Some topics elicit strong reactions from people. I have found that among women, one of these topics is what you do with your last name after you marry.
When I married for the first time at age 35, I thought I would use both my maiden and married names. He had a one syllable last name, which I envisioned as a natural addition to my three syllable maiden name: Molly Deuberry Craft. My husband said he was happy with whatever I chose, but was pleased that I had decided to add his name to mine.
To Hyphenate, or not to Hyphenate?
I began a new job just before we married, so it was the perfect time to debut my new name. Except…it was a mouthful. And I was interacting with people professionally who were familiar with my maiden name. To ensure people would take my calls or answer emails, I felt I needed to utilize my maiden name. Pretty soon, it was a pain to add a third name, so I just dropped it.
When we were out socially, I didn’t mind being Molly Craft. But Indianapolis is a small town, and I felt I needed to hold on to my maiden name professionally. And if I’m being totally honest, I loved my name. It was my identity.
After some incidents with complicated school pick-ups, restaurant reservations, and hotel check-ins, my husband expressed frustration that he didn’t know which name things were going to be under and wouldn’t I consider changing my name, as I had said I would?
I sighed. And declined.
Until one day I acquiesced that if we ever had a baby, which was not something we were planning, I would change my name. I figured that if that day ever came, it would make sense to modify my name to keep things simpler and present a unified front. I also didn’t figure that day would ever happen.
Well, as you might have guessed, that day did arrive. In July of 2017, we learned we were expecting a baby. Soon after, my husband gently asked if I would be making the change.
“Ummm,” I hesitated. “I don’t know.”
He nodded and didn’t say anything else. But I knew he was disappointed.
Making the Change
I began to reconsider making the change. It was important to me to keep my name. And it was important to him that I take his name. But I anticipated keen loss over my identity, the uniqueness of my name, and my frustration that marriage had already required me to compromise and sacrifice more than my single selfish self-had anticipated. On the other hand, this was a request from an incredibly loving man to whom I was completely committed and who truly asked so little from me. We were at odds on a significant decision that was of equal importance to both of us. To be honest, that hadn’t really happened yet in our marriage. So where would we go from here?
I made the final decision in early December without telling him. I made an appointment at the Social Security office and the BMV and made the change. Seeing that I was there for a name change due to marriage, the clerks congratulated me on my nuptials. It made quite a story when I told them we were celebrating our three year anniversary in a few weeks. It elicited their own stories about name changes—or no name changes. I wrapped up the paperwork and gave it to him for Christmas. He declared it his favorite gift that I had ever given him.
It was a gift that required significant sacrifice (not to mention paperwork!). And I know that for every person who thinks I was wrong to give up something of this magnitude, there are those who judge me for not making the change on day one. My response is that it is an incredibly personal decision and there is no single right answer for anyone. I understand both sides of the issue really well. And for me, for my marriage, and for my family, this was the right decision at the right time.