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December 12, 2011 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Can we give our first child my wife's maiden name as his/her last name?

OK, here is the deal. My wife and I got married a couple of months back and are beginning to make plans to (hopefully) have a child. My wife has not taken my name but plans on doing so, she just hasn't had time to go through all of the procedures. It doesn't matter to me, but she wants to so that's cool with me.

Thing is though, we both want our child to have her maiden name as his/her last name (she is not just an only child but like an uber-only child - her dad has two brothers and a sister, none of which have now (or will ever have) children and her mom is an only child). As far as we know, the family name dies when her father and his brothers die. (Now no doubt there are other out there with the last name, but I think y'all get what I am saying here. Her family reunions could be held in a phone booth).

So my question is can we give our child any last name we damn well please? If not, can she keep her name and give that last name to our baby?

Also, is this a bad idea? My family are up in arms because they think I am ashamed of my last name for some reason, but the fact is I have two kids, both with my last name and my wife and I would like to honor her family and kind of keep the name alive so to speak.

BTW, we live in Texas, US.
posted by holdkris99 to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I have many, many friends whose middle name is their mother's maiden name. That's a way to do it without confusing or upsetting anyone or running into potentially tricky legal issues. When the kid is older, he can decide for himself which name he wants to go by.
posted by phunniemee at 9:23 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quick question. You say that you and your wife are preparing to have a child, but also that you have two children. Will this be a blended-family situation where Future Child has half-siblings from your previous relationship(s)? If so, do you think having a different last name than the other kids will make the family feel less...blended for any of them? Not a criticism at all, but just a point to ponder. Congratulations on everything!
posted by anonnymoose at 9:27 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Note: I say this because my husband grew up as Differently Named Kid in a similar blended-family situation, and he definitely felt a little like the odd one out about it. He legally changed his different last name to the same one as the rest of his family last year. If course, YMMV.)
posted by anonnymoose at 9:30 PM on December 12, 2011


Of course you can give your future child its mother's maiden name as its last name. Your wife might want to just go ahead and keep her maiden name as well though, especially since it seems less than crucial to her or to you that she change it. That way the kid will share a last name with one of its parents, which would be nice for the kid.
posted by headnsouth at 9:42 PM on December 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


It seems a little cruel to give a child a last name that neither parent has.
posted by jayder at 9:45 PM on December 12, 2011 [20 favorites]


I have my Mom's maiden name as my last name and it's never, ever been a problem, but she never changed her name. I'm pretty sure you can use whatever last name you want, but I could see how it might kind of weird for the kid to be the only one in the family with that last name.
posted by grapesaresour at 9:45 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


"So my question is can we give our child any last name we damn well please?"

Yes. (It's remotely possible it might involve extra paperwork in your state, but probably you can just put whatever you want on the birth certificate paperwork.)

If the child has a different last name from both parents, most people will just assume it's a divorce-and-remarriage situation where, for whatever reason, the kid ended up with a different name.

(Honestly the HAVING different last names is rarely an issue since it's so common these days, in so many combinations; it's when you start explaining it that people get all judgey.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:45 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have an ex girlfriend whose child has her maiden name as his first name. Works well actually. Call your child whatever you are both comfortable wih.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:17 PM on December 12, 2011


I went to college with a guy whose parents made up his last name. It was a cool last name and it worked well with his first name, but it wasn't the same last name as either of his parents had. As far as I can tell, this fact did not stunt or haunt him in any way. Name your kid whatever you want.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:35 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


your wife should keep her maiden name too
posted by moorooka at 10:52 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Since we're a mom-with-maiden-name + kid + stepdad family, *everyone* in our house has a different last name. It's a bit odd at school times, but it works fine. (The only complication -- giving the dog's name at the vet. For some reason, that's the only system that doesn't seem to get multiple last names in a family and it wouldn't be fair to have the dog "side with" someone.)

From an ease/legal perspective, if your wife's name is still her maiden at the birth, it'll be *much* simpler. It's your wife's choice what her last name should be and how she should handle it.

I've known folks who've done similar, but the wife/mom has changed their middle to their maiden. So "First Middle Maiden" becomes "First Maiden Married" with kid as "Kid Maiden" and the wife/mom's identity being work is "First Married" and drivers license is "First Maiden Married" rather than a clumsy hyphen, but still gives the "connection to the kid" thing. The only trick is if Aunt Middle gets offended, but hey.
posted by Gucky at 11:28 PM on December 12, 2011


Why don't you take your wife's name as well, then nobody will be left out?
posted by KateViolet at 12:28 AM on December 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yes, and it shouldn't create much issue so long as the paperwork at schools etc. is kept up to date.
posted by arcticseal at 2:25 AM on December 13, 2011


If you want to seem like a genuinely blended family, then you should all have the same last name. It may seem ridiculous, but family names do matter, and if the baby's last name is different than her siblings and yours, it creates the distinction of "you are not one of us."

How about her mom's maiden name as her middle name, or even first name, with all of you having the same surname?
posted by kinetic at 3:19 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The majority of the world is matrilineal, meaning that they trace their roots through through their mother's family, not their fathers'. At least in Mexico, giving the child the mother's name as a last name is actually the way it's normally done. Living in Texas, I'm sure any bureaucrat would have encountered this situation in the past. I don't think it's an issue.
posted by Gilbert at 3:26 AM on December 13, 2011


Yes, it's your wife who can solve this easily by keeping her maiden name, and letting the child from the future share that name rather than have a name all to his/her lonesome! Kids like belonging.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:29 AM on December 13, 2011


I have a friend who gave his son a different last name from both parents, and aside from pissing off his mother (she eventually got over it) it hasn't caused any real problems. I work with children and see all sorts of combinations of last names (and even kids whose last name changes from one time to the next, which wreaks havoc with our paperwork). As has been mentioned above there are so many blended families of all sorts out there that most people will not bat an eye at different last names and won't require any explanation.
posted by TedW at 4:35 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously
posted by cda at 4:40 AM on December 13, 2011


My reservation about the "kids have different last names from their parents all the time these days" line of thought is that, to some extent that's a sign of familial instability (mother having child out of wedlock; parents never getting married; you raising a child that is not biologically yours, etc.) and I would be very hesitant to adopt these hallmarks when they aren't necessary ... if that makes sense.

I like the suggestion that you take your wife's name.
posted by jayder at 4:52 AM on December 13, 2011


Something to consider, based on an incident that happened at my wife's place of employment a few months ago: Child ("Sarah Smith") is in an accident, hospital calls the main number of your office, asks for Mr. Smith, but you're actually Mr. Jones. Person who answers the phone says they must have the wrong number. It takes several hours to get it all figured out, during which time the child is in the hospital alone...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:07 AM on December 13, 2011


to some extent that's a sign of familial instability (mother having child out of wedlock; parents never getting married; you raising a child that is not biologically yours, etc.)

I'm not sure to whom this would be such a sign, but like TedW I have worked with thousands of kids and there is nothing you can determine about family stability from either having different names or having the same names as the parents. It's not a good predictor. I suppose some people out there see it that way or it wouldn't have come up, but if you spend much time around young families this is one of the first prejudices to be discarded.
posted by Miko at 5:39 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Working at a law firm, there are many female lawyers who do not change their name after marrying. (I've heard similar things are done with women in other fields where their name matters for reputation purposes.) I believe all of their children have the father's name, (though there are two I know who hyphenate). This means if someone needs to call about Charlie Smith, asking for Mrs. Smith won't work since mom's name is Linda Jones. Last I checked, none of these people had problems.

Anyone who sees the kid has a different last name and comes up with all sorts of conclusions about them is a moron.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:56 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Something to consider, based on an incident that happened at my wife's place of employment a few months ago: Child ("Sarah Smith") is in an accident, hospital calls the main number of your office, asks for Mr. Smith, but you're actually Mr. Jones.

That was a screw up on the hospital's part; they should have asked for Sarah Smith's parent; we have to make calls to parents all the time and that is how to do it properly. Even so, in a large organization it can still be hard to get the right person if you don't have a full name and department where they work.

Working at a law firm, there are many female lawyers who do not change their name after marrying. (I've heard similar things are done with women in other fields where their name matters for reputation purposes.)

It happens in medicine too; in addition to reputation, changing names can also be a hassle when it comes to licensure. I have seen women who use their maiden name professionally and their married name socially as well.
posted by TedW at 6:10 AM on December 13, 2011


It will likely be a problem if you try to cross an international border with your child (and without your wife). You'll want to bring a birth certificate to prove you're related.

It's conceivable that hospitals and such will want proof that you're related too.

Other than that, I think it'll be fine.
posted by miyabo at 6:10 AM on December 13, 2011


"to some extent that's a sign of familial instability "

To some extent it's a sign that the mother is well-educated and was already a working professional when she got married. I mean REALLY, it's so common it's not an automatic social signifier of anything.

"This means if someone needs to call about Charlie Smith, asking for Mrs. Smith won't work since mom's name is Linda Jones. Last I checked, none of these people had problems."

So, this is me. On the rare occasion that there's not already a form that says my child is Joe Schmoe whose mother is Eyebrows McGee, or that the adults in charge don't know or don't remember that, they just call and ask for "Mrs. Schmoe" and I say, "I'm Joe's mother" and if it's relevant add, "but my last name is McGee."

Here's another benefit: I have a public role that requires me to participate in discussions that are sometimes controversial and occasionally ugly. My boys aren't immediately associated with that because we don't have the same last name. A lot of teachers, doctors, etc., who meet him categorize us as the "Schmoe" family and it often doesn't dawn on them for quite a while that I'm McGee. (Usually we get there with "you look familiar ..." and then two meetings later they say, "I saw you on TV! You were [doing controversial thing that I may support or abhor]!") Anyway, I like that they get to start out whatever they're doing without the baggage of my public life. Once they know their teachers or doctors or coaches or whatever and have made their OWN impression, it's usually only then that the adults realize who I am, and then it's not such a big deal. Obviously that's not something that affects everyone, and it's not necessarily predictable, or necessarily a big enough benefit to outweigh the benefits of all having the same name. But I've been grateful for it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"to some extent that's a sign of familial instability "

To some extent it's a sign that the mother is well-educated and was already a working professional when she got married. I mean REALLY, it's so common it's not an automatic social signifier of anything.


It all depends where you live. I live in a progressive university town, so here it'd likely be seen as the latter, but I can imagine the former being the case in areas with more conservative / moralistic attitudes.
posted by aught at 6:33 AM on December 13, 2011


K.I.S.S.
posted by MangyCarface at 6:46 AM on December 13, 2011


To answer some of your questions, my two children that I have are both older (12 and 14) so by the time our new child would be going to school and all of that they will most likely be adults by then so the blending thing will not be as big of a deal, I don't think.

I tend to agree with jayder, it does seem kind of cruel for new baby to be the only one in the family with the last name.

The consensus seems to be that the best way to go about this is for mom to keep her name which we both are fine with.

aside from pissing off his mother (she eventually got over it)

This is an issue with us as well. My mom is a classic narcissist who is already turning this into a nightmare, but, that's her problem.

K.I.S.S.

Mangy Carface: I assume you mean Keep It Simple Stupid. Do you care to elaborate on my stupidity?
posted by holdkris99 at 6:50 AM on December 13, 2011


I had a different last name from both my parents growing up and it's never been an issue. I honestly think people pay too much attention to how difficult things will be for forms or that the child will have to explain it to other people. Explain your rationale, teach your child to be proud of their name and it'll be fine. My name turned out the way it did because when my mother married my father she took his name, at his request. When I was about to be born though, she was sad at the thought of not giving anything of herself to my name, so my parents decided to give me a last name that was both my parents' first names combined. Strange, completely untraditional and I love it! It makes for a good story and people are usually intrigued, not put off.
posted by peacheater at 7:02 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, the stupid part is unnecessary, just part of the acronym. IMHO any possible benefits of this (the 'novelty' of carrying over a family name from her side; a name is just, in the end, a word) are vastly outweighed by the social and legal simplicity that comes from a uniform last name.

To be more helpful: when she married, my mother took my father's last name and appended her own in front of it, with a hyphen. Of course no one gets this right, but it seems important to her. For us children, we got her maiden name as a middle name. Would this be a fair solution?
posted by MangyCarface at 7:05 AM on December 13, 2011


Can we give our first child my wife's maiden name as his/her last name?

My best friend (female) has her mother's maiden name as her last name, so the answer is a simple YES.

She always hated it; never felt to be part of the family as her younger brother has her parents' married name.
posted by TinWhistle at 7:27 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mom is also an only child, and the only child of that generation of cousins etc. to have kids. My siblings and I all have my mother's maiden name as our official surname. Unofficially, we go by her exhusband's name. For the record, my mom took her exhusbands name when they married. (We're a blended family--I'm the eldest, and both my brothers were fathered by my mom's exhusband.)

It's not a big deal. So, for things like email, bank cards, etc., I'm Emily Exhusband, and for my passport and social insurance etc. I'm Emily Maidenmom.

It's actually really simple, and has never been a problem for any of us. For semi-official stuff, sometimes the person who approves my applications or whatever will hyphenate the name, and Emily Exhusband was listed as an AKA throughout my public school days, and was even known to be my 'preferred' name, and we're were a nominally unified family, even though all of us kids had a different last name from either of our parent.

People do this with first names all the time, too. Like when kids go by a middle name or thier initials because their legal first name is a family name. People will get it.
posted by emilycardigan at 8:19 AM on December 13, 2011


I was married and kept my name. My son has my last name as his middle name and his dad's last name. If we'd had a girl, she'd have had my last name, and her dad's last as a middle name. It's fine.

Things only change if people change them. Schools are bad about dealing with name differences, but that's a bad reason for your family choices. I recommend being low-key about family and friends who get the name wrong, and assertive with institutions who have rigid and stupid systems that they should change.
posted by theora55 at 9:11 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


My husband and I each kept our names upon marrying. Our children have my last name as a second middle name, and my husband's last name. If I had a nickel for every time I had to ask "Do you mean MY last name, or his|her last name?" I wouldn't have to worry about college expenses, but seriously that's the only problem.

I would recommend that your wife keep her name, though, just for the continuity. Otherwise it could send the message of "I wanted the family name to carry on, but not enough to keep it for myself."
posted by KathrynT at 9:47 AM on December 13, 2011


I had a friend in college whose parents (who each kept their own last names, if I recall) gave each of their 3-4 children different last names. One was a hybrid, one was a tribute to a 60s icon, one (my friend's last name) was...a description/prophecy (?) I guess.

So, yeah, you could even just make one up, too (depending on state law, I guess - this was Iowa).
posted by Pax at 10:07 AM on December 13, 2011


vastly outweighed by the social and legal simplicity that comes from a uniform last name.

In my experience this is greatly overstating the impact of not having a uniform last name which are socially minor and legally nonexistent. It is not that unusual of a situation although this would doubtless be a relatively rare manifestation, but any agencies (private or public) that deal with families will negotiate this without fuss.

Some people will make erroneous assumptions based on it, some people will ask questions about it, and very occasionally some doofus will harbor a personal judgment towards you for electing an unorthodox naming convention.

Although I'm in a situation more conventional than yours (wife kept her maiden name, child has my family name) the mechanics of it are similar and it really it almost never comes up and when it does it is explained in seconds. Society is way-post-nuclear-family: nobody cares.
posted by nanojath at 10:08 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have my mother's maiden name as my middle name and I've considered changing that to be my last name due to my distance from my father (whose last name I have) and the fact that the last name is dying out. However, the thing about it is that I'm a girl. And your child could also potentially be a girl. So then saddling her with this name seems kind of weird if your issue is that the name is going to die - it could be kind of an unintended pressure, and if she gets married and takes her husband's name...

I have a different last name than my mother (who remarried) and that did make things a bit difficult at times because people do make assumptions based on such, but it's never been a serious problem.

So, can you do this? Yes. Though, I'm wondering if part of the issue your family might be having is that it sounds like they don't feel they are being honored in the naming as well.
posted by sm1tten at 4:17 PM on December 13, 2011


In Berkeley, CA, a friend's parents gave her her mother's maiden name as a last name. The idea was originally to alternate mother's maiden/father's last name for subsequent kids, but they found it easier give all their common children the same last name. I think that was key - re-marriage is pretty common, but full blood siblings having different last names is very unusual. If it were me, I'd just make sure all the kids had a common last name.
posted by maryr at 9:53 PM on December 13, 2011


You have lots of rights for naming your kid! The USA isn't quite a free for all, but in some places it is. Here's an awesome article about constitutional rights and naming. It also surveys how some other countries deal with naming, and has a fantastic section with examples weird names that Americans gave their children in the past - demonstrating the exercise of their constitutional right. (Hard to choose a favorite but “Trailing Arbutus Vines" and "Preserved Fish" are both up there).

All it mentions for Texas is that Texas won't record numerals as part of the name or suffix, except for roman numerals in the suffix. So you could do John Doe, II but not John Doe, 2nd or John 2 Doe.

Louisiana is the strictest state, more connected to the civil law tradition that regulates naming much more strictly. It is one of a handful of states that DO regulate surnames. The others are Tennessee, North Dakota, Indiana, Mississippi, and Rhode Island.
posted by Salamandrous at 12:30 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


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