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We Have The Same Name!

I'm soon to be engaged to a wonderful man who has two children from a previous relationship. It's a second marriage for both of us, but I have no previous children. I am nervous about becoming a stepmother, but adding to that is that my first name is the same name as his daughter.

We plan to have more children together, and it's always been important to me to change my name to my husband's so that everyone in the family has the same last name. But I'm really torn here. I don't want his 8-year-old daughter to feel like I'm "stealing" her name, or to resent me for it now or later in life. I also expect that it may cause some confusion with mail, official documents, etc.Unfortunately our name is so short that going by a nickname isn't a possibility.

Am I dooming her (and us both) to a lifetime of confusion: "Nooo, thats my Stepmother, Marie B Clark, I'm Marie A Clark." Or am I overthinking this?

- Evil Stepmother, the Name Thief

Rest assured, you're no Name Thief. You and your soon-to-be stepdaughter are just the victims of bad name luck. But as in so many family naming dilemmas, the right path will depend on relationships as much as names.

You've mentioned that you're nervous about becoming a stepmother, which is natural. How well have you gotten to know the kids? Do they know yet about their dad's upcoming marriage, and if so, how do they feel about it? And critically, how does Dad himself feel about the name conflict?

It's possible that sharing a name could be a point of bonding with your stepdaughter, and that you'd be able to laugh about any confusions together. After all, plenty of families with Juniors manage their duplicate names just fine. But if she's already feeling conflicted or apprehensive about this change in her family, it would be a show of consideration to carve out a little bit of space between your names.

Since your first name is short, perhaps you could use your first + middle in potentially confusing situations. A hyphenated surname is another option. I know that a unified family surname is important to you, but you could still go by "The Clark Family" and "Mr. and Mrs. Clark" even if your own surname were hyphenated. Or, if you prefer, take your husband's name but use both surnames as if they were hyphenated. In the future, you might be able to phase out the use of the extra surname.

Whichever name path you choose, you and your husband-to-be should discuss it and make sure you're on the same page. Then I recommend that he, not you, be the one to talk about the situation with his daughter. She'll feel more free to express her feelings about the name that way. An 8-year-old shouldn't be making this decision for the family, but she should know for certain that her feelings were taken seriously, and that her parents tried to do right by her.

Comments

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September 12, 2014 4:13 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know a family where Dad "John Sr.", has son, "John Jr." AKA "Johnny". Dad remarried a woman whose son is also "John". Three "Johns" one household. Their name is somewhat common baby boomer name. It is unusual for their kid's generation. But they've made it work.

I echo the name lady: talk to her!

September 12, 2014 7:02 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a sibling and step-sibling with the same name. I also have 2 different siblings who married people with the same name. One set of spouses rely on nicknames to avoid confusion. The other set of spouses don't use nicknames, but use their middle names/initials on everything.

It's not the end of the world. Any reasonable person will understand that you didn't chose to have the same name as your future step-daughter. Middle names/initials will be a huge help. Perhaps keeping your maiden name as a 2nd middle?

September 14, 2014 3:11 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Usually NameLady is right on with advice. But I hate the advice that you and your husband to be make a decision about your name together. By all means talk to your fiancé about name choice, but it is up to you to make the decision about your own name yourself. It is your name, your choice.

September 15, 2014 3:04 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I went to school with a Chris Lastname, he had a step-brother also named Chris. His father adopted the second Chris and then they both had the same last name. They were 1 year apart in school. Now that's confusing.

September 16, 2014 11:51 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I feel really strongly that she should keep her maiden name. The poor girl has already lost a mother. Let her keep her identity.

September 16, 2014 12:59 PM
By Dana J. Moore (not verified)

I feel pretty strongly that she should take the family's last name. Including your middle name/initial on official documents is easy. And if she strives to have a good relationship with the girl, then it can be a point of bonding. Now if the girl has expressed an issue with it outright, then that's something to discuss and address. But it doesn't have to be a bad thing at all. My Grandma Donna Gay married my Grandpa when his daughter Donna Gail was a teenager. They are very close and use their middle names to clarify when necessary even though their middle names are even so close together.

Communication about it is how you'll know what's best for your family...

September 16, 2014 1:27 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If it were me I would start going by my middle name and let the little girl have her first name all to herself. I would hope she would appreciate the sacrifice you made for her and see it as a sign of love. It would be a huge thing that you would be doing just for her. The commonality of all evil stepmothers is their selfishness...giving up your first name is super selfless!

September 16, 2014 2:00 PM
By Canterbury Lady (not verified)

Like it or not, if you change your last name, you are stealing her name.

Do not change your last name. You will have enough problems with your both having the same first name.

Everybody having the same last name does not make a family. Love and caring contributes far more to making a family than does any name.

September 17, 2014 12:25 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Nowhere does it say this girl lost her mother. And no one is stealing another person's name.

The simple thing to do is to discuss it with her and/or your fiance about how it feels to her since no one here knows. Sharing one's name with a parent/step-parent is not unusual. She may very well not care.

September 17, 2014 7:22 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Don't steal the little girl's name. It belongs to her more than it ever could to you, because she was born with it.

Keep your last name or flip your first and middle names around and start being called by your middle name. In some states, you can make changes to your first and middle names right on the marriage license. I know New York lets either partner change their name completely.

September 18, 2014 6:32 AM
By lothelena (not verified)

It's not name stealing, it's legitimately this lady's new name. I wasn't born with the name I now use but it's still mine, I used to live in a small town where someone else had my exact name, that didn't diminish either of us. You just need to have a conversation about it as name lady suggests.

September 18, 2014 7:49 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

An eight-year-old won't feel free to express her emotions on this. She'll feel pressure to go along with what her father and stepmother want her to say. Children at that age really want to please their parents.

The name BELONGS to the little girl. It's the name she was born with and could have all her life. The name isn't really the stepmother's, just her using her husband's surname. If they get divorced or he dies and she remarries, she'll be on to another name.

September 22, 2014 12:18 AM
By Jenny (not verified)

My maiden name was Jenny Brown. Then my brother married a Jenny. She became Jenny Brown, too. She didn't "steal" my name. That's ridiculous!
When I married, I took my husband's surname. No big deal. Now there's still a Jenny Brown in the family!
I'd suggest talking to all the kids. I'd ask them, "What name do you like better for me? Mom? Mama? Mommy?"... because that's what they will be calling her. As for her new husband, he can always call her 'sweetheart' or 'Fistname Middlename'. Problem solved.

September 22, 2014 8:24 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Jenny, those were your feelings and decision as an adult. This poor little girl is going to have her name stolen by one of the people she relies on for food, shelter, and everything else. She doesn't truly have the option to say anything but yes.

Have some empathy for her. If she admits that she doesn't want this new person in her house to take her name, she may feel that she runs the risk of losing the affection of the people who control her entire life, including her beloved father.

To the stepmother: one of the things you're going to have to learn as a parent is how to sacrifice and do what's best for the child. Begin by putting the needs of the little girl above your own in this matter.

September 22, 2014 9:36 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You could change your first and middle name to initials only...and tell people to start calling you M B. Marriedsurname.

September 23, 2014 2:37 PM
By Azure (not verified)

You could keep your last name until you actually get pregnant with a baby. This might give you a few years to develop a closer relationship with your stepdaughter. Once you are pregnant, you can change your name then.

October 2, 2014 4:09 PM
By Laura V (not verified)

My hesitation would be twofold:

1) how does the daughter feel about it? (If she's very negative on it, I would go with her wishes.)

2) the official documents thing, because STORYTIME: I have the same name as my mother and although I love sharing that bond with her, I've also spent every year since I was a legal adult -- more than half my life -- dealing with the Official Documents fallout of this. Munged credit records, incorrect alumni info (her alma mater WILL NOT LEAVE ME ALONE), extra documentation needed for mortgages, having to call up my father after my parents' divorce to get him to deal with a credit card that had somehow ended up attributed to him-and-me instead of him-and-mom...I can go on. It's a nightmare, even though Mom & I have different middle initials and "DO NOT CONFUSE THIS INDIVIDUAL WITH ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL OF A SIMILAR NAME" on our credit files and. just. no. It's a giant headache if any of this happens, and it happens way more with women than it does with men, because of the assumption that OF COURSE a man might be named after his father, but a daughter wouldn't be named after her mother, so there can't POSSIBLY be two ladies with that name around....

I mean, even if she's OK with you changing your surname -- even if she's all for it -- I really doubt she'd appreciate the official documents fallout. And there will probably be some, because humans and computers are fallible.

October 5, 2014 11:50 PM
By Juli (not verified)

Any echo of Laura V's comment: I, too, was named for my mother. Thankfully, our credit reports never got entangled, but a bank did give my money to my mother once. We both had savings accounts at the same bank, but a few years after I married (and got a new surname and address), a "helpful" bank employee decided that my account must actually belong to the person with the same name and address (but different SSN and birthdate!) as the one the account was originally opened under, 20+ years previously.

My mother and I didn't have middle names, but if a birthdate and social security number aren't enough to prevent such mix-ups, I hardly think a middle name or initial would make any difference.

I agree with the NameLady: have Daddy talk with the little girl, and abide by her wishes. I don't recommend hyphenating (my married surname happens to have a hyphen in it, and it's an effing headache, to put it mildly), but maybe some sort of mashup could work? Or do it like my husband's cousin, who kept her name at work and other "official" contexts, but is Mrs. Hisname for her children's teachers and friends and such.

(It used to be much easier to be a female junior: there was Miss and Mrs. to tell you apart. Nobody seems to use those titles any more -- it's either nothing, or an automatic "Ms.")

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