When Missus Scooter and I got married in 2010, neither one of us changed our last name. There was no purpose behind it, no philosophical position we were trying to preserve. We got married in our 30′s and didn’t feel a strong desire to identify as married people by changing our last names. When we decided to have a baby, however, I found my feelings changing on the topic. When I thought about either Missus Scooter or me having a different last name from our baby, it bothered me. I can’t put my finger on any particular reason why; it just felt funny. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think having the same last name is the mark of a good family. Far from it! But Missus Scooter and I had the luxury of choosing to have the same last name so I found myself pondering the question: would I like everyone in our family to share the same last name?
Naming is one of the most long-standing cultural traditions. It is a way to identify yourself and others. Many people have strong feelings towards their last name: either an affinity or rebuff depending on their familial circumstances or upbringing. Some women I know say the thing they are most excited about when getting married is changing their name so they can outwardly be linked with their future partner.
Sharing a last name with your kid(s) can further amplify the feeling of ownership and attachment, the feeling of being ‘part of.’ There is a sort of claim that happens when you share a last name: this child is MINE because we share the same name. No one questions it. Additionally, sharing a last name with your child has other practical ramifications. Extra introductions or explanations about why your last names are different may be required. Many women say that repeatedly explaining or correcting the assumption that you share the last name with your child can be annoying: from the pediatrician to daycare to signing up for various activities or services. There can also be added challenges with air or overseas travel.
On the flip side, not sharing the same last name has its place. In today’s modern society, it isn’t assumed that just because you marry you lose your identity. Long-standing traditions change as our culture changes. Missus Scooter and I have already broken many “traditional” values in the eyes of many, it wouldn’t be out of the norm to break the custom of sharing the same last name. As mentioned, we got married in our thirties and had a baby in our mid thirties. As such, we’ve lived with our last names for a long time! We established careers with our own last names and our circles of friends know us by our given names. Additionally, while Missus Scooter and I don’t have this phenomenon, many individuals prefer to keep their last names if they have a strong cultural identification that may not exist with their partner’s last name (I.e. A Chinese woman marries a Caucasian man and doesn’t want to lose her Chinese identity).
In the end, I really just wanted to share the same last name with Baby O and Missus Scooter, together as a family. It was just how I felt. Happily, Missus Scooter felt the same way. Now that the big decision was made that we would all in fact share the same last name, we got to the interesting part of the conversation where we pondered which last name it would it be. One of the cool/uncool things about being two women is for decisions like this;we can’t just default to the societal norms that exist around us.
There was no rational argument about why my last name versus Missus Scooter’s last name was the better choice. They’re both kind of weird, hard to spell, and generally mispronounced! We both equally liked our last names and weren’t particularly keen to give them up. Our plan was to have one biological child each so choosing the biological mother’s last name wasn’t a slam dunk either.
And we had other options: we could take both last names by either hyphenating our last names or replacing our middle names. But this seemed overly complicated. The combination of our two last names didn’t exactly roll off your tongue, and this way both of us would have to go through the headache of changing our last names. We had this discussion while I was pregnant, and the thought of adding one more thing to the to-do list seemed daunting. Alternately, we could have chosen a completely new last name. This was sort of fun to think about… we could be Mrs. Kennedy or Mrs. Washington or Mrs. Jolie! After some fun thinking about that, we decided it didn’t resonate for us to both give up our last names in search of something totally new.
So the question was whose last name would we choose? As I mentioned above, there was no clear choice as to whose it would be. So we flipped a coin.
Ok… a slight digression… in a previous post, I wrote about flipping a coin about who would try to conceive first. I’ve had a moment of clarity in writing this post that Missus Scooter and I make big, monumental decisions by flipping coin. Seriously? Who does this?!?! *sigh
Back on track. We went to one of our favorite places to eat, sat at the bar (another one of our favorite things to do) and called which side we wanted. We flipped the coin and alas, it was determined I would be changing my last name. The beauty about this process is there is no basis for complaining, rationalizing, or lobbying against the decision. Explaining it to friends/family about why one last name or another is straightforward. It’s not personal and it’s not a rejection of the last name who isn’t chosen. We just flipped a coin. That’s it.
When Baby O was born and we went to get her birth certificate, we knew she would take Missus Scooter’s last name. I, on the other hand, have just now gotten around to changing my last name. And while I might have complained a little about all of the tedious steps I had to go through, in the end I am pleased. Our little family of three all share the same last name and we can properly lay “claim” to each other as our own!
Do you share the same last name as your partner/child? Was this an easy decision?