Before we got married, my husband and I talked about whether I’d change my last name. It was a short conversation that went something like this:
Him: “Are you going to change your last name when we get married?”
We mailed out wedding invites with the RSVP envelopes routing them back to Mr. his name and Ms. my name, and I managed to cringe only a little bit when presents started rolling in addressed to Mr. & Mrs. his name. In the years since I’ve grown used to being misnamed and have learned to let it roll off my back. It’s annoying to be called the wrong name but, once I correct people, it’s not usually an issue.
When I became pregnant with my first son, the discussion of names came up again. Like most parents, we wanted to find a name somewhere in the sweet spot between unique and weird. We quickly settled on name number 534 on the Social Security Administration popularity ranking and got to work trying out the sound of our soon-to-be son’s name on our lips.
As my due date approached, we realized that we’d have to give him a last name, too, and since we both made him, we decided he should carry both of our names. That conversation was pretty short also:
Him: “Should we give him my last name or yours?”
Me: “Let’s just hyphenate them.”
And so, in January 2014 when my nine-pound, nine-ounce ball of love screamed his way into the world, we had no trouble filling out his birth certificate with the names we’d chosen and going about our business.
As the days, weeks, and months of his first year ticked by though, we began to realize that, while having a hyphened last name is increasingly common in the U.S., it wasn’t common enough to avoid all kinds of comments and questions about why we would saddle our kiddo with a clunky, too long, impractical last name.
If you’re a fellow hyphenating parent or are considering becoming one, you’ll definitely hear some, if not all, of the comments below:
Please note: this is not a compliment. While creativity is prized in many facets of life, such as picture painting, flower arranging, or poetry composing, it is generally not looked upon favorably when it comes to baby naming. When this happens, please, feel free to silently mock the critic’s own top 10 baby name choice.
“I don’t know how to put that into the computer”
For some reason, in 2017, all kinds of computer systems are still built without the capability to insert a tiny dash between the letters of a last name. So far, we’ve had trouble getting my sons proper name listed on our insurance cards, in the hospital database, and at the library.
Sometimes cards show up with his names cramped together, sometimes with just one of his last names, and sometimes with the last few letters cut off. Despite this, we’ve never had trouble accessing the services our cards indicate he’s entitled to.
“What will he do when he has kids?”
What a dilemma. How, oh how, will my son figure out what to name his kids if or when he decides to have them 25 or 30 years from now? Perhaps he’ll give them his last name. Or perhaps his partner’s. Or maybe they’ll make up a totally brand new last name their offspring.
There’s a lot to worry about when we think decades down the road. Somehow, the initials of my grandkids just aren’t that important to me.
“But how will you monogram?”
Maybe this is a southern thing but, for some reason, a good number of people whose paths I cross have been very concerned about my son’s inability to have his baby blanket or backpack or lunch bag stamped with a few letters that scream, “I’m rich! Rich enough to personalize my stuff! No one will be using this as a hand-me-down!”
I’m sure there are all kinds of lovely ways to monogram with a hyphenated name but, despite my southern upbringing, I’ve yet to investigate it.
Even though it’s still much more common for kids to take on either their father’s or their mother’s last name, there are more than enough hyphenated kids running around for it to be shocking. Your kid might be the only one in his class whose name doesn’t fit across the top of their cubby. But you’re bound to find at least a few other hyphenated kids at school.
While giving your baby a hyphenated last name can lead to a few inconveniences in life, it was the right decision for us. If you hyphenated your kids’ names, or are thinking about it, I’m willing to bet it’s the right decision for you, too.