Last Names for Kids

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Different last names need proof of marriage for birth certificate?

Dec 2011

I am due with my second child in May. I had my first in NYC and am trying to find out what I need to prepare to fill out the birth certificate in the hospital. I did not take my husband's last name when we married. In NY we had to bring a copy of our wedding certificate/license so that we could have our daughter take his last name. Is it the same policy here? Do I need to find our license and bring a copy to the hospital so our new child can also take his last name? Any advice is appreciated. trying to be prepared

The rules are apparently different (and simpler) in California. I did not take my husband's name, but my kids do have my husbands name. I didn't need any marriage certificate or anything else. My husband filled out the form at the hospital and it was very easy. We didn't do anything to prepare that I can recall. --
I had my son in Berkeley 18 months ago and didn't need a marriage certificate to name him. He has a different last name than me and a different last name than his father. It wasn't a problem. My understanding is that you can give the baby any last name you want, no documentation needed. anon
I also kept my birth name, but wanted our child to have my husband's surname... I recently gave birth at a local hospital and had no trouble with the birth certificate, no documents required! The staff called the recovery room to ask details for the birth cert application, then brought it to our room to check for accuracy and get signatures. Easy process. new mom
No, we did not have to do that to give our son his father's name, even though I do not share it. Neither did we have to in Massachusetts, where our daughter was born. Seems kind of onerous. Anon
The great part of living here is most of us aren't or weren't married for at least one kid! My now husband had to be at the hospital with his driver's license and fill out the paper work saying he was the birth father and he filled out the name section. I was Jane Smith, He was John Doe and our son was Jack Doe-not a problem. Don't stress, enjoy the birth! Alta Bates mom
So I have had two babies in California. The first time me and their dad were not married, the second time we were. We were not asked for any proof that we were married when our second baby was born- they took our word for it.

The only difference is that if you are not married, both parents need to sign a declaration of paternity, which the person doing the birth cert in a hospital should have handy. (In other words, even if your hospital did unfathomably require proof of marriage, your husband could still be on your baby's birth cert, legal father etc).

As for the name, you can give your last child any last name you want- regardless of marital status. You can give the child your last name, the father's last name, or you can make up a random name. (fwiw, I do not think you have to be married in NY for a child to have their father's last name. I have lots of unmarried, cohabitating friends in ny and many of their kids have dad's name or hyphonated) no preparation necessary

All my children have my husband's last name which is different than mine. At the hospital i simply told whoever was filling in the birth certificate (and I do not remember who that was) and no problem the name went down as I wanted it. different last name
I didn't take my husband's last name, either. Anyway, I gave birth to our son at Alta Bates in April, and the City of Berkeley didn't require anything for our son to have my husband's last name on the birth certificate. Alta Bates's birth certificate coordinator asked for both of our last names, and they appear on the birth certificate. I didn't need a copy of our marriage license. Hope this helps! different last name than baby's dad
I don't remember needing any thing for the birth certificate maybe my driver's license. You will get to hospital and have to do an intake, unless you did this ahead of time. This establishes who you are and insurance. A nurse will ask you a questionnaire while you are in the hospital, and as long as you are married, you don't have to prove the baby is your husbands, or that he wants to be listed as the father. I didn't take my husband's last name, and he was not present at either of my children's births, but we were married, so it was assumed he was the father. Both kids got his last name. It's old-school, I know but convenient of you're married. You have like 2 weeks to decide on a name, and then go back to the hospital to fill- out the birth certificate, but your husband doesn't have to be there. I think I went (alone) on the 30th day for my youngest (miscommunication) and it still wasn't a problem. My sister wasn't married when she gave birth, and she needed the proposed 'father' to be present to sign the birth certificate, but it didn't necessarily have to be his child. Hope this helps! Wishing you a safe & healthy delivery! Mom of Two
Everyone responding mentioned that the father was there to sign the papers.

I shared a hospital room with a woman whose mate was not there and was not willing to sign and so, she was not able to put his name on the birth certificate.

They explained that there was no time limit, but that the father must be willing to sign the certificate. It was sad.

One child with father's last name, one with mom's last name?

June 2011

My partner and I are not married and are now having our second child. Neither of us changed our name, and our first child has my partner's last name. . . we are now considering giving our second my last name. We'd like to do this because I don't want to be the odd-man-out (it's The Smith Family while I'm a Jones), and we want to teach our kids that taking the man's last name doesn't always have to be the way it's done. Does anyone have experience with this? What are some of the potential pitfalls / advantages of two different names? Thanks everyone. Name Game

This sounds like a great plan to me. I know several families who have done this successfully. One family I know decided to give the father's last name to the first child and the mother's last name to the second child, doing it in that order to make clear that this was not a situation in which a single mother married and had a second child-- but rather was intended as a deliberate statement about the equal status of both parents. anon
This is a non-issue. Someone may think that your kids are half-siblings or step-siblings, but it doesn't really matter. For the school, the pediatrician, the friends, the acquaintances, it is no big deal. anon
Why not give your last name as the child's middle name? I can't speak from experience to the question of different names, but I can say that teachers, coaches, and so on, use last names to help make sense of families. Anon
My son has my husband's last name and my daughter has mine. So far it hasn't been an issue at all for us. Occasionally some of my friends' parents are really confused by it, but that's it. Granted, my kids are six and two, so maybe we haven't been around enough to experience problems. My daughter is at my son's daycare/preschool and they handled it all fine. We fly/travel with no problems. Kaiser is fine with it. We are happy being the Smith boys and the Jones girls. I am really happy we made this decision. Anon
My last name is Rothman and my husband's is Brower. We named our first son Ezra Rothman Brower and our second son Murray Brower Rothman. Advantages: We hate hyphens. I love the equality. My last name gets to continue for another generation instead of dying out. Disadvantages: It can be confusing. People mistakenly think we're a blended family. The kids' preschool simply can't keep their last names' straight and they insist on the hyphen. I will be really curious to see how our sons feel about our choice once they're old enough to understand the ramifications. Best Wishes! Lisa
There's advice about children's last names in the archives, including mine.

My daughter (11) has my husband's last name, and my son (9) has mine. We have told the children we felt it's the only equitable way. (See above for my opinion.) The children are totally fine with it. Occasionally we have to explain our names, but it has never been a problem. (Including birth certificates, US schools, passports, enrollment in foreign public school, parent traveling internationally without other parent, etc.)

As an aside, we often refer to other families, not by a last name (because lots of families have more than one last name), but by the first name of the person we know best. Example: The Stellas or the The Natalies. Karen

My daughter and her husband gave their first child her last name and planned to give their 2nd child her husband's name. It's been fine even though they are now uncertain about having a second child. amma
In my long and careful research on this subject I've come to the conclusion that absolutely nobody cares what you do with the last names. My girl has my last name and my boys have my wife's. Now I wish that my girl had wife's last name as well--not because there's been any confusion, but because I have a Germanic name that sounds like a bowel movement and my wife has a name like a superhero. But the difference in last names has never been an issue once--not in school, not in medical care, not when flying with only one parent present, not when applying for passports. The vast majority of people on earth remain completely indifferent to me and my children despite the fact that our names don't follow normal patterns. So, you know...go for it! z

Change my name so our family has one name?

May 2011

My husband and I have been married for 6 years and are expecting our first child in a few months. Until we got pregnant I had always been very attached to my family name; it felt more like 'me', and given that his name sounds differently than it looks, I had some concern whether it would impact my professional networking in terms of name recognition, etc. Our names are not hyphen- friendly, and we're also not interested in creating a new common name, or for him to change his name.

Now that we will be a 'family' more than a 'couple', I'm wondering how to balance my attachment to my maiden name while also embracing a more unified family identity. Did you change your name when you got married or had a child? Did/do you miss your maiden name? Did you change your name but keep your maiden name too as some other cultures do (including my husband's), and did that make a difference? Looking for some new perspectives, since I seem to go round and round with what to do. thanks! What's in a Name

I kept my maiden name when I got married because I didn't feel any overwhelming need to have my husband's name (and he thinks the whole notion of women changing their names

Siblings with different last names

March 2008

Hi - Our first child is due in a few months, and we plan to have a second. I want to consider giving one of our children my last name, and the other my husband's last name. I know one couple who did this and they said it took a little getting used to, especially in school and the like, but they're glad they did it. My husband, by the way, is not sure what he thinks about the idea, having assumed his children would naturally have his last name, even though I didn't take his name. I'd love to hear from those who have done this. How is it going? Do your kids resent having two different last names? Is it terribly inconvenient, or do you actually really like it? Other advice from those who've done it? Thanks! - want to share

I put both my and my husband's name on our child, like in Latino cultures. She may hate me in the future for having such a long name, but I figure she can use one or the other or switch them out depending on whether she's feeling more gringa (me) or latino (her father). Nobody blinked about me doing it that way in the hospital. She has a middle name, also. --Why can't they have mommy's name, too?
I, too, did not take my husbands last name, and both of my daughters have my last name. So far, it hasn't been a problem, although both of them are very young. Another family I know who gave their children the mom's last name told me that it's a little weird when the children first go to school (e.g. the school secretary questioning whether the father was a step-dad, mom's boyfriend, etc.) but that the school community fairly quickly figured it out. I grew up with a hyphenated last name, which was always an irritating burden and my siblings felt the same way. As a result, my siblings and I have all independently dropped our dad's name and just use our mom's name, which has now been passed on to my daughters! In short, the ''world'' in general thinks it's a little bit weird, but they quickly get over it. If you can convince your husband, I say go for it! matriarch with a cool last name
We gave our two kids hyphenated last names, and we use our own. There's no perfect solution - it depends on what is important to you. To me, I knew I didn't want to give up my name when I got married, and I wanted my kids to have the same name as me and I didn't want either my husband or I to be ''outnumbered'' by having the one different name. So the minor inconveniences of spelling out a long name, or buying plane tickets (''we have three different last names, the first one is . . .'') are well worth it. For me, I like that both kids essentially have both our names - it feels like we are all connected that way. And we clearly have a ''family name'' which is the combination name. I think your solution is also a good one. Whatever you decide, just do it and stick to it. And don't obsess too much about what anyone else thinks. hyphen family
More than twenty years ago, we gave one kid my last name, and the other my husband's. It is really no big deal. Some people have assumed that they are step-siblings or half-siblings, but that has had no impact. anon
We've done this and it isn't a big deal, at all. First child got the last name of the parent of the same gender, and second child would get other parent's name, regardless of sex. (A good plan, as it turned out, since we had two boys.) My husband was more into the idea before children were a reality, but to his credit, he didn't protest at all when baby #2 got my name. His parents (a bit more traditional) were fine, since his sister in law had already done this. My mother (who I thought was less traditional) was less thrilled, but other than grumbles, no problems from the families. Schools haven't been a problem at all - there are so many blended families. Yes, my husband sometimes gets called Mr. ''my last name,'' but then I also get Mrs/Ms. ''his last name'', so we are even. My youngest, who has my name, is *very* attached to his name. Sometimes my oldest says that all the boys in the family should have the same last name and the girl can have another, but this is more about asserting gender identities than any deep psychological issue about the family not have all the same last name. This is really not a big deal, and (as one of the few who split last names) it would great to have a few more families like this! what is in a name?
I can see a whole lot of potential problems and no real benefit. There are lots of ways to instil identity and ones heritage with kids, but names should make it easy for the kids to get through life. By the time their six or so each one will have had to expain hundreds of times. Then confused people will ask ''are your parent's divorced?'' etc. Then it becomes a distraction that might limit their ability to communicate who they are. think twice
We gave our first child my last name and the second my husband's last name. The most common question is whether we wanted all the females to have the same last name and all the boys to have the same last name. We just say no, we wanted to honor the mother first, then the father. My husband's grandmother disowned us for a year and a half, but that was the only negative response or problem we have ever had from it. The kids like and take it as totally normal (they are now 6 and 10). I like it because our family really is a mixture of these two family trees even in name , I am not the only one without the shared name. The end result is very similar to having hyphenated names without actually having really long handles for everyone. kdm
Not exactly what you asked & I'm sure others have done the same but my sons both have my last name as their middle names, as do I since I chose to take my husband's. Three ''Maiden Middles''
I did not take my husband's name when we married. We decided before having kids that boys would get his last name and girls would get mine. We have a boy with his name and now I'm pregnant again (I don't know the sex), so I can't tell you how it worked out, but that's what we're gonna do. I say do what feels right with your family and it will all work out. Does not want to hyphenate
My daughter (age 8) has my husband's last name, and my son (age 6) has mine. We're glad we did it too. The kids take it as a matter of course, and haven't had an objection. Through four different schools now (two while we were living abroad), immigration forms, health forms, etc. it's been basically a non-issue. Go for it! Karen
we have a girl and a boy, and our girl has the dad's last name and our son has my last name. we had family reasons to do it (to save a last name that was ''dying out'') and because we just liked the idea. The kids think it's perfectly normal, though I will say some old-fashioned teachers have seemed to make a show of accepting siblings with different last names, but my response to that is PUHLEEZE!! Mostly everyone is intrigued or indifferent to the name thing. I say go for it! anon
We did this. Girls got my name, the boy got his dad's. (In some parts of the world this is usual.) Nobody ever had any problems with it, including the kids. No Big Deal
First off, let me say that I think giving your future children different last names is odd, but to each their own. My suggestion would be, as we did, is to use your, or his, last name as the middle name. The other choice would be to hyphenate your last names into one for their last names. Sorry, just my opinion. Oh so many decisions to make..... annon
Not only do my kids have different last names, but they actually have different first names as well. This has never seemed to bother them, and in fact, I believe they quite enjoy having their own identities. My oldest, a girl, has my last name, and my two boys have my wife's last name. I have never once found this to be a problem, and really nobody even ever asks about it. What's important legally isn't the name, but the fact that you're the legal parent. I thought I was going to have a patriarchal, macho, beating-on-my-chest-like-a-scorned- gorilla problem with giving up naming rights to my kids, but as it turns out, I absolutely don't mind at all. Perhaps I need to have my testosterone levels checked. Seriously though, there seem to be no ill effects whatsoever. My kids don't think it's weird because kids don't think anything is weird unless you tell them to; having a different last name than your brother is certainly no odder than the fact that the sun goes away and then comes back every day. And legally, I've never so much as brushed up against any kind of problem. Also, don't underestimate aesthetics--my wife's name sounds like a conquering hero, whereas my last name sounds like a bowel movement, so that may help you make your decision. Bottom line: go ahead, name your kids whatever you like. zd
I wouldn't do it. I think it is confusing for kids, their friends, schools, etc. and you would have to spend a lot of time explaining. Why not give the child your last name as his/her middle name? I just think the family having one name shows a lot of family unity. A name doesn't make you independent, you do. anon
I have a grown friend whose parents did this--dad's name for boys and mom's name for girls. I think it's weird and divisive. The kids are the ones who are going to have to explain your idea to their teachers and friends, not you. The kids should have the same name as each other. It could be hyphenated, one for a middle and one for a last, or just Mom or just Dad's. Ms. Anonymous A. Anonymous-Anonymous
I took on my husbands last name in my first marriage. We had a daughter that took his name also. We divorced and I remarried. I reverted to my maiden name. My husband and I had a son and the son took his name. Between the 4 of us, only my husband and son share the same last name. My husband is traditional and wishes we all had the same name but I like that it provides individuality and history to the family. My daughter loves having her biological fathers name and at this point the 1 year old doesn't seem to mind either At school, if you look at the roster lots of families have all kinds of names. It really doesn't matter these days. Marisa S
You could give the boys your husband's last name and the girls your last name. Or, you could give your kids one last name as a middle name and the other last name as a last name. There are so many blended families these days, nobody bats an eye when children have different last names. However, I would recommend against hyphenating names; it's a royal pain. Birth name for me
We gave our boys different last names (one mine, one my husbands) and it was doable, but for us it ended up being more of a pain than a show of independance or respect for our individual family histories. It was a lot of correction, then explanation, especially that the boys had the same father. The older one (who had my name) expressed some concerns that there was some reason ''dad'' didn't give him his name like his brother. (I think prompted by friends as the teasing age started). When we moved last year, we actually decided on a hyphenated name (something I had originally opposed more than taking his name) and now we all have the same last name. Lots of families are blended and deal with multiple last names, and I think there is nothing wrong with choosing different names, but for us, I found that I wasn't as attached to my name once I had to explain it all the time... been there, done that
My situation as a child was a little different, but you might find my experience interesting. I grew up with my mom & my older sister. We ALL THREE had different last names, and this was in the 70s and 80s. My mom had her maiden name, my sister had HER father's last name, and I had MY father's last name. Maybe it was just me, but I LIKED that our family was different in this way. I liked that it surprised people. I kind of thought we were pretty special. I remember sometimes people would call my mom by MY last name, ''Mrs. so-&-so'' and I thought that was funny. Maybe bothered her more than me, but I don't think it bothered her much either. All said, though, as a young adult I changed my last name and took my mom's maiden name. This was because I felt very little connection to my dad's last name. Had that name been special to me, though, I'm sure I would have kept it. So, it probably depends on your attitude more than anything else. And if your kids don't like it, they can make a change when they're older ... that's really not a big deal. In my life now as a parent, my husband kept his name and I hyphenated (my mom's maiden name and my husband's name). Both of our kids will be hyphenated, and I think my husband may end up feeling a little sad to be the only different one. Or maybe not. Anyway, we're going with hyphenation, but I think one last name for one kid and the other for the other kid is also fine. Do what feels good for you, and your kids just may feel good about it too! :o) Good luck deciding what to do. Liked Our Different Last Names
I wasn't going to write in because you specifically asked about the kids having different last names, not other possibilities. But a few people felt compelled to diss hyphenated names, so I felt compelled to respond. Like you, my husband and I both kept our birth names when we married, and we both wanted our children to have a family connection to our names. Hyphenating the kids' names has been the perfect solution for us. Granted our names are only 2 syllables each, so the hyphenated name is manageable. And it is perfectly obvious when one of us takes a child somewhere (like on a flight) that we are related. We each also sometimes choose to only use one name, such as when signing up for a class or something. And don't worry about what they will do when they get married! They can do whatever they like, as far as I am concerned. There are many many different name situations around here, and I'm sure whatever you choose to do will be fine. --mom of 2 happy little hyphenates
I didn't see your original post but wanted to chime in with my experience. My brother and I grew up with different last names and we were always having to explain why. Sometimes kids teased us, and once a girl insisted that we could not be brother and sister because we didn't have the same last name. This infuriated me and caused a physical altercation (I was about 8.) Anyhow, I think it's better to choose one name or hyphenate. I have three kids with hyphenated names. I wont know until they're older how they feel about it, but I figure they can choose to use just one name if they want. Now that my brother and I are grown it certainly doesn't matter that we have different names. Crystal
Although both of our children have the same name as me (the mom) and my partner, the dad, has a different last name, we know many siblings that have different last names. A few of my partner's siblings have chosen to do this. One family lives in St. Louis, the other in Dallas. Our children also have several friends who have siblings with different last names. None of them has had a problem. The only slight problem has to do with a parent having a different last name than a child and traveling out of the country. When my brother-in-law traveled outside the country with his child with the different last name, he brought a copy of the birth certificate. No other problems. susan

Children with mother's last name?

Dec 2004

We\x92re expecting our first child in a few months and starting the baby-naming game, with a bonus: neither of us feel strongly about which last name to give the child (we both kept our names and both are equally \x93nice\x94). We\x92ve decided against hyphenating or otherwise combining our names, and yes, we may use the other last name as a middle name, but we still have to decide which name gets passed on to the child as a surname. I\x92ve read the discussion from 2001 about hyphenating last names, but it doesn\x92t really discuss the option of just using Mom\x92sLast. Have any couples out there done this? Does anyone have any compelling arguments for or against using Dad\x92sLast or Mom\x92sLast? I\x92d also be interested in hearing from same-sex couples, since they may have faced a similar question.

My sister-in-law has given her children different last names: boys got the father's last name, girls get the mother's. (She had three boys and one girl.) I don't believe that she faced any particularly negative reactions (including from her more traditional parents), though they live outside the US in an environment a bit less focused on giving children the father's name.

My partner and I have decided on a variation on this. The first child got the last name of the parent of the same gender (turned out to be his), and our second child (also a boy), gets mine. I wanted to do this mostly because of ethnic pride and a sense of equality. My partner and I are of different ethnic backgrounds; I want at least one of my children reflecting this in their last name. Also, I've kept my name, and don't see why I should be the odd one out. The reactions I've gotten so far have been mild disapproval (from my 'liberal' mother!) to just outright curiousity. I don't think, however, that it is a big deal, especially with so many blended families today. The major criticism was that the children won't feel like a ''family.'' I reply that a family is not made by last names, but by the people in it. been there

My husband and I have two children, one with his last name, and one with my last name. In my mind, it's the only fair way, unless you choose some entirely new name. (Hyphenating doesn't work in the long run. What are Jane Smith-Jones and John Miller-Davis going to name their children? Jim Smith-Jones-Miller-Davis?) Karen
My partner and I have 2 children, and I was the birth mother for both. We chose to have the kids together, and she has adopted them. We decided to give them my last name because my family was thrilled when we started our family, while her family was fairly hostile -- it just seemed to make sense. Our eight year- old has never questioned why he doesn't have my partner's name. alison
I have two kids, and my son has my last name (mother's) and my daughter has my male partner's last name. It's no big deal, except for making reservations, but we would have had two last names anyway, now we've just divided the number evenly with 2 and 2. Everyone at school knows they are siblings, and the school knows our household uses two last names, just like many other families. When people refer to our family they refer us to us as if our names were hyphenated, but everyone gets the kids names' straight. Their middle names are the last name of the parent whose last name is different. I feel that passing on both sets of names is something taken for granted, and reflects our underlying values about equality. Anon
My husband and I decided to give both our kids my last name. We are happy with the decision and never heard anything negative about it or had any confusion. His support of the idea stemmed from the political: why would women always have to ''lose'' their names? Mine stemmed from the practical: why would I want to give my kids that silly last name?! Anyway, my husband ended up changing his last name to mine after our 2nd was born! Esther
My husband and I both thought it sexist to only give the man's last name to children. Since we knew we wanted more than one child, our solution was to give my husband's last name to boys and my last name to girls hoping we would have both boys and girls (luckily we did). I don't know anybody else who gave the woman's last name to a child though. I have to say that with divorce rate and reconstucted families last names don't ''match'' within families anymore anyway so I don't see it as a big deal that our kids' last names don't match. liking my last name
Here's my two cents: I have a 13 y.o. stepdaughter, who's father I married when she was 8. Her parents never married and seperated when she was about 2. Her name was hyphenated but over the years, her fathers surname has been repeatedly dropped by the daughter, the daughter's mother, her teachers, etc. My husband ''says'' he doesn't care, but given that they are no longer together (her parents) I think it does bother him that this one ''claim'' (for lack of a better word) he has to her identity and her relationship to him falls by the wayside. Not to suggest you and your partner may ever split up, but my feeling is, no one is ever going to question you're the child's mother, but who is the child's father? Also, I think it just avoids confusion down the line. If your child is named after you, say ''Smith'' and your partner's name is ''Johnson'' , he may be otfen referred to as ''Mr.Smith'' in matters relating to your child because most people still assume the child has the father's last name and the mother took it as well. anon
My (same-sex) partner and I had similar discussions during my pregnancy with our child. I wanted very much to include some part of her name in our child's name, but she isn't very attached to any part of her name and, as it turned out after much thought, I am quite attached to all parts of my name. So our child has my last name. We considered hyphenation, but my cousins have hyphenated last names and have always hated it. (Others probably feel very differently about their hyphenated last names.) We tried just making one name out of both of our names, but then our child would've had a last name with 15 letters, as well as a name different than both of her parents. I have other friends who used a completely different last name (a grandmother's maiden name, I think), which everyone in the family adopted. I can't think of a single reason that one parent's last name is more important than the other parent's. In the past, I'vw heard people argue that the everyone in the family should have the same last name, so that people will know what family they belong to. In this day and age, when there are so many blended families and single parents, that makes no sense to me. In fact, I'm mystified by our culture's practice of giving children their father's last name. (Why is it assumed the mother's family name will be gone and forgotten?) Good luck with your decision! Anon
It seems to be a trend in families in which the woman has not changed her last name where children are given the husband's last name. For some reason this really bothers me. If you feel attached enough to your surname to NOT change it to your partner's, then how will it feel to have a name different than your child? My parents divorced when I was young and my mom changed back to her maiden name. She told us years later that it upset her that we had different last names, but that it was more important for her to not have the name of the man she was no longer with.

The hyphenated names can be unwieldly and all names don't necessarily work well together, but since kids are from the partnership it feels only right that both should be in there. And we can only hope our son doesn't hook up with another hyphen! At least they'd have a lot to choose from. name unsatisfied

My husband and I gave my daughter my last name. We did it for a lot of reasons, but mostly because we didn't see why we should automatically give her her dad's name. My husband's family has a history of passing the name matrilineally and I'm the last person in my family with my name, so I liked the idea of keeping it alive. Sometimes we receive mail addressed to her with her father's last name from family members who either don't understand or don't know (or don't accept?) what her last name is. But that's not a big deal. At our daughter's first doctor's visit when we told the doctor about the different last names in our family, I felt sort of bad for my husband -- as if he were left out of the family somehow, but in a marriage with two different names, that's going to happen to someone.

The only other time I doubted our decision to give her my name was right after I gave birth, when there was such a connection between me and my baby and I felt like my husband was left out of the process. But that doubt passed pretty quickly. If we have another, we've thought of giving him or her my husband's name, just to make things even (and further confuse our families).

I also know a woman who has three kids, all who have her last name. The only downside she's mentioned is that sometimes people think the kids are hers from a previous marriage. But that's resolved quickly and hasn't been a problem for her. sierra

We decided to give male offspring the dad's last name and female offspring the mom's. I've heard of other people doing this as well and it worked well for us. anon
I read somewhere that girl babies should get their mother's last name and boys their father's, that way both family names get passed on. My husband and I modified that a bit. I did not change my name when we married, and we decided that if our first child was a boy, he would get my husband's last name and if it was a girl, she would get mine. Our first (now four months old) is a boy so he has my husband's last name. Our next child will get my last name, regardless of sex/gender. If we have a third child, we will pick the last name that sounds best with the first name we choose for the child. It's not a perfect system, but it will work for us. I personally don't like hyphenated names. Anon
My SIL and BIL gave their kids her last name. I guess he doesn't mind. My DH's family is pretty non-confrontational and haven't disucssed it with him. It does bug his siblings. I suspect it bugs his parents... but again, they don't do conflict so that settles that... it wasn't the rest of the family's choice to make anyway.

There are numerous permutations on the rules for last name giving out there now days. As a teacher I see lots of kids with hypehnated names, most with dad's name, and next to none with mom's name... usually these are kids where the dad is not in the picture and they live with mom and a step-father... not that it has to be that situation, but that might be the assumption if you choose that route. It would be easily clarified though. Personally, I considered keeping my name when we got married but didn't want to have a different name than my dh and kids... almost like we weren't all a family. I know it would bug my dh too, so we just picked one name for us all. annon.

Our kids have my (their mother's) last name. When people ask us, ''Why do they have their mother's last name?'' we ask them, ''Why do yours have their father's?'' Both choices seem equally arbitrary. We used my last name because my husband prefers it to his. I suppose some people might jump to the conclusion that my husband is not the father of our kids (although our first kid looks a lot like his father, as it happens), but so what? There are all sorts of blended families these days, and no one gets particularly worked up about them. By the way, our kids have their father's last name as their middle name. Mother of two
I decided that my children would have my surname years before I met my husband. I'm attached to it, it's fairly unusual and yet easy to spell and pronounce and I've never seen a reason why children should carry their father's last name rather than their mother's. Given my strong feelings on the issue, it came up soon after my husband and I started dating and he agreed that if we were to have children they'd carry my surname. It didn't hurt that his last name was not the one he was born with (it's his stepfather's) and that it's a fairly common one. We have a daughter now who has my last name, as will our soon-to-be-born second daughter. We gave our first daughter a femenine version of her father's first name, however, both to honor him and because I've always loved the name. We haven't had any problems whatsoever, though sometimes people have just assumed that her name was like her father's and we've corrected them. In all, what I would say is that you go about selecting the last name as you would the first name: which one sounds better with the first name you selected? which one is easier to spell/pronounce? which one is more or less unusual? which one will give the better initials? And of course, which one of you wants to pass on your surname the most? anon
My husband and I kept our own names when we married. When we had children we elected to use my last name. It has worked out fine, no problems or questions for us. However, it was very hard on my in-laws. It was hard for them to understand this decision and caused them some hurt, which I had no idea of. For many years they did not mention this. When they did mention it, we decided to change to my husband's name. I viewed this as a gift to my in-laws, as my view of the importance of names has changed over the years. Changing our name was a relatively simple process, cost about $350 and 2 trips to Martinez. And it has not been a big issue for my children, at the ages of 4 and 8. what's in a name?
In our family, girls get mom's last name, dad's last name is a middle name(we didn't want to hyphenate) and boys get dad's last name (mom's middle). We determined this before having any children and it seemed pretty fair. Worked out so we have one of each, but I am constantly explaining that they have the same father. no regrets. anon
When I was trying to get pregnant, my husband and I agreed that if the baby was a girl, it would have my last name, and if it was a boy, he could pick the last name. I guess I instigated it because I always thought it was a little unfair that the mother's name should just be gone. I thought that splitting it this way would allow for a matriarchal and a patriarchal line, possibly preserving both family names. It just seemed fair to me. My husband was fine with this especially since he is estranged from his father and knew that he did not want his child to have his last name. (If we had had a boy, it would have been given my husband's maternal grandfather's name.) We did have a girl, and she has my last name only. There have been no problems with this at all. Maybe it's just this area, but no one has ever commented about it. Oh, except for my sister. She said, how will my daughter know who her family is if all of you don't have the same last name? I said I thought she would figure it out somehow ;-). My daughter is four now. I don't know how this will play out as she gets older. One thing we did was give her her dad's middle name as her name. It just happened to sound good as her middle name, and it's given her a sense of connection to him. Mimi
My husband and I had a similar situation when it came to naming our daughter two years ago. We decided that the only fair way was to choose randomly. In our case, we arbitrarily decided before the sonogram that if the baby was a boy, he would have my husband's last name, and if it was a girl, she'd have mine. And so our daughter has my last name. At one point we also discussed tossing a coin, joking that this could be a little ceremony in front of family members in the hospital. We have had some disapproving comments from acquaintances and family members: ''It will confuse the school,'' mostly. It's my opinion that there are so many non-nuclear, non-traditional, blended families that it'll be no big deal, and so far we haven't had a problem. I'm interested to hear what parents of older children have to say.... - no regrets yet
Just to get an idea of what people are doing these days, I did a very unscientific survey using the roster of my son's preschool in Berkeley. There are 66 children, mostly 3 and 4 year olds. The roster lists the child's last name and the parents' last names. Here's what I found:
- 71% of the families have 2 parents with different last names - 26% of the families all use the same last name - 3% of the families have a single parent, one same last name as child, one not Of the 47 families where there are two parents with different last names, what last name does the child use? - 30 (64%) use the father's last name - 12 (26%) use both names (half with a space between and half with a hyphen between) - 3 (6%) use the mother's last name - 2 (4%) are two-mom families and use only one of the mom's last names
I don't know how many of these use one of the parent's last names as a middle name - seems fairly common but I don't have a number. There are 17 kids where everyone in the family has the same last name. In at least one of these, everyone is using the mom's last name. May be more like this but I can't tell from the roster. One interesting note: there are 3 sets of siblings at the school, all have parents with two different names. Family #1 both boys use the father's name, Family #2 both girls use a hyphenated name, Family #3 older daughter uses both names with a space, second daughter uses father's name only.

So, if this is a typical preschool in Berkeley, it looks like nearly three quarters of Berkeley preschool kids have parents with different last names. In about two-thirds of these, the children are using the father's last name. But there are many different naming styles. Ginger

We hyphenated our daughters' last names, so I am biased toward that option. I will say that we have had no negative impact of that (her kindergarten teacher is happy that she has more letters to practice!) and in many circumstances my husband and I each just use one name (i.e. when I sign her up for a class, I just use my name). The only time it seems to make a difference is when we fly, especially when one parent flies alone with the kids it is helpful if there is some overlap between the names. Otherwise, I will say that whatever the father's name is, and however it is placed (middle, second part of a hyphen, etc.) there will be some people who just assume that the father's name is the ''real'' last name, so he doesn't have to worry about being left out. If you are absolutely against hyphenating, then I say go for having the mom's name as the last one. --pro-hyphen mom
My eldest son has my last name, and his two younger siblings have my partner's (the father of all 3) last name . Each of our children's names have something from both sides of the family. It's not a big deal at all. There are a lot of children nowadays with their mother's last name and even a few families like ours who split them up. People around here barely bat an eye and I haven't had any trouble elsewhere either. ---Sophie
I missed the original posting, but we gave our son his father's last name as a last name and my last name as the second of two middle names. ED
I missed the original posting, but we gave our daughter her mother's last name and our son his father's last name. DJM

Does your teen have a hyphenated last name? How has it worked out?

Feb 2001

I have a question for moms out there who use their own names. In retrospect, what thoughts do you have about hyphenated names vs. just picking one of the parents' last names for the kids? I have a teen from a previous marriage, and I'm about to have a baby. Using fictional names here for the example... I have always used the name I was born with, Chuzzlewit. My first husband's name was Havisham. We didn't want to give the teen a hyphenated name back when, because Chuzzlewit-Havisham seemed too cumbersome. So we used Chuzzlewit as the middle name (which I realize in retrospect just gets ignored), and Havisham as the last name for the kid. Now, years later, I have remarried, to a man named Pumblechook, and everybody in the household has a different last name now! It's confusing and sometimes it's even been a problem. Now that we are going to have a new baby, I am reconsidering the hyphenated last name approach. Then at least three of us will be obviously connectable. I don't want to change my last name and neither does my husband. But the two names together will make for a very long name: Chuzzlewit-Pumblechook. This seems so impractical! So, I am wondering: those of you who have teens with hyphenated last names - has it been a problem? Has one of the names gotten dropped over the years? Does the kid complain about the length? If you used just the father's (or mother's) name, does the unrepresented parent just use that name informally too, for convenience? Any thoughts?
Ms. Chuzzlewit

i gave a hyphenated last name to my daughter, she was very sweet about it but did not use it once she wanted to be like everyone else. Last year in the mist of filling out applications for college she asked if i would not be hurt and minded if she dropped my name. so we did the process through social security, her passport had already dropped the hyphenated name years ago. my opinion, the easier the better, my son who is only ten has only my husband's last name. so now i'm the only one with my name but I'm keeping that one!
In terms of middle vs. hyphenated names, my son has my last name as his middle name, and he seems quite happy with it.
I was married the first time at 21 and had a daughter who received her father's last name. I then divorced and remarried and kept my given name and my husband kept his. We had another daughter and were brainstorming about whose last name she should have (we were both vehemently against hyphenated names) when my husband said that he thought it would be a travesty for me to have carried two children and have both of them end up with the last names of their fathers. Therefore, my younger daughter and I share a last name. My (now ex) husband hasn't felt cheated by this.
I, too, kept my maiden name, and when our son was born my husband and I decided to give him both of our last names (mine first, my husband's last)-- but not to hyphenate them, which seemed a bit unwieldy. It was important to me that my family name be a part of my child's identity, too, but I envisioned him growing up, marrying one of the millions of little girls with hyphenated names who were being born at the time, and then spawning a brood of quadruple-barreled offspring (Grandbaby Lewis-Horowitz-Chang-Svensen, for instance). I also wanted my son to have the option of dropping the first half of his last name if he wanted to as an adult.

So he essentially has a double-barreled last name, but not one that most people recognize as such. It's been a constant pain, to be honest. I have to explain to people at least twice that, yes, his last name actually has two words, and no, they're not hyphenated. Where to put him in an alphabetical list (for medical files, etc.) has also been a constant source of consternation. Half the time he just winds up being identified by my husband's last name, and I've run out of the energy and will to argue about it. So I think we're sort of halfway to semi-officially dropping my contribution to his name, at least for everyday purposes. As for my son, he doesn't seem as bothered about it as I do. He knows what his full name is -- but doesn't get upset if other people don't use it.

If I had it all to do over again, I probably would have adopted a hyphenated name myself when I got married, and given the kids the same name. Probably a better idea (for braver souls, at least) is to combine names with your spouse and avoid the whole messy issue. Some good friends of mine, let's call them Ms. Hammer and Mr. Smith, became Mr. and Mrs. Hammersmith upon marriage, and passed that new family name to their daughter when she arrived. Good luck with your decision!

Dear Ms. Chuzzelwit:
I sympathize, greatly! I did not take my husband's name at marriage, either. And he has a daughter from a previous relationship who has her mother's last name. When we had our baby daughter, we chose my last name for her, to try to simplify the matter slightly, since at least she and I have the same last name. But lately, I've been having trouble being confused with another person of the exact same name (and same middle initial!) who has TERRIBLE credit, and I keep getting phone calls and dunning letters that are meant for *her*. I'm getting so fed up I'm considering changing my name. We're thinking of choosing another family name altogether. But his daughter still wants to keep hers, so that wouldn't necessarily improve matters as far as identifying the family unity, and then we'd have to change *our* daughter's name, and we really *like* her name and how it sounds, so we don't want to do *that*....

Regarding options: Hyphenation is certainly one option, but as you say, it results in a very long name sometimes (that's why we originally decided against it). We've had several friends who have chosen a *new* family name altogether, more in keeping with their current life choices and philosophies. But this can be sticky if you have extended family who are alive and will protest the choice (it was never much of an issue for us, since my husband's parents died before we were married). Another creative solution one set of friends used was to combine parts of both names into a new last name. They were McGrath and Penman, so they became Pengrath. So you might all become Chuzzlechook, or Pemwit, for instance.

FWIW: We find that it actually isn't that much trouble having a teen with a name different from either of ours. People seem to take it right in stride these days, with so many blended families. I've never even had anyone raise an eyebrow about it. Good luck with your decision!

My 3 teenagers all have hyphenated last names, a combination of the my (mother's) last name and their father's. They seem to do really well coping with a longer last name. They usually use both names, esp on official documents, but sometimes they choose to use one or the other. For instance, my son uses his father's last name in sports and he uses my last name in art. I say the more last names the better. It debunks the myth of the traditional patriarchal family, where the father owned everyone in the family. Latin families often all have different last names, and it doesn't seem to be a problem. Good luck deciding. L LaRosa
I have a 15 year old son with a hyphenated last name and in retrospect I would not have done it this way. It simply complicates things. He often uses only his father's last name, which I understand and is fine with me. His official signature uses the initials of his two last names, rather than spelling the two names out. When having to spell out his name on the phone or anywhere else, my standard approach before actually spelling it is, This is a hyphenated last name - ... because I have found that, if you don't give this introduction, people taking the information get confused if you respond to the question directly with B-R-O-W-N hyphen J-O-N-E-S. The usual response is, What? or Excuse Me? I actually feel that I have imposed a burden on him with this two name last name. I've been meaning to talk with him about this for a while. Thanks for the nudge. Anonymous
Re: hyphenated names - Another consideration to the hyphenated name situation is how hard it will be for future generations to trace the family. I have been researching my family genealogy for several years. Due to immigration mistakes, my family members have ended up with Americanized names which made it much harder to find them. I am concerned that all these new naming conventions will muddy the trail even further. Barbara
I am with Marian Vos Savant on this one. Moms should name their kids after themselves. It would be very simple, especially in cases of divorce. The kids usually end up with the mom, as in the case of this poster.
About hyphenated last names. Well, I am a child with a looooong hyphenated last name. I have a couple suggestions about what you chose for the last name of your child. I am a big feminist and feel that women should not have to give up there name just because it would make there child have a long and confusing last name, so I have come up with one main solution. I feel that you and your husbend should combine your last names into one. You can take the letters from each name and put them together to make a unique, yet personal last name that no one else will have. I plan to do this with my children, because that way neither parent is giving up there last name. Especially being a teenager with a long name, it is sometimes embarrassing when someone calls your name wrong, but then again I do feel unique and proud that I have both of my parents names in my last name, unlike most of my friends who only have their dads. I hope you find this helpful.
A Teenage Girl With A Hyphenated Last Name