Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What's in a (last) name?

Now that we know the baby's a boy, it's time to start thinking about names - first and last. While selecting a first name is not likely to be easy, it's the last name that presents a more unusual dilemma.

Whose last name shall this baby inherit?

Tradition would dictate that The Baby would take The Man's last name. But you all know by now that I'm not much of a traditional girl. Plus, The Man's last name is the kind that invites schoolyard taunts. It's not a terrible name - it's no Seaman or Massengill or Pitstick or Schmuck - but it's one you can be guaranteed to get teased about nonetheless.

But my impulse to consider passing on my last name doesn't actually have anything to do with the teasing potential of The Man's name. It has to do with my name and my desire to pass it on. Because, despite being a woman, I do have a last name too, you know. And it's a perfectly good one. So why shouldn't The Baby take my name? Plus, The Man already has two kids who share his name and I already have one who doesn't share mine.

I think it's my name's turn for some glory, don't you?

The Man, actually, is not entirely opposed to this idea. He's not one particularly concerned with convention either. He is, however, concerned with the message it might send - given that we're not married - if The Baby takes my name. (For the record, the fact that we're not married has NOTHING to do with my inclination to give The Baby my last name. I would be having the exact same conversation with The Man even if were were married.)

But the fact that we're not married does play into The Man's hesitation. His thought is that if we were married, it would be easier to explain that giving The Baby my last name was simply a choice we made together. Without the marriage, it leaves room for doubt and assumptions about his commitment or involvement.

On the other hand, we live in Seattle, a liberal kind of city where people are more prepared to accept deviations from the norm, generally speaking. I knew a couple who had twins and gave one mom's last name and one dad's last name, and no one really batted an eye at the choice. (Of course, as The Man points out, those people were married.) Still, I'm fairly convinced that while choosing mom's last name might give a certain message in some parts of the county, it's less likely to be assumed here. But I could be wrong.

So... where do we go from here?

I am not completely invested in the idea of The Baby having my last name, nor is The Man entirely opposed to the idea. There are pros and cons to consider for either name (the vast majority of which I've left out of this post in the interest of a reasonable word-count). But, at least in this house, the question of last name is just that: a question. It is something to be discussed and agreed upon, but certainly not assumed based on nothing more than tradition.

Your thoughts?


Dual Mom said...

It's an interesting debate for sure. I don't think your husband needs to be concerned about people questioning his commitment. Those that know him - know he's committed. As for the rest - is he really that concerned about what they think? I don't know him - so I can't say.

Honestly, in this day and age, I say do whatever the two of you feel comfortable doing.

Cat said...

My son has my last name. I'm really, really glad I made that decision. You're in a different situation (I wasn't with my ex by the time birth rolled around) but at the same time, I'm in south Alabama and no one's ever questioned it. I predict the biggest issue that would come of it would be people/teachers calling The Man Mr. Yourlastname when they meet you.

Ken Dunn said...

A simple solution is to use BOTH. The naming convention you're agonizing over is an old English one. It's so culturally ingrained in the U.S. we forget about other conventions.

Use the Spanish convention! Seriously, I have scores of friends & coworkers from Latin countries. They all have both; which they choose to use when forced into the English convention varies (some use father's, some mother's last name on the requisite work & government forms).

Laura said...

would hyphenating be an option?

It's A Yoga Thang said...

My son was given my name when he was born. His Dad and I were together, but not married, however, we did end up getting married, I took his name, and then had to have my son's birth certificate legally changed. I don't live in Seattle though, I live in Texas and well, we have different rules here and so we went conventional considering it is hard enough to live in this environment even when "playing" the game. My tattoos, nose ring, and yoga business already makes us freaks, so at least now my son has a conventional naming system. Heh!

Jodie at Mummy Mayhem said...

All I would say, is that when making your choice, don't worry about what other people will think. That means nothing. What's right for bub and for you and The Man is what matters.

kirida said...

My son has my maiden name and my husband's last name (now my last name, too). But I say do whatever you want to do. We live in Seattle, where parents name their kids zany names, anyway, so who cares what last name they have?

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