What’s In A Name?

October 17, 2008

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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    Mama Smurf October 17, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    I really wanted to keep my last name. I HATE my married last name….as in – I actually questioned whether or not I wanted to marry my husband because I hate his last name so much. I gave up my nice ethnic sounding maiden name for a hillbilly red neck FUGLY name!

    I still hate it…but I wanted the same last name as my kids. Ah well…I suppose there’s worse things.

    Jessie October 17, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    I changed my name without a thought about it. My family name had very bad associations with it to me.

    On the other hand, my mom did not change her name back after she divorced my bio-dad. She had the same bad associations, but she wanted to have the same last name as my brother and I. She got remarried a few years later but still waited to change her last name from my family name until my brother and I were adults.

    It definitely made it easier for us, not for her.

    V-Grrrl October 17, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I did it backwards

    Married young. Took my husband’s name. Seven years later, moving to new area, ready to launch career, decide I want my old (easy) name back.

    Hire lawyer to change name back to birth name. Use birth name for a few weeks, shocked when I realize it doesn’t feel comfortable to me at all. It’s not ME anymore. Husband confesses that while he supported my choice, he’s not comfortable with us having different names either.

    Call lawyer AGAIN. Pay to change name to husband’s. Many years later, children arrive on scene. Glad we share a name. Oldest son has my birth name as his middle name.

    Lisa October 17, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I have a very bizarre name story.
    I changed my name with my first marriage, but when that didn’t work out I changed my name back to my maiden name.

    I then had a son and gave him that maiden name.

    Then I got remarried, and had a second son. Both my husband and I agreed that it was best if I gave him my maiden name as well, so that the boys could have the same last name as me. He did it unselfishly so they would never feel any different.

    and now I am lobbying for him to change his name to ours. :)

    it was important for me to have the same last name as my kids, just so I would never have to explain myself or my situation to anyone.

    Redneck Mommy October 17, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I’m in the same boat as you. Befuddled and confused. And still stuck undecided.

    j fam October 17, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    I didn’t change my name for many years. Had no intention of ever doing so, but when I was six months pregnant with my first child I had this crazy, irrational desire to change my name because I couldn’t bear the thought of that little baby card they stick in the hospital bassinet reading a DIFFERENT last name. I chalked it up to hormonal delusions but immediately changed my name.

    And that child, who is now a 6 year old boy, is OBSESSED with our family name. He takes great pride in telling everyone how we are a family and this is our family name. I also have a 4 year old daughter who couldn’t give a flying fig, but there ya go; the unpredictable nature of children.

    I changed it, I don’t regret it, we are our own unit. And the name has no historical significance or legacy as my husband was adopted by a step-dad who later split. As the only male child he was the only one to retain it.

    We’re creating our own legacy.

    Her Bad Mother October 17, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    FYI Jasper has my maiden name as one of his middle names (yes, one of. He has two.)

    Miguelina. October 17, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I’m of latin american heritage so I use that naming convention – so instead of “losing” my maiden name I just add my husband’s last name to the end of my name. It’s less losing yourself to marriage and more acknowledging that new part of your identity – your new family unit.

    FYI – I use my “maiden” name as my middle name and my “Husband’s” as my last name. It works great. I use my middle/maiden name online, so very few strangers actually know my children’s real names. It works great.

    Good luck with your decision.

    beth October 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I changed my middle name to my maiden name, and also used it for my children’s middle names. I think it is a nice tie to my family of origin, but honestly, as time goes by the name issue matters less and less to me. We are simply the M— family and I am quite happy with that.

    Syko October 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I took my husband’s name when I married, but it was 1962 and that was the thing to do. Hyphenations were barely beginning back then. Besides, my maiden name was Johnson, so blah, and my first name is Judy, so with Johnson it was just too cute, and I was happy to become an E—-.

    When we divorced in 1979, I kept his name “because of the kids” but in reality because I was lazy about all the paperwork, and wasn’t that wild about being a Johnson again anyway, what with having been an E— for almost as long as I’d been a Johnson.

    During subsequent post-divorce battles, I used to hate his name and all it represented and hated being called by his name, and would often think “if I’d remarried, I’d have a different name anyway”.

    The youngest turned 18, everyone got lives of their own, and here I am today, roughly at retirement age, and still an E—-. Now I like to think maybe it annoys him. LOL.

    Mary October 17, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I took my husbands name. Mostly because I didn’t want there to be confusion with our kids, house, bills or anything else that we share. Also because going from a complicated name that I always had to spell to a name that everyone already knows sounded easier. Beware though, the process is annoying.

    daysgoby October 17, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I married when I was thirty. I have a Dutch last name, so it’s Van …..
    So when I married I tried his last name, but it sounded terribly WRONG (partly because it sounded NOTHING like my old one, and partly because Mrs Evans is/was my mother-in-law)
    so when I had to go through the Permanent Resident rigmarole, I quietly went back to both. (So I’m hyphenated.)

    Actually, both of my kids have asked why my name is different, and they both think it’s kind of neat that my name is not the same.

    By the by, those parental letters? Are HORRIBLE. While I understand WHY Canada asks for them, I still feel demeaned and well…small, having to prove that my husband said me traveling was okay.

    Heather October 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    I thought about keeping my maiden name because it was easy and my married name gets spelled wrong and said wrong all the time. Also my name had a lovely meter to it.

    But I changed my name anyway, because I’m also old-fashioned. And also when my in-laws ask why our kids are mostly named after my side of the family I can say well, they all have your last name.

    O'Neal (The woman in charge around here) October 17, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I did the same thing with the hyphen, but only use it when signing legal papers. Otherwise I just go by hubby’s last name. It WAS a bit of an ordeal though when we had a baby out of wedlock, and hubby was ONLY 17 requiring his MOTHER to sneak down to SS office in the hospital and sign the birth certificate to make SURE our son had his father’s last name – whether we ended up married or not!

    Good thing we got married, (and my parents removed the restraining order – ha!) or THAT would have been a headache!

    Nissa Nicole October 17, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Catherine, love your blog, don’t usually comment but this one is something I feel rather strongly about.

    I grew up in a family with three last names: my mom and dad were married and divorced, so my mother and I shared the same last name; my brother was my mother’s son from a different relationship whom she gave her MAIDEN name (even though she herself did not still use it) and my three youngest siblings from my mother’s last relationship (non-marital) with their Father’s name.

    In other words, I’m the oldest child and I shared a last name with my Mom, my brother’s last name is my Mom’s maiden name, and my three youngest siblings have their father, my Mother’s latest relationships, last name. Utter confusion, constantly.

    Obviously, this situation is not ordinary, but the point of this is basically, to me, first names are our identity, and last names are for organization. I took my husband’s name without a thought. I’m glad to know our kids won’t have to explain it.

    katieinchicago October 17, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I’m so glad this topic came up. I’m not married yet, but I plan on keeping my name when we tie the knot. I’m writing under that name and, anyway, it’s MY name. We’ve agreed that hyphenating our kids’ last name is the best thing to do in that situation because we want their names to be a reflection of both of us (and it may help us avoid issues with travel and whatnot). Luckily, we both have very short, one-syllable last names.

    I’ve been wondering lately if having a hyphenated name would be hard for them. What if they want to hyphenate their children’s names, too? Are we going to end up with a pile of over-hyphenated freaks as descendants?

    I’m so glad some of you have chalked that issue up to “not my problem.” It makes me feel better because that’s the only reasonable conclusion I’ve come to in this situation. Why’s it gotta be so COMPLICATED? :^)

    Anonymous October 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    It took me two years to change my name and I finally did it when my newborn was called “Baby S” (after my last name) in the hospital. It is a law in our state to identify the baby by the mother’s last name when they are born, but it felt wrong to me. All along our baby should have been “Baby M” and not “Baby S”. So that’s what prompted me to go through all that fun, fun, paperwork.
    In the end, it was worth it because we do feel more of a family unit. And as a side-note, my last name has been my stepfather’s last name since I was adopted by him at 16, so in many ways, it wasn’t as meaningful to me. However, I did keep it as my middle name just so I can still be identified by those that knew me “then”.

    asecrettobluebamboo October 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I just married my husband, and he has sole custody of his daughters.

    It was very, very important to me that we share his last name. I not only wanted my last name to be the same as my husband’s, but also the girls. Their mother has changed her name back to her maiden, and it just seemed important for us to be a family. For me, that meant sharing the same name.

    It helps that I wasn’t attached to my last name, and replaced my middle with my maiden.

    Different strokes for different folks, right?

    Lauren October 17, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I kept my name. I think I decided that I would keep my name when I was in kindergarten.

    Interestingly, our son has MY last name, which really throws people for a loop. We had decided if we had a boy it would have my last name, and if a girl, my husband’s.

    To get even more complicated, our coming child will have my husband’s last name. My husband doesn’t want to hurt his parents’ feelings, and I have a suspicion his feelings would be hurt, as well. Honestly, I don’t care much about hurting his parents’ feelings (I’m a mean, nasty person), but I do care about his (not as mean and nasty where he is concerned).

    I know it seems convoluted and bizarre, but I’m just stubborn enough to pull it off.

    tallulah October 17, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    For me, I changed my name to his so that when we had a family we would all have the same last name. Five kids later, I’m glad we all share the same last name and we are The Hall Family!

    Chibi October 17, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    If we get married, I’ll take his name. I know my reasoning is a little silly/old fashioned, but it’s how I feel and that makes it valid, right? lol

    I have a different father than my siblings. Growing up, I was the only Mylastname in a family of 5. My mom went on to remarry and then shared the same last name as my step-dad; my brother and sister stilled shared a last name. I’ve been the one-off my whole life and it’s always bugged me a bit.

    That being said, if we are going to be a family, I want that to be obvious: I want his last name. I want to finally feel like I “belong” somewhere after 30 years.

    I’m lame, I know. ;)

    LawMommy October 17, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    I’m confused. And a little concerned…were you traveling into Canada on Canadian passports, or were you traveling into Canada on US passports? (Forgive me, I’m not sure if you are an American living in Canada or a Canadian.) Was it a US border guard questioning you as you left the country or a Canadian questioning you as you came in?

    I ask because I practice family law in the US in a city less than 40 miles from the Canadian border. On more than 1 occasion, I have had a father in a custody dispute threaten to cross into Canada with a child he does not have custody of. The border guards are not supposed to allow an American traveling with a child to cross the border without a notarized letter from the other parent, a death certificate of a deceased parent, a birth certificate showing no father was ever named, or a custody decree showing sole custody…I have more than once assured my worried clients that their ex will not be able to cross the border without the permission of both parents, and,reading this, I’m thinking that has been awfully Pollyanna-ish of me to think that the law would actually work the way it is intended.


    I am sorry for the bureaucratic frustration/distress you experienced, and I’d like to tell you it would have gone the same way even if your baby and you were both named M~, but, who knows?

    I kept my maiden name professionally (well, it’s hyphenated, actually, on my law license), but all my other documents are my married name. It was important to me that we would all have the same name.

    Tricia October 17, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    I took my husband’s last name when we married. It never occurred to me to keep my maiden name or to hyphenate. I don’t have any kids so it’s not that – just that I didn’t feel all that attached to my maiden name and didn’t really feel strongly about keeping it – so much easier if you have the same name for things like banking.

    LSM October 17, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I married at 22 at the beginning of my professional career. The fact that I hadn’t made a “name” for myself and that my maiden name was very hard to spell and pronounce led me to change to my husband’s name without much consideration of any other option. The irony is that my much simpler married name is still a challenge for people to spell and pronounce!

    It is easier in many ways to have the same name as your children, but these days it’s certainly not unusual not to. This is definitely one of those decisions where different solutions are right for different people. I would say it’s certainly not a requirement to have the same name in order to feel like a family unit.

    Awesome Mom October 17, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Even though I liked my maiden name a lot and was marrying down when it came to my husband’s last name I took his name. Why? To avoid all the confusion. I think that hyphenating is long and confusing and that keeping my maiden name would have been confusing to the kids and everyone else. I am lazy, what can I say.

    motherbumper October 17, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I love my name, I took his name for a test spin, it didn’t feel right, so I went back to using my old name, then I played the hypen game, but again went back to my original name, then I decided I really love my name, became strangely attached to my name, so short of long: my daughter and I have different last names. Hasn’t caused problems – yet – but I love my name, and I’m the one wearing it, so it stays.

    If memory serves me correctly, in the car I yelled out a premature “nooooo” when you said “I think that I’m going to take Kyle’s name”. My reasons are my reasons, but with no special attachment (outside of academia), I think the change would prevent you from submitting to cavity searches and kidnapping charges at the border. The name change, and not travelling with me anymore – both will probably prevent any crazy border antics.

    thedailysnark October 17, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    I was going to keep my name and did for about two years. It was my name. I grew up with it. My husband never pressured me to change it, which is probably why I decided I would. So I decided to legally change my middle name to my maiden name and then took his name as my last. That way I don’t have all that pretentious hyphenation.

    MerrieB October 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I changed my name to my husband’s, but put a lot of thought into it first. My family name died out with me. There are only girls in my generation, so no one to carry the name on. But my family has a tradition of using the mother’s maiden name as the first son’s first name.

    Be aware though, if you change your name, it’s a huge hassle. I had to send copies of my marriage license to certain account holders to get it all done.

    My sister and her kids have different last names, for the moment. She’s divorced from their father and remarried. He wants to adopt them at some point in the future, but at the moment their names are different too.

    ourlittlefunnybunny October 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I changed my name to my husband’s right after I got married…I got carried away by the excitement of it all…and also for the reasons you described with at the border…so my daughter and I have the same name…

    As for the border crossing, even if your names were the same he would’ve still questioned you…a friend of mine often travels to the US with his son for hockey tournaments and he always got questioned on the way BACK into Canada…(which makes no sense…if he should be questioned when leaving Canada…) but anyway him and his spouse now always carry a letter that’s been notarized just to avoid any hassles…

    ourlittlefunnybunny October 17, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    sorry for the double posting…

    as an aside you could always hyphenate your name too.

    Katie October 17, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    We did the same as Meryl – we both hyphenated, and our daughter has the same hyphenated last name. Pretentious, maybe, but it’s the only solution I could live with politically. Honestly, I don’t think there was even ever a discussion where my husband and I discussed my taking his name, we just discussed which order to put our last names in.

    It has lead to two weird things, though. Baxter (the husband)goes by what is now half of his last name (his first name is Mike), which leads to some weird confusion as to who I’m referring to and whether his name is really “Baxter Baxter-Kauf” or something equally weird.

    Second, Kiernan (daughter) has a name that is significantly longer than mine ever was – before marriage, my whole name was 13 letters long (and now 19). Hers is 24!

    Anonymous October 17, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I’m getting remarried next weekend. My youngest daughter (shes 7) asked me what my new name would be. Martie Spurgeon. She was thrilled. She couldn’t *wait* to learn to write HER new name. “Ummm, sweetie. Your name will stay the same. You will have your Daddy’s last name until you marry.” “UH! That is NOT fair!! YOU gave birth to me. MY name should match YOURS!”

    Kids like to match. I kept my first husbands name specifically for that reason. That and I hated my maiden name (Robinson)…

    Naomi (Urban Mummy) October 17, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Kept my name.

    I polled a lot of my high school students who had different names then their parents about this, and the complete (100%) consensus was that it made no difference.

    We made a deal that any boy children would have my husband’s last name, and any girl children would have mine.

    Since we have only boys, we are thinking of legally changing the boys names to have both our surnames, but not hyphenated – one would be like an extra middle name.

    blissfullycaffeinated October 17, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Like you, I attempted to hyphenate for a while. I went to social security and just had them tack my husband’s last name to the end of my given name. And I’ve regretted it ever since because that super long name became such a pain in the a**.

    I won’t give all the details, but I really wish I had just completely changed it up front. After a couple of years I lapsed into just using my husbands last name anyway. And, you know what? It really doesn’t make any difference. I like my husband’s last name and I like that we all have the same last name.

    It’s fine.

    Therese October 17, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Great post — long time reader, first time commenter! :)

    Anyway, here’s my name story. I Looooved my maiden name. It’s a strong unique family name in which I have a great amount of pride. Grandparents on both sides of my family spent a lot of time researching genealogy and creating books for all the grandchildren that traced our roots and I think that gave me an extra tie to my name. It really does mean something to me. I then met and fell in love with a wonderful man with the last name of Smith…OMG, how boring and void of all meaning. The exact opposite of what I was used to in a name. (please, no offense to anyone named Smith but in the English language I think we can all agree that it is the default “common” name to use). After some intense discussion we decided that I would take his name but rather than “replace” my maiden or middle name, I just added a fourth name. Now, all of my official documents (passport, drivers’ license, insurance…) have all the names. It also gives me the flexibility in various social and professional settings to use the name that fits the moment — maiden, married, both. After almost 3 years of marriage, I’m finally getting used to the Smith and am more comfortable using it by itself (it is nice to not have to spell or pronounce it for anyone). I honestly think that I would have had an easier time with the whole name change thing if I’d married someone with a more unique/meaningful last name. Sort of like you mentioned that Connors was not a “true family name,” that’s how Smith feels to me. After such a strong tie to a name, it’s hard to leave that behind. On the other hand, I am now almost 10 weeks pregnant with our first child and it feels good to be creating our own family identity with our own name! Lastly, I’m just grateful that we live societies where this naming issue is an option, even if it can be a huge pain in the butt!

    kristy - wheresmydamnanswer October 17, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I took my husbands name mainly because I wanted to get rid of my ex’s name – haha. My husband later adopted our son and Zac asked to change his last name to match ours. I think that it’s important to kids to feel they are a family unit – a team if you will.

    I have a friend who married a girl and they each kept their own last names. When the time came to have kids they made a decision to give each child a different last name to continue on the family lineage for each side of the family since they had boys. I think that’s interesting really. Everyone seems to be comfortable with it.

    I do understand having the last name being different though – mine was different from my sons for quite some time and it made me feel like I was a step mom – hahaha

    clueless but hopeful mama October 17, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I keep thinking about writing about it as well.

    I didn’t take my husband’s name at first. I didn’t like any of the options available and I really liked my last name (just the way it sounds, how easy it is for people to spell and pronounce). My husband’s last name causes everyone to stumble; I’m constantly spelling it out for people.

    We gave his last name to our daughter and I didn’t like having that separation from the very beginning- at the hospital they kept getting our last names mixed up and even stopped me once because our last names didn’t match. People didn’t know how to address things ” Husband and Daughter K________ and Wife M____”. I felt I was always explaining it.

    I changed my name one year after she was born. It was my gift to us as a family. My husband still doesn’t totally get why I did it, and I love him all the more for it. And I really like writing “the K____ family” on things. It’s easier. It feels the closest thing to right out of all the pretty sucky options.

    Her Bad Mother October 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    LawMommy – I’m a Canadian, and was travelling with Canadian passport (as was baby) BACK to Canada after two days in US.

    I actually asked my travel agent, when I took Jasper to San Francisco in th summer, whether I needed a travel letter, and she said that they’re handy, but not required by law. So went the lazy route. Lesson learned.

    Bryan October 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    My wife did not take my name…because my first wife still uses it. She didn’t want to be “Mrs. Comer II”. Just this morning, when I took paper work into our new daycare, the director of the daycare was very confused. My wife had given her name as the contact, and the baby has a different name.

    Rusti October 17, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    When I got married I was considering both using my maiden name (Smith) as a middle name, or just adding hubs' last name on to the end of mine, as my father was the only boy of his fam – and he had just my sister & I… (although his father was the oldest of 10 children, 9 of those being males – so there ARE plenty of Smiths in our fam. still around… just not of Grampa's direct line)

    Hubs & Dad were BOTH against me keeping my maiden name completely, and I ended up just going with hubs' and keeping my middle name. Haven't regretted it yet in the almost 2 years we've been married, and with a baby coming in a couple months I'm glad I won't have anything to think about beyond the first & middle name :) Although I must say that saying goodbye to Smith after 26 years was a little difficult… but hey – I'll always be a Smith – and I'll always be Rodg's daughter.

    My sister was adamant that she would NOT change her name at all, even after Dad threatened not to walk her down the aisle if she didn't. She DID change her name (not because of the threat – which was only half-serious) but her hubs has agreed to give a boy the first name of Smith, which Dad (and the rest of us) LOVE. A year later she still complains about her new last name (mostly because she has problems writing a capital cursive I) but is glad she did, as she shares the name not only with hubs, but her 5-year-old step-son as well. His mother has remarried and has another child with new hub, so Lil Man still has two people who share his last name.

    We're all content. But you have to do what feels right to YOU. That's what I did!

    Backpacking Dad October 17, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    I will write a border story soon now. Because I love the border.

    I have my mother’s maiden name, and kept it even after they were married (ah, yes…I’m a bastard. :} ) I almost changed it in high school when I was living with my father. He has no male children to carry on his name, and sometimes I wonder if that makes him sad. But I’m a Burns, and that identity is pretty strong. It’s the rez side of me; I’ve never lived with my father’s family, just spent time with them at reunions and family events like that. So we’re not nearly as close.

    Stacy October 17, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I always knew I would change my name for that very reason: so that my children would know we were all a unit. I took pride in that as a kid and I wanted to give that to my children.
    Hyphenating is too long and one name gets lost or used less and it’s confusing.
    I live in DC where many MANY families have multiple last names and it just seems less cohesive.
    I imagine that as kids get older it matters not what mom’s last name is but I like the idea of family pride and family sameness.

    ANTM October 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I have always thought that when I get married, I would change my last name. It was my intention to hyphenate for a year and then fully switch over after that. You make an excellent point though of keeping it…

    Elaine October 17, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I changed my name when I married. And I changed it back when I divorced. No bad feelings with my ex-husband, but I preferred my maiden name and we wanted a clean break. I think if I ever get married again, I would like to change my name, but I don’t know. It certainly was a hassle to change it back!

    My parents divorced after 20 years’ marriage, and my mom kept her married name. When she got engaged, she decided to keep my father’s name. I asked her about it once, and she said it’s because it’s the name her children have, and the name she had her entire adult life, and she couldn’t imagine being known as something else. Her fiance understood and was okay with that decision. I’m always kind of fascinated by people’s stories, when they are willing to share them.

    Cursing Mama October 17, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    I never even contemplated not changing my name when I married Mr. Motorcycle. I should have – my last name was much easier to spell and no one mispronounced it. however I never considered doing anything but becoming Mrs. Motorcycle (I was 20). I do have a friend who married later in life, and she changed her middle name to her maiden name and took her husbands last name; I quite like that.

    Her Bad Mother October 17, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Elaine – that’s funny – my mom kept her name from her 25 year marriage to my dad. She changed it when she married her second husband, but then changed back to Connors when she and husband #2 divorced.

    Sarah October 17, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    I changed my name and for all of the reasons you mentioned. We were going to be a family, an US, and when we had kids I wanted to emphasis that unity. We considered, briefly, changing his last name to mine, but since he and my brother had the same first name, it seemed, well, redundant.

    margalit October 17, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    I had a similar experience with the Canadian border guards, who also wanted a letter from my children’s father. The father that IS NOT on their birth certificates (he left before we got the BC’s done). My last name is my birth name, my kid’s last name is my grandmother’s maiden name, and their father has another last name. Talk about complicated. I finally started going by Mrs. KidsLastName although it has never been my name, because it’s just easier. But I’ve never changed it. And I don’t think I will.

    Goldfish October 17, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Interesting… I changed my name when we married. I gave it a lot of thought and decided that was the thing I wanted to do. (No pressure from my husband at all– he even volunteered to change his name.) I didn’t miss my family name until very recently. Now I wish I had kept it. We’ve talked about me changing it back. I probably won’t, but it’s on the table.

    Jozet at Halushki October 17, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I had an experience like that on the German-Austrian border. Stereotypes of Germans in big boots aside, I was crapping bricks.

    Names? I met my husband when I made fun of his name at a party.

    It was only poetic justice that it’s now mine. And I had a really cool name.

    Just recently, he said that he would have absolutely taken my last name instead. At any rate, all the name last name is practical in some ways, but different last names are explainable. However, yes, I think my kids would wonder why we all had different last names. Of course, maybe I’m just thinking about it from my current POV.

    I was no help. You’re welcome.

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