer systems don't allow for hyphens at all.) It's gotten to the point where if someone asks for "Mrs. Firsthalf" or "Ms. Secondhalf", I automatically assume it's a telemarketer or other person I don't actually want to speak with.

That said, most people will give you a bit more leeway with changing how/if you use a hyphenated name than they would for someone just changing a name altogether. That is, if they see "Smith" on a form you just filled out, and the official ID document says "Smith-Jones" or "Jones-Smith", most people will be untroubled. (Trying to fill in "Smith" when the ID says "Jones" would be a different matter entirely.) You should probably ask at your child's school what the policies are on such semi-changes to names.

And no, it's not weird to want to make changes now. First child entering school is an entirely reasonable time to re-assess your family's names.

By Guest (not verified)
July 16, 2012 1:19 PM

Well, I asked my parents and my daughter what they thought of it. My parents said "Meh, it's up to you."


My daughter said she likes her name how it is. I wonder if she will feel the same way after a few months of kindergarten. We are talking about just dropping the hyphen, and having my last name be a second middle, so I guess it won't be that much of a change for her.


To be continued...

July 16, 2012 1:20 PM

Sigh. The above comment was me, not logged in.

By mk
July 21, 2012 2:22 AM

FWIW, my last name is long and difficult to spell, never fit on my cubby, etc but to me it has always been just my name. In fact, I even went through a period of time as a kid when I only liked long names and felt sorry for the kids who were "stuck" with short 3-4 letter first or last names! 

So if that truly is your only reason for wanting to change it, and oyur daughter has already said she like she name and doens't want it changed, I'd leave it as is. If it's the hyphen that you are worried about, I did have a couple classmates with hyphenated names, but I don't recall if it was ever an issue for them.



July 20, 2012 2:33 PM

I kept my maiden name.  I understand your frustration with the hypenated names. Our baby will have my husband's last name.


But your oldest is four.  I'd say to just stay with what you have - the paperwork alone sounds like a nightmare!  Little kids rarely use their last names - if you need to label things, you could just put "Sophia A-B" instead of spelling out "Sophia Albert-Bremerton".


July 22, 2012 9:53 PM

My kids have double surnames (no hyphen); I didn't take my husband's surname when we married.  So far it hasn't been a problem at school.  I was worried it would be, but apparently I was the only one!  School did not bat an eye.

July 25, 2012 3:18 PM

If you decide you want to make a change, I agree with HungarianNameGeek that this is a logical and reasonable time to do so, though you don't really owe people explanations. I can relate though to wanting to justify my choice, whatever is decided, and simultaneously wondering if I'm overthinking things. (Like you, my husband and I both kept our birth names at marriage; for a number of reasons, I expect we'll give any kids my husband's name only. While I like the idea of hyphenating in principle, with our particular names, which both require regular spelling and pronunciation clarification, it seemed like it would be too much of a hassle. And, like you, I wonder how I'll feel being the odd one out name-wise.)

In your shoes, I think I'd leave your daughter's name as-is for now and also try to take your cues from her matter-of-fact attitude: it's her name, she identifies with it, and why should there be any problem? As Violette suggests, she and you can always use hyphenated initials on occasions where a shorter form is desirable. I often hear people lament about those poor hyphenated kindergarteners who have to learn to how to spell soooooo much name - but why, after all, shouldn't this be a good thing: an opportunity for her to feel pride in accomplishment as well as strengthening her sense of ownership over her identity? Leaving both names for now gives her the flexibility of choosing to use both or just one (either yours or your husband's) when she gets older. Right now, she's probably not in a position to appreciate either those options or the potential hassles. She'll be able to make a more informed choice, even a year from now, than she can today, before having had much opportunity to use the double-barreled name "out in the world" without her parents always there introducing her and clarifying. At the same time, it does seem from her reaction that she's old enough to have and express an opinion, so making the decision for her could make her uncomfortable or confused, depending on her feelings and personality and how you talk about the change with her.

There is also a middle ground for you between staying with your maiden name and switching to your husband's. Of course you could hyphenate, whether or not you keep your daughter's name that way. Some folks go with a double barreled name without the hyphen too, though I suspect that has much more potential for bureaucratic mixup. And then there's the popular approach of taking your husband's name but making your maiden name a middle and using it prominently to maintain a link to your old identity. My personal take on this one is that in almost all cases, whatever the original intentions where, I see the old maiden/new middle name just disappear from use pretty quickly, and when this is true claiming that one has "kept the maiden name" feels like a stretch - but of course plenty of people find this a perfect compromise. In your case there's the complication that it sounds like you wouldn't want to displace any of your existing middle names, and adding yet another might just feel like too much.

The good news is I think you have a lot of leeway to try out different options informally before settling on which one(s) you want to stick with (for however long). Lots of women use different forms professionally and socially. You may find that your daughter's new school friends - and perhaps their parents - call you Mrs. Husband'sLast and that you're fine with not correcting them and identifying that way, in that particular social setting or perhaps in all settings. In the meantime, maybe try introducing yourself different ways (probably best in settings where it's not important that your name be remembered exactly) and see how the options feel. You may discover that the hyphenated name truly is a nuisance or it may not be a problem at all (though bear in mind too that the experiences of your daughter's generation as she grows up may be different than yours today). And by all means talk to other women who've made one choice or the other about their experiences, but remember that people can get very emotionally invested in their choices, to the extent that they will pressure you to make the same choice as a form of validation. And of course, what worked brilliantly for one family isn't necessarily the right solution for yours.

Good luck! You'll work it out, I'm sure.

October 23, 2012 11:25 AM

I followed my aunt's example when I got married, and turned my maiden name into a second middle name. I sign my name First M M Last. This way I still get to keep the middle name my parents gave me, which I love, as well as the last name with which I've identified myself for so long.