A couple of years ago, I wrote about some of the reasons I chose not to change my name when I got married. When I wrote it, I was feeling defensive about my decision because family members kept disregarding my choice and were changing my name for me. Every time I re-read that blog post I wish I had spent more time on it and was more articulate because it continues to be one of my most popular posts and I don't think it accurately reflects the nuances of my feelings on the issue. I've meant to revise the post or to do a follow-up (especially since it generated my first and only mean comment in the history of this blog!) but as you know, life gets in the way.
I guess the one thing I would reiterate about that post is that I made the decision that was right for me. As the years have gone on, it has become increasingly clear to me that I made the right decision for me, and I wouldn't (and haven't) changed it. Again, nearly all of my female friends and family members have changed their last names and I think that's great, because they're doing what feels right for them. I'm all about all of us living intentionally and authentically.
The other point I want to make is that, this is not an issue in my marriage. Chuk and I have had approximately two brief conversations about my name (both before we were married) and it was always very clear that he really didn't care whether I changed my name or not. I get the impression from some that they imagine we talk about this, or even fight about it, a lot. We don't. It's a complete non-issue for us.
Except that we're going to have a baby any day now, so this issue has resurfaced. We've had first and middle baby names picked out since before we were even considering having kids (just because it's fun to think of baby names) but we still don't have a last name picked out. I mean, there's a 99% change we'll hyphenate the baby's last name, but we don't know whose name will come first and whose will come second, mostly because neither one of us cares which comes first.
The decision to hyphenate came in the car on the way to Target, of all places. The conversation isn't verbatim, as it was several months ago, but it's pretty darn close.
"I'm getting annoyed that your dad keeps asking about the baby's last name," I said. Seriously, it was the second question he asked us when we told him I was pregnant.
"Sorry. I don't know why he's so fixated on it," Chuk said. "We'll probably just hyphenate it though, right?"
"I assumed so." And end scene. We haven't discussed it since.
I've read some articles about how for couples with different last names choosing to hyphenate their child's last name has been a real struggle. (Read more about it here, here, here, and here.) Honestly, their stress over the issue seems to bounce between silly and controlling to me. The two main issues seem to be that a hyphenated last name would be too long or figuring out what the child will do when he or she gets married.
To the first point, about a hyphenate name being too cumbersome, my argument is, lots of people have long last names so it's not really that different whether there's a hyphen in the middle or not. In our case, if we hyphenate our last names, it will only be three syllables, which I don't think is all that long. Learning to spell your last name is challenging for all kids, no matter the length.
As for the complications that could occur when the child gets married, it just seems like none of my business. I'm responsible for doing what I think is best for this person for the first eighteen years of his or her life, but after that it's up to it to decide what it wants to be called. Worrying about things that far in the future seems controlling to me not only because the "child" will be old enough to decide what he or she wants to do by then, but also because it assumes so many variables. I don't assume my child will get married, or that if it does it will necessarily want to keep its name or that its future spouse will want to keep his or her name, or that they will have children.
Everybody should name their child whatever they want, but my point is that for parents who want to hyphenate their child's name, it doesn't have to be an emotionally wrenching decision. Do what you want to do and don't let others make you second guess yourself.