How do you choose a last name for your child?

Posted by
Photo by NatalieMaynor, used under Creative Commons license.

My husband, D, and I are eagerly expecting our second child in a few weeks. And while we’ve honed in on a handful of first names we like, there is a big, looming question about the last name this child will have. Through somewhat unlikely and eerily parallel familial situations, we are both the very end of the line for our last names.

Hyphenating is not an option, as both names together would be too long and unwieldy. Others have suggested using my name as a middle name, and maybe it’s just my pregnancy-hormone-influenced headspace, but to me, that feels less like a compromise (where all sides gain *and* sacrifice something), and more like a temporary appeasement to ease the sting of the status quo.

Our firstborn carries my husband’s last name, and he suits it to a T. D is supportive of giving our new one my last name, but I am certain that the family backlash (on all sides) will be formidable. How many of you have wondered about this, too? Has anyone any experiences to share about having struggled with this, and/or having gone against the last-name-grain? — Karla

Comments on How do you choose a last name for your child?

  1. We decided to ditch both our names and come up with a new ‘family name’. We chose Blaise as it’s a place near where we met and my partner grew up. Our families loved the idea!

  2. we’re not married, but even if we were, i’d be keeping my last name. i have personal and professional ties to it and do not want to give it up. also, i am the only person out there with my name currently, which would not be true if i took his.

    anyway, i’m pregnant right now and the baby is getting his last name. this is mostly because he has a child from a previous relationship that lives with us, and i do not want her to feel like this new baby isn’t going to totally be her brother in every way.

    basically, it’s what feels right to us, and you should do what feels right to you.

  3. My daughters have my last name and my partner’s as a second middle name. We had decided at the time that we’d go the other way (his last name, mine as middle) if they’d been boys, mostly for family pressure “carrying on the family name” issues. But now I don’t know if that would have even been possible legally, since I’m actually married and not separated to someone else.

    I will also mention that lots of people assume, when they hear the girls’ full name, that they have two last names rather than two middle names.

  4. My son has my last name. He is the only kiddo in his generation with that family name because my cousins took their husbands name. My hubs had my stepson from a previous marriage who has his fathers surname.

    We didnt get a lot if backlash from our family about the decision. We mainly chose to do it because my father was terminally ill when I got pregnant and we wanted to honor his memory in a lasting way.

    We took my inlaws to dinner and explained what the baby’s name would be and why and fielded any questions they might have. No backlash from them at the time but they do address cards incorrectly to my son. Oh well, I figure else will address that when he is older, right now he is just about to turn two.

    I am proud of the choice we made and love that he has my name!

  5. I can relate to this quite a bit. I kept my name when I got married with no issue from hubby or families, but when it came time to have our first child there was a lot more resistance to her having anything other than his last name. Hyphenating was too long and would be an annoyance for the rest of her life so we “compromised” and used my last name as a second middle name. I do sometimes feel like I gave in a little bit too much as it really bothered me that my husband and both sides of the family just assumed she would have her daddy’s last name even though it was me who carried her around for 9 months and gave birth to her. I’m generally happy with my decision though, very glad that I pushed to have my name included.

  6. I haven’t read all of the above comments, but here’s my experience…

    I didn’t take my husband’s surname and it felt weird to give our son one name or the other (and we weren’t keen on hyphenating). Nor were we particularly bothered about passing on our names (neither of us is ‘last in line’ but I don’t think that would have mattered to us). In the end we decided to give him two given names, one of which acts as a surname. It’s not that he doesn’t have a surname, just that the name that goes in the surname box isn’t either mine nor my husband’s. If and when we have future children then we’ll do the same. So, for example, we could have John Benjamin, Sarah Willow and Peter David as future children and everyone would have a different surname.

    It’s not unknown in Wales (where my husband is from) to use a given surname and both of our families are happy with the arrangement, so it wasn’t too hard a decision for us to make. Our little one is only 10 weeks old so we don’t know what problems might occur in future from this arrangement but we thought long and hard and couldn’t think of any major issues that couldn’t be solved by producing his birth certificate (which has us all on with our different surnames). I expect there will be times when people are very confused by our ‘offbeat’ naming decision and I’ll probably spend more time having to explain it than most mums, but I think that we made the right decision for us.

  7. Love the discussion here! I kept my maiden name, because hyphenated, our names together sounded like we were ordering from a restaurant. But my son has my husband’s last name, and any subsequent children will have my husband’s last name, purely for legal reasons. I live in the deep south, where it is not uncommon to have children out of wedlock. This way, he can legally pick them up from school, sign forms, whatever, and not have to explain why his last name is different from theirs.

  8. Before our son (now 13 months) was born, we went through something very similar. (We only got married 6 weeks ago, so we had different last names until then, and now I have two last names. My husband only kept his.) We didn’t decide on a last name for our son until I was in labor and that’s when I decided he should have his dad’s last name. His first name is a Native American name to honor my dad’s heritage, and his middle name is the same as my middle name (it was my maternal grandfather and great-grandfather’s first name.) So his first and middle names are for my side of the family. I felt it was only right for him to have my husband’s last name. We plan to do something similar with our second.

  9. Thank you so much for the fantastic dialogue, support, and insight — you guys are amazing, and I deeply appreciate the time you’ve put into replying. 🙂

    As an update, our wonderful daughter arrived a week an a half early, thus meaning that our decision needed to be made all the more quickly.

    Here’s what we decided on: The first name is a neutral one we both love, the last name is mine, and the middle name is after an important, ultra-awesome legendary matriarch in D’s family.

    We’re both very happy with this name, as it gives homage to both families AND has plenty of room for our daughter to claim for her own.

    As for family backlash, to be fair, my concern was more based on not wanting to wreck a good thing (I love my inlaws!), rather than actual belief that the family would be upset. There was an instant or two of furrowed brows when we announced the name, but other than that, not a word’s been said. (To me, anyways.) Yay for absence of drama!!! 😀 I expect there might be more questions once the birth announcements go out — as a commenter noted, the assumption is likely still that she has D’s last name — but at least the family seems to be on board.

    Thanks so much again, fellow Offbeat parents! 😀

  10. My husband and I had already decided to choose an entirely new “family” name when we found out I was pregnant (I couldn’t tolerate the idea of joining his family and he wanted to leave those ties behind as well.) We got married and both changed to our new family name and gave our daughter our new surname. In Massachusetts, it turns out that whatever you put on your marriage certificate is now your legal name. It took us a solid week of contacting every department in the state we could think of to find that out! Finally the state archive gave us the answer. We updated our SS information and credit and license, etc with our marriage certificate. It’s been about 1 1/2yrs and I really love having our own separate little family.
    I think having both of your kids have the same last name will be least complicated with medical/legal/official matters. If it’s ideology vs pragmatism, my daughter and husband both have a lot of medical problems and having the same name has made EVERYTHING much easier.

  11. We went down the route of using my partner’s last name for our daughter and then using my last name as her middle name. I actually quite like it that way.

    Admittedly our circumstances were a little different though – my partner and I are in a civil partnership and kept our own last names. Our daughter is biologically mine, but legally both of ours. We both felt giving our daughter my partner’s last name was an alternative way of linking the two of them – just symbolic really. Plus there is nobody else in her family to continue her family name.

  12. I’m trying to figure this out myself. I strongly considered taking a “family name” with my partner except I’m published under my maiden name and would like to retain it for professional purposes. Add to that my partner’s surname is one that is very easy to make fun of and likely to cause teasing for our children, and I’m really not sure what to think. They could just take my name, but then I think my partner would probably not prefer that. In the end, we may end up having two surnames, or hyphenating, because that’s the only reasonable solution we can come up with. I think that would be a bit unwieldy, but maybe better than the alternatives.

  13. My partner and i just faced this same dilemma when our first child was born this past October. My last name is already hyphenated, hers is not but a double hyphen was just not an option in my mind. In then end, i decided to drop one of my two names so his hyphenated last name is one of my two and hers…hyphenated haha. It was not an easy decision because a last name is so much a part of identity and it is strange that he does not have the same last name that i do. However, it was a good compromise and it actually helped me to further manage some of the baggage i carry with the parent who’s name i dropped from his name. And, now that he’s here, i don’t think about it at all! Good luck!

  14. We kept our own names after we got married and just post-poned dealing with name issues until we had our kid. My husband really wanted a family name, and I was fine keeping our own names. So first we considered a new name, but couldn’t come up with anything that was both a) meaningful, and b) sounded normal. So then we went back and forth between his name and my name. Ultimately, I couldn’t imagine changing my last name and he didn’t care, so he took my last name. And our kid has it now too.

  15. My husband being from Mexico, where children have both last names, we just went that route. Sofia Luna Marie Jara Webster. Yeah it’s long or whatever but we wanted Sofia Luna, Marie is a family middle name that I wanted to continue and we wanted both last names even though we weren’t married at the time. We got married in September (our daughter is 18mths) but I prefer my last name over his so I’ll remain Webster and he’ll stay a Jara (Jara Falcon to be exact). If we have another child (which we’re leaning against at the moment, yay Mirena!) he/she will have the same last name as our daughter. Whichever name they prefer to go with as adults, or both, is fine with us as my husband just calls himself Jorge Jara, not Jara Falcon.

  16. We have different last names and decided to use both. I really hate hyphenated names, so we used one for the middle name and one for the last name. Neither of us had very strong feelings about which was which, so we chose my last name as our son’s middle name, and his last name as our son’s last name. Partly because it was more conventional, partly because my name sounds better as the middle name, and partly because I thought that using my last name would make people question who his father really is. I know that a lot of people wouldn’t care about the last one, but it is a point I thought about. I think that as long as you and your partner are both ok with the choice, it doesn’t matter if it’s unconventional or not. I have known full siblings with different last names and while it raised questions with people, it wasn’t a big deal.

  17. I know I’m way late on this posting. However, I am a child that has my mom’s madien name as my middle name. My mother’s last name ended with my aunt & her. As well as with my father and his sister. Since I was the first born to my parents my mother gave me her last name as a middle name. I oftened asked as a child why i couldn’t have lynn as my middle name like my sister. My mother always told me I was blessed to have Johnston as mine. When I was old enough to understand my mother told me I was special because I was the only one that got to carry my grandfather’s last name. She even told me how my grandfather cried when he found out my full name. This meant a lot because she had never seen him cry before.

    Now as my husband and I plan to have a family I’ve decided to pass on both my middle name and my maiden name to my childern. Hopefully they’ll wear it as a badge of honor like I did.

  18. My husband is taking my last name. I’m aware many people won’t agree with that. It worked for us though. His father was terrible to him so he didn’t care for having his name. I feel very strongly about family and I would never give it up. I’d never ask him to give up his either but he wanted to. It was more important we had the same last name anyway and our future children as well. I think everyone has to figure out was best works for them and not worry about their extended families and societies perception. They’ll get over it get used to it and my even grow to like it

  19. my kids will have a combined (i.e. Matthews + Anderson = Matson) or hyphenated last name.

    i would also like my partner and i to do this if they’re kool with it (it will be both of us or neither) but its nonnegotiable for our kids.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.