Relationships

What Last Name Will Your Kids Have?

Hallie Bateman

Illustrator Hallie Bateman isn’t sure about changing her name when she gets married — but then what? And what will her kids be called? Here, she talks to seven couples about the different choices they made…


When Jack and I started dating, I’d drop occasional comments about us having kids together, pretending to be totally chill while secretly thinking about it all the time.

A couple years later, we began talking about it with more comfort and seriousness. It was exciting to imagine having a family, but we kept getting hung up on a particular question: What would our child’s last name be? It was, and continues to be, a stymying question. While giving our kids Jack’s last name would be the easiest route as far as society is concerned, I’m not comfortable with it.

“The burden of naming rests unfairly on women,” says Elizabeth Aura McClintock in Psychology Today. “Moreover, women’s desire to pass their own name onto their children is often criticized as selfish and a sign of poor commitment to their spouse — while the same desire in men is expected and accepted.”

I feel this. In my conversations with Jack, a loving and progressive man, it still feels like I must decide how much to ask for in breaking a thousand-year patrilineal naming tradition in English-speaking countries.

It originated in England in the Middle Ages with the law of coverture, which essentially made a man’s wife and children his property. Coverture ended in the 1800s as women gained rights, but most U.S. families still embrace the tradition of patrilineal naming.

Curious about other ways to do things, I reached out to seven couples who went in different directions:

Hallie Bateman

Strike a deal.
“I got to pick my son’s first name since he was getting my partner’s last name,” says Lucy, a Chicago-based cartoonist. “We agreed that if we had a girl, her middle name would be my middle name, Louise; and if we had a boy, his middle name would be John’s middle name, Karl. But when we found out we were having a boy, it didn’t sit well with my husband that two-thirds of our child’s name would come from him. So, John came up with the idea that I would have the lion’s share of picking the first name — John would still have input, of course, but I’d be the ringleader.”

Hallie Bateman

Hyphenate.
“We have two last names, first the father’s and then the mother’s,” says Rebeca, who lives in Costa Rica. “Having two last names doesn’t complicate things in our country because you retain them for all your life.”

Hallie Bateman

Alternate last names.
Rachel, an Australian with feminist parents, had a different last name than her siblings. Stick with me here: They were each given both their parents’ surnames, but the order was swapped. Rachel got her dad’s name first, then her mom’s. For her brothers, it was reversed. Rachel says they were met with some puzzlement at school, but they got through it. “If anything, it has made me proud to be my parents’ daughter and taught me not to care about the reactions of others,” she says. “I can draw on the experience whenever I catch myself caring what others think.”

Hallie Bateman

Combine your names into a new one.
“When my husband Tanner and I were getting married,” says Jaime Greenring, a Brooklyn-based writer, “I wanted to keep my last name, but Tanner wanted us to have the same last name, for the sake of possible future kids. I was Green, he was Ringerud — Greenring was the only feasible combo.” So, how did it go? “Our families were very chill about it. Maybe a bit of ‘Huh, that’s interesting!’ but no pushback.”

Hallie Bateman

Adopt a favorite literary figure’s name.
Ofra and Aryeh Amihay considered keeping their names, or hyphenating, but ultimately decided to each take the name of a poet they both loved. “When we first met, we were attending an event in Jerusalem commemorating Yehuda Amichai, a poet we both admire,” she says, “I sang his songs, and Aryeh read one of his poems. Later, when we were choosing a new last name for ourselves, we immediately knew this would be it. We went with the different English spelling, but in Hebrew the name is the same.” This solution has worked well for them. “It’s about realizing that becoming a couple is starting something new,” says Ofra.

Hallie Bateman

Take your wife’s name.
When Kit and Andrew Parker in Spokane, Washington, decided to get married, Andrew insisted he wanted to take Kit’s name. “You have to be the change you want to see,” Andrew says. “Inevitably, our kids will realize that many American women take their husband’s last name, but they’ll also know that there are alternatives to social norms and expectations.”

“Ultimately, we have zero regrets,” says Kit. “Many times, it leads to really good conversations. Sometimes the conversations aren’t good, but those are important, too. It’s our little rebellion, something we’re proud of and connected through.”

Hallie Bateman

Choose the name that sounds best.
“Oddly enough, we talked about our baby’s last name way more than we talked about his first name,” says Wynn Rankin James, who lives with his husband Ryan in California with their son, Benjamin. “We were both against hyphenation from the get-go. For us, it just felt like we were passing on our indecision to our kid to figure out. But I wanted to have the same name as my kid — and for the family to have the same name. To me, it just felt weird for one dad and the kid to have the same last name, and the other guy to have his own name. Finally, we landed on Ryan’s last name — James — as the last name for ‘the family,’ pretty much only because Wynn James sounds kinda cool, and Ryan Rankin sounds like a weatherman. Oh, and Ben James! Good, sturdy name right there.”

Hallie Bateman

What inspires me about all these couples is their willingness to create a meaningful identity for their new families. When their children are old enough, they’ll learn the origin of their name, and how and why each parent had a say. Jack and I still aren’t sure what we’ll do, but we agree it’s a decision that belongs to both of us equally.


Hallie Bateman is a Los Angeles-based illustrator and writer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed, the Awl, and elsewhere. Her second book, What To Do When I’m Gone, came out this past April.

I’m so curious to hear about other people’s names, as well. Did you decide to change yours? Did you keep it? What about your kids’? xoxo

P.S. Our kids’ looooong last name, and a secret to a happy marriage.

(Illustrations by Hallie Bateman for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Cait says...

    We gave our son my last name as his middle name. My husband and I weren’t keen on hyphenating, and frankly his last name was easier to say and spell than mine! I am proud that my son carries my name in a unique and meaningful yet practical way.

  2. Suzanne says...

    I kept my name when I married, both our children have my last name. Not an issue with my husband, our families, or navigating our society (Canada).

  3. Mari says...

    I love that in Brazil everyone has two “last” names: GivenName Mom’sLastName Dad’sLastName. When a woman gets married, she normally looses her mother’s last name (some keep and have 3 “last” names), pulling her father’s name to the middle and adding her husband’s last name at the end. So when people have kids, they both give their father’s last name to their kids and so on. My mom was too much of a feminist to accept it, so my brother and I both have our grandmothers’s last names.
    I didn’t even considered changing or adding my husband’s name. I would feel like changing myself… I love to have this connection with my parents and having the same last name as my brother. It would feel completely bizarre to change how I SIGN documents lol. Would I have to change my corporate email? So complicated!

  4. Jamie says...

    I once read “I’d rather share a name
    with the man I chose” when referring to a female spouse taking her male spouse’s last name.
    This quote (I don’t remember the source) comes in handy to say to people who try to berate me (a staunch feminist) while explaining why I took my husband’s last name. You see, my father is not a good person, and I could not wait to get rid of his last name when I got married. I never felt it was truly my own. My ‘maiden’ name was also extremely long and impossible to spell, and the experience from every single conversation I had as a child/young adult trying to spell out my name was just a nightmare. Deciding to use my husband’s last name took away so many triggers and negative memories.
    I considered creating a new last name with my husband, but didn’t see the point at the time. However, looking back, I would have been happy with that option as well, to show my children that we started a new life together in an equitable relationship.

    • Abby says...

      Thank you for this. It’s exactly how I feel about shedding my last Name. It’s not really about my male partner, it’s about me and my name and the associations that come with it. I wish you could choose a last name in more countries. It’s not an option in neither Belgium nor Germany.

  5. Ash says...

    My ex and I didn’t discuss it until after our daughter was born. I knew he would be so angry that I wanted her to have my last name. When I brought it up while filling out her birth certificate, he LOST IT. In the hospital. Screaming. I think my new-mom hormonal tears finally got him to agree to give her both of our last names. No hyphen.

    We separated just a month later (shocking, I know) and I have informally dropped his last name.

  6. Carly says...

    I didn’t even consider taking my husband’s last name when we got married — I already had a last name! But when we found out I was pregnant, that’s when things got trickier. We both really liked the idea of giving the child my last name if it were a boy, and his if it were a girl, or some sort of alternating. But when that was mentioned to my Italian in-laws (who aren’t even that “traditional” — both academics, non-pracriticing Catholics from Sicily), my FIL was really upset. In the end, we decided a name shouldn’t cause a rift in the family, so our son got his father’s last name. As for the first name, after 46 hours of labor, my husband said I could choose. ;)

  7. Jessica says...

    I didn’t change my last name and a part of me wanted my daughter to have my last name but the names we chose wouldn’t sound right with my last name. Instead my daughter has two middle names. One after my grandmother and my last name (as proof of ownership). I know it’d be easier if I changed my last name, I’m always called by my husband’s last name but I like my name. It’s easy and simple and I’m hard to find on the internet because of how common my name is.

  8. I always knew I’d keep my maiden name when I got married — my mom did, and myself and my brother and sister each have her last name as our middle names (when I was little, I thought ALL siblings had the same middle name as each other!).

    I just celebrated five years of marriage with my wife, who kept her last name too. Almost one year ago, our first baby was born! I carried him, so he and I share genetic material. Because of that, we decided he’d have her last name.

    Despite being married, and despite the fact that she’s named as one of his parents on his birth certificate, my wife still had to formally adopt our son once he was born. It felt strange, and scary, and a little silly to go through all the paperwork to formalize what we and everyone in our lives (and the baby, even though he was only 2 months old) already knew. I think having the same last name helped her feel a little “safer” — that their relationship is based on so much more than a judge’s signature. Her family and history is, too. He’s almost a year old now, and they’re hopelessly devoted to each other. And now I get to experience the same challenges my mom did by having a different last name than her children!

  9. I get so much crap about this still! I live in Ireland and didn’t take my husbands name. He gets it, but I know he would really love it if I took his name. His whole family calls me by his last name and it totally annoys me. If we ever have kids I know it’s going to be an issue… I’ve had to just let it go and say they’ll have his last name (it’s important to him because he’s the only boy, whatever). These are good suggestions but I really wish that there was a better option for me!

    • Sue says...

      Lucy, I totally get this. I’m Irish & have more ‘updated’ views but my fiancé is typical Irish. We get married next summer & I will not take his name & it’s a big issue at the moment. Right now, I’m standing by my morals! I do not know what it means for our future children though!

  10. Women shouldn’t change their surname after the marriage. This happens since many decades in Italy, but the children used to take automatically the father’s surname, until recently where you can choose to give the 2 surnames and in which order. In Germany a family must have all the same surname and you have basically 4 options: father’s surname, mother’s surname, father-mother’s surnames or mother-father’s surname. In Spain and south American married women keep their surname and the children have father-mother’s surname. It is a matter of equality. I can’t believe that in the Anglo-American countries there is still this old fashioned custom to change a woman’s surname after the wedding. In the UK they even say for example Mrs John Smith (!!!) or Princess Michael of Kent (!!!), unbelievable! In Sweden Princess Madeleine of Sweden was able to pass the princely status to her children even if her husband Chris O’Neill refused the Prince’s title to be able to continue his job.

  11. Devon Balsamo-Gillis says...

    I have a hyphenated last name- my mother’s name (Balsamo) and then my father’s (Gillis). Both names will die out with me and my sisters. My fiance and I haven’t found a solution, since his family name (Gault) is also at risk of dying out. Both of our father’s are venerated in their fields and provide a cool legacy, so we like the idea of combining their names to honor them (Gillis-Gault). But then my poor mom and her whole side (including an infamous Occultist from 1700s Italy!) get left out! An added layer of identity politics- I’m white and my fiance is black. His last name can be traced back to the slaves he is descended from. So, having a mixed family with such a complicated history, it’s really important for us to be as unified as possible. It’s just a matter of finding the right combination of names!

    • Esther says...

      Yes! My partner and I are getting married in April and are of different cultural and language backgrounds. The decision gets more complex when it’s not only a gender rights question but also a question of how to give your children ownership of their rich cultural identities!

    • L says...

      Either Balsamo or Gillis could work as a first name. Just a thought….

  12. Helen says...

    I kept my maiden name….but after 16 years of marriage and four kids I began to feel like the odd one out…..(our children have my maiden name as a second middle name)…..so I decided to change it. One of the reasons was when I was traveling through Switzerland and they almost didn’t let me board the flight with my children because I couldn’t prove they were mine. Apparently you need to carry a notarized letter stating you are the parent. I’ve travelled all over the world with them and that was the only problem I had but it did start me thinking…..and I guess I just felt more secure in my own identity. It didn’t feel like such a big issue anymore….but it’s definitely been a hassle. It’s taken over four years to get everything (websites, emails etc) all sorted out and I’m still not done.

  13. I think the whole point of this article isn’t to say what’s feminist vs. not feminist when it comes to names, but it’s the decision making process with your partner that matters.

    Women shouldn’t feel any shame for taking their partner’s last name more than women who choose not to keep their surname.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes so true!!!

  14. Sometimes I feel like I failed the cause by taking my husband’s last name, but honestly, I LIKED his last name better than mine! I grew up with the last name Moyal, which is the person who circumcises babies in Jewish culture. My dad used to say it’s a great honor. ;) I never liked the way it sounded, especially with my first name (Joy–too many nasally sounds!). Also, I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad or his father. I’m very proud of my Jewish heritage (my grandmother is a Holocaust survivor) but I figure my Hebrew middle name carries that along. I also feel very proud of my heritage on my mother’s side, even though I’ve never carried their name, which made me feel less attached to the name and more to the values and legacy a family passes down. Also, I wanted the new family I created with my husband (even if it was just us two) to have one name–Team Thompson! All that to say, now that I have a daughter I’m so glad we all have the same name, and I even gave her my middle name so she carries that part of my heritage, too. :)

  15. Erin says...

    My parents hyphenated their names when they got married, and my brother and I also got both their names. Although hyphenating sometimes requires that you repeat both your last names in different orders several times, it’s really not any worse than having any other weirdly spelled last name. And I love that there are only four of us in the world with that particular name, and that if someone knows one of us, they can recognize our relationship when they meet another of us. If my last name was Johnson, I’d never get random people in another city saying to me at a check out , “Are you related to Ben? I went to school with him!”

  16. YoungDirectionless says...

    I kept my maiden name, and was going to go with my husband’s last name purely because I thought it sounded better. Then the package arrived, addressed to baby mylast-hislast. Something about seeing our names together made our baby seem real. She may hate us when it comes time to learn to write what is now a very long name (first middle mylast-hislast), but we love it.

  17. Diany says...

    I do not judge anyone who decides to keep their name, take their spouse’s name or give themselves a new one, but I do have a real issue with reading so many comments that state that taking your husband’s name is ‘anti-feminist’. There are many circumstances that can lead someone to make such decision that are much more complex than a simple desire to follow tradition. For instance, one may have a difficult history with his family that may lead to wanting that change. I took my husband’s last name and it does not make me any less of a feminist. I continue to be an independent woman- and such independence allows me the freedom to CHOOSE what I want my name to be.

    • Jamie says...

      Yes! Completely agree. The entire point is the freedom to choose!

    • Amanda says...

      Yes, thanks for mentioning this Diany! My maiden name comes with a lot of baggage and bad memories, and maybe if things had been different I would have considered keeping my last name or hyphenating, but I honestly felt so much relief to shed it and take my husband’s. His family is everything I always wanted – large, sweet, silly, and supportive beyond a doubt. I was happy to take his name…but I still consider myself a feminist.

    • Chloe says...

      Agree! I feel this internal struggle a lot as a newlywed.
      I’ve hated my last name since middle school–it was my father’s and I haven’t talked to him in 20 years. I couldn’t wait to get rid of it, but I’m not sure I love my husband’s last name either. When I tell other women that I’m probably going to change my name, I get a lot of “be strong–keep your name!” reactions that totally miss the point. People have their own reasons for doing things and shouldn’t feel pressured when making such a big decision.

    • sarah says...

      yes, exactly. My last name never felt like my name but the name that belongs to a father that always put his needs before mine. When the day comes to take the name of a person I love and am loved by I will gladly rid myself of a name that only brought me sorrow.

    • Anna says...

      Me too! My personal relationship with my family made me feel extremely happy to take my husband’s name and get rid of a maiden name I didn’t like nor identify with. I love having his name – starting afresh and identifying as our own family now. An added bonus is that it’s a beautiful name (the name of a flower) and in some ways it feels like a gift from him to me – sharing his name. I love it and we gave it to our son too. Interestingly, my husband would have been more than happy for me to keep my old name and had actually assumed I’d keep mine (his mother kept her name) – he was really surprised when I updated everything with my new name after we got married!

  18. I got married in January and pondered on the name thing for a while. My maiden name is Dutch and a very rare surname in the U.S. I’ve also been very interested in genealogy since I was a kid, so I know all of my ancestry on that side of the family dating back to the 1600s. My maiden name is definitely a big part of my identity (as anyone’s name is), so I definitely didn’t want to give it up completely. I considered replacing my middle name with my maiden name, but my middle name is my grandmother’s, so I didn’t want to give that up, either.

    So I ended up keeping ALL of my names AND tacking on my husband’s last name! All my official documents (social security card, driver’s license, credit cards, etc) list all four names, but I just go by my first name and husband’s last name. It just makes me feel better knowing that my maiden name is still officially part of my last name.

    When we have kids, I’ve thought about eventually giving my daughter my middle name as her own middle name and then dropping it from my own name. That way my grandmother’s name is still honored. I’ve also thought about giving my son my maiden name as a middle name and dropping that part. But changing your name is a hassle!

    I really didn’t mind taking my husband’s last name. Like I said, I felt better knowing my maiden name is still part of my full official last name. And he didn’t mind me keeping it. In my eyes, keeping your maiden name isn’t necessarily a feminist act, because it likely came from your father. Feminism is about having the freedom to do whatever you want!

  19. Sara DeRose says...

    I kept my last name when I married. It just seemed so antiquated to change it not to mention anti-feminist. Now that I have two school-aged children who have their father’s last name, I have to say that it does bother me to not have the same last name as them. Everyone automatically calls me by their last name anyway and I have to either let it slide or correct them. I have actually been thinking of changing my last name now, almost 10 years later. The only thing stopping me is fear that my friends and colleagues (I work in social justice/women’s rights) will judge me.

    • sarah says...

      Maybe think of it this way: you’re not taking another man’s name (not that I think there’s anything wrong with that) but you’re taking your children’s name. And what’s more beautiful than that?

  20. Jane says...

    This piece is pertinent for me right now – all my three children will have different last names. My oldest (from a previous marriage) has his father’s surname (my ex laughed outright when I suggested he take my name when we married – only one reason among many for the ex factor!)
    With my current partner, we cut a deal during my last pregnancy when we decided on that baby taking his name, and that the next one due in 8 weeks will take my name. My partner was supportive of either way on both occasions, though some of his mates have given him slack. I’m excited to create our family, our way! And I love some of the unique choices in this article!

  21. Sara says...

    A family tree helps. There’s a reason some ‘traditions’ actual work for everybody. These days some things are so overly complicated, and for what? No one will be traceable to any family in the future if names keep altering.

    • B says...

      I love YOU, voice of reason

    • Victoria says...

      This is an odd take. If the problem is being “traceable” than surely you’d be against everyone changing their name, right?

      And traditions exist outside of the U.S., too, where a lot of people are given the last names of both parents.

    • lexi says...

      LOL this is ridiculous. My family tree has lots of last names on it; amazingly we are even able to trace the first and middle names even though they are different from the last names! And within the next 20 years we will probably be tracing things through genome scan anyway.

    • Sonja says...

      Alternately, 8 out of 10 of my paternal descendants are named Samuel LastName. That’s like 250 years worth and I am here to tell you that it makes for the most convoluted family tree imaginable.

      Conversations are complicated: “Which Samuel? The one that married his cousin in 1824 or the one that named his first son Sam but then he died as a toddler so he named his SECOND son Sam as well!?”

      No good! Sam is a lovely name but there was no way that I could stomach it based purely on family history.

  22. Nina says...

    My husband and I are going through IVF with an egg donor. I have spent months being crushed that I won’t have a biological connection to our baby. I’ll be its mother of course, but I do mourn not seeing myself in them. My husband gently suggested to me that of course the baby should have my last name. When he said it, I thought oh yeah! A part of me goes on. It makes me so happy when I think of it. It’s made what has been a really rough process a little easier.

  23. Tara says...

    I have my mother’s maiden name as my middle name. When my husband and I were married, I kept my own name.

    We now have two boys, and our oldest has my last name as his middle name; my youngest has my middle name (also my mother’s maiden name), as his middle name. Its worked out lovely that both kids have one of our family names, and while that may not carry as a tradition to the next generation, I’m happy to share that with them now.

  24. Anonymous says...

    I don’t have kids yet, but because my partner and I definitely want to keep our own names (it’s who we are!) I’ve thought a lot about it. I think ultimately our kids will have one of our last names as a middle name – whichever we think sounds better. I’ve read horror stories about a mother not having the same last name as her kids and having trouble with permissions with hospitals, gathering info from federal agencies, etc. The middle name helps.

  25. Emily says...

    My mom kept her last name as an act of feminism and my brothers and I all have her last name as a second middle name. I’d be open to taking my eventual husband’s last name, but would feel horrible losing either of my parents’ last names. I have a feeling I might keep my name and go for hyphenation. The older I get, the more I feel I am developing an identity and my accomplishments using my name, and the idea of taking my husband’s last name feels so patriarchal and icky. I dislike the idea that if I got married, I’d become one of his family and stop being part of mine. I like the idea of both being part of both much better, and I think that’s best represented by children having a hyphenation or the mom’s maiden name as a second middle, like my parents did. As a silly aside, my boyfriend and I just adopted kittens together and each kitten has a first name, middle name, and our last names hyphenated together!

  26. Sarah says...

    I am getting married next year, and while keeping our own names was barely a discussion, we CANNOT agree on last name(s) for our future spawn. I think they’ll get both names, but even the order is a point of contention. We use a silly mashup of our two last names when we refer to our little family unit – our poor children may end up with that monstrosity of a name if we can’t agree on anything else!

  27. Lauren says...

    My wife and I have been together for almost twenty years, and were legally married four years ago. We decided at that time, that changing our names, didn’t feel right. We both felt attached to the full names we had been given at birth, in all of their long, German-based, heavy-mouth sounding, Cincinnatiness. We had a child two years ago, and combined our last names, and that’s the one our kid now walks through the world using. We love that it’s equal parts both of us, and didn’t get much push back from people when they found out, as we’d been calling ourselves by that name for ages. Every now and again we’ll get an unsolicited, “that’s super weird to do to your kid”, comment. But, like all things parenting, it’s one step at a time, and remembering that you’re parenting in the best way for your kid, and your family; unless the person with the opinion is paying your bills, getting up with your kid at night, and are actively involved in all other aspects of parenting, (SPOILER ALERT: NO ONE IS DOING THAT) then they don’t get a say ;)

  28. Georgia says...

    I married my wife last year and I’ve had real indecision with names. We wanted the same name, but didn’t want to double barrel. I agreed to take her name, but I’m a teacher and after just a few days of being called Mrs Martin I really felt that the name wasn’t right for me, so I reverted to my maiden name. We’re beginning to consider children and we’re in a real bind with names again! All we know is that we don’t want to double barrel for our children, but we’re not sure how to have a cohesive family name! It’s nice to see the other ideas that people have had.

  29. Rachel Ake Kuech says...

    My husband and I struggled with this question immensely before our marriage two years ago. I wanted to keep my last name because it’s just been my identity my whole life and I felt weird about changing it. Also I’m a book cover designer and all my work up to that point had my maiden name on it, work that I’m proud of, and I didn’t want to lose my tie to it. However, we did want to have the same name as a family. We went against hyphenating because we wanted to save our future children the problem of falling in love with another human with hyphenation and then having to juggle FOUR last names. On top of all that, this branch of my maiden name is maybe, possibly dying out with my generation as we are all girls and even as a kid that thought bothered me. We ended up taking his last name and my maiden name is now my middle name which I still by as my last name at work. By the way, this has been a huge headache for HR at my company and the mailroom, and if you get married in NY, changing your middle name is not part of the legal options in the marriage paperwork so you have the months long process of name change court. All in all, we regret over-complicating it and wish we had gone with making up a whole new last name like we had toyed with. In fact, we talk about going back through name change court to do just that! This is such a silly issue that needs to be talked about more and thank you for talking about it here! I wish you all the best in finding what’s right for you, Hallie!

    • I am in literally the same exact boat. I changed my last name to my middle name and took my husbands name but I still use my maiden name for work. I’ve been having such an identity crisis because I can never remember what doctors offices/yoga studios/websites have my maiden name or married name and I end up just using both and then going into a speech about it that goes on too long while the poor person at the desk just stares at me: “Last name is Latour. No, maybe it’s Isler. I don’t know. Check them both. Ugh, they never tell you that when you get married, you’ll never know what your own name is…”

    • Rachel Ake Kuech says...

      YES! So true, Jessica! Every time having to check two names!

  30. Jamie says...

    I changed my last name when I got married, to his. Sadly, it’s a decision that has been met with a lot of judgement (I’ve been called “anti-feminist”?!) But it felt right to me and not because it’s ‘tradition’ either. My husband is Persian and when we got married, in Australia, we didn’t know anyone else in a mixed-race/ethnicity relationship. We also experienced some…unfortunate comments and racial slurs. His last name is identifiably Persian and I took it as an act of solidarity and defiance.
    I think changing your name can be a political act, but it can be political beyond gender lines. Sometimes taking the traditional route is a way of standing up for yourself and your family. An act of defiance.
    Funnily, we now live in Toronto. One of the most multicultural cities in the world. And almost everyone we know is in a mixed-race relationship! It doesn’t seem so political in this context. But I’m proud of my decision even if that means I’m judged by some.

    • Rosanna says...

      Yes this!! You put it perfectly. I am a white British woman, about to marry a Jordanian Arab Muslim man. Whilst I might have taken his name anyway (I like it, I want to feel connected to him, I feel no particular attachment to my family name etc..) there is definitely a strong element that is about solidarity and defiance for sure. In this day and age it feels like more of a revolutionary act for me to take an identifiably Arab/Muslim family name, than it does for him to take mine. Funnily enough he is actually worried about me doing it and wants me to drop the ‘Al’ at the beginning of the name, so it sounds less Muslim and I face less discrimination… Keeping his name also means keeping the connection to his tribe for our children, and for me means joining a huge Jordanian tribe which I am proud to do :) We really need to avoid judging women for these decisions – it goes so much beyond just gender, and for me taking his name is definitely a political statement for me and in thinking about what I want our future children to feel about their Arab / Muslim half.

    • Kathleen says...

      Honestly, HOW is it “anti-feminist” to change your last name. Isn’t the whole point of feminism to let women make the choice that feels right for them, no matter what that choice is? None of the choices presented here are wrong, they are just different. To me, a name is just one of the millions of things that you figure out together. Where to live, how to parent, who to be for one another? My husband and I have each made — and continue to make — compromises and gestures that, to some degree, favor the other person. They feel like gifts, large and small, that oppress neither of us but make us both feel closer to one another. And way back when we were picking a last name for our mixed-race family, and I knew that I didn’t feel a deep attachment to my last name, it seemed a loving gesture to take his… and to share it with our two children (whose first and middle names are strong ties to all four of their grandparents). It may not work for others, but it’s perfectly lovely for me!

  31. Tania says...

    I was up in the middle of the night thinking about this. I have a hyphenated last name (Mom-Dad), and my husband and I each kept our last names when we got married. When we had our son, it was really challenging to figure out his last name. Our names hyphenated together sounded really clunky, so I suggested our son should just have my last name. But my husband (ardent feminist in all other ways!) expressed that he really wanted our child to have his last name. Ultimately I caved and our child has my husband’s last name. It’s been bittersweet for me, because I feel a little left out now! But I love my husband’s last name and find it objectively very beautiful, whereas my last name is not melodious at all (but it’s mine!).
    One thing I hadn’t expected is how much the world expects that I will share a name with my child, especially because I have a hyphenated name. Everyone thinks one of the halves must be my husband’s/child’s, so that can be confusing.

  32. Leah says...

    I kept my last name (my husband didn’t care either way). I was shocked, however, to find out how many of my friends thought it was “emasculating”! What century are we living in?

    I had two friends in particular who were shocked that my husband could be “ok” with that (meanwhile he’s the most laidback person in the universe).

    I also had two friends who said they would have loved to keep their maiden names, but their husbands wouldn’t hear of it. It made me really sad.

  33. Nora says...

    I don’t know! My parents couldn’t decide either, so I’m stuck with two last names. I want me and my fiancé to have the same last name when we get married, but we can’t seem to find a way to compromise. When did last names turn into such a big part of (womens) identity? Why does potentially giving it up seem like such a lost battle?

  34. Gill F. says...

    I’ve thought about this a fair bit, especially as a gay lady. When I decide to get married one day I’ll probably keep my last name, but in terms of children who knows?! There’s less pressure because there is no man. But that also makes it pretty confusing. My gf (who might one day be the one I have kids with but might not) has a strong connection to her last name and her family, but to me my last name connects me to a father I don’t talk to. However, it also connects me to a sister and a niece and a nephew who I love so so much. So for myself I’d love to keep the name. But, I’d have no problem not giving it to my own children. It’s interesting how we have a little more freedom to make our own choices and be a little more creative when there’s no man involved!

  35. Erin says...

    My coworker (who kept her own last name), went a different route. They gave their first born (a girl) her last name, and their second born (a boy) his last name. They knew they were going to have two kids and two different last names. Now that they are in school, there is a bit of confusion, but they get through it!

  36. Stephanie Botsford says...

    I have been married for almost 30 years and find myself a little sad that as a society we’re still struggling through this issue. I did not change my name when we married – I never even considered it, actually. People asked asked all the time what we were going to do about our kids’ names. In the end, we decided to give them their dad’s last name. However, to keep them connected to my family names, we gave them first and middle names chosen from my family. Both of my girls carry names of strong women in my family. N in this way we felt we honored both families.

  37. janine says...

    I always hated my last name, so I took getting married as a convenient opportunity to change it. I had thought about changing it even before getting married. I brought up the idea of me and my husband both changing our last name to Ramone (as in the band the Ramones), but he rejected this idea based on ‘professional’ reasons. I ended up taking his last name because I liked the idea of our family all having the same last name, and I like the way it sounded with my first name. But sometimes I think I should have combined my last name with his.

  38. Nigerian Girl says...

    Not married. No kids. However, I did know right from my early twenties that I’d never change my name. If I end up having kids, they’ll either bear a hyphenated surname (my surname-their dad’s surname) or their dad’s surname alone. I don’t know for sure. I’ll cross that bridge if I ever get there.

  39. Valerie Seiferheld says...

    We got married this year and I actually surprised my husband with my decision to keep my last name. I just love my last name and certainly did not marry him because of his last name but because I love him.
    He is still not happy with that decision and secrectly hopes I will change my name one day. My own mother is totally against us having different names. She says families should share the same last name, which I think is so outdated.

    My husbands’ last name is already hyphenated and after German law it is simply impossible to add my name to his name. I suggested he could take mine to get rid of his complicated last name but that would never be an option for him.
    For our future children I wish we could either create a new last name or could use my name as their middle name. Both is not allowed in Germany. So it really depends where you live I guess and how many options you have. I feel pretty limited when it comes to our future children.

  40. Erin says...

    In my husband’s culture in Uganda, it’s pretty uncommon to share a family name. Most children born within his tribe are given two names — a name from their tribe (usually with some meaning) and a “western” name (often influenced by Christian or Muslim cultures). These names are both used as what Americans (and people from many other cultures) would consider “first names.” It seems that it’s not unusual for a married woman to take her husband’s tribal name, but it doesn’t seem as common for their children to share any family name.

    In my adult years, I often thought I would keep my maiden name should I ever marry. But after marrying my love (at 30 years old!), I really longed to share his name and share that name with him and with the family we are creating. (I’ve done nothing yet to change it legally, as I haven’t been to the U.S. since my marriage and changing everything is such a hassle!!) His name means “laughter” in the local language, which I also love. For our children, we’ll carry on his tribe’s naming tradition, and then add our new family name at the end.

    Also, honestly, part of the decision is practical. For my husband and our future children to be able to travel more freely between Uganda and the U.S. to visit family, etc., it will logistically be SO much easier if we all share the same name.

    Also, after reading this post, I’m considering the idea of giving my son my maiden name! That would be a cool way to honor some of my family’s history. I’ve really loved reading through the comments — as usual!

  41. Tracy O says...

    I love this article and the comments. I know a couple who made up a new (very poetic) last name and used that for themselves and their kids. I also know of a couple with two female children (whom they gave the father’s last name) and two sons (who received the mother’s last name).

  42. Dianne says...

    Gave my daughter my last name so
    my name would carry on. She’s married and she and her partner are changing their name to something totally different and out there. She is also changing her first name. So much for spending so much time on choosing just the right name.

  43. Dana says...

    I didn’t take my husband’s last name. I’d always assumed I’d change my name when I got married but it didn’t feel right when I got there. It wasn’t as if I was suddenly someone else! I did go ahead and give our boys his last name — it seemed important to him. So I gave him that and I chose Japanese middle names for the kids. I have one, too, and it’s one of the only ways to stay connected to that side of myself.

  44. Kate says...

    I respect everyone’s choices, as it’s such a personal decision, and I think that these are some great examples of different perspectives! I originally read this post and the comments this morning, and didn’t have WiFi in order to post my comment—I didn’t see this addressed in any of the comments at the time, so it may have been since…but just throwing another thought in—I work at a museum, and my job often includes genealogical research, and all I can think is how hard it will be in the future to trace lineage and research family trees! (Then again, maybe we’ll no longer be using documentary records in the future, and everything will be DNA based…who knows!)

    • Sarah Bergren says...

      Honestly curious about this argument- Isn’t this based on assumption that only paternal lineage counts?

  45. Nicole says...

    I’m not a feminist or an anti-feminist. I go through life making choices based on my gut and with consideration of others. To offer another view for women who are adamant about keeping their names and not passing on their husbands name, I ask, what about him? Being a modern woman doesn’t mean not respecting our men. I’m 7 months pregnant, engaged to a lovely man, and already I feel bad that pregnancy is wholly my female experience. He’s left out of so many special feelings and the deep connection I already have with our baby. It will only continue once she’s born, with me being the primary nurturer, breastfeeding, and so on. Good men want to be involved with their children. He’s working extra to make sure I can take a long maternity leave (my wish) and is completely devoted. How selfish it would be to deny him the simple honor of giving our daughter his last name. A healthy relationship is balanced and full of compromise, and that is what I wish to pass on to our child. She has a dad who loves her, loves me, and would do anything for us. I’m happy to give her her fathers name, even though I’m not changing mine.

    • Sophi says...

      This was almost exactly my sentiment… but only after our daughter was born. We still hadn’t decided on a surname when she was born (or first name, or known her sex), and when we were testing out names I was pretty adamant that I wanted to try them out with my surname, especially as the name we chose would give her the initials MM, which I thought was pretty cool. But when we announced it to our parents it just didn’t sit right with me – partly because of my partner’s history with his father (who is actually his stepfather, who adopted him, and whose name he took as an older child) – but mostly because it felt like I already had such a physical, visceral connection to our child that this connection of name felt like a gift I could give the two of them.

    • molly says...

      You expressed this so beautifully! xo

    • Madeleine M Brown says...

      The flip side of this for me is that depending on your perspective, women go to such an immense physical effort, unlike anything men will ever endure, to bring that child into the world. I feel as though asking a woman to bear the child and then immediately bestowing the man’s name upon it is akin to ripping it away from the mother, despite her sacrifice.

      I can see both sides, but as someone who is deeply fearful of pregnancy and childbirth (not all women have the pleasant experience that you’ve been fortunate to have,) I struggle with what I perceive as a lack of acknowledgment of the mother’s role.

    • Selina says...

      It’s not disrespectful to men to keep our name or not decide not to give the baby his, though. So many people say that the woman is not committed enough or not honouring her husband if she doesn’t change her name but that’s not disrespect or dishonour either

  46. Robin says...

    I didn’t take my husband’s name. At thirty, with a publication to my name, it seemed late to change it, though more of my friends did than I would ever have expected. I knew that he would never consider taking mine, too. Maybe he’ll get there someday, but he isn’t there yet, much as I love him! Some things aren’t worth fighting. So we gave both our kids my name as a second middle name. Their full names are a bit long, but I like knowing that it’s there and I think they do too. I’ve never been bothered by not having a family last name (maybe because we don’t live the kind of life where we refer to ourselves or others as the smiths and so on. It’s all first names (or kate’s Mom or Noah’s dad etc). And if it comes to it I’m ok with being mrs lee if it’s for a school event or something – way easier to go with his name as an informal occasional last name than change over my whole work life.

  47. Eva says...

    I’ll just humbly add that, as someone who grew up with a different last name from my mom, it was never for a single moment in all of time over the past 34 years of my life, an issue—neither logistically nor mentally nor emotionally. Caused exactly zero problems/concerns/”issues” that many many people cite as reasons they’re freaking out about having diff last names in their family. I always land somewhere between amused/annoyed when it comes up in convo. If age ain’t nothing but a number, last names ain’t nothing but a word. :)

    Love to see all the different ways families are embracing creative approaches to honoring themselves, each other, and their growing families, without judgment. Thanks for this lovely post!

    • Emily says...

      hear, hear! me too.

    • Kelly says...

      yep! I’m a mom with a different last names than my kids – who are adopted to boot and different races than my husband and I – and the last name thing has NEVER been an issue! Not at the doctor’s office, not at school, not traveling, never. But pre-kids, i was told A LOT what a nightmare this would be!

    • Courtney says...

      I am a teacher and have encountered HUNDREDS of children that don’t have the same last name as their mom, or sometimes siblings, or maybe the people they live with that are their caretakers. I never think it makes them “less” connected. When I meet a mom to one of my students, and the last name is different, I don’t even think twice. She’s still the mama!

    • GZ says...

      I totally agree that it doesn’t diminish the connection I feel to my mom, but as the daughter of a perpetually young-looking mom with a different last name, there have often been times that others mistook her as a younger stepmother and not my biological mom. My mom probably didn’t mind, but it bothered me as a teen. It’s still amusing when it comes up now that I’m in my 30’s.

    • Sarah Bergren says...

      I love this perspective! I also feel like a follow up post is in order from blended family perspective. The reality is lots of woman and their families end up having to make this choice more than once in a lifetime. I grew up with more than one friend who didn’t have the same last name as their mom because Mom took 2nd husband’s name. Certainly didn’t make them any less the mother!!

  48. Karen says...

    I took my first husbands last name when we married very young. When we divorced I kept it to make thing easier with the kids and because it had been mine for so long it felt more “mine” than my maiden name. When I remarried I kept my ex’s name for five more years but eventually changed it to my husbands when we had a child and started a business using his last name,but wish I hadn’t. It isn’t a name I like but such a hassle to change again, plus my ex would think me insane for taking his name back even though it feels more like me than my maiden. Ugh!! My kids all have their dad(s) last name and that’s fine with me. A name is just a name at the end of the day, not who you are:)

  49. K2 says...

    My husband’s parents were super progressive. He (the oldest), got his dad’s surname, his middle brother got his mom’s, and they flipped a coin for the youngest (mom for the win!). When we were expecting, we kept the gender a surprise, and picked the surname that sounded best with our chosen first names. The baby was a boy, so now our son has my last name :)

  50. Camille says...

    I love Hallie so much and I’m so thrilled to see her work here! Yay!

    I took my husband’s last name, and our two kids have that name as well. I did change my middle name to my maiden name, which is something my mom did as well. If I could do it over we would choose a new last name together!

  51. Jessica says...

    I am polyamorous, and it is highly likely my household will have three parents, me and my two husbands. I have no children yet, but this question of what to do about last name HAUNTS me. I absurdly want all of my children, parented by either husband, to have all three of our last names. What is much more probable is that we’ll have a family with a mix of last names according to parentage, to appease the in-laws. When I mull this over I just have to remind myself that names are just titles and it’s love that makes a family. I’ll have to remind my children of this too!

  52. Kaitlin says...

    My daughter has my last name, and my husband’s middle name. Ultimately, we took this direction because it was the feminist road we wanted to travel, but my surname is also less common (his is Simpson, which Matt Groening chose for the show because it was the second most popular last name in America.)

    I had a double barreled last name growing up, and I eventually dropped my mother’s maiden name. My father, born with the last name Wolfe, was adopted as a teenager and eventually took his guardian’s last name. I was the only descendant of that name until my daughter was born. The flip side is that his brother, a Wolfe, adopted a son who has since had three boys of his own and continued that branch of the family tree. It’s not the reason we went in this direction, but it does make for a lovely story.

  53. Peony says...

    We gave our daughter the un-Americanized version of my last name hyphenated with my husband’s last name. It’s very long but she likes it. We haven’t changed our names but unofficially use her last name as our family name.

  54. Emma says...

    My middle name is my mom’s last name (Wold) and my last name is my dad’s last name (Wennberg). My parents didn’t want to hyphonate, but they wanted both names in mine, so there you go, Emma Wold Wennberg.

  55. Marianne says...

    Such a Great topic! When my husband and i married he wanted to take my last name – but being a Norwegian and he is an english speaker I rejected as he could not pronounce it right :) so we kept our own names. A few months later, I changed my last name to his and kept my last name as a middle name. He was floored by the surprise and I remember him saying; holy smokes, now we can’t f**** this marriage thing up :) today we celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary and we love that our two kids got names that reflect their dual heritage. The funny thing is that everybody thinks our last name is Norwegian –

  56. Jessica says...

    I kept my last name after getting married, and I am very adamant that my children will have my last name. For me, whoever birthed the child should get first dibs! As a proud feminist, I find the entire concept that a child that the women carries in her body for close to ten months just automatically gets the last name of the father sort of abhorrent. Also, I recently went back and looked at my family genealogy, and it really struck me just how erased we as women are (the convention is to follow back the male line, since that is the easiest way to track the last names). I guess I’m just so surprised how many women that choose to keep their last names are perfectly fine continuing the tradition of passing the last name along patrilinially. Obviously it is sort of a small thing, but the small things in a society add up and ingrain in us all the concept that men are more important than women unless we decide to put our foot down, one small thing at a time.

  57. marsha says...

    I always hated my last name so it was a blessing to change to my husbands which I think it just beautiful and flows way better with my first and middle name (also means our kiddos will have their fathers last name as well). However, in balance, I get to pick the first and middle names, with the caveat that I’m only drawing on familial names from both sides. So far I’ve been democratic naming our daughter after my grandmother and hubbies aunt!

  58. Jane says...

    A friend of mine just had a baby girl, and the baby shares her mother’s first name. In fact, she’s the 4th generation in her family to do so! I just love it.

  59. Alexandra says...

    My brother’s first name is my mom’s maiden name, Charlton. However, she kept her maiden name professionally (us kids have our dad’s last name), so when she announced to her office that she named her son Charlton, she got some strange looks because they thought they named him Charlton Charlton! I always thought that was a funny story (and giving your child the same first and last name would be a serious power move).

    • Robin says...

      Lol what a great story!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i actually have a friend whose dad is named thomas thomas! and he loves it :)

    • Alexandra says...

      That’s amazing Joanna!

  60. Kim says...

    I chose to keep my last name when my husband and I got married. It was never really a question – I’ve always preferred my last name to my first name as it is obviously French and a bit unusual, even in French. On the other hand, I never identified with nor liked my short, typically 80s American first name. Though I do like how the combination perfectly demonstrates my two countries of origin and mixed background :) Its even useful in my work as I go between English and French on a daily basis. I think for future children, they’ll take my last name as their middle name and my husband’s last name. We both come from multicultural/racial backgrounds (4 continents between us) so I understand he feels attached to the heritage his name represents as well, and I’d like our kids to feel this connection as well. Hopefully this way our future children will have every name/heritage option at their disposal and can decide on their own how they want to identify/introduce themselves in the future!

  61. Kendal says...

    Both my husband I kept our last names when we married. As for our child, we felt strongly we wanted our baby to have both names in some way. I was adamant I wanted my last name to be a last name, so my solution was hyphenation. My husband didn’t want to hyphenate so we decided our baby would have his dad’s last name as a middle name and my last name. I’m the only woman I know who has a kid with the mom’s last name. I’ll also note that my husband can be quite contrary and enjoyed the idea of bucking the trend. No pushback from family so far!

  62. Sara says...

    My mother kept her maiden name and added my father’s when they married. My parents didn’t give me a middle name so I’d do the same, while all my brothers did have middle names. I happily dropped my maiden name and took my husband’s name. I had fun deciding on a new signature. My father was hurt t that I didn’t keep his last name. It helped my parents that a year later my brother married a girl with my same first name and she took his last name. So my name is still in the family.
    When we adopted our children we gave them our last name, but kept their first and in some cases middle names. But we discussed it with them in advance so they could have input. It’s been important to our children to to have the same name as it unifies us and helps them know they belong. We kept their original birth certificates so they would have a choice as adults to reclaim their birth names if they want and to have that documentation.
    As time goes on though I feel more connected to my family on all the sides. Each of their family names are mine even if I don’t spell them when I sign my name.

  63. Sabrina says...

    My husband has a hyphenated name and it’s been a problem since we got married. I gave up my name and when we had kids they also got the hyphenated name. It was a big mistake. To have a last name that reflects only my husband side of the family is very frustrating. We talk about dropping one of the names, but we have yet made the time to officially & legally change our name. Hyphenated names can be such a hassle.

    • Silver says...

      I used to think this mattered so much (as in I seriously agonised over this issue), but now that I have been married for ages, and I have a kid who is almost 9, I couldn’t care less about his name/my name. I care that all those times my child was rushed to hospital that we kept him alive, I care that his father and I are still in love. I care that I decided to take my husband’s name to make his father (my father-in-law) happy- not because his father asked, he’d Never do that, but because I love him, I love the influence of manhood that he had on my gentle husband and it was the only way I could show my love (my husband is also the last in his family, who arrived here as refugees whilst my family name is common – there are millions of us). Who cares what people decide to do, must we sit in judgement? What matters is what we do, how we live and that we love.

    • Emily says...

      My husband also has a hyphenated last name, and it was a really hard decision when it came time to name our daughter. I felt uncomfortable with her getting both sides of his family and none of mine, so we created a new hyphen. (my last name-his father’s last name ). No one ever remembers what her last name is, not even her grandparents!

  64. Lisa Murphy says...

    Even though I took my husband’s surname, it was really important to me to keep mine as there are so few of us in the world. So, at our wedding, we decided to both take my surname as a middle names. Now we have a son and he too has my maiden name as a middle name too.

  65. Madeleine says...

    My husband’s parents gave him a hyphenated name, which has caused no end of challenges when checking in for flights, getting credit cards with the correct name, etc all of his life. I’d urge anyone considering hyphenating their last names because it seems like the “simplest” solution to consider that living with a hyphenated last name is anything but simple. Additionally, we always wonder what his (supposedly progressive) parents thought he would do when he got married himself one day. I’m sure that his mother, who wanted to pass along her name, wouldn’t expect his future wife to give up her own. And we can’t choose one of his names to hyphenate with mine, because his own parents are now acrimoniously divorced–nor would we want to pass the problem of a hyphenated last name to another generation.

    It seems to me that the best solution for anyone trying to come up with a fair solution would be to:

    1)Choose an alternate last name that is meaningful to both (based on heritage, literature, etc.) and would allow the family to have the same name
    2)Alternate last names (firstborn gets mother’s name, second gets father’s name, and so on) or name girls after their mothers and boys after their fathers

    One of these is likely what we’ll do if/when we have child(ren.)

  66. Jen says...

    My husband’s cousins combined their last names for their children.
    I thought it was progressive and lovely.

  67. anna says...

    just chiming in to say, that each of us kept our names and hyphenated the last names for our kids. and these are two pretty consonant-heavy, you-would-never-know-how-to-pronounce last names. our kids are now 8 and 5 and it has never been a problem. and they enjoy being (we’re pretty certain) the only person in the world with that particular set of names.

  68. Lisa says...

    I changed my last name when we got married, for many reasons. I had just turned 30, had gone through some big changes and was about to enter a new phase of my life, so changing name seemed appropriate (and I got to change position in the alphabet which was nice, and it’s a really nice last name).
    For Sephardi Jews (which we are) there’s a tradition that you name the child after someone as an homage and in the hope that they take on that person’s good characteristics, particularly after grandparents and great grandparents. Our first child is a boy, so the first name is after someone outside the family, his second name is after my paternal grandfather and then his surname is from his paternal grandfather (of course). So both families were represented. For our second child (a girl), we just really liked her first name (it’s not after anyone) and her second name is my mother in law’s. When our daughter was born, she was really ill and my mother in law just went beyond in helping look after our toddler and us in the aftermath (and she’s just really lovely).
    The other consideration was that there are six grandchildren on my side of the family, whereas these are the only grandchildren on my husband’s side. So there’s plenty of people carrying on my father’s (and actually my mother’s) name, but only these two for my husband’s side.

  69. Lauren says...

    When we got married, we talked a lot about what we might do. I was adamant that I wouldn’t take his – a position that became all the more reinforced when it became clear he wouldn’t entertain taking mine. Some friends said that I already have a mans name, so why make a fuss (?!) but I just couldn’t stomach it. I like my full name – not just my first name – and like my partner I will be the last in the line of the name isn’t carried on. We discussed hyphenating for a while, but neither of us really wanted to, and the only impetus for us is for our children to share a name. So for now, while that’s still something the future hopefully holds, we’ve agreed that they will have our hyphenated names, unless we identify a further, third name, that we’re all happy to share.

  70. Kathy says...

    My own name journey has had a long and winding road – when I married my husband in 2013, I changed my name to his surname because it seemed ”easier” to just do it and to start my career with that name. But it never quite felt like my name – even though my maiden name is somewhat tricky to spell and pronounce, it’s melodic and it’s mine. So, in early 2016, I changed my name back to my maiden name (kept the same middle name the whole time). I proposed that my husband could also change his name, but he didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

    Now that I am pregnant, he says he is fine with anything as long as I am happy. I would like to name our child, if it is a boy, with a first name from his family, so I think that I will go with my last name. I just wonder if I should completely erase his last name, but it seems like it would be too long to have two last names and, as a middle name, it doesn’t matter all that much.

  71. Lydia says...

    I kept my last name when we got married. When I was pregnant my husband and I decided that all of our kids would have my last name as their middle name. It makes it simple (don’t have to pick two names for every kid) and it gives each kid both of our names without using a hyphen. When we joined our new parent group we were pleasantly surprised to find our that there were other families who had done the same thing. This may be more common when we live (Seattle) than other places.

  72. so many interesting comments here.
    when i got married, i wasn’t sure of what to do, but ended up hyphenating. i didn’t want to let go of my last name but knowing we would have biracial children, wanted to share a name legally in case of emergencies. two kids later, i’m so glad i did. in a “no i’m not the nanny” world it’s come to be useful. aside from that, i also happen to love it.
    for our kids, we decided to use my husband’s last name. he was last of his last name’s crew and we knew we would want first names in spanish to reflect my culture. i adore both of our children’s names. one of the best compliments i heard after our second was, “you guys really know how to name people.”

  73. TC says...

    I kept my last name when I got married, but when my son was born he got my husband’s last name. I didn’t want to hyphenate our names, but I also didn’t like the sound of my last name as my son’s middle name, so I just let it be. I didn’t feel the same way about my son taking my husband’s name as I did about changing my last name, because my son is tied to my husband in a way I’ll never be. And I love my husband — why would I have a problem with my son sharing his name? It doesn’t matter if my son and I don’t share the same name — I will always be his mother and he will always be my baby.

  74. Esvee says...

    When I got married, I kept my last name. My husband agreed with this move. When I was pregnant, we had so many discussions about what to do about the baby’s last name! My husband professed to be fine with anything – my last name, his last name, or hyphenating. But our last names together are so clunky! Both of us agreed that hyphenating was not ideal. I knew that I definitely did not want the baby to have just his last name, so in my mind hyphenating or my last name were the only options. And yet… when my daughter was born, we hyphenated!

    I’m disappointed with her last name. I feel that it’s a reflection on me – is patriarchy really that ingrained in me too? And I feel that it’s partly also a reflection on my husband, because it was a big deal decision that he basically excused himself from being a part of.

    Now I’m considering changing her last name to mine. But she is three! She knows her full name, and I imagine that this would be interpreted as something it’s not. It’s not about my husband being her dad, or about our marriage. It would sound excellent, and I feel that the mother’s last name is way more appropriate for a million reasons. Has anyone changed their kid’s last name? How did it go?

    • Elle says...

      I have, for various reasons, first had my mother’s last name, then both and then only my father’s. It was never a problem. When I got married I changed to my husband’s. maybe because my last name didn’t mean as much to me having changed it so many times already. What I mean is, she’s only three. She’ll be fine.

    • Lauren says...

      Someone at work did this: their first child had his name, but with the birth of the second they decided they would give her his wife’s name. After that, they agreed they wanted the children to have the same names – the woman’s – so they changed it be deedpoll. He said it was incredibly difficult because of the child protection laws that are in effect in the UK (you have to have lots of testimony from different people to make sure you aren’t doing anything untoward) but they’re happy with the decision that they made.

  75. Anonymous says...

    When I married, I never considered taking my husband’s name, which is incredibly, incredibly common (think Smith or Johnson), but he seems to feel strongly that our kids should have his name. I’m resistant to his stance, mostly because it seems to indicate what Hallie said, that his desire to pass his name onto their children is expected and accepted, but giving them mine would be “weird” or require too much explaining to be worth it. I try to remember that, ultimately, your children’s names need to be about them – they’re the ones who have to live with them, and so how you feel about it shouldn’t take priority over how they’ll feel about it as they move through life. We have a family member who named their baby a common-sounding name, spelled bizarrely — and that poor kid is going to have to correct people for the rest of his life. So while the act of naming is fun, and feels very personally meaningful and important, I try to remember that it’s actually not about me. I’m not the one who will really experience the name, for better or for worse – my kids will be.

    • Laura says...

      When your name is not passed on, you are being erased from the genealogy, just like every other woman in history was. This practice is the very fabric of the patriarchy. You don’t need to apologize about fighting that, nor should you try to ignore your own feelings by convincing yourself it’s ‘best for the children’. Taking the man’s name benefits the man and the patriarchal genealogy, and no one else. If your husband doesn’t want to confront that, well how sad for everyone involved, but even if you want to avoid conflict at least don’t ignore your own feelings by telling yourself stories. There is a reason why your instincts are telling you this is unfair: IT IS. I wish you luck.

  76. Elizabeth says...

    My husband and I both took double last names (like hyphenated, just without the dash) by adding his late mother’s last name to our own when we got married, so now I’m Firstname MyLast Ourlast and he’s Firstname Hislast Ourlast. If we have kids (an if for us) they’ll just have Ourlast. The name isn’t used by anyone else in the family now, so it feels like just ours while simultaneously honoring his mom and including her in our lives. I don’t believe in giving kids their father’s last name, but we live in the country my husband is from and my last name is very foreign sounding here, and we also realized from a logistical standpoint that if we do have kids it’s much easier to travel with them internationally – a reality of our lives – if you share last names on your passport (especially in and out of the US, where even Northern Europeans like my husband are generally treated like criminals for simply visiting.) I admittely sometimes *still* feel weird about changing my name in this most egalitarian, feminist of ways! But mostly I’m very happy with the solution we ended up with.

  77. Julie says...

    I didn’t change my last name when I got married, my name was mine for 32 years and it will be mine forever. If I have a child they will have my husband’s last name-part of me hates that covention, the other part doesn’t care enough to argue about it.

    • lkb says...

      You summed up exactly how I feel. I like my name! And something felt weird to me about changing it to my husband’s just because everyone else does it. (Plus, I’d have to learn how to sign my name again…)

      My mom never changed her name (through two marriages), and I always loved that, even when I had to explain it. I wonder if I would have made the same decision if she had changed it though. It’s nice that alternatives are becoming more commonplace now.

  78. Kate says...

    An interesting topic! I took my husband’s surname but remember feeling a sense of loss at the time. 7 years later though, that seems silly because a surname is just a surname. A first name carries way more weight because it is almost always chosen. And it was really important to us that we form our own family unit, all with the same surname. So my kids have his surname which I now think of as ours. The only downside is being Mrs SameSurnameAsmyMIL!

  79. Jenny says...

    When my wife and I married, I hyphenated and added her last name to mine for the sake of future children (that way we’d all have a similar name and have less issues with parent identification at school or in a hospital, etc.). We’ve since decided not to have kids and I’ve since realized that hyphenated names are a pain in the ass! I always have to provide both names and say “it’s hyphenated” because 99% of the time, there’s confusion (they often think I’m saying my first and last name). Or when someone can’t find me in their system, I have to say “Well, maybe it’s under this…” until I find whatever combo their system uses (many don’t accept hyphens, some enter just the first name, some enter just the last name, some combine it into one long name). I wish I’d just combined our names and made up a new one like my wife suggested!

  80. KB says...

    My partner and I aren’t married but are both divorced from previous relationships. When I divorced I took back my maiden name and vowed never to give it up again. When we had our child last year, we agreed that he would have my last name as I was the one who carried him, and my partner already has 2 children from his previous marriage who have his name as well as his ex. I wanted my child to have my name and we gave him my partners name as a middle name.

  81. Lisa says...

    I will never change my last name as I’m only 1 or 4 people in the world carrying the name. When my parents are no longer with us, it’s up to me and my sister to carry the name forward, and I have a feeling it’ll be up to me. My sister had two children who are carrying their fathers name (which is super common, but his family are assholes so my sister didn’t want to take the fight) and unfortunately I don’t think that will change when they get married next year. So that leave me! I don’t know if I will ever have children but if I do, the last name is not even up for discussing. He can name the kid Pancake for all I care, but it’s getting my last name!!

  82. Irina says...

    This is going to be a tough decision for our family if/when the time comes.

    When my husband and I got married, we each kept our name. Hyphenating both names for our kids is not a realistic option as both of our last names are long and difficult to pronounce even individually, let alone together. We’ve gotten to the point where we usually don’t even say our last names in business or official situations, we spell them out without being asked because we know we’re going to have to do it anyway.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of carving out one combined name from our two last names but nothing sounds good. And, I would feel weird giving our kids a different last name than either mine or my husband’s, even if it contains elements of our individual names.

    Using middle names is also not an option in our case. We are both from Russia (currently living in the US) and Russians don’t have middle names in the American sense. What sometimes gets entered as the middle name on a Russian immigrant’s US passport or driver license is actually the patronymic, which is a name derived from your father’s first name (like “son of such and such” or “daughter of so and so”). Because this is different for each individual, it does not get passed down from generation to generation.

    I have a feeling that we’ll go with my husband’s last name for our kids to keep things (relatively) easy, and give first or middle names reflecting my side of the family to balance it out. Several of my great aunts and great uncles were killed in the Holocaust, leaving no direct descendants, either because they were still young and unmarried, or because their entire family including their children was wiped out. As far as I know, no one has been named after them and I’d like to commemorate them in the next generation.

  83. Syd says...

    I’ve always found this conversation so interesting, mainly because I’m personally so undecided. In terms of my last name I know that I will keep my family name. This became obvious when every time I noticed a newly wed friend had changed their’s my gut reaction was to cringe and mutter about the patriarchy. I know better than to judge someone based on that, everyone makes decisions for their own reasons, but it made it clear that I had stronger feeling than I had realized on the subject.
    For my future children however I have no idea. Both of our last names are long and in my opinion pretty boring. So I have no particular attachment to either and they don’t sound great hyphenated or smooshed together into a new name. At this point I think that the best solution is to asses each child’s name as they come and chose which sounds best in each case. Maybe one will get my name and one will have his.
    At the end of the day there is no right answer, but I do strongly believe that it should never be a given that everyone will assume the husband’s name. It is an important conversation that every couple should have and any decision where both parties feel comfortable in their representation is the right one.

  84. Jess says...

    I am confused by this line: “Having two last names doesn’t complicate things in our country because you retain them for all your life.” Doesn’t that mean that these hyphenated children will grow up and hyphenate with their hyphenated spouse and end up with a dreaded four-hyphenated name?

    • Maria says...

      Nope! In Spanish we do the following:

      [First] [Middle (optional)] [Paternal Surname] [Maternal Surname]
      and you do not take your partners.
      Your child however gets the paternal surname from both.
      Example:
      Ana Maria Rodriguez Gonzalez is married to Carlos Alfonso Bernal Paez and their child is Carolina Bernal Rodriguez.
      The paternal continues to have more weight but most people grow up knowing a bunch of their surnames down the line!

      Back in the day Ana Maria would have become Rodriguez de Bernal to denote that she was his property but that is no longer the case.

    • Claudia says...

      I think in Costa Rica it is the same as in Mexico where I live. You can’t legally change your last name, so women never take their husband’s last name. Which is why I think she said you retain your last name for life.
      Here we do not hyphenate, you just have two last names.
      Children are given the father’s first last name and mother’s first last name.

  85. Jessica says...

    When my husband and I were holding each other in the pediatric emergency room on a dark, freezing winter night, praying with every fiber in our bodies that our sick four-week-old son would live, the hospital staff (even in our conservative Midwest city) KNEW we were family, with or without the same last name.

    My husband and I have different surnames, our children have our hyphenated surnames … and anytime anyone asks me why, I think of that night in the ER. True love and commitment will never come from the titles we inherit on a piece of paper.

    • Kari says...

      This is such a good reminder, Jessica. A surname is the least important factor in what makes a family.

  86. I have my mother’s maiden name / grandma’s last name as my middle name, and I love it. I feel like it’s like wearing a gold token of both of them around my neck.

    My husband and I considered making this our joint last name when we got married — it’s also the best sounding name of the three choices — but we chickened out, and we both kept our own.

    • Tuva says...

      We did just that; chose my middle name (my mum’s middle name / my grandmother’s last name) as our joint surname, and as our children’s only surname.

      We picked that name because it was the least common name of our total three options (my middle name, my surname and my husband’s surname – all of them location names) with only 11 people using that name in Norway (all of them as a middle name). It is an old Norse name, and also the name of the area my family lives in, so it’s a place all of us have a relation to, as opposed to the other names.

      We made a point of not just choosing my husband’s surname by default (also pretty common in Norway), but rather picking the best candidate based on other factors.

  87. Kiley says...

    So interesting to read all of these! I love that it’s not a given anymore to take a husband’s last name, that it’s a conversation. My husband and I started thinking of our last name when we got married. Initially the idea was for me to take his last name in full, and have him take my maiden name as his middle name (and I would have done the same). However, it didn’t sit right with me to “hide” my maiden name, so I decided to hyphenate. We agreed that our children would take his last name since it was more unique than mine was. The next hurdle once we found out we were pregnant was that he wanted to give our son his father’s middle name, but I felt like 1/3 of the name was already distinctly his, whereas our son’s first name had been decided by both of this. NOW we’re trying to decide if we should give him my maiden name as a middle name, or choose another sentimental name from my family. We’ll see! He’s not due until February, so we have time.

  88. Steph says...

    I married another woman is 2013 and we both liked our own last names too much to change. In 2016 when our son was born, we gave him a hyphenated last name. It felt important to me that both our names be included in his. At the time it felt like a pre-emptive strike to any system that would give us a hard time about his having two mothers. Our two names together only totals three syllables so it isn’t particularly cumbersome. If our names were both longer to begin with, I’m not sure we would have gone this route though. We would have probably given him one of our names as his middle name and the other as his last.

  89. Gia says...

    I took my husband’s last name mainly because my maiden name is Smith and I’ve always disliked having such a common last name. I also rationalized the decision in my feminist mind by thinking if I kept Smith it would still be from my father (a man. the horror!)

  90. Meredith says...

    I kept my maiden name because I liked it, my initials spell a shorter name, which I also sometimes go by, I am too lazy to change my name in all the places, and my husband’s last name is dumb. My in-laws are passive/aggressive about my much better last name by addressing ALL holiday cards and invitations to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dumb Last Name. Keep the name you like best or make up a new one. Don’t worry what anybody else thinks, especially the future teaching staff of your as-of-yet unborn children.

  91. Christina O says...

    I took my husbands last name, I didn’t feel like I had to, I know my husband wanted me to but he would have respected my decision had I not. I didn’t feel that strongly about keeping my own name and was surprised at the sense of loss I felt when I legally changed my name but I am still happy with the decision. I wanted to share the same last name as my future children and I knew it would be important to my husband that they take his. I grew up with divorced parents and always felt a bit strange having a different last name as my mom after she remarried and took her 2nd husbands name. Ultimately those feelings came from being the minority in my group of friends and within my family whose parents were all still married and less about my moms last name. Although the future is never certain I want to create a life with my husband that I never had growing up. Plus it makes addressing cards to our house a lot easier :-)

    • Elizabeth says...

      Dumb?? Ahh, not dumb. No name is dumb. But I am getting to be a sentimental sap in my 40’s. Why such animosity towards a name? It’s just a name!

      I have a super hard to pronounce/spell last name. I’ve always said I am going to marry a Smith or Jones. But as I’ve matured, and gotten older, I really like my last name. Even if it is hard to spell/pronounce. What are the odds that I would fall in love with a Jones. He dislikes his super common name a lot. He would prefer my last name. Of course his first name is also super common. So we shall see what transpires in the coming months, since we are talking marriage.

  92. M says...

    My sisters and I all have my dad’s surname which is a lot less common than my mom’s surname, which she kept. I will say that we have a lot of family that lives abroad and we were stopped at the border a few times growing up and asked if our mom was really our mom. (stupid patriarchal border security) I actually always wished I had both of my parents surnames though, especially because my mom’s surname is more of a nod to my heritage. Not sure what I’ll do if I get married. More than anything I feel like my surname ties me to my sisters, so I would be hesitant to drop it because of that (although maybe they’ll change their surnames). A bit of a pesky question– thanks for bringing up the topic.

  93. K says...

    One more idea; I took my husband’s last name for a variety of reasons, but we plan to give our child, if we have one, my brother’s first name as a middle name–it is a family name that goes back a few hundred years. That first name carries much deeper family heritage than my maiden name, thanks to name changes at Ellis Island and other attempts at Americanization in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

  94. Dana says...

    I wanted to take my husband’s last name, even though I loved my maiden name. No one ever pronounced my maiden name correctly, and my husbands last name (and now mine) is my mother’s maiden name. I already felt extremely connected to the name and am happy I changed my name when we got married.

  95. Jenn says...

    We gave our first son my last name for his first name and our second son my grandmother’s maiden name for his first name. It’s also our Scottish clan name. I love their strong, unique names and the fact that they honor their matrilineal heritage. We all share my husband’s last name, but I feel well represented.

  96. Amy says...

    I attempted to convince my husband to combine our last names when we were engaged. I had a Dutch name that started with the “van” prefix, and adding the “van” to his last name would’ve worked well. But he felt weird about it because he didn’t know anyone else doing something like that, and so we didn’t and I just went with the norm of taking his last name.

    A year later our friends did exactly that – became van[her last name]. And my husband really liked it and sort of regretted not doing it ourselves. But he wasn’t willing to go through the name change process. And now our kids (3, 5, 7) have his last name, and it feels too late. But I still miss the “van” and the fact that everyone instantly recognized me as Dutch and asked if I was related to so-and-so that they know (and 1/4 of the time, I did at least know their Dutch friend haha!)

    On the positive side, I don’t have to spell out my last name as often and worry about whether official documents and IDs have a space between van and the rest of my last name or not!

  97. Karen Westerlund says...

    When we got married it was totally out of the question for either of us to change names. So when we had children we had to decide which name would be the children’s surname and which would be their middle name. It was a difficulty decision. My husband expected his name to become their surname, as that is still what most (80%) Norwegians do, but I don’t see why it should always be women who change their names (and even in the cases where women keep their maiden name the children usually get their father’s surname). Both our names are uncommon in Norway as well, so it was understandable that we both wanted to pass it on. In the end we decided to just think about it for a while and talk about it again later. Once our first child was born my husband decided that my name should become their surname and his their middle name. I love that he was able to see that I feel as attached to my name as he does.

  98. I'm too identifiable says...

    My first serious boyfriend was also a hyphenate – we joked our kids would end up Longname-shortname-Longname-Longname which was just… too much. My name already doesn’t fit on most forms, when you include my first and middle/English name! And any kids I have are 1000% getting a similar name + English name combo, so poor things would have had to learn to print really, really tiny letters.

  99. Laura says...

    I never took my husband’s last name and never even considered it. I was already somewhat established in my life and career, it would have been an administrative headache, and it felt like changing my identity, and I had no desire to do that. Also his last name is extremely common, and I like my somewhat more unique last name. He had absolutely no issue with it. One unexpected boon (to me at least) is that he is somewhat prominent in his field and in our city, and people have no idea we’re married to each other. I like that we can be our own people, or be united when we want to be, but are not defined by our relationship to each other. When we had kids we gave them his last name, which I suppose is archaic, but it just doesn’t bother me. They’re my children; there’s no question they’re my children, and we’re a family that happens to have some different last names (which is totally normal in some countries, like Iceland!). My kids are at a school and in a city with such a diverse population that nobody blinks an eye. In short, we barely debated last name issues, and we’re lucky that years later, we’re still happy with our decisions!

  100. J. Flagg says...

    My husband was given the last name of his dead-beat step-father, and I was given a very strong proud family name. I was raised by my Grandparents and felt a very strong sense of pride to my last name, and I didn’t fully trust that my brother being the only male would be able to pass the name on, or do it justice by himself.
    When I tossed the idea out to my now husband he was totally receptive and thought it made complete and total sense for our family. He wanted to be apart of my greater family as well seeing as they had welcomed him and made him feel loved in a way his own family hadn’t.
    My brother who is VERY traditional was of course miffed about this, because he wanted to be the sole patriarch of the family, but I told him, “Patriarchs are for the birds”, a line that could have come right out of my Grandmothers mouth. I was so proud, and still am of this choice.
    My students (inner-city High School) ask me all the time to retell this story. They are completely dumbfounded by the concept and think it is so cool. They can also relate and I see they have a glimmer of hope because many of them have the last name of people they don’t respect. I hope I can enlighten them that there are different ways to do things.

  101. Jessica says...

    I really struggled with how to handle this when we got married. But my husband was completely flexible and willing to do just about anything. Ultimately, I took his last name, and we both took my maiden name as our middle names. So now, 2 of our 3 names match :)

  102. Meredith says...

    Not married, and definitely don’t have children. But I have good family friends who gave all their children the mom’s maiden name as the kids’ middle names, and the father’s last name for all the kid’s last names. They chose this because the mother’s maiden name was more common but pretty as a middle name. And now the entire family has the same middle name last name combination. Feels a little more egalitarian. But I agree– this is such a tricky question.

  103. Laura says...

    I kept my last name. My son has my husband’s last name. My son’s middle name is my Mother’s maiden name. And if we have any other children, they will also have the same middle name. It is my nod to the matriarchy. People have a lot of opinions on this matter. I don’t feel any less connected and it has not caused any confusion having a different last name than my son. If anything our names tell a story of our family past and present. I love that. Do what feels right for you and your partner.

  104. Lindsay says...

    I kept my last name when I got married and when we had a baby she got my last name. I felt really strongly about it when I was pregnant and my husband didn’t care as much, plus my last name is less common and I like it a lot more than his! He got his first pick on our daughter’s first name, but it was honestly my first choice too, so win win.

    It sounds simple now, but there was lots of hemming and hawing in the hospital after she was born, although a lot of that was deciding whether we’d use another favorite name for her middle or use my grandmother’s name. At least we figured it all out before we had to leave the hospital!

  105. Jacqueline Dunaway-Pearson says...

    I had a child years before getting married. My child has my maiden name. When I got married I kept my last name, my husband kept his. When my husband adopted my son we let our child who was ten pick his own last name. I hypenated my
    last name and he chose to take my husbands last name and take my maiden name as his middle name.

  106. cgw says...

    The “issue” I had about hyphenating were two fold:
    My first name is very long (9 letters!), my husband’s last name is also long (8), plus my maiden name would be ALOT of letters to write. Hahahha! But mostly, if we hyphenated as a family we wondered what our daughter would do if she decided she wanted to get married… have a double hyphenated last name?! Ultimately what felt right for us was to that I would take his last name (easier to say and spell than my short last name, strangely) and we would give our daughter my last name as her middle name. I love all the variety of solutions.

    • cgw says...

      PS, I didn’t have a middle name so I made my maiden name my middle name -which now my daughter and I share! <3 :)

  107. samantha says...

    i see why people would care, but this isn’t an issue for someone like me who does not like her own last name and have no emotional connection to it. I actually look forward to changing my last name when I get married.

  108. A Loving, Frequent Commenter says...

    Currently pregnant with our first (I’m only 11 weeks, so I can’t tell yet!) We’ll be giving the baby my last name. I am letting my husband (a professional writer) pick his/her middle name, which they will go by. The baby, boy or girl, will have my husband’s gender-neutral first name.

  109. Jen says...

    I debated and debated the entire time I was engaged about whether or not to take my husband’s last name. It felt antiquated. A good friend said something that really stuck with me “If you keep your last name, it’s your dad’s name, and if you change it, it’s your husband’s. In either situation the name isn’t really yours. It’s always a man’s”

    • Josephine says...

      This is a common argument and it sounds perfectly reasonable at first … but your original last name is YOUR name. You were born with it. You made it yours. Sure, it was (maybe) your dad’s name, but over the decades that you’ve lived with it and built an identity around it, it’s become your name.

      That’s not to say women shouldn’t change their names if they want to. Their names, their choice! But to say “Oh, it’s just a man’s name anyway” is a little disingenuous.

    • Lisa says...

      Not necessarily. My last name is from my mom and dad both as they took an entirely new name when they got married. So let’s not assume everyone is just changing one mans name to another mans name.

    • Anna says...

      But why does it get to be my husband’s last name but it’s not my last name? Wouldn’t it be my husband’s father’s name with that same logic? The way I see it is it started as my dad’s last name, but it’s been mine since birth, so it is also mine now.

  110. Omaya says...

    My mother did not change her last name. Growing up I was so proud of that and knew I would do the same (also, I earned a PhD and publications with my name and wanted to always be associated with it). When I got married I floated ideas with my now husband. I loved the idea of both of us keeping our last names and changing our middle names to our partner’s surnames to “connect” us. He wasn’t on board, which I respected, and we just kept our names.

    Now that we have our first child on the way, it is important to me that my family is represented in this new person as well. My husband is the only person carrying his family surname to a new generation, so for him it’s important to pass that on. For me, my parents (both mother and father) are who I want to represent in a future generation especially as an only child myself. Our baby will have my parents’ first names as middle names depending on the sex.

  111. Hallie- I’m a Bateman too and couldn’t give up my last name! I love it- it helps me feel connected to my paternal grandparents who were so important to me when I was growing up.
    I’m all about giving them two last names. It’s common in many European countries and they can decide when they’re older if they want to just go by one name.

  112. Emily says...

    I was raised having my mother’s maiden name as my middle name. I always felt special, since no one had the same middle name as me and I felt equally part of BOTH extended families. When I married, I kept my maiden name as my middle name and added my husband’s name. I”ve continued the tradition with my son – he has my maiden name as his middle name. My dad cried when he found out!

  113. Ramona says...

    I kept my maiden name and my kids have my husband’s name, and I have no problem with that. I don’t need matching names to know that my kids are part of me–they grew in my body, they fed off of me, they have peed and thrown up and everything else on me, they are constantly all up in my business day and night…having a separate last name kind of helps me remember that I actually am my own person! Meanwhile, I think for dads, especially in the beginning, that closeness isn’t as built-in and so having the same last name might help forge a connection. What’s weird is how people judge me for my choice, like I’m somehow less committed to my husband and kids just because I kept my name. Or people think I didn’t change it in order to make some big feminist statement. Truth is, I kept my name because it reflects my ethnic heritage (which I am very connected to and proud of), because my first name wouldn’t have sounded as nice with my husband’s name, and because it was the better move for me professionally.

  114. Tara Fleck says...

    I kept my maiden name when I married my husband. When we decided to have kids we made both of their middle names my last name and their last name my husband’s last name. We discussed combining our names but my husband really wanted them to have his last name. Some people think it is odd that our twin boys have the same middle name, but we love it.

  115. Elizabeth says...

    I like my husband’s last name, but beforehand, I was never sure about taking a man’s name. However, I married a man who moved to the U.S. to be with me, adopted my culture, and left the majority of his own family thousands of miles away. It didn’t feel right to ask him to give up his name, too. So, I figured that since he had adopted my country, I would adopt his name. As an interracial and multicultural family, it was especially important to me that we all share the same last name.

    • This is lovely Elizabeth, I love how you’ve combined both your worlds x

  116. Tabitha H says...

    When I got married I took my husband’s last name and kept my middle name, which actually broke the southern tradition of women replacing their middle name with their maiden name. To me it was more important to keep the name my parents picked, and my initials stayed the same!

    I thought I wouldn’t miss my maiden name since no one EVER pronounced it correctly, BUT I was surprised that I do. I kind of wish I had made it first name, middle name, maiden name, married name. (But I’d still go by first name, married name for convenience.)

    We don’t have kids yet, but I’m pretty sure having two long, confusing last names would be a guarantee that our future kids hate their name, so hyphenating isn’t an option. XD I think we’ll use his name because it means “house of thunder,” which is cooler than “deer hunter” or “peasant” haha.

  117. i’m in a somewhat backwards situation where i took my husband’s name when we got married at 30, and now 5 years later, with a baby girl, i wish i hadn’t. is that weird?? i was already a feminist when we got married but i thought i wanted to have the same last name as my children. now that i have a daughter, i realize a different last name would never make me feel separate from her. if i could go back, i wouldn’t have taken my husband’s name, but now UN-doing the process feels like way too much work!

    • Kelly says...

      Ooh, great topic!

      I knew as a child I didn’t want to change my name when I got married…nothing about it made sense to me. My cousins were dumbfounded by this and when we were in our early teens I wrote out an oath never to change my name when I got married. It was an easy vow to keep! My first and middle names are my mom’s first and maiden names…so together with my father’s surname it just all is ME!

      My husband didn’t really care about my name but was adamant that kids have his name…which is annoying and also ironic as both our kids are adopted so kind of throws up in the air some of the reasons why patrilineal naming exists…I picked significant names from my family as their middle names.

      I heard lots of negative feedback from my conservative family, including how ‘difficult’ it would be for my kids to have a different last name and no one would know they’re mine etc. not only do my kids have a different last name but as adoptees they’re both a different race than me…it’s NEVER been a problem for us…though I do bring copies of birth certificates when we travel, just in case!

      I am totally live and let live about the topic for others, but I do wonder…when I see women who start businesses and use their married names as the business name and achieve success…do they ever wish their maiden name was getting the glory?!? I don’t know why this particular situation sticks in my craw but it would drive me nuts! Would love to hear from women who have experienced this!

  118. Claire Thomas says...

    We have an arduous journey that led to our family finally having the same last name. I feel so much less alone reading about other family’s struggles. Neither my husband nor I changed our names when we married, but we hadn’t fully discussed and decided what we would do if/when we had children. Fast forward a few years, and hyphenating our name sounded terrible, neither of us have great last names in the first place (his in particular is unfortunate, especially for a girl) and we hemmed and hawed for months about what to do. Compounding the issue is that we work as diplomats overseas, so having different last names among our family members is a huge hassle with our constant travel. Before the birth of our first child, we decided we would all take his middle name, which is his maternal family name and therefore has a family connection, is easy to pronounce in a variety of cultures/languages, and is a nod to a matrilineage. I initially hyphenated my original last name with our new name, thinking I could use the new name without the hyphen informally, but this ended up being a HUGE pain and so I went through a second official name change process earlier this year before the birth of our second child. I had to go in front of a judge, explain myself to dozens of government workers, banks, etc. and it has been the source of SO much paperwork and side eye from even our progressive friends and relatives, but it is finally settling in as our family name. This was a burden we took on because I couldn’t in good conscience not meet in the middle with my spouse, and we both wanted to have the same names as our children. We are cis, white, privileged people but the whole experience, the amount of explaining I’ve had to do, and all the unwanted commentary it has generated was a glimpse into what it’s like to have to go through the world as anything other than the mainstream.

  119. S says...

    I did this too! I love that when my kids (who are still little and just figuring out names) say “Dad, sister, and I are all Hislastname.” I can then point out that “you, sister, and I are all Mylastname.” They know we’re all a family even without all having the same last name, and yet within the family we’re still connected through names.

  120. D says...

    I’ve always taken issue with the idea that your maiden name is ‘yours’. Chances are most likely that your surname is your fathers (if we’re considering US/UK families) rather than a completely chosen-for-you name. It’s fine if you don’t want to give up the name you’ve had for many years, but i think it’s a bit odd the reasoning some people use for why

    I took my husband’s last name because I liked his better and I wanted us all to have the same surname (he already has a child). I decided in 5 seconds when applying for the marriage license and just never felt it was that big a deal- I think names are important, but I don’t think my concept of personal identity is wrapped up in my name or my father’s surname.

    We have friends where the husband took the wife’s surname when they had a baby, others that hyphenated when they were married (so he’s a Name-Name, not just her and the baby). My mother kept my father’s surname when she got divorced so that it would be easier for us to have the same name when I was in school- she’s been with my stepdad for 25 years and they have different surnames. Perhaps I just don’t see it as that big a deal or discussion- pick whatever you want and can agree on.

    • Ariel says...

      Thank you for this! Where I grew up, your last name could be the patrilineal or matrilineal family name or even the village your ancestors were from.I have always introduced myself only with my first name which I didnt even choose myself ! So I fail to grasp why this is such a big deal or sometimes a statement on how feminist you are.

    • Zara says...

      If your maiden name is the name you’ve always had and how you’ve always been identified for your entire life, why wouldn’t it be “yours?”

    • D says...

      The feminist angle always upsets me… am I somehow less of a feminist because I took my husbands last name? Surely the most feminist thing I could do is make the decision on my own!!

      Also when I was little I was obsessed with the Litttle Mermaid and even made my mom call me Ariel or Vanessa (evil human Ursula) for a not short amount of time. Very jealous of your name!

  121. Our son has my husband’s last name as his middle name and my last name. We’ll likely do the same for our second son, due on NYE. We have thought of MANY alternatives: making up a new name for all of us; swapping last names for the two kids, as mentioned above; my husband taking my name, etc. But since we can’t agree on any of these, I think this is the most straightforward route, and we’re all happy to be subverting the existing paradigm, especially with two sons.

  122. Emily L says...

    I changed my last name to my husband’s pretty much because it is so much easier. I have a difficult Polish maiden name and was sick of having a full conversation about it every time I had to give someone my name. I’ve changed my middle name to my maiden name now since I do want to keep part of it. In my husband’s family the men all have the same name and I’ve put my foot down that we will not continue the tradition if we have a boy. He already gets the last name, I get to have input on the rest of it, plus who needs more confusion of the same name.

  123. Bri says...

    Love reading about different ways of doing this! When my husband and I got married, we both changed our last name to Myname Hisname (two words, no hyphens). We’re very happy with our decision, but it is kind of a hassle and we didn’t feel good imposing that hassle on our kids. We wanted to find a compromise that would be easy for our kids, who didn’t choose to constantly have to say “that’s right, two words,” but still have a “family name.” So our daughter has my husband’s “maiden” name as her last name and two middle names — the first is more of a traditional middle name (actually, my middle name), and the second is my maiden name. We see it as a win-win: she gets one easy uncomplicated last name, but when her whole name is written out, it follows exactly the same pattern as mine and my husband’s. We plan to do the same for our son who is due in two months.

  124. Kim Gray says...

    I got married a year and a half ago after 12 years of dating. Personally, I looked forward to taking my husbands name and starting our life together as the Gray family. He was really honored and excited that I wanted to take his name so that felt special. (Plus, it’s a great name for pairing with imaginary baby names.. :) )
    That said, I am so very aware that it is a personal decision and I do my very best to be respectful of how everyone decides on what’s best for them, their partnership and their family. I remember having to defend my decision to change my name to a rather aggressive friend during my engagement and it’s made me hyper aware of how to approach it with other friends.

  125. Alissa says...

    I love that families are choosing their own unique ways of choosing their children’s last names. I sometimes see or hear comments from people about how anti-feminist it is to take your husband’s name but for me it made sense. I had the second most common last name in the U.S. and it always felt a bit generic to me. I love that now my whole crew shares the same last name and I don’t miss my maiden name at all.

  126. Jillian says...

    My husband’s middle name is his mother’s birth name, so he wanted to continue that tradition. And I told him since I was putting in the work (over 30 hours of labor with an over 9lb child to be precise), that the kiddo would def have my name in there somewhere.

    So our son’s name is First Name, My Last Name and My Husband’s last name. I do think it’s high time to have more women give their last names to kids.

  127. AJ says...

    It took my four years, after marrying my husband, to change my last name. I’m fiercely proud of my maiden name, but ultimately decided to change it because I wanted my firstborn child to have my maiden name as their first name. Last year I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and her first name is now Madden! I love the fact that her first name is a bit masculine, and to balance, we gave her a beautiful French name as her middle name (a nod to my family’s French roots). The next kid will also have a family name as their first name with a more “normal” or “flowery” middle name for balance. My husband was all for it. In fact, I’m the only woman in his family in the last two generations to change her name–everyone else kept their middle name, so I think he was a bit surprised when I finally changed it, but was on board when he heard my plan. I LOVE hearing about people’s names–familial origins, the decision behind them, etc. so this post is right up my alley.

  128. Ashley says...

    I kept my last name when I married. My husband was very against hyphenating, and we wanted all the children to have the same last name. All our children have my last name as their middle name and my husbands last name as their last name. That way, there is some of both of us in there.

  129. Lorraine says...

    I kept my last name for a few reasons – I love it, I can’t imagine not keeping it, and I also love having double initials (LL). And also, it seems like a huge hassle to change all the legal documents. My firstborn has my last name as his middle name, and my husband’s last name as his last name – this is common in Filipino culture. We varied this with my daughter by using my maternal grandmother’s first name as her middle name.

    I do have in-laws that forget about my last name, so I do get mail from them with my husband’s last name on it. I actually love his last name, and I kind of feel like I have the liberty to use it occasionally for non-legal documents. I do sometimes feel like the odd one out having a different last name from the rest of my family. But, my son loves it and doesn’t like hearing me consider changing it!

  130. Hannah says...

    I kept my last name when I got married and my husband and I are giving our children (baby due soon!!) my last name. It was important to me to have the same last name as our son and it isn’t to my husband, my last name is also short, more common and easier to spell than his long Dutch last name.

  131. sara says...

    What an interesting article. It’s nice to hear about so many opportunities and so many different stories.
    I’m not married and I am not planning on doing so. To be in an unmarried relationship is my little way of revolting against society and my family. Haha, it’s quite immature, I know.
    Fun fact: My boyfriend and me have the same, most common german surname and everybody thinks we are married. Not so much of a revolution after all.

  132. Maggie says...

    For everyone worried about sharing a last name with your kids – I really don’t think it matters. At all. I have a different last name than my mom, and my kids have a different name than I do. Occasionally someone will assume my name is the same as theirs, and sometimes I correct them, and sometimes I don’t. In addition to families like mine and those in the post who are choosing different names, there are SO many families who come together in so many different ways – divorce, blended families, extended families, fostering or adoption – that I think it matters less and less. Sharing a name doesn’t make you more of a family.

  133. Laura says...

    I kept my name when my husband and I got married and when we had our daughter, she was given my last name. We were both in total agreement about it from the beginning. We are closer with my side of the family and I grew this baby inside me for 9 months. We picked her first name (Phoebe) together, used my husband’s grandfather’s name (Clarke) for her middle name. It felt right and balanced to us and was a non-issue from the beginning. While his family seemed quietly uncomfortable with the decision at times (“what if people think she was born out of wedlock?”), I was most surprised by the amount of push back we received from hospital employees and then even the state of Ohio when we filled out the paperwork for her birth certificate. A nurse suggested that we had made a mistake from lack of sleep or that maybe we didn’t understand that “most people give the baby the fathers name”. My husband told her that we don’t make our major decisions based on what most people do. After we got home from the hospital we received a phone call from a state worker processing her birth certificate. She wanted to make sure that I was in fact married and that if I was married, surely my husband would want my daughter to have my husbands name. After I explained again, that it wasn’t a mistake but a decision that my husband and I made together, she responded “well legally you can make up any name you want.”- as if I was choosing something offensive or arbitrary. These bizarre cultural interactions just reinforced our decision and I’m so glad to share my last name with my daughter. I’m also proud to have married a man who took no issue with the decision. Only time will show what she will choose to do when/if she gets married and has children of her own….but at least we have modeled for her that it is a CHOICE and one that she should be a voice in making.

  134. Reenie says...

    I chose to keep my last name and gave my daughter my husband’s last name. Her middle name is my mom’s maiden name – to pass on some of my family – and if we have another, I will probably give them my last name for a middle name.

  135. Natalie says...

    I took my husbands last name as I am traditional. Both my husbands last name and my last name always have people questioning how to pronounce it.
    I do remember when we applied for our marriage license I did cry a little because I had been my last name my whole life and I did feel like I was losing part of myself. I don’t have any regrets about changing my name but still miss my maiden name.

  136. Both my husband and I had quite “boring”, standard Danish surnames – Jensen and Joergensen. And we both used our middle names in practice. So we agreed to combine these (no hyphen, though). My husband was absolutely willing to let mine be the last one – but in that order we would sound like the “Bungalow” family (Funch Calov – with Funch pronounced with a k in the end). So it became Calov Funch, and given our son is an Elvis, he is now forever the Funky Elvis!