Her Bad Mother

Friday, October 17, 2008

What's In A Name?

We knew there was a problem when the border guard leaned out of the window of his little cubicle and tried to peer into our car.

He gestures towards the backseat, our passports clutched in his hand. "Who's the mother of that baby?"

"Um... me?" Why on earth would he ask me that? He has the passports in his hand.

"Do you have identification for that baby?"

"Um... you're holding it? That's his passport."

"His last name is different from yours, ma'am. I have no way of knowing if this is your baby. Do you have a letter from the father?"

This conversation is starting to make me anxious. Katie, in the driver's seat, is gripping the steering wheel tightly and trying to look virtuous.

"No, I don't have a letter. I wasn't aware that I needed one. I have a passport for him. You're holding it." I'm starting to babble. "You can call my husband if you want, but I guess that doesn't help, right? Because I could just give you any old number, and how would you know it was my husband, so..." shut up shut up shut up "I don't know what you want me to do; I mean, that is my baby..."

The border guard is staring at me with that blank but vaguely threatening bureaucratic stare that is the trademark of border guards, traffic cops, DMV employees and hair salon receptionists.

"His last name as indicated on this passport is different from yours, ma'am. He might not be your baby. And you have no travel letter. You could be taking him from his father."

"But we're on our way BACK to Canada. We're RETURNING from a trip. We're going BACK to where we came from. And he IS my baby. He IS." I want to tell this guy that I have the scars to prove that I birthed this baby and that he's welcome to see them IF HE DARES but I bite my tongue. Border guards have no sense of humor, and, also, it's not like a display of my scarred nethers would prove anything. It's not like Jasper left his gang tags on the walls of the birth canal on the way out. Any baby could have been responsible for that blast site. There'd be no way of proving that it was him. At least, not out here at the Thousand Islands border crossing in the middle of the night on a long weekend.

My voice is starting to get that hysterical edge. "That's my husband's last name on his passport, and I am married to my husband and this is our baby and I'm headed home to him but I have no way to prove that to you so I don't know what you want me to do, seriously."

The border guard looks at the passports, and then back at Katie and I, and then back at the passports again. "Okay," he says. "I don't get a bad feeling from you." (WTF?) "I believe that this is your baby. I'm going to let you go. Next time, though, you need to bring more documentation with you." He leans out of his border-guard cubby and hands us back our passports. "On your way."

Katie hits the gas and peels away before he can change his mind.

We don't say anything to each other for a few minutes.

"I think we brought back more liquor than we were supposed to. Thank god he missed that," I say. I roll down the window to get some air. "Also, I think that I'm going to take Kyle's name."


I don't have any special attachment to my family name, apart from the fact that I've used it most of my life, which is significant, I know, but still. It's not a true family name. My father picked it out of a hat, literally, when I was not quite two years old; he changed our family name after a falling out with his stepfather caused him to want to sever all ties with that part of his family. So my birth certificate was amended and I ended up with the family name that I have now. There's no ancestry attached to it, no legacy. It's just a name.

But it's my name, and the one I'm used to. When I married my husband, I kept that name. I made a half-hearted effort to use a hyphenated version of our names, but it was hard to keep up, and, also, it sounded funny and pretentious, like it needed to be spoken with one's lower jaw locked and all of one's vowels and consonants enunciated clearly and separately. It's not that I was opposed to taking his name, but nor was I opposed to keeping my own, and I just kinda lapsed into the easiest choice. I had a vague notion that I might change it to his when and if we had children, but that seemed a long way off.

I hadn't thought again about changing my name until the other week - the week prior to being challenged by the border guard - when Emilia introduced herself to a little old lady that we encountered in the park. "My name is Emilia M-----" she said proudly, pronouncing, very carefully, every syllable. "And this is my brudder, Jasper M-----" She indicated the bundle in the stroller. "And this is my mommy, Caffrin M-----." She beamed at me, proudly (is there any other way to beam?) and accepted the woman's cheerful admiration of her language skills and general adorability. I, however, felt a little bit ashamed. My daughter doesn't know my name. And, will she be disappointed that it is not the same as her own?

And: Am I disappointed that it is not the same as her own?

I was proud of her pride in introducing her family. I was proud of and heart-burstingly pleased by her delight in our us-ness. This is us, she told that lady. We are a family.

Does it matter that we don't all share the same name? In the larger scheme of things, no, probably not. It doesn't matter to me that border guards might challenge me on my children's names. It doesn't matter to me that some people might have judgments about me not taking my husband's name, or about me not sharing my children's name. What does matter to me, though, is this: my childrens' feelings about our name. Perhaps Emilia wouldn't care so much, if she knew. Call me but love, said the poet through the voice of Romeo. The name doesn't matter, where there's love. But I remember being a kid, and taking pride in my family, and really loving that we were us, that we were, we four, all Connors, that we alone in the world shared this name as our own, and that it set us apart. We were the Connors, and we were family.

That I loved, that I love, being a Connors, is precious to me. But that family unit is no more. My family, now - the family that is the very seat of my heart - is the M-----'s. And I want my children to have the same pride in being - with their mom and their dad - the M-----'s as I did being a Connors.

Perhaps it's time to make that change.

What did you do? Did you keep your name, or not? If you didn't, how do you or will you sort this out with your children? How do they feel about it? INQUIRING AND BEFUDDLED MIND WANTS TO KNOW

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Blogger Piece of Work said...

I haven't read all the comments (wow, so many!) but I'll share my story anyway, even though it probably repeats what some others have said.

I kept my name. It has always been my name and it felt incredibly strange and unnatural to me to change it. My kids have known my name since they were old enough to talk--not by design necessarily, I don't actually remember how it came up, but it has always been part of our discourse. My mom is Amy S, they say, and I am Isaac A. So far they are completely unfazed by it.

It works for us, although my mother-in-law continues to be appalled and hurt by the fact that I won't take her name.

When people call my Mrs. A, it doesn't bother me. Most of the time, people get it right, and I figure when they get it wrong, it is a simple mistake. Sometimes, getting it wrong is intentional, and this is annoying but only when it is someone of my own generation--I give the older generations some slack since they are not used to the practice at all!

10:42 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Damn, that's a lot of comments about names. No surprise really. People feel very strongly about what they perceive to be their identities.

My first husband essentially forced me to take his name (which is part of the reason why he is no longer my husband), so when I met Mr. C I was only too happy to take his name. Mine is a bit unwieldy when coupled w/ my first name, anyway. Funny thing is, I didn't officially take his name until last month, six years after we were married. Forgot to change it w/ Social Security. Oops.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 9:26,
Thanks, from anon 6:53, I get that, the whole issue of names is personal to the particular people involved. Also, I do love the last two lines of your post. In my family the difficult thing was that my mom did change her name and was happy and proud to do so. When the marriage failed I witness her pain and suffering in the debate about what to do about her name. Meanwhile, my dad, while I'm sure he had some suffering of his own, did not have the suffering attached to his name. And, let's face it, we have to say and sign our name just about everytime we leave our house and do business with the outside world. My dad likely suffered but it didn't come up for him everytime he went out to buy groceries. Futher, we lived in a small town, so everybody knew my mom as the original Mrs. M and then my dad married again and another person became Mrs. M which further created some problems for my mom when her file was pulled at various health and banking institutions, half way through the discussion my poor mom would have to say "that's not me, I think that is my exhusbands new wife's file", very hurtful and all tied to the last name. These things NEVER happened to my dad. He was Mr. M since the day he was born. He NEVER had to change his name, he NEVER had to change his name back [a reminder of failure] and he NEVER even had to think about it. I guess I have a button on that issue hug? Hmmm.... time for some more personal work.

I guess I think no-one should have to change their name contingent on marriage beginning or ending, especially, one sex should not have to be the one by social custom, to have to go through this s***.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 9:26,
Thanks, I get that. It is personal for each particular couple or family. BTW I love the last two lines of your post.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is exactly why I changed my name when I got married. I knew I wanted our family to have the same name. My sister's children were very upset when they found out that she had a different name than them. It is still hard for them. I know it is just a name, but I really like that we all share the same name. I didn't have a middle name, so I made me maiden name my official middle name. A way to keep it at least...

1:19 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

I kept my last name for many reasons: I was 30 when I married, and had accomplished quite a bit under my own name. I am my father's only child, and I wanted to honor him and our family by choosing to keep my name. I am very proud of my Scottish heritage, and my husband is a Latino with a Spanish name. It felt odd to me to take on a name from a culture that I did not represent. Overall, I just felt very attached to my name--I have always loved it--and was not prepared to give it up. And yes, as a feminist, it just felt better for me not to lose a part of my identity to my husband.

During our year-long engagement, countless people asked me whether or not I would change my name, or, more overtly, "What is your new name going to be?" I had a few people who were appalled that I planned on keeping my name, citing the family issue as the main reason I should. I actually had one woman ask me, "How will your children know they're yours?" "Well, gee," I told her, "...if my kids do not know they are my kids, I have bigger problems than whether or not we have the same name." A cousin's wife told me that I was not honoring my husband. I told her that that was easy for her to say, seeing as when she got married, she was lucky enough to take OUR name! :) My husband's grandmother was horrified, and simply lives in denial, addressing all of her letters to "Mrs. [husband's first and last name]". Of course, most people really don't care, but I refuse to cater to some completely outdated notion that a family is not truly united unless they share the same name. Having a different name from my husband and daughter in no way makes me feel that we are any less close or that we love each other any less.

For legal purposes, when traveling I always carry a copy of my daughter's birth certificate AND a copy of my marriage certificate. I have never had a problem, though, even when crossing the Mexican border.

I have never regretted my decision. For months after our wedding, I felt a sense of empowerment every time I signed my name to something. MY name. It never meant more to me than after I got married. And, in the hospital after our daughter's birth, I was so happy to see my name on our daughter's ID card. I had no qualms giving her name over to my husband on the birth certificate form. Her week as "Baby [my surname]" was very special, not problematic, for me.

Also, I gave her a good Scottish first name, so that both of our heritage is represented in her name, if not both of our surnames.

My husband never had a problem with me keeping my name. His only caveat was that if somebody called me "Mrs. [husband's surname]" by accident, I would not get all offended and correct them. So I don't. I do not mind being called Mrs. C__, as long as I know that I AM Ms. S__.

2:47 PM  
Blogger The Coffee Lady said...

I changed it to my husband's name. Some people were really surprised, as if it were a really 1950s antifeminist thing to do. I don't GET that. It was my dad's name, so it seemed to me I could either choose one man's name over another. I chose my husband, not my dad.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I was Amanda Nicole Harold and I dropped the middle name, Nicole, and moved Harold to my middle name, and took my husbands last name. So, I am Amanda Harold Violin.

I miss Nicole, but never used it anyway. Plus, I wanted the same last name that my children were going to have---for reasons you described in your post.

**not the real names, but ha!

3:34 PM  
Blogger amazedlife said...

I love this discussion. It never occurred to me when I was young that a woman could NOT change her name when she got married - everyone around me did it. It wasn't until college that I met a woman who had kept hers, and I loved it. Since then, I have lived in a lot of places where women do not change their names or where children are given entirely new names unrelated to that of either parent, and I feel no urge at all to change my name when I get married. I would consider it only if the guy came from a strong cultural background of some sort (other than mainstream USA, which doesn't count) and for the sake of traveling internationally.

Either way, I plan to use my birth name professionally (especially because attorneys in my state have their names on the internet for all to see - I would like to be able to keep my house and all affiliated bills in another name so I'm not so physically findable - a point a female judge recently made with which I completely agree).

In terms of hyphenation, I know a family that hyphenated the father's name with the mother's mother's name (which was also part of the mom's hyphenated name), which I thought was great. When I told my mom about it, she asked if I would be giving her maiden name to my kids and I said no - after all, she didn't keep it in use!

4:12 PM  
Anonymous courtney said...

Wow, lots of comments on this one! I took my husband's name without ever really thinking about it. I don't regret and I question whether I would even go back to my maiden name should anything happen to us and we wind up splitting - I'm so used to my new name now.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Monkey Snuggles said...

I sort of half changed my name when I got married, I think it's officially hyphenated now, but since having kids I just use my husband's last name. I'm lazy and it's easier.

8:39 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I kept my own. I had a few reasons. I was used to mine, it was who I was, and everyone I had ever known, everything I had ever done was under that name. Who would know who this other person was? I also liked having the same name as my mother and aunt and grandmother, it was a nice connection to important women in my life. On a shallower note, I also thought Misterpie's name was even less interesting or harmonious than my own, which was dull enough.

I think, though, that it really helped me in my decision that my mom had kept her own name. I didn't think it was weird ever as a child, it was just who we were. I had her last name, in fact, but not either of my dads'. I realized just last week that I do not share a name with my husband, my children, my sister, or either of my two dads. It's okay. It's who I am, and while they are all part of who I am, they all have different names, too. We're connected in different ways, I guess, so while I liked the name connection to the line of women I came from, I guess I don't think it is defining of the real love connections we make in life.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

Just smiling that not only do we both have a Kyle, we both have a Kyle M.

I took M because I was tired of seeing my phonetically-spelled maiden name misspelled. It's my middle name now.

11:31 PM  
Blogger poetmama said...

I did not change my name. My children have my husband's name and I do not mind being referred to as the M - family. Or "Mrs. M" by my chilren's teachers. I do not bother to correct them. You can go by any name most of the time - it's only the paperwork that really matters. I had an aunt Stella who I only knew as Delores for her entire life. She chose to change her name when she was a teenager but she never did it legally. The ironic thing is that I don't have much connection to my maiden name either, in fact, I've never met my father and don't know if he's living or dead. It's just that it's been my identity for 32 years before I was married and it just seems too strange to suddenly change it and become someone else. Luckily, my husband is supportive of me doing what I want with my name. I think this is a very important decision to think long and hard about.

1:38 AM  
Blogger Delphine said...

For my part, I couldn't make a choice, so I use my maiden name for work and my husband's name for school and other private stuff. On my credit card, I have the hyphenated version and on my passport, the two names because here in France, even if you take you husband's name, you birthname is still mentionned on official papers. It's a bit of a mess, really, but I'm happy like that !

4:01 AM  
Blogger Mrs C said...

When I married, I changed my name. For three reasons: One, my children. Two, it felt like a good way to delineate my two lives (before and after marriage). Now when I see my old name on stuff, it feels strange, as though that isn't really me. Three, where I live. In France, my maiden name is pronounced "venom". Har.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kept my name. My son's middle name is my last name. I recently crossed the border with him with no hassles. I didn't have a letter, but I brought the long form birth certificate, which has my full name on it under MOTHER.

8:19 AM  
Blogger mamatulip said...

I changed my name. I didn't want to, but at the 11th hour - literally about two days before I had Julia - I changed it, simply because of one comment from a family friend:

"People will think you're her step-mother."

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Ruth said...

I kept my original name, because that's just who I feel like I am. My mother took my dad's name when they got married and then changed back to her maiden name when I was in high school. She said she never felt like my dad's name was really her. I understood at the time, and I think her decision influenced mine. We're going to have a baby soon and will give him/her my husband's last name.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's exactly why i changed my name.....didn't want anyone to ever doubt we are one family....and that i'm her mom...
it's a good feeling to be the F's

9:15 AM  
Blogger SciFi Dad said...

At the risk of being lost in the chorus of comments, I will add my $0.02.

First, if you have your marriage certificate/license with you next time, that should be sufficient. It proves that you married someone named M----, and the combination should be good. We had that with us when we went to the US with our daughter because my wife's citizenship paperwork (birth certificate) has her maiden name on it and she was worried about her more active paperwork (which has my surname) not being accepted.

(Obviously, from the above, my wife took my surname. She did it mainly for the exact reason you described with Emilia... one family, one name.)

My sister's experience sounds awfully similar to yours:
1. Maiden-Married (hyphenated)
2. Maiden Married (spaced)
3. Maiden

Her choice varied, but she settled on keeping her maiden name. I think it's your call, and you know what will work best for you.

9:20 AM  
Blogger butwhymommy said...

When I got married I had no idea what I was going to do. I literally made the decision as I was signing the marriage license. I chose to go with a non hypenated dual last name.

Its a huge pain in the arse. I am Renee G F not Renee G-F. So confusing for everyone involved. Its gotten to the point that I just go with F because its easier.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Tabitha (From Single to Married) said...

I totally understand where you're coming from! I got married last year and after 37 years of having my family name (which is a cool one too) I was reluctant to part with it. So I kept it as part of my name and added my new name on the end. I changed all of my records so that they have all four names. This just means that technically I still have my previous name, but to make matters easier, I use my husband's last name when introducting myself. It just made me feel better having my old name still part of my "official" name somehow. I was surprised, though, at how easy it was to start using my new last name - it hasn't been a problem at all.

10:15 AM  
Blogger To-Fu said...

I kept my name, but I'm the last in my line, so. And! My husband is a Junior, so he couldn't really take MY name and also coming up with a new name was out of the question.

The logical thing to do for us was to give our children hyphenated last names. A piece of each of us.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous traci said...

I also kept my maiden name as middle name -- like some others here.
This solution was a result of : 1)I wanted to keep my name, but didn't want my future kids to have a different last name or have to hyphenate, and 2) my husband had a cousin with the same first name as me -- so there would have been TWO Traci Walkers at family gatherings. I use my full name almost always, though now nearly 15 years later my signature has been shortened so that it just includes my middle initial. For written things, this works out great, but I still have trouble introducing myself -- I usually will only say, I'm Traci (with no last name) since "Traci Walker" will forever be the cousin-in-law in my mind.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous cheryl said...

I kept my last name. My eldest son son has my last name. Why more people don't see this as an option baffles me. There is no law stating that children must have their father's last name. There are no legal loopholes to go through to make this happen. A child must have the last name of one of its parents, but the parents are free to choose which one. Sure, it's tradition to use the father's last name, but so what?

My youngest son has his father's last name. I would have preferred that both my children have my last name, but my husband wanted a child with his last name.

In every instance I've read where the child has his mother's last name, the second child inevitably has his/her father's last name. I assume it's because parents view this as fair. It annoys me (an annoyance I live with. It only occurs to me when the topic comes up, and then I remember that I wanted both children to have my last name. It's not a big deal in our family, but it would have been my preference).

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

When my husband and I got married I kept my entire name and tacked my husband's last name on the end (my maiden and married names were both far to bizarre to hyphenate).

I did it because it seemed like the easy way to do it. I've never heard a story quite like yours, but I know of situations where mothers having different last names have made things difficult in elementary school.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I decided to keep my name when I got married, my husband was fine with my decision. We have two kids who legally have both our last names (documents, school records), but they use my husband's last name in day to day life. I have to say that there has been no confusion caused by the fact that my last name is different than theirs, nor does it mean that I am any less committed to my family as some people seem to be suggesting. On the rare occasions that my husband or I have taken the children out of the country without the other parent we always bring a notarized letter from the other parent. I think that it's a personal decision, good luck in making yours!

1:42 PM  
Anonymous pkzcass said...

I'm a few days late and a couple of dollars short on commenting, but I'll comment anyway. I changed my name when I got married. I was proud to be a ******.

I have two boys and I'm sure they'd be fine if I had kept my maiden name, but I wanted to have the same last name because I'm part of this family.

Lastly, I do the student phone directory for my son's school, and I can't tell you what a ballbuster it is to keep the kids straight with their mothers because half the moms keep their maiden names. I never know whose child is whose anymore. So spare the future school directory-doer of your children's school and change your name...please!

2:48 PM  
Anonymous lizneust said...

Okay, I changed my name, but we have tons of friends who like us are Canadian-US couples where the wife did NOT change her name. In fact, my husband was sort of appalled that I wanted to. Also my brother's wife has kept her name.

The immediate solution, as I understand it, is to take along the birth certificate with your full name and the baby's full name on it. Problem of border guard solved.

The longer term issue is more thought provoking, but I would argue you should keep your last name. You are "a Connors" and you like it. When your kids are older, you can explain it, but don't sweat it now. There are tons of families that do this these days - you are not unique and it in no way indicates that you think less of your family or your husband. So remember to bring a copy of the birth certificate and maybe have a conversation with your daughter in a year or two.

Good luck!

4:22 PM  
Blogger Gemini Girl said...

Wow- you got a lot of comments about this!!!

So I hyphenated (sp?) my last name after I got married. My husband wasnt happy about it, but I felt that by changing my name, I was changing my identity. When we marry, you dont lose yourself- you gain another part.

My daughter's have my husband's name, and mine is legally hyph. At work, I am only known by my maiden name. It works better. It does bother my husband, but I think* that I am whole with my decision.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I'm so greatful for this post and all of the comments. I'm engaged and am one of the most stuborn and independent people in the world.
I do not want to change my last name.
I don't like my last name and I have nothing against my soon to be husbands last name, but my name is mine and why doesn't he have to change his name?

He was not pleased - at first. He grew up in a very traditional household and had never considered the idea of his wife not having his last name. But after huffing and puffing he finally admitted that he would be conserned if I willingly exchanged names with out a fight.

So a few days later he came to me with an extremely excited idea - that we would each change our middle names to each others last names. This idea made even greater because it was his idea! Not only did I not have to fight to keep my name, it's actually something he is thrilled about.

But now I wonder if I'm really making the right choice and well...I'll probably keep my last name...it's nice to know that it's not an easy decision to make and I appreciate all of the different takes on this extrememly irrelivant yet immensely important decision.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm new to this blog, found it from a link on a site I read regularly. A couple of people on the first page of comments were curious about how kids felt about hyphenated names, so I thought I'd jump in. My father died while my mom was pregnant, before they'd actually had the conversation about which last name to give me, so my mom decided to hyphenate (and to give me the one last name that they'd agreed upon before his untimely demise...a longish "boys name"). When I was in pre-school she got into a relationship with her current partner. I didn't want to make that person feel left out, particularly after they adopted me, so I added on their last name (with my mothers) to school forms. Nobody ever stopped me, and it never occured to my mom that she might want to just pick one of the last names, for legal purposes, and go with it. Now I have three last names that sometimes appear on government documents, one of them I use for school and banking, and a middle name that is a last name in some other countries. Its pretty confusing, because none of my identification cards match up. I am hispanic, and she wanted me to keep my most hispanic sounding name on forms for school. In my wallet I carry various forms of ID with all my various last names on them. I explain my weird last name situation to people a minimum of 5 times a year.

When I was very, very, young I decided that should I ever marry I would take the guy's last name, because adding one more last name (or the perception of one more last name...is this mrs. such and so...etc) would just be too much for my poor brain to handle.

It probably helps that I'm sort of neutral about my name, I like it because its mine, but other then that, eh. My family isn't super close, and I've never really understood the attachment that people have to their "family name"...unless its something super fun or unusual, or proves that they have important ancestors.

I give it another five years before I legally change my last name to something a lot simpler then the concoction that I've got going right now, and see how many of my records I can alter, if I don't get married between now and then (which I probably won't, because I'm 20, and thats a little young for such things). Amusingly enough, I have a serious boyfriend, with an awesome last name, who thinks the idea of women changing their names is unspeakably retro.

-firstname middlename momsname-dadsname-stepname

6:19 PM  
Blogger Trueself said...

I kept my name when I married and only changed it when we adopted our son. My thinking at that time was that he'd have enough to deal with being adopted without having just one more thing, a mom with a different last name, to deal with.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Pamela said...

I changed my name to my husbands, even though I loved my name and even got compliments on it. Imagine that? Airline employees checking me on on flights would say,"What a great name!" Now I have one that no one can pronounce or spell. But... I use my maiden name professionally; it's now my middle name; and boy #1 has it as his middle name, too. I'm glad we are "the C. family" but I still get the benefit of a professional life with my beloved name.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Badness Jones said...

I kept my own name, and I'm alright with that. My daughter (5) knows my last name, and she knows that it is different from the name that she and her brother and their daddy share. As far as I'm concerned, my children are a part of my body, and of my heart, and of my soul, and I don't need to change my name to prove that I am a part of them. That said, the day my MIL said (and I quote) "You're a Carruthers, and Daddy is a Carruthers, and I am a Carruthers, but your MOMMY is not - she's not one of US" I just about punched her in the teeth. But then, my MIL is 5 years of therapy I can't afford....

1:56 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

My mum changed her name when she married my dad, and then when I was about 7, she changed it back. Back in those days, when I came to school with a cheque from mum to pay for an excursion, the office ladies treated me like I was from a broken home.

So my name never really felt like a "family" name - and I got on better with my mums extended family better than my dads.

So when it came to making the decision about changing my name, I decided to move forward to a new family name, rather than dwelling on the patriarchy.

Strangely, the only person who gave me any crap about changing my name was my mother.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Michele said...

I changed my name. It didn't matter to me whether it was mine or his... Although it did matter to him. So I took his. My point was, though, that I wanted it to be the same. When we married, he and I, we created our own little family - and I wanted that sameness. I've never regretted it.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

It's customary in the Netherlands to hyphenate the names and place the husbands name first followed by the wife's surname, so that is still always her last name, On all legal papers, she is identified by her maiden name and never by her husband's name, unless it is in the hyphenated form with her surname last. A Dutch woman doesn't stop having her identity so much. She is never referred to as Mrs John Somebody. When we speak of a married couple, we say John and Mary His last name-Her last name.

12:31 AM  
Anonymous red pen mama said...

my DH and I were getting married in the Catholic church, and we had to attend something called Engaged Encounters, basically a retreat for couples getting married in the church.

I was well known by my "maiden" name (hate that term) in my city, as a writer and poet. I was reluctant to change for that reason -- and other reasons cited here by others reluctant to change.

But my husband-to-be was very traditional, and came from a traditional family, and it was very important to him. In the middle of our EE weekend, I took him aside.

"I've decided I would like to take your last name," I told him. He lit up like the Rockerfeller Christmas tree. That right there made it worth it. It was the best gift (aside from our children) that I ever gave him.

I still use my dad's name; changed my middle name, and I use it professionally and in by-lines and the like. As far as I am concerned, we both win. If we ever have another boy, I would like to use it as his first or middle name.


10:23 AM  
Blogger trampoline design said...

I took Sean's last name without qualm. I was, at the time, estranged from my dad, but that wasn't the motivator. I realized as our wedding day drew closer that I wanted that, wanted to mark the next chapter of my life. I suppose I also wanted to avoid the issues my mom had after divorcing my dad of having a different last name from her kids. I completely relate to both sides and found myself seething and feeling a suffocating weight on my chest imagining how you must have felt.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

I took my husband's name and moved my maiden name to the middle. Then dropped my former middle name. This was very, VERY hard because my former middle name "Courtney" IS a family name, my mother's own maiden name. However, as a CPA and former professional going by the moniker "Kelli Oliver George" has allowed me to keep some of my identity but also gives me the flexibility to just go by "Kelli George" when it is simpler (like at my son's school). It was really, really important to me to have the same last name as my children. My parents are divorced and I HATED it when my mom changed her last name.

Also? I was marrying a guy a from India and feared that if our kids did not look like me, that it could be a problem if our names were different. Much like you encountered at the border.

Interestingly, my husband did not care either way. George is his father's FIRST name (some Indians, particularly Catholics go by that method), so there is no "family" thing going on there. Furthermore, all the Indian gals I know kept their maiden names simply because they did not want to mess with their passports, visas and other important docs after marriage.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

I took my husband's name and took my maiden name as my middle name. We also named our daughter my maiden name, so it all averages out for us.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

i took my husband's name. i didn't really even think about it. his name is nicer. hahah.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Momish said...

I am really moved by this post. My daughter is 3 and very aware of her last name, even the cat gets proudly called by this last name. A name I do not share, just like you I never took my husband's name. I married when I was 38 and my name is very much a part of me and all my history. I wasn't bothered over it at all until recently when my daughter started proudly pulling us together under the family name. I feel your dilemma and am struggling with the same thing. In the end, I know I probably won't change my name for all the practical and emotional reasons I haven't done so yet.

But now I know it comes with a price. If it starts to get too steep, I can always change it later on. It's not like there is an expiration date on these types of things. Good luck with your decision, however it goes.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

My maiden name is Lelivelt (say it like you're hooked on phoenics). We had a song about it, there is a castle somewhere in the Netherlands that bears it's name. It was always a unique part of me. A way that I was so unlike anyone else that I knew. If there was another Lelivelt, I was related to them, and could show you how.

That being said, it was always a pain in the ass to recite it over the phone. To have it called in a waiting room. Or a major auditorium during a graduation.

Though I loved the uniqueness, I changed it. Thought that it would be easier. The Husband liked it. Now I have to spell out each and every 'n' and 'm'. Still a pain in the ass. Though shorter, I will admit.

In the end, I am glad that I did it, would do it again, and don't regret removing the Lelivelt. It is always a part of me. Though now when I get called out in a waiting room, it is rare that they get it wrong. And for a last name, Inman is better that Lullabye.

(No joke. Happened ALL. THE. TIME.)

9:19 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

My maiden name is Lelivelt (say it like you're hooked on phoenics). We had a song about it, there is a castle somewhere in the Netherlands that bears it's name. It was always a unique part of me. A way that I was so unlike anyone else that I knew. If there was another Lelivelt, I was related to them, and could show you how.

That being said, it was always a pain in the ass to recite it over the phone. To have it called in a waiting room. Or a major auditorium during a graduation.

Though I loved the uniqueness, I changed it. Thought that it would be easier. The Husband liked it. Now I have to spell out each and every 'n' and 'm'. Still a pain in the ass. Though shorter, I will admit.

In the end, I am glad that I did it, would do it again, and don't regret removing the Lelivelt. It is always a part of me. Though now when I get called out in a waiting room, it is rare that they get it wrong. And for a last name, Inman is better that Lullabye.

(No joke. Happened ALL. THE. TIME.)

9:19 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

My maiden name is Lelivelt (say it like you're hooked on phoenics). We had a song about it, there is a castle somewhere in the Netherlands that bears it's name. It was always a unique part of me. A way that I was so unlike anyone else that I knew. If there was another Lelivelt, I was related to them, and could show you how.

That being said, it was always a pain in the ass to recite it over the phone. To have it called in a waiting room. Or a major auditorium during a graduation.

Though I loved the uniqueness, I changed it. Thought that it would be easier. The Husband liked it. Now I have to spell out each and every 'n' and 'm'. Still a pain in the ass. Though shorter, I will admit.

In the end, I am glad that I did it, would do it again, and don't regret removing the Lelivelt. It is always a part of me. Though now when I get called out in a waiting room, it is rare that they get it wrong. And for a last name, Inman is better that Lullabye.

(No joke. Happened ALL. THE. TIME.)

9:19 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Now you're got me really thinking about this issue, Catherine. I kept my name, and Cordy and Mira have their dad's last name. I never thought about traveling without Aaron and dealing with the different names.

In my case, their passports have their full names on them, so it might not be a problem. Both girls have two middle names, with their second middle name being my maiden name. (I did that to give them a chance to use my family name with their own, if they wanted to when they're older.) I would hope that would be enough to convince a border guard that we're related.

Someday I may give in and change my name, but I really kinda like it. It's part of who I am.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Sherendipity said...

Thousand Island Border Guards are total pricks. Seriously, they're one of the prickiest border locations in Ontario. I work at the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge, so I know a little somethin' somethin' about that statement.
I passed through the 1000's 2 summers ago and they gave me EXACTLY the same hassle. And my kids were almost teenagers then and able to tell the damned guy that I was their Mother....and he STILL wanted to know if their father knew where they were.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Fairion said...

Wow I just stumbled across your blog and this post hit me like a ton of bricks. I kept my name when my husband and I got married, This is my second marriage. When my first marriage ended I put great effort into choosing a name that represented me. It is important to me.

Yet I am scared of something like your situation.

11:15 PM  
Blogger liz said...

I hated my (very unusual, hard to pronounce when seen, hard to spell when heard) last name and am very happy to be a Miller now.

12:18 AM  
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