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harple's avatar

What are the pros and cons of giving my child either my surname or the father's?

Asked by harple (10427 points ) October 12th, 2012

We’re in a happy, committed relationship, and are both delighted over the pregnancy. If we were to one day marry, I am likely to want to keep my surname anyway, if for no other reason than it is my professional name, so the question would still be relevant.

I come from a large family, but all of my child’s cousins have different surnames through marriage, whereas on the father’s side all the cousins have the same surname. This makes me feel like there is more of a “clan” to feel a sense of belonging to on his side.

There is also a sweet argument that says that giving the child the father’s name helps increase the bond between them, that the mother typically has more naturally from having carried and given birth to the child.

But conversely, would I feel disconnected from the child if its surname was different from mine? And would it make me feel uncomfortable in public settings, such as registering for schools etc?

All thoughts gratefully received. I don’t believe in just doing one or the other “because that’s the way it’s always been done”. I want to have thought it through thoroughly and come to the right decision for my family setup.

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18 Answers

augustlan's avatar

In today’s world, mothers often have different last names than their children, so I wouldn’t worry about feeling uncomfortable in school settings and the like. Since I’m divorced from their father and have remarried, I now have a different last name than my children and it’s not a big problem. The only con is that people who know you primarily through your children will refer to you by their last name…I am often called “Mrs. Children’s-last-name” at school or the doctor’s office. Since it’s my ex-husband’s last name, that could have been an irritant, but it’s no biggie.

More and more, I like the idea of combining the two last names for children, either by hyphenating or making up a new name altogether that reflects both last names. For Smith and Johnson, for instance, it could be Smithson.

zenvelo's avatar

These days it really doesn’t mean as much as it did 50 years ago. I think it’s easier for the child going through school for the mother and child to have the same name, presuming the mother is the more involved parent. But be prepared for school staff to call you “Mrs. <Maiden Name>” because there is a presumption of marriage.

But you’ll get obnoxious questions no matter what you do unless you hyphenate.

What does the dad want? It’s his decision too.

harple's avatar

Our surnames would be too much of a mouthful hyphenated…

The dad isn’t coming down one way or the other at the moment. We’re only a third of the way through the pregnancy, so I get the impression he’s likely not to speak too strongly on it til it gets nearer the time. He’s very modern-thinking though, and his general response is to say that whatever we decide will work and be fine. You’re absolutely right that it’s his decision too, I’m just trying to help get my head clearer as we’re both up in the air on it at the moment.

psyonicpanda's avatar

My Twins surename is hypanated but that is because their mother was still on the fence if they should have my last name or not because we are not married, even though we are in a commited relationship. I would like them to have my last name because as the Father I feel its is only common sense for my children to have my name. I come from a very large family and I take alot of pride in my surname and want to instill that same pride and belonging in my children. none the less it is an uphill battle

rojo's avatar

The biggest problem my daughter ran into was on medical insurance and forms. The paperwork consistenly gets fouled up because of the different last names.

marinelife's avatar

I like the idea of creating a shared last name. I have friends who gave their son a hyphenated last name. He is an adult now and finds it kind of cumbersome.

@psyonicpanda Why can’t those arguments that you gave also apply to the mother’s last name? Why can’t she “I take alot of pride in my surname and want to instill that same pride and belonging in my children” just as much?

phaedryx's avatar

What about using your surname if it is a girl and his surname if it is a boy?

Pandora's avatar

Well i can only speak for myself. If my mom was not married and I didn’t have my dads last name, I think I would’ve been annoyed every time someone assumed he was my step dad.
As I would’ve got older, I probably would’ve wondered as to why my dad didn’t claim me. Was it because he wasn’t sure I was his, or did he simply not care too.
I wouldn’t have objected to a hyphenated name though. Well at least until I had to fill out forms where I had to pencil in circles. Then I might have regretted having an extra long name. Especially if they gave me a middle name. Eleven letters is enough for me.

janbb's avatar

I didn’t go the hyphenated route with my children because it would have been a mouthful but I did give them my real name as a middle name. I also made that name my middle name after marriage. Now, I will be taking back my original name after the divorce. In your situation, if you can’t hyphenate, I would give the child one of your names as the middle name and one as the last – whichever way you determine seems best.

My friend kept her name after marriage and gave her daughter a hyphenated name. Now that she is getting married, the daughter and her fiance are changing both their last names to a new one.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I may be old-fashioned, but coming from a broken family and unmarried parents, I think you should marry, have the child and give it it’s fathers name. Kids just want to be like everyone else most of the time. To this day I still feel a little shame when someone asks why I don’t use my father’s name, which I could legally.

wundayatta's avatar

It really doesn’t matter. The way kids learn about their names is through the stories you tell them. The Attas might marry the Loons and Mama Loon would say to the kids that they should always remember they are Loons and because of that, this, that and the other thing. This is while the kids carry the Atta name on their documentation.

They will grow up knowing what it means to be a Loon even though they are Attas. And if I tell them what it means to be an Atta, they’ll know that, too.

In real life, my children have names that don’t appear on any official documentation. They know what those names are, and they know what they mean.

It’s the stories you tell, not the name of the passport.

If you want to see your name on their docs, and you feel strongly about it, then do it. If their father feels strongly, then maybe you can take turns. The first kid is one, then next the other. Or you can use a name as a middle name. Or you can make up an entirely different name. Or you can use any reason at all, so long as you both agree on it.

SpatzieLover's avatar

It’s a completely personal decision. Whatever you choose to do, be prepared to have relatives tell you ‘you’re doing it wrong’ <—Heck, be prepared for that as you raise your child, too ;)

In our family, we chose to all take my surname. My husband has two brothers, both of whom have sons to carry on their family name. My brother died at birth, and sis has no kids. I wanted to pass on my family name and so it went.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I think I would focus on the first name first and then decide which surname sounds better with it. As someone who was born with a burdensome name and later discarded it, a little consideration at the outset can be quite beneficial in the long run.

Bellatrix's avatar

My children have their father’s name. I took my first husband’s name when we married but returned to my maiden name after we divorced. I have since remarried and did not take my second husband’s name. So, we have three different surnames in our family. My children have never cared at all. A couple of them thought about changing their surname to mine, but that was about their relationship with their father rather than anything to do with the name.

I have found if I am out with my husband, people routinely call me Mrs xxx. If I am honest it grates at times because that isn’t my name but they assume it is and don’t bother to ask. Life is short and it isn’t worth getting precious about so I just let it go. So, even if you don’t take your husband’s name, convention suggests in many circumstances, unless you insist on your own name, you will be Mrs xxx anyway. Nobody at my children’s school has batted an eye at us all having different names. With the high level of divorce, it’s pretty common these days.

hearkat's avatar

I didn’t want to change my name when I got married, and since it didn’t sit well with my husband-to-be, I suggested (since we both had unhappy childhoods) that we both change to a name of our choosing… but I guess that was too progressive for him in 1990. So I kept my name. When our son was born, I gave him his father’s name. Not having the same last name as my son was a bit of a hassle in his early education, but it didn’t make much difference to either if us.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

IMO, simplicity is best. Here are a few questions to ponder over:
* Should you and your partner ever marry, would you consider changing your last name to his? If so, give the baby the father’s surname.
* Is one of the two surnames easier to pronounce? Mean or rhyme with anything unflattering? More recognizable in the community?
* Would it impact extended family relationships if one last name was chosen over the other?
* Would either you or your partner have issues with constantly being called Mrs. X or Mr. Y when the last name used is not theirs?

If none of the above makes a difference, then just toss a coin. Everyone will adapt. If the child grows up and wants to legally change its name, it’s cheap and easy to do in England.

psyonicpanda's avatar

@marinelife its because her reasoning for not just giveing them my name wasnt logical or reasonable, she sais simply because her mom gave her, her surename but that is only because her bilogical father was not present. as such @rojo made a very good point things just get confusing with official paperwork are they one name or the other? We constantly have to tell people to hyphenate the names or they constantly ask which is which. When they get old enough and my SO and I happen not to be married the twins might be confused on which name to use. And we could alliviate all that confusion by simply dropping her last name as I think it should be yet there is no rule book on what is right or wrong but I feel my children need my last name.

harple's avatar

Thank you all – sorry for late response, I’ve been away from the computer for the weekend.

For the moment, I think I am definitely veering towards giving our children their father’s name. I spoke with him about it today, and he was really touched. (He understands that there’s 6 months to go and something may make us need/want to discuss it again, but that said I’m also someone who thinks things through before deciding what I want and then sticks too it. And as it is what he wants too, this will probably remain the case.)

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