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Last Names for Kids
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Last Names for Kids
I am due with my second child in May. I had my first in NYC
and am trying to find out what I need to prepare to fill out
the birth certificate in the hospital. I did not take my
husband's last name when we married. In NY we had to bring
a copy of our wedding certificate/license so that we could
have our daughter take his last name. Is it the same policy
here? Do I need to find our license and bring a copy to the
hospital so our new child can also take his last name? Any
advice is appreciated.
trying to be prepared
The rules are apparently different (and simpler) in
California. I did not take my husband's name, but my kids
do have my husbands name. I didn't need any marriage
certificate or anything else. My husband filled out the
form at the hospital and it was very easy. We didn't do
anything to prepare that I can recall.
I had my son in Berkeley 18 months ago and didn't need a
marriage certificate to name him. He has a different last
name than me and a different last name than his father. It
wasn't a problem. My understanding is that you can give the
baby any last name you want, no documentation needed.
I also kept my birth name, but wanted our child to have my husband's
surname... I recently gave birth at a local hospital and had no trouble with
the birth certificate, no documents required! The staff called the recovery
room to ask details for the birth cert application, then brought it to our room
to check for accuracy and get signatures. Easy process.
No, we did not have to do that to give our son his father's name, even though I
do not share it. Neither did we have to in Massachusetts, where our daughter
was born. Seems kind of onerous.
The great part of living here is most of us aren't or weren't married for at least
one kid! My now husband had to be at the hospital with his driver's license and
fill out the paper work saying he was the birth father and he filled out the name
section. I was Jane Smith, He was John Doe and our son was Jack Doe-not a
problem. Don't stress, enjoy the birth!
Alta Bates mom
So I have had two babies in California. The first time me
and their dad were not married, the second time we were. We
were not asked for any proof that we were married when our
second baby was born- they took our word for it.
The only difference is that if you are not married, both
parents need to sign a declaration of paternity, which the
person doing the birth cert in a hospital should have handy.
(In other words, even if your hospital did unfathomably
require proof of marriage, your husband could still be on
your baby's birth cert, legal father etc).
As for the name, you can give your last child any last name
you want- regardless of marital status. You can give the
child your last name, the father's last name, or you can
make up a random name. (fwiw, I do not think you have to be
married in NY for a child to have their father's last name.
I have lots of unmarried, cohabitating friends in ny and
many of their kids have dad's name or hyphonated)
no preparation necessary
All my children have my husband's last name which is
different than mine. At the hospital i simply told
whoever was filling in the birth certificate (and I do not
remember who that was) and no problem the name went down
as I wanted it.
different last name
I didn't take my husband's last name, either. Anyway, I
gave birth to our son at Alta Bates in April, and the City
of Berkeley didn't require anything for our son to have my
husband's last name on the birth certificate. Alta
Bates's birth certificate coordinator asked for both of
our last names, and they appear on the birth certificate.
I didn't need a copy of our marriage license.
Hope this helps!
different last name than baby's dad
I don't remember needing any thing for the birth certificate
maybe my driver's license.
You will get to hospital and have to do an intake, unless
you did this ahead of time. This establishes who you are and
insurance. A nurse will ask you a questionnaire while you
are in the hospital, and as long as you are married, you
don't have to prove the baby is your husbands, or that he
wants to be listed as the father. I didn't take my husband's
last name, and he was not present at either of my children's
births, but we were married, so it was assumed he was the
father. Both kids got his last name. It's old-school, I know
but convenient of you're married. You have like 2 weeks to
decide on a name, and then go back to the hospital to fill-
out the birth certificate, but your husband doesn't have to
be there. I think I went (alone) on the 30th day for my
youngest (miscommunication) and it still wasn't a problem.
My sister wasn't married when she gave birth, and she needed
the proposed 'father' to be present to sign the birth
certificate, but it didn't necessarily have to be his child.
Hope this helps!
Wishing you a safe & healthy delivery!
Mom of Two
Everyone responding mentioned that the father was there to
sign the papers.
I shared a hospital room with a woman whose mate was not there
and was not willing to sign and so, she was not able to put
his name on the birth certificate.
They explained that there was no time limit, but that the
father must be willing to sign the certificate.
It was sad.
My partner and I are not married and are now having our second
child. Neither of us changed our name, and our first child
has my partner's last name. . . we are now considering
giving our second my last name. We'd like to do this
because I don't want to be the odd-man-out (it's The Smith
Family while I'm a Jones), and we want to teach our kids
that taking the man's last name doesn't always have to be
the way it's done. Does anyone have experience with this?
What are some of the potential pitfalls / advantages of two
different names? Thanks everyone.
This sounds like a great plan to me. I know several
families who have done this successfully. One family I know
decided to give the father's last name to the first child
and the mother's last name to the second child, doing it in
that order to make clear that this was not a situation in
which a single mother married and had a second child-- but
rather was intended as a deliberate statement about the
equal status of both parents.
This is a non-issue. Someone may think that your kids are
half-siblings or step-siblings, but it doesn't really
matter. For the school, the pediatrician, the friends, the
acquaintances, it is no big deal.
Why not give your last name as the child's middle name? I
can't speak from experience to the question of different
names, but I can say that teachers, coaches, and so on, use
last names to help make sense of families.
My son has my husband's last name and my daughter has mine. So
far it hasn't been an issue at all for us. Occasionally some
of my friends' parents are really confused by it, but that's
it. Granted, my kids are six and two, so maybe we haven't been
around enough to experience problems. My daughter is at my
son's daycare/preschool and they handled it all fine. We
fly/travel with no problems. Kaiser is fine with it. We are
happy being the Smith boys and the Jones girls. I am really
happy we made this decision.
My last name is Rothman and my husband's is Brower. We named our first son
Ezra Rothman Brower and our second son Murray Brower Rothman. Advantages:
We hate hyphens. I love the equality. My last name gets to continue for another
generation instead of dying out. Disadvantages: It can be confusing. People
mistakenly think we're a blended family. The kids' preschool simply can't keep
their last names' straight and they insist on the hyphen.
I will be really curious to see how our sons feel about our choice once they're old
enough to understand the ramifications.
There's advice about children's last names in the archives,
My daughter (11) has my husband's last name, and my son (9)
has mine. We have told the children we felt it's the only
equitable way. (See above for my opinion.) The children
are totally fine with it. Occasionally we have to explain
our names, but it has never been a problem. (Including
birth certificates, US schools, passports, enrollment in
foreign public school, parent traveling internationally
without other parent, etc.)
As an aside, we often refer to other families, not by a last
name (because lots of families have more than one last
name), but by the first name of the person we know best.
Example: The Stellas or the The Natalies.
My daughter and her husband gave their first child her last name and
planned to give their 2nd child her husband's name. It's been fine even
though they are now uncertain about having a second child.
In my long and careful research on this subject I've come to the conclusion that
absolutely nobody cares what you do with the last names. My girl has my last
name and my boys have my wife's. Now I wish that my girl had wife's last name
as well--not because there's been any confusion, but because I have a Germanic
name that sounds like a bowel movement and my wife has a name like a
superhero. But the difference in last names has never been an issue once--not
in school, not in medical care, not when flying with only one parent present, not
when applying for passports. The vast majority of people on earth remain
completely indifferent to me and my children despite the fact that our names
don't follow normal patterns. So, you know...go for it!
My husband and I have been married for 6 years and are
expecting our first child in a few months. Until we got
pregnant I had always been very attached to my family
name; it felt more like 'me', and given that his name
sounds differently than it looks, I had some concern
whether it would impact my professional networking in
terms of name recognition, etc. Our names are not hyphen-
friendly, and we're also not interested in creating a new
common name, or for him to change his name.
Now that we will be a 'family' more than a 'couple', I'm
wondering how to balance my attachment to my maiden name
while also embracing a more unified family identity. Did
you change your name when you got married or had a child?
Did/do you miss your maiden name? Did you change your name
but keep your maiden name too as some other cultures do
(including my husband's), and did that make a difference?
Looking for some new perspectives, since I seem to go
round and round with what to do. thanks!
What's in a Name
I kept my maiden name when I got married because I didn't
feel any overwhelming need to have my husband's name (and
he thinks the whole notion of women changing their names
Our first child is due in a few months, and we plan to have a
second. I want to consider giving one of our children my last
name, and the other my husband's last name. I know one couple who
did this and they said it took a little getting used to,
especially in school and the like, but they're glad they did it.
My husband, by the way, is not sure what he thinks about the
idea, having assumed his children would naturally have his last
name, even though I didn't take his name. I'd love to hear from
those who have done this. How is it going? Do your kids resent
having two different last names? Is it terribly inconvenient, or
do you actually really like it? Other advice from those who've
done it? Thanks!
- want to share
I put both my and my husband's name on our child, like in Latino
cultures. She may hate me in the future for having such a long
name, but I figure she can use one or the other or switch them
out depending on whether she's feeling more gringa (me) or
latino (her father). Nobody blinked about me doing it that way
in the hospital. She has a middle name, also.
--Why can't they have mommy's name, too?
I, too, did not take my husbands last name, and both of my
daughters have my last name. So far, it hasn't been a problem,
although both of them are very young. Another family I know
who gave their children the mom's last name told me that it's a
little weird when the children first go to school (e.g. the
school secretary questioning whether the father was a step-dad,
mom's boyfriend, etc.) but that the school community fairly
quickly figured it out. I grew up with a hyphenated last name,
which was always an irritating burden and my siblings felt the
same way. As a result, my siblings and I have all
independently dropped our dad's name and just use our mom's
name, which has now been passed on to my daughters! In short,
the ''world'' in general thinks it's a little bit weird, but they
quickly get over it. If you can convince your husband, I say
go for it!
matriarch with a cool last name
We gave our two kids hyphenated last names, and we use our own.
There's no perfect solution - it depends on what is important to you.
To me, I knew I didn't want to give up my name when I got married, and
I wanted my kids to have the same name as me and I didn't want either
my husband or I to be ''outnumbered'' by having the one different
So the minor inconveniences of spelling out a long name, or buying
plane tickets (''we have three different last names, the first one is
. . .'') are well worth it.
For me, I like that both kids essentially have both our names - it
feels like we are all connected that way. And we clearly have a
''family name'' which is the combination name.
I think your solution is also a good one.
Whatever you decide, just do it and stick to it. And don't obsess too
much about what anyone else thinks.
More than twenty years ago, we gave one kid my last name, and the
other my husband's. It is really no big deal. Some people have
assumed that they are step-siblings or half-siblings, but that
has had no impact.
We've done this and it isn't a big deal, at all. First child
got the last name of the parent of the same gender, and second
child would get other parent's name, regardless of sex. (A
good plan, as it turned out, since we had two boys.) My
husband was more into the idea before children were a reality,
but to his credit, he didn't protest at all when baby #2 got my
name. His parents (a bit more traditional) were fine, since
his sister in law had already done this. My mother (who I
thought was less traditional) was less thrilled, but other than
grumbles, no problems from the families.
Schools haven't been a problem at all - there are so many
blended families. Yes, my husband sometimes gets called
Mr. ''my last name,'' but then I also get Mrs/Ms. ''his last
name'', so we are even. My youngest, who has my name, is *very*
attached to his name. Sometimes my oldest says that all the
boys in the family should have the same last name and the girl
can have another, but this is more about asserting gender
identities than any deep psychological issue about the family
not have all the same last name. This is really not a big
deal, and (as one of the few who split last names) it would
great to have a few more families like this!
what is in a name?
I can see a whole lot of potential problems and no real
benefit. There are lots of ways to instil identity and ones
heritage with kids, but names should make it easy for the kids
to get through life. By the time their six or so each one will
have had to expain hundreds of times. Then confused people
will ask ''are your parent's divorced?'' etc.
Then it becomes a distraction that might limit their ability to
communicate who they are.
We gave our first child my last name and the second my husband's
last name. The most common question is whether we wanted all the
females to have the same last name and all the boys to have the
same last name. We just say no, we wanted to honor the mother
first, then the father. My husband's grandmother disowned us for
a year and a half, but that was the only negative response or
problem we have ever had from it. The kids like and take it as
totally normal (they are now 6 and 10). I like it because our
family really is a mixture of these two family trees even in name
, I am not the only one without the shared name. The end result
is very similar to having hyphenated names without actually
having really long handles for everyone.
Not exactly what you asked & I'm sure others have done the same but my
have my last name as their middle names, as do I since I chose to take
Three ''Maiden Middles''
I did not take my husband's name when we married. We decided
before having kids that boys would get his last name and girls
would get mine. We have a boy with his name and now I'm
pregnant again (I don't know the sex), so I can't tell you how
it worked out, but that's what we're gonna do. I say do what
feels right with your family and it will all work out.
Does not want to hyphenate
My daughter (age 8) has my husband's last name, and my son (age
6) has mine. We're glad we did it too. The kids take it as a
matter of course, and haven't had an objection. Through four
different schools now (two while we were living abroad),
immigration forms, health forms, etc. it's been basically a
non-issue. Go for it!
we have a girl and a boy, and our girl has the dad's last name
and our son has my last name. we had family reasons to do it
(to save a last name that was ''dying out'') and because we just
liked the idea. The kids think it's perfectly normal, though I
will say some old-fashioned teachers have seemed to make a show
of accepting siblings with different last names, but my
response to that is PUHLEEZE!! Mostly everyone is intrigued or
indifferent to the name thing. I say go for it!
We did this. Girls got my name, the boy got his dad's. (In some
parts of the world this is usual.) Nobody ever had any problems
with it, including the kids.
No Big Deal
First off, let me say that I think giving your future children
different last names is odd, but to each their own. My suggestion
would be, as we did, is to use your, or his, last name as the
middle name. The other choice would be to hyphenate your last
names into one for their last names. Sorry, just my opinion. Oh
so many decisions to make.....
Not only do my kids have different last names, but they
actually have different first names as well. This has never
seemed to bother them, and in fact, I believe they quite enjoy
having their own identities. My oldest, a girl, has my last
name, and my two boys have my wife's last name. I have never
once found this to be a problem, and really nobody even ever
asks about it. What's important legally isn't the name, but the
fact that you're the legal parent. I thought I was going to
have a patriarchal, macho, beating-on-my-chest-like-a-scorned-
gorilla problem with giving up naming rights to my kids, but as
it turns out, I absolutely don't mind at all. Perhaps I need to
have my testosterone levels checked. Seriously though, there
seem to be no ill effects whatsoever. My kids don't think it's
weird because kids don't think anything is weird unless you
tell them to; having a different last name than your brother is
certainly no odder than the fact that the sun goes away and
then comes back every day. And legally, I've never so much as
brushed up against any kind of problem. Also, don't
underestimate aesthetics--my wife's name sounds like a
conquering hero, whereas my last name sounds like a bowel
movement, so that may help you make your decision. Bottom line:
go ahead, name your kids whatever you like.
I wouldn't do it. I think it is confusing for kids, their
friends, schools, etc. and you would have to spend a lot of
time explaining. Why not give the child your last name as
his/her middle name? I just think the family having one name
shows a lot of family unity. A name doesn't make you
independent, you do.
I have a grown friend whose parents did this--dad's name for
boys and mom's name for girls. I think it's weird and divisive.
The kids are the ones who are going to have to explain your idea
to their teachers and friends, not you. The kids should have the
same name as each other. It could be hyphenated, one for a
middle and one for a last, or just Mom or just Dad's.
Ms. Anonymous A. Anonymous-Anonymous
I took on my husbands last name in my first marriage. We had a
daughter that took his name also. We divorced and I remarried.
I reverted to my maiden name. My husband and I had a son and
the son took his name. Between the 4 of us, only my husband and
son share the same last name. My husband is traditional and
wishes we all had the same name but I like that it provides
individuality and history to the family. My daughter loves
having her biological fathers name and at this point the 1 year
old doesn't seem to mind either At school, if you look at the
roster lots of families have all kinds of names. It really
doesn't matter these days.
You could give the boys your husband's last name and the girls
your last name. Or, you could give your kids one last name as a
middle name and the other last name as a last name.
There are so many blended families these days, nobody bats an eye
when children have different last names.
However, I would recommend against hyphenating names; it's a
Birth name for me
We gave our boys different last names (one mine, one my husbands) and it
doable, but for us it ended up being more of a pain than a show of
respect for our individual family histories. It was a lot of correction,
explanation, especially that the boys had the same father. The older one
my name) expressed some concerns that there was some reason ''dad'' didn't
him his name like his brother. (I think prompted by friends as the
When we moved last year, we actually decided on a hyphenated name
had originally opposed more than taking his name) and now we all have the
last name. Lots of families are blended and deal with multiple last
names, and I
think there is nothing wrong with choosing different names, but for us, I
I wasn't as attached to my name once I had to explain it all the time...
been there, done that
My situation as a child was a little different, but you might find my
interesting. I grew up with my mom & my older sister. We ALL THREE had
last names, and this was in the 70s and 80s. My mom had her maiden name,
sister had HER father's last name, and I had MY father's last name. Maybe
it was just
me, but I LIKED that our family was different in this way. I liked that it
people. I kind of thought we were pretty special. I remember sometimes
would call my mom by MY last name, ''Mrs. so-&-so'' and I thought that was
Maybe bothered her more than me, but I don't think it bothered her much
said, though, as a young adult I changed my last name and took my mom's
name. This was because I felt very little connection to my dad's last
name. Had that
name been special to me, though, I'm sure I would have kept it. So, it
depends on your attitude more than anything else. And if your kids don't
they can make a change when they're older ... that's really not a big
deal. In my life
now as a parent, my husband kept his name and I hyphenated (my mom's
name and my husband's name). Both of our kids will be hyphenated, and I
husband may end up feeling a little sad to be the only different one. Or
Anyway, we're going with hyphenation, but I think one last name for one
kid and the
other for the other kid is also fine. Do what feels good for you, and your
may feel good about it too! :o) Good luck deciding what to do.
Liked Our Different Last Names
I wasn't going to write in because you specifically asked about the
kids having different last names, not other possibilities. But a few
people felt compelled to diss hyphenated names, so I felt compelled to
respond. Like you, my husband and I both kept our birth names when we
married, and we both wanted our children to have a family connection
to our names. Hyphenating the kids' names has been the perfect
solution for us. Granted our names are only 2 syllables each, so the
hyphenated name is manageable. And it is perfectly obvious when one of
us takes a child somewhere (like on a flight) that we are related. We
each also sometimes choose to only use one name, such as when signing
up for a class or something. And don't worry about what they will do
when they get married! They can do whatever they like, as far as I am
concerned. There are many many different name situations around here,
and I'm sure whatever you choose to do will be fine.
--mom of 2 happy little hyphenates
I didn't see your original post but wanted to chime in with my
experience. My brother and I grew up with different last names
and we were always having to explain why. Sometimes kids teased
us, and once a girl insisted that we could not be brother and
sister because we didn't have the same last name. This
infuriated me and caused a physical altercation (I was about 8.)
Anyhow, I think it's better to choose one name or hyphenate. I
have three kids with hyphenated names. I wont know until they're
older how they feel about it, but I figure they can choose to use
just one name if they want. Now that my brother and I are grown
it certainly doesn't matter that we have different names.
Although both of our children have the same name as me (the mom)
and my partner, the dad, has a different last name, we know many
siblings that have different last names. A few of my partner's
siblings have chosen to do this. One family lives in St. Louis,
the other in Dallas. Our children also have several friends who
have siblings with different last names. None of them has had a
problem. The only slight problem has to do with a parent having
a different last name than a child and traveling out of the
country. When my brother-in-law traveled outside the country
with his child with the different last name, he brought a copy of
the birth certificate. No other problems.
We’re expecting our first child in a few months and starting the
baby-naming game, with a bonus: neither of us feel strongly about
which last name to give the child (we both kept our names and
both are equally “nice”). We’ve decided against hyphenating or
otherwise combining our names, and yes, we may use the other last
name as a middle name, but we still have to decide which name
gets passed on to the child as a surname. I’ve read the
discussion from 2001 about hyphenating last names, but it doesn’t
really discuss the option of just using Mom’sLast. Have any
couples out there done this? Does anyone have any compelling
arguments for or against using Dad’sLast or Mom’sLast? I’d also
be interested in hearing from same-sex couples, since they may
have faced a similar question.
My sister-in-law has given her children different last names:
boys got the father's last name, girls get the mother's. (She
had three boys and one girl.) I don't believe that she faced
any particularly negative reactions (including from her more
traditional parents), though they live outside the US in an
environment a bit less focused on giving children the father's
My partner and I have decided on a variation on this. The
first child got the last name of the parent of the same gender
(turned out to be his), and our second child (also a boy), gets
mine. I wanted to do this mostly because of ethnic pride and a
sense of equality. My partner and I are of different ethnic
backgrounds; I want at least one of my children reflecting this
in their last name. Also, I've kept my name, and don't see why
I should be the odd one out. The reactions I've gotten so far
have been mild disapproval (from my 'liberal' mother!) to just
outright curiousity. I don't think, however, that it is a big
deal, especially with so many blended families today. The
major criticism was that the children won't feel like
a ''family.'' I reply that a family is not made by last names,
but by the people in it.
My husband and I have two children, one with his last name, and
one with my last name. In my mind, it's the only fair way,
unless you choose some entirely new name. (Hyphenating doesn't
work in the long run. What are Jane Smith-Jones and John
Miller-Davis going to name their children? Jim
My partner and I have 2 children, and I was the birth mother for
both. We chose to have the kids together, and she has adopted
them. We decided to give them my last name because my family
was thrilled when we started our family, while her family was
fairly hostile -- it just seemed to make sense. Our eight year-
old has never questioned why he doesn't have my partner's name.
I have two kids, and my son has my last name (mother's) and my daughter has
my male partner's last name. It's no big deal, except for making reservations, but we
would have had two last names anyway, now we've just divided the number evenly
with 2 and 2. Everyone at school knows they are siblings, and the school knows our
household uses two last names, just like many other families. When people refer to
our family they refer us to us as if our names were hyphenated, but everyone gets
the kids names' straight. Their middle names are the last name of the parent whose
last name is different. I feel that passing on both sets of names is something taken
for granted, and reflects our underlying values about equality.
My husband and I decided to give both our kids my last
name. We are happy with the decision and never heard
anything negative about it or had any confusion. His support
of the idea stemmed from the political: why would women
always have to ''lose'' their names? Mine stemmed from the
practical: why would I want to give my kids that silly last
name?! Anyway, my husband ended up changing his last
name to mine after our 2nd was born!
My husband and I both thought it sexist to only give the man's
last name to children. Since we knew we wanted more than one
child, our solution was to give my husband's last name to boys
and my last name to girls hoping we would have both boys and
girls (luckily we did). I don't know anybody else who gave the
woman's last name to a child though. I have to say that with
divorce rate and reconstucted families last names don't ''match''
within families anymore anyway so I don't see it as a big deal
that our kids' last names don't match.
liking my last name
Here's my two cents:
I have a 13 y.o. stepdaughter, who's father I married when she
was 8. Her parents never married and seperated when she was about
2. Her name was hyphenated but over the years, her fathers
surname has been repeatedly dropped by the daughter, the
daughter's mother, her teachers, etc. My husband ''says'' he
doesn't care, but given that they are no longer together (her
parents) I think it does bother him that this one ''claim'' (for
lack of a better word) he has to her identity and her
relationship to him falls by the wayside. Not to suggest you and
your partner may ever split up, but my feeling is, no one is ever
going to question you're the child's mother, but who is the
child's father? Also, I think it just avoids confusion down the
line. If your child is named after you, say ''Smith'' and your
partner's name is ''Johnson'' , he may be otfen referred to as
''Mr.Smith'' in matters relating to your child because most people
still assume the child has the father's last name and the mother
took it as well.
My (same-sex) partner and I had similar discussions during my
pregnancy with our child. I wanted very much to include some
part of her name in our child's name, but she isn't very
attached to any part of her name and, as it turned out after
much thought, I am quite attached to all parts of my name. So
our child has my last name. We considered hyphenation, but my
cousins have hyphenated last names and have always hated it.
(Others probably feel very differently about their hyphenated
last names.) We tried just making one name out of both of our
names, but then our child would've had a last name with 15
letters, as well as a name different than both of her parents.
I have other friends who used a completely different last name
(a grandmother's maiden name, I think), which everyone in the
family adopted. I can't think of a single reason that one
parent's last name is more important than the other parent's.
In the past, I'vw heard people argue that the everyone in the
family should have the same last name, so that people will know
what family they belong to. In this day and age, when there are
so many blended families and single parents, that makes no sense
to me. In fact, I'm mystified by our culture's practice of
giving children their father's last name. (Why is it assumed
the mother's family name will be gone and forgotten?) Good luck
with your decision!
It seems to be a trend in families in which the woman has not
changed her last name where children are given the husband's
last name. For some reason this really bothers me. If you feel
attached enough to your surname to NOT change it to your
partner's, then how will it feel to have a name different than
your child? My parents divorced when I was young and my mom
changed back to her maiden name. She told us years later that it
upset her that we had different last names, but that it was more
important for her to not have the name of the man she was no
The hyphenated names can be unwieldly and all names don't
necessarily work well together, but since kids are from the
partnership it feels only right that both should be in there.
And we can only hope our son doesn't hook up with another
hyphen! At least they'd have a lot to choose from.
My husband and I gave my daughter my last name. We did it for a
lot of reasons, but mostly because we didn't see why we should
automatically give her her dad's name. My husband's family has a
history of passing the name matrilineally and I'm the last
person in my family with my name, so I liked the idea of keeping
it alive. Sometimes we receive mail addressed to her with her
father's last name from family members who either don't
understand or don't know (or don't accept?) what her last name
is. But that's not a big deal.
At our daughter's first doctor's visit when we told the doctor
about the different last names in our family, I felt sort of bad
for my husband -- as if he were left out of the family somehow,
but in a marriage with two different names, that's going to
happen to someone.
The only other time I doubted our decision to give her my name
was right after I gave birth, when there was such a connection
between me and my baby and I felt like my husband was left out
of the process. But that doubt passed pretty quickly.
If we have another, we've thought of giving him or her my
husband's name, just to make things even (and further confuse
I also know a woman who has three kids, all who have her last
name. The only downside she's mentioned is that sometimes people
think the kids are hers from a previous marriage. But that's
resolved quickly and hasn't been a problem for her.
We decided to give male offspring the dad's last name and female
offspring the mom's. I've heard of other people doing this as
well and it worked well for us.
I read somewhere that girl babies should get their mother's last
name and boys their father's, that way both family names get
passed on. My husband and I modified that a bit. I did not
change my name when we married, and we decided that if our first
child was a boy, he would get my husband's last name and if it
was a girl, she would get mine. Our first (now four months old)
is a boy so he has my husband's last name. Our next child will
get my last name, regardless of sex/gender. If we have a third
child, we will pick the last name that sounds best with the
first name we choose for the child. It's not a perfect system,
but it will work for us. I personally don't like hyphenated
My SIL and BIL gave their kids her last name. I guess he doesn't
mind. My DH's family is pretty non-confrontational and haven't
disucssed it with him. It does bug his siblings. I suspect it
bugs his parents... but again, they don't do conflict so that
settles that... it wasn't the rest of the family's choice to
There are numerous permutations on the rules for last name
giving out there now days. As a teacher I see lots of kids with
hypehnated names, most with dad's name, and next to none with
mom's name... usually these are kids where the dad is not in the
picture and they live with mom and a step-father... not that it
has to be that situation, but that might be the assumption if
you choose that route. It would be easily clarified though.
Personally, I considered keeping my name when we got married but
didn't want to have a different name than my dh and kids...
almost like we weren't all a family. I know it would bug my dh
too, so we just picked one name for us all.
Our kids have my (their mother's) last name. When people ask us,
''Why do they have their mother's last name?'' we ask them, ''Why do
yours have their father's?'' Both choices seem equally arbitrary.
We used my last name because my husband prefers it to his. I
suppose some people might jump to the conclusion that my husband
is not the father of our kids (although our first kid looks a lot
like his father, as it happens), but so what? There are all
sorts of blended families these days, and no one gets
particularly worked up about them.
By the way, our kids have their father's last name as their
Mother of two
I decided that my children would have my surname years before I
met my husband. I'm attached to it, it's fairly unusual and yet
easy to spell and pronounce and I've never seen a reason why
children should carry their father's last name rather than their
mother's. Given my strong feelings on the issue, it came up soon
after my husband and I started dating and he agreed that if we
were to have children they'd carry my surname. It didn't hurt
that his last name was not the one he was born with (it's his
stepfather's) and that it's a fairly common one.
We have a daughter now who has my last name, as will our
soon-to-be-born second daughter. We gave our first daughter a
femenine version of her father's first name, however, both to
honor him and because I've always loved the name.
We haven't had any problems whatsoever, though sometimes people
have just assumed that her name was like her father's and we've
In all, what I would say is that you go about selecting the last
name as you would the first name: which one sounds better with
the first name you selected? which one is easier to
spell/pronounce? which one is more or less unusual? which one
will give the better initials? And of course, which one of you
wants to pass on your surname the most?
My husband and I kept our own names when we married. When we had
children we elected to use my last name. It has worked out fine,
no problems or questions for us. However, it was very hard on my
in-laws. It was hard for them to understand this decision and
caused them some hurt, which I had no idea of. For many years
they did not mention this. When they did mention it, we decided
to change to my husband's name. I viewed this as a gift to my
in-laws, as my view of the importance of names has changed over
the years. Changing our name was a relatively simple process,
cost about $350 and 2 trips to Martinez. And it has not been a
big issue for my children, at the ages of 4 and 8.
what's in a name?
In our family, girls get mom's last name, dad's last name is a
middle name(we didn't want to hyphenate) and boys get dad's last
name (mom's middle).
We determined this before having any children and it seemed
pretty fair. Worked out so we have one of each, but I am
constantly explaining that they have the same father.
When I was trying to get pregnant, my husband and I agreed that
if the baby was a girl, it would have my last name, and if it was
a boy, he could pick the last name. I guess I instigated it
because I always thought it was a little unfair that the mother's
name should just be gone. I thought that splitting it this way
would allow for a matriarchal and a patriarchal line, possibly
preserving both family names. It just seemed fair to me. My
husband was fine with this especially since he is estranged from
his father and knew that he did not want his child to have his
last name. (If we had had a boy, it would have been given my
husband's maternal grandfather's name.) We did have a girl, and
she has my last name only. There have been no problems with this
at all. Maybe it's just this area, but no one has ever commented
about it. Oh, except for my sister. She said, how will my
daughter know who her family is if all of you don't have the same
last name? I said I thought she would figure it out somehow ;-).
My daughter is four now. I don't know how this will play out as
she gets older. One thing we did was give her her dad's middle
name as her name. It just happened to sound good as her middle
name, and it's given her a sense of connection to him.
My husband and I had a similar situation when it came to naming
our daughter two years ago. We decided that the only fair way
was to choose randomly. In our case, we arbitrarily decided
before the sonogram that if the baby was a boy, he would have my
husband's last name, and if it was a girl, she'd have mine. And
so our daughter has my last name. At one point we also discussed
tossing a coin, joking that this could be a little ceremony in
front of family members in the hospital. We have had some
disapproving comments from acquaintances and family members: ''It
will confuse the school,'' mostly. It's my opinion that there are
so many non-nuclear, non-traditional, blended families that
it'll be no big deal, and so far we haven't had a problem. I'm
interested to hear what parents of older children have to say....
- no regrets yet
Just to get an idea of what people are doing these days, I did a
very unscientific survey using the roster of my son's preschool
in Berkeley. There are 66 children, mostly 3 and 4 year olds.
The roster lists the child's last name and the parents' last
names. Here's what I found:
- 71% of the families have 2 parents with different last names
- 26% of the families all use the same last name
- 3% of the families have a single parent, one same last name as
child, one not
Of the 47 families where there are two parents with different
last names, what last name does the child use?
- 30 (64%) use the father's last name
- 12 (26%) use both names (half with a space between and half
with a hyphen between)
- 3 (6%) use the mother's last name
- 2 (4%) are two-mom families and use only one of the mom's last names
I don't know how many of these use one of the parent's last names
as a middle name - seems fairly common but I don't have a number.
There are 17 kids where everyone in the family has the same last
name. In at least one of these, everyone is using the mom's last
name. May be more like this but I can't tell from the roster.
One interesting note: there are 3 sets of siblings at the school,
all have parents with two different names. Family #1 both boys
use the father's name, Family #2 both girls use a hyphenated
name, Family #3 older daughter uses both names with a space,
second daughter uses father's name only.
So, if this is a typical preschool in Berkeley, it looks like
nearly three quarters of Berkeley preschool kids have parents
with different last names. In about two-thirds of these, the
children are using the father's last name. But there are many
different naming styles.
We hyphenated our daughters' last names, so I am biased toward that option. I will
say that we have had no negative impact of that (her kindergarten teacher is happy
that she has more letters to practice!) and in many circumstances my husband and I
each just use one name (i.e. when I sign her up for a class, I just use my name). The
only time it seems to make a difference is when we fly, especially when one parent
flies alone with the kids it is helpful if there is some overlap between the names.
Otherwise, I will say that whatever the father's name is, and however it is placed
(middle, second part of a hyphen, etc.) there will be some people who just assume
that the father's name is the ''real'' last name, so he doesn't have to worry about
being left out. If you are absolutely against hyphenating, then I say go for having
the mom's name as the last one.
My eldest son has my last name, and his two younger siblings have
my partner's (the father of all 3) last name . Each of our
children's names have something from both sides of the family.
It's not a big deal at all. There are a lot of children nowadays
with their mother's last name and even a few families like ours
who split them up. People around here barely bat an eye and I
haven't had any trouble elsewhere either.
I missed the original posting, but we gave our son his father's
last name as a last name and my last name as the second of two
I missed the original posting, but we gave our daughter her
mother's last name and our son his father's
I have a question for moms out there who use their own names. In
retrospect, what thoughts do you have about hyphenated names vs. just
picking one of the parents' last names for the kids? I have a teen
from a previous marriage, and I'm about to have a baby. Using
fictional names here for the example... I have always used the name I
was born with, Chuzzlewit. My first husband's name was Havisham. We
didn't want to give the teen a hyphenated name back when, because
Chuzzlewit-Havisham seemed too cumbersome. So we used Chuzzlewit as
the middle name (which I realize in retrospect just gets ignored), and
Havisham as the last name for the kid. Now, years later, I have
remarried, to a man named Pumblechook, and everybody in the household
has a different last name now! It's confusing and sometimes it's even
been a problem. Now that we are going to have a new baby, I am
reconsidering the hyphenated last name approach. Then at least three
of us will be obviously connectable. I don't want to change my last
name and neither does my husband. But the two names together will make
for a very long name: Chuzzlewit-Pumblechook. This seems so impractical!
So, I am wondering: those of you who have teens with hyphenated last
names - has it been a problem? Has one of the names gotten dropped
over the years? Does the kid complain about the length? If you used
just the father's (or mother's) name, does the unrepresented parent
just use that name informally too, for convenience? Any thoughts?
i gave a hyphenated last name to my daughter, she was
very sweet about it but did not use it once she wanted
to be like everyone else. Last year in the mist of
filling out applications for college she asked if i
would not be hurt and minded if she dropped my name.
so we did the process through social security, her
passport had already dropped the hyphenated name years
ago. my opinion, the easier the better, my son who is
only ten has only my husband's last name. so now i'm
the only one with my name but I'm keeping that one!
In terms of middle vs. hyphenated names, my son has my last name as his
middle name, and he seems quite happy with it.
I was married the first time at 21 and had a daughter who received her
father's last name. I then divorced and remarried and kept my given name
and my husband kept his. We had another daughter and were brainstorming
about whose last name she should have (we were both vehemently against
hyphenated names) when my husband said that he thought it would be a
travesty for me to have carried two children and have both of them end up
with the last names of their fathers. Therefore, my younger daughter and I
share a last name. My (now ex) husband hasn't felt cheated by this.
I, too, kept my maiden name, and when our son was born my husband and I
decided to give him both of our last names (mine first, my husband's last)--
but not to hyphenate them, which seemed a bit unwieldy. It was important to
me that my family name be a part of my child's identity, too, but I
envisioned him growing up, marrying one of the millions of little girls with
hyphenated names who were being born at the time, and then spawning a brood
of quadruple-barreled offspring (Grandbaby Lewis-Horowitz-Chang-Svensen, for
instance). I also wanted my son to have the option of dropping the first
half of his last name if he wanted to as an adult.
So he essentially has a double-barreled last name, but not one that most
people recognize as such. It's been a constant pain, to be honest. I have to
explain to people at least twice that, yes, his last name actually has two
words, and no, they're not hyphenated. Where to put him in an alphabetical
list (for medical files, etc.) has also been a constant source of
consternation. Half the time he just winds up being identified by my
husband's last name, and I've run out of the energy and will to argue about
it. So I think we're sort of halfway to semi-officially dropping my
contribution to his name, at least for everyday purposes. As for my son, he
doesn't seem as bothered about it as I do. He knows what his full name is --
but doesn't get upset if other people don't use it.
If I had it all to do over again, I probably would have adopted a hyphenated
name myself when I got married, and given the kids the same name. Probably a
better idea (for braver souls, at least) is to combine names with your
spouse and avoid the whole messy issue. Some good friends of mine, let's
call them Ms. Hammer and Mr. Smith, became Mr. and Mrs. Hammersmith
marriage, and passed that new family name to their daughter when she
Good luck with your decision!
Dear Ms. Chuzzelwit:
I sympathize, greatly! I did not take my husband's name at marriage,
either. And he has a daughter from a previous relationship who has her
mother's last name. When we had our baby daughter, we chose my last name
for her, to try to simplify the matter slightly, since at least she and I
have the same last name. But lately, I've been having trouble being
confused with another person of the exact same name (and same middle
initial!) who has TERRIBLE credit, and I keep getting phone calls and
dunning letters that are meant for *her*. I'm getting so fed up I'm
considering changing my name. We're thinking of choosing another family
name altogether. But his daughter still wants to keep hers, so that
wouldn't necessarily improve matters as far as identifying the "family
unity", and then we'd have to change *our* daughter's name, and we really
*like* her name and how it sounds, so we don't want to do *that*....
Regarding options: Hyphenation is certainly one option, but as you say, it
results in a very long name sometimes (that's why we originally decided
against it). We've had several friends who have chosen a *new* family name
altogether, more in keeping with their current life choices and
philosophies. But this can be sticky if you have extended family who are
alive and will protest the choice (it was never much of an issue for us,
since my husband's parents died before we were married). Another creative
solution one set of friends used was to combine parts of both names into a
new last name. They were McGrath and Penman, so they became Pengrath. So
you might all become Chuzzlechook, or Pemwit, for instance.
FWIW: We find that it actually isn't that much trouble having a teen with
a name different from either of ours. People seem to take it right in
stride these days, with so many blended families. I've never even had
anyone raise an eyebrow about it.
Good luck with your decision!
My 3 teenagers all have hyphenated last names, a combination of the my
(mother's) last name and their father's. They seem to do really well coping
with a longer last name. They usually use both names, esp on official
documents, but sometimes they choose to use one or the other. For instance,
my son uses his father's last name in sports and he uses my last name in art.
I say the more last names the better. It debunks the myth of the traditional
patriarchal family, where the father "owned" everyone in the family. Latin
families often all have different last names, and it doesn't seem to be a
problem. Good luck deciding.
I have a 15 year old son with a hyphenated last name and in retrospect I
would not have done it this way. It simply complicates things. He often
uses only his father's last name, which I understand and is fine with me.
His official signature uses the initials of his two last names, rather than
spelling the two names out. When having to spell out his name on the phone
or anywhere else, my standard approach before actually spelling it is, "This
is a hyphenated last name - ..." because I have found that, if you don't
give this introduction, people taking the information get confused if you
respond to the question directly with "B-R-O-W-N hyphen J-O-N-E-S." The
usual response is, "What?" or "Excuse Me?" I actually feel that I have
imposed a burden on him with this two name last name. I've been meaning to
talk with him about this for a while. Thanks for the nudge. Anonymous
Re: hyphenated names - Another consideration to the hyphenated name
situation is how hard it will be for future generations to trace the
family. I have been researching my family genealogy for several
years. Due to immigration "mistakes," my family members have ended up with
Americanized names which made it much harder to find them. I am concerned
that all these new naming conventions will muddy the trail even further.
I am with Marian Vos Savant on this one. Moms should name their kids after
themselves. It would be very simple, especially in cases of divorce. The
kids usually end up with the mom, as in the case of this poster.
About hyphenated last names. Well, I am a child with a looooong hyphenated
last name. I have a couple suggestions about what you chose for the last name
of your child. I am a big feminist and feel that women should not have to
give up there name just because it would make there child have a long and
confusing last name, so I have come up with one main solution. I feel that
you and your husbend should combine your last names into one. You can take
the letters from each name and put them together to make a unique, yet
personal last name that no one else will have. I plan to do this with my
children, because that way neither parent is giving up there last name.
Especially being a teenager with a long name, it is sometimes embarrassing
when someone calls your name wrong, but then again I do feel unique and proud
that I have both of my parents names in my last name, unlike most of my
friends who only have their dads. I hope you find this helpful.
A Teenage Girl With A Hyphenated Last Name
this page was last updated: Apr 9, 2012
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