Babies Don't Need Their Dad's Last Names Anymore

When I was pregnant with my daughter (my first), every time my husband weighed in on the first name, I would snap: "You get the default last name, so I get the first name." I was even half serious. Though eventually we compromised on a name, both of our children do bear the first names of deceased members of my family. And both of them have my husband's surname.

This issue is coming up more and more among educated parents. The knee-jerk patriarchal thinking that gives young children their father's name automatically is changing, especially in light of the new world of same sex marriage and the high number of unmarried people who are having children together.

The New York Times recently did a piece on this and pointed out that many of today's parents are children of the 1970s whose names are already hyphenated, which is really only a one-generational solution to the problem. So what is a good alternative?


The fact is, many women these days don't change their last name and that leaves them in a bad position. They don't share a name with their kids. I remember the first time I told my daughter we didn't have the same last name, and she was pretty disappointed. And I at least have a hyphen!

My dream isn't to give my kids a hyphen, though that is one idea. Instead, I like the idea of an alternative last name the whole family can take. In my fantasy, it was Purh (why? Because that is the coolest last name EVER) and we would be the Puhrs. But it was important to my husband to "carry on his name." Meanwhile mine just died.

It isn't a fair trade-off, and though I couldn't think of a much better idea, I was also resentful of my husband's weigh in on my kids' first names. Just because things are "always" done a certain way doesn't make it the right way to do it.

There needs to be a compromise and some respect for both the mother's and the father's role in creating a baby. I only know one or two people who did anything but give the dad's last name, but I like the idea of challenging the status quo and trying something new. 

In the past, the reason may have been to make sure men claimed their babies, but that problem isn't quite as pronounced these days, so maybe we need a new tradition, one that reflects both the mom and the dad.

Did your babies get your husband's last name?


Image via sashafatcat/Flickr

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