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Why Can't I Make a Decision?

We picked out a girl's name months ago and were just struggling on a boy's name. But now that we decided on a boy's name, I keep going back and changing my mind on the girl's. I thought it was because we decided so quickly and really didn't look at other names, but now I seem to be coming up with another name I love every few weeks. I feel like I am confusing myself and my husband seems to be getting frustrated with me. Why can't I make up my mind?

--Nameless Mom

If it's any comfort, many parents-to-be share your struggle. Naming a baby is a challenge, especially today. Just a generation or two ago, most expectant moms and dads chose from much shorter lists: perhaps family names, saints' names, or commonly-heard-in-our-neighborhood names. Now that names are so diverse you have a wealth of options, which makes your decision much more difficult. 

On top of that, we're under more and more pressure—both societal and self-induced—to pick the perfect name. From celebrity gossip to school class lists, baby names are evaluated as style statements. You want a name that sounds cool, but not like you're trying too hard. You want a name that's special and unusual, but not so unique as to be "weird." The more we demand from a name, the more we second-guess ourselves.

So how do you break out of that trap? First, try to dial back the pressure a bit. Remember that every name that makes your short list is a good name. Whichever you choose, your baby is likely to grow into it beautifully. You'll come to adore the name like you adore the kid.

If you feel good about your choice for a boy's name, you can partner up your girl name contenders with it and see how they sound. Do any clash, sound-wise or stylistically? Which two siblings sound like they could be your family? If you use one of these girl names now, and have a boy later, will you still be able to use your boy name?

Finally, consider just taking a break from names for a while. Put your lists away for the next week or two and try not to think about the choice. Once you've let your mind clear, you can come back and look at your top options and remind yourself why you loved them to start with. I suspect you'll be pleasantly surprised.


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August 5, 2014 5:33 PM
By L. Smith (not verified)

You can always involve your husband in the ongoing process, too. Write down every name you've thought of that you like, and have him pick his favorites. If it's a name you both like, that's a huge step in the right direction. I was back and forth between a few girl names as well (I'm the rare dad who actually loved the naming process and more or less took it over), but in the end, I simply asked which of the names from our list my wife preferred -- and that was that.

Good luck!

August 5, 2014 9:49 PM
By Debbie S. (not verified)

I agree with L. Smith on getting your husband's opinion. With our third (which was the hardest by far!) we kept an ongoing list and I refused to strike any name from the list during most of the pregnancy. I had the names sorted into columns: Family, Literary, Natural, and so on.

A few weeks before our little one was born I showed my husband the list and asked him to pick his top 10 from the boys and 10 from the girls lists. I didn't tell him what I was up to. I then crossed off all the other names and said, "there, we're down to 20!" He made me do the same thing in narrowing that list down to 5 each. Then he narrowed it down to 3 each.

We kept the 3 boys and 3 girls names and I did more research on each of them (thanks Baby Name Wizard!). We narrowed those down to 2 girl names and 2 boy names, not knowing which would be the first and which would be the middle name.

After our little girl was born we decided we wouldn't call anyone until we had decided her name. We did, and the rest is history ;)

It was really fun making the huge list, and we managed to narrow it down to 6 total names in a single afternoon together! We went with a unique family name that we love, and we realized even her initials are special.

August 6, 2014 2:33 AM
By Juli (not verified)

Here's some good advice for baby-name-list-narrowing in general:
Applying this advice to vacillation over a single name at a time: write down all the things you like about your current pick(s). If you think of another name, write down the reasons you like it. Don't try to make a decision right now -- that can actually wait until the baby is born. It's enough if you have a shortish list of good contenders. (Definitions of "shortish" vary; our girl "list" was one name long, but for a boy we had eight.)

I also agree with the Name Lady: perhaps a short break from baby-naming will help.

August 6, 2014 9:05 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I actually have involved my husband in the naming process. We went ahead and made the lists and went through the process of crossing off the ones we do not like mutually. We have narrowed it down to the top four for each boy and girl. We have pretty much decided which way we are going with the boy, just depends how we feel after it is born. The girl is where we are having trouble. even after all the lists and narrowing it down we still can't come to a decision. My husband is still holding strong on his top pick that we picked out months ago but I am not sure if I love it as much as I did when we picked it out. Out of the four names he likes two and I like the other two. And there is no budging with him. He is dead set on the one where I am just not sure. And it doesn't help matters that we have the middle name picked out already. We set the middle names for each sex before we even thought of the first name because they are a family tradition that we want to uphold. I am just happy that I haven't thought of any more names to add to the list to complicate things more. (I think my husband is as well!)

August 6, 2014 3:06 PM
By Lisbeth (not verified)

Much like Debbie above, we had a long list (mostly generated by me) of names, that we then took turns whittling down, 5 names each at a time over the course of a few weeks. We finally settled on our top 5, and while we each have our own favorites (and second-favorites, and third-favorites), we agreed that we both would be happy with any of the names on that short list. So we've decided we'll let our toddler pick one from a hat sooner to our due date. I can't report yet on if that actually worked, but it feels better than anything else has so far!

August 13, 2014 3:58 PM
By With an "E" (not verified)

I was just thinking, if you adopted an older child with a name you didn't really like, you likely would not change it, but would eventually come to appreciate it, if not love it. A good enough name is good enough, and stressing over it isn't worth it.

September 26, 2014 6:18 PM
By Rony (not verified)

I was back and forth between a few girl names as well (I'm the rare dad who actually loved the naming process and more or less took it over), but in the end, I simply asked which of the names from our list my wife preferred -- and that was that.

September 8, 2015 11:29 AM
By Brenna (not verified)

One of the tricks that worked for us was to put the list of first names with our last name on the fridge, so you can have a visual that you sort of subconsciously see on a regular basis. For our son, we went into labor with three names, and we agreed on my husband's favorite name within an hour of his birth. For our daughter, we went in with a list of seven names and she wasn't until late the day following her birth. I simply tried calling her a few names through those first hours and then waited for one to stick more than another. Now, I can't imagine her having any other name, even though her name wasn't either of our #1s going in. (If you're curious, my kids are Declan and Zoë.)

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