Family of three, two last names. Problem?
January 25, 2014 10:54 PM   Subscribe

When I got married I never changed my last name. We're pregnant now (yay!), and thinking the baby will have my last name. Dad will likely big picking kiddo up from daycare/school a lot and we'll be traveling internationally a lot (Oz-US). How big a deal is it if dad has a different surname?

FWIW, our surnames do not combine or hyphenate well at all. Dad's thinking about taking my surname, or we might all take his step-dad's (who raised him) surname. Or just stay with different names...? (Husband's current surname is from his somewhat absent father whom he has mixed feelings about - probably a no-go.)
posted by jrobin276 to Grab Bag (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have never had a problem. It is extremely common to have parents with different names in my part of my world. I would say it's about 50/50 in my kids' age group.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:08 PM on January 25, 2014

My sister didn't change her name and her kids have their father's last name. It hasn't been a problem at all travelling to Mexico and the US from Canada.
posted by Mitheral at 11:12 PM on January 25, 2014

Just bring along the kid's birth certificate for any plane rides and you'll be fine.

posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:12 PM on January 25, 2014

We haven't had any problems with it. Occasionally in official contexts or at the doctor we get, "That's their dad, right?" but otherwise, no single person has commented.
posted by linettasky at 11:19 PM on January 25, 2014

Not only do I not have the same last name as my sons, but I'm also a different race. And yet no one has ever questioned us, including in myriad international travels when we lived overseas.

It might be easier when the kids have the same last name as dad (because patriarchy), but I just don't think this is a thing.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:35 PM on January 25, 2014

I grew up in a family where neither my mom and stepdad nor my brothers shared my last name. I can't recall it ever being an issue. My dad's house was even weirder, with three last names, but still, no issues.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:36 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

My name is different than my children's, and it's never been a problem.
posted by KathrynT at 11:43 PM on January 25, 2014

Kids are hyphenated. Makes it dead simple for spouse & I to have different surnames.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:47 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

My sister and I have my mom's last name, and my brother has my dad's. (This is a single family unit, no divorce until we were adults). It was never a problem.
posted by third word on a random page at 12:31 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

We were a little older, but after Dad left, Mom's last name was different from ours and it caused zero problems. Bring along the birth certificate or other documentation for international travel, but I'd probably be doing that anyway, archetypical Virgo ass-coverer that I am. The folks at daycare and school will get to know both of you.

I know a couple who kept their own last names, and gave their daughter Mom's last name as a last name and Dad's last name as a middle name, and gave their son Dad's last name as a last name and Mom's last name as a middle name. They also took each other's last names as middle names, John and Yoko-style. They had no trouble at school at all.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:32 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hyphenating! Kinship embedded in the name. I love having my mother's and father's family name, it really means something to me. Both my parents kept their names when they married.
posted by jardinier at 12:39 AM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

In my circles no one has all same last name and no one cares. No logistics problems.
posted by k8t at 12:58 AM on January 26, 2014

In my experience as a stepfather the schools keep a list of who is allowed to pick up the kids. I went in and was registered as someone who was authorized to pick up my step-kids. The staff are quite dilligent at recognizing people who regularly pick up kids at the end of the school day as well. The Principal knew my name before I knew her name. As a parent I was comfortable with the process.

Congratulations on your pregnancy.
posted by vapidave at 1:27 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't have a great relationship with my mother but have her lovely exotic sounding surname, primarily because my dad's lent itself to bullying. As a feminist I quite like this (why should it be the dads name a kid gets?... Ofcourse it all tracks back to property ownership and patriarchy). Though my name from her was ofcourse her dads name.
In my complicated family there are 4 names, we tend to have a laugh about it. I only ever had bother about it at the bank once... one of their security questions tends to be your mothers maiden name.
posted by tanktop at 2:06 AM on January 26, 2014

For my kids, for my daughter we flipped a coin when my oldest was born. My wife one, my daughter got her surname. For #2 we decided to do it a different way. If a girl she would get her surname, if a boy, mine. Worked out well, no problems.
posted by singingfish at 3:29 AM on January 26, 2014

It may depend on where you live but about 1/3 of my son's classmates have parents with different last names, as we do. As long as your partner isn't upset by occasionally being called Mr. Jrobin, it's no big.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:06 AM on January 26, 2014

Man, weird timing, I just had this conversation with my fiance not 12 hours ago. We are getting married and she is going to keep her last name. We decided that any children we have will take her name for basically the same reasons as OP. My last name is different from my mother/step-father, so our kids should have the last name of family that they'll actually have a relationship with.

All good in my book.
posted by JimBJ9 at 4:29 AM on January 26, 2014

My daughter has her dad's last name, it's not even the least bit of a thing ever. You're just like, Kid Jones will be picked up by her dad, Joe Smith. Sincerely, Jane Jones (Kid's mom)' or whatever formulation makes sense. People are fine with it. No one blinks, at least in our area.

The rationale for that decision, by the way, is that she has a pretty long first name and her dad has a nice short last name. If we had given her a single syllable first name, she'd have gotten my complicated ethnic-y last name.

The rationale for me keeping my name is that it's my name. Also, lazy.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:17 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

It would have cost lots of time and money to change my ex's name and, with the support of a friend from Iceland, I talked her out of it. We had a deal that if we had a boy he would get my name and if we had a girl it would be her last name. We had a boy. No problems for mom so far.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:21 AM on January 26, 2014

We've got three different last names in my three-person family and the only minor inconvenience is having to spell out three different surnames over the phone sometimes. I think it helps, though, if you are not the sort of people who get uptight over being called the "other" last name on occasion.
posted by drlith at 5:24 AM on January 26, 2014

After my parents divorced, my mom dropped my dad's surname (which my brother and I have). As far as I know, this didn't cause problems. Your husband will probably get called Mr Robin by the kid's friends (and maybe anyone who knows you and not him) and, if your school is like mine, things from the school will be addressed to the "[Dad's name] family" (despite the student's surname being Robin). The daycare will surely ask for both parents' names when you register your kid.

The one situation I'd worry a little about is if dad and kid have different names (and possibly different passports) and he needs to travel with the kid without you. I'm way more anxious about crossing borders than most people, but I would take the birth certificate. (If your kid will be a dual citizen, get both birth certificates even if you aren't required to--it'll surely make immigration officials happier if you shown them their country's piece of paper.)
posted by hoyland at 5:27 AM on January 26, 2014

Friends of mine are the parents of an eighteen-month old and a newborn, and each parent has a different surname. Both kids have the father's surname as a surname and the mother's surname as the second of their two middle names i.e. if the parents had been Richard BURTON and Elizabeth TAYLOR, the elder kid is Benjamin Jonathan Taylor BURTON. Perhaps that is an option?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:37 AM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

(I would add they did this specifically because of international travel and their hunch that no matter what combination they travelled in, it is probably smoother if the kid shares a name with whichever parent he was travelling with.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:40 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

The different-last-names thing is really, really common these days. My wife kept her maiden name, because she wanted to. We gave our son my last name because he'll be the only one to carry the name on; there are dozens of kids on her side of the family. It's never been an issue.

Don't give it another thought.
posted by ook at 6:45 AM on January 26, 2014

My family of five has four different last names. It has never been a problem. Anyone who claims to be confused at a child with a different last name from even one parent is being disingenuous.
posted by Etrigan at 6:46 AM on January 26, 2014

The OP's question pertains specifically to international travel; those of us who spend a lot of time in airports can attest that security screeners' disingenuousness can be very time-consuming, costly and more than slightly inconvenient.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:18 AM on January 26, 2014

Consider giving the child your husband's last name as a middle name so that when traveling it's on the paperwork.

What are middle names really for, anyway? They are a useless construction and this is a way to make it meaningful - and actually quite traditional (heritage family surnames as middle names, to show lineage), even though it's been lost lately.
posted by amaire at 7:23 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mom never changed her last name and my brother and I have my dad's last name. We grew up in an area where that was really UNcommon (rich, WASPY town in the especially WASPY neighborhood) and never had a problem day to day.

Sometimes people asked and I just said my mom didn't change her last name. It is so common now that I wouldn't give it another thought. Birth certificate has both parents' names on it so bring that if you are concerned.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:33 AM on January 26, 2014

This would really only present an issue when one of you is travelling alone with the child. In that case, you'll often need (or be strongly advised to have) a letter of consent from the non-traveling parent regardless of last names.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:58 AM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I travel alone with my now-5 year old frequently, including internationally, including places where a mother traveling alone is unusual. No one has ever asked why we have different last names. I do have a copy of his birth certificate and will have his Dad write an email saying that it is okay to travel, but in 5 years I've never had to pull them out.
Once I was traveling with a male friend with (obviously) an entirely different last name than my son and I and is a different ethnicity and citizenship than my son and I (we both look very white Caucasian) and even in that situation, I think that passport control assumed that my friend was kid's dad.
posted by k8t at 8:26 AM on January 26, 2014

Echoing: No problems at all, ever.

However: One school year, there was a child in my daughter's class who had *my* last name, and did not share a last name with *her* mother. That year, I used my last name for official paperwork, but my daughter's last name for permission slips and daily class notes and whatnot. I don't really care what I'm called, and I thought that might help eliminate confusion.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2014

My kids all have my last name not their father's. We have had precisely one issue with it - my 21 year old daughter presented her insurance card with her father's name on it to get a flu shot and the pharmacy wouldn't let her just get the shot but insisted she pay and submit a claim. Totally bogus - and the first time it's ever come up with all the years of crossing borders, school paperwork, etc. Goofy.
posted by leslies at 8:50 AM on January 26, 2014

My mom took her maiden name back after my parents divorced and I kept my dad's name. We traveled out of the US a lot and it was never a problem. This was long before the TSA, as a data point.
posted by rtha at 9:13 AM on January 26, 2014

I've never had a problem with it. My son and husband have one last name, my daughter and I have another, and it's all been fine. The only international traveling we've all done together so far has been between the US and Canada.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2014

I'm married but didn't take my husband's name, and our son is FirstName ChosenMiddle MySurnameAsSecondMiddle HusbandLastName. It's a little long but covers all the bases - I wanted him to have my name in there somewhere, for admin purposes and in case he might want to use it in later life for whatever reason.

He's too young yet for us to know whether this will cause problems. He has his own passport and we took him to France (by boat not plane) when he was 5 months old with no trouble at all.

Our names don't hyphenate well, and we also reasoned that it's a one-generation solution - what happens when Bob Smith-Jones marries Clara Fotherington-Thomas?
posted by altolinguistic at 10:11 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I didn't want to take my husband's name when we married, so my son has a different name. I have British nationality, and my son is Dutch.

This HAS actually caused a problem at passport control, but always at the same airport (Amsterdam Schiphol).

They wanted a letter from his dad saying that it was ok for me to bring him back into the Netherlands. Or our marriage certificate. So I took to just carrying our marriage certificate with the passports when we travelled. And since then, we've been checked and questioned, but always let through control on production of proof that he was actually my son.
posted by pootler at 11:27 AM on January 26, 2014

Forgot to mention -- we gave the children my last name as a second middle name, also. This causes its own hassles, because not everything is set up to accept two middle names, but has made other things easier.
posted by KathrynT at 11:43 AM on January 26, 2014

I think it helps, though, if you are not the sort of people who get uptight over being called the "other" last name on occasion.

Yeah, Mom occasionally got called "Mrs. Monster" by new teachers or parents of new friends, but there was never any awkwardness when she'd say, "I'm Mrs. NonMonster; Mr. Monster and I are divorced."

We lived near the U.S./Canada border and crossed A LOT, and there was never any trouble. Of course, this was pre-9/11 and I haven't been over the ditch since, so I can't testify to the current atmosphere.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:05 PM on January 26, 2014

I grew up with a different last name than my father (and my twin brother), and now my son has a differently last name than my wife. It's never been an issue in any way.
posted by waldo at 12:30 PM on January 26, 2014

My mom uses her maiden name and I have my father's last name. It wasn't a big thing when I was growing up but it was a thing. My mom got asked for their marriage certificate or my birth certificate fairly often. Once we were traveling from the US to Canada the customs officials got very suspicious of the situation and came close to arresting both my parents for kidnapping. This was back when international travel was much more relaxed than it is now. I think my experience is a little more extreme than most because I look nothing like either of my parents but it's something to consider.
posted by entropyiswinning at 2:48 PM on January 26, 2014

Your experience was a long time ago, though, if you're old enough to be posting to Mefi. It's much more common now for there to be blended families, for married couples to have different last names, for families to be of more than one race, etc.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:41 PM on January 26, 2014

posted by Wet Spot at 2:44 PM on January 27, 2014

Thanks all!
Baby gets MY last name, Dad is keeping his.
We live in an area much like Berkeley, CA... if it's not a problem travelling, it shouldn't be a problem at all. =D
posted by jrobin276 at 7:47 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

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