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Will His and Hers Surnames Be a Hassle?

My dilemma has to do not with my child's first name, but the last name! I did not change my name when I married my husband. Our first child, a boy, has his dad's last name. We're expecting a girl in December, and I'd like to pass on my last name to her. I have a very unusual last name, and I feel strongly connected to it. Both my sisters changed their names when they got married, so there is no one else to pass on the name except for me. My husband is fine with giving our second child my last name, but I want to fully consider the consequences of this choice. If I go for it, and we have a family with two different last names, what sort of trouble might we expect?

–Unsure on Surname

This is an unusual surname solution, but not an unprecedented one. Rather than expecting "trouble," expect some questions and confusion. The good news is, you have a ready answer to those queries: You want to keep a cherished family surname alive.

Yes, people may mistakenly assume that you are a blended family with kids from previous relationships. Close friends and even acquaintances can easily be set straight. And for one-time encounters, who cares? 

There are even some positives to this arrangement, according to families that use it. Kids may appreciate having an identity independent from their siblings, so that teachers and classmates don't have any preconceptions of them as "Sam's little sister" or "Ava's big brother."

As one mother told me: "Mostly, after I explain our scheme, I'm met with an exclamation of understanding: 'Oh! That makes sense.' Occasionally, there is a continued awkward silence, and questions such as 'Doesn't that make things complicated?' To which I say, 'It really doesn't.'"

Day to day, his-and-hers surnames should not be a problem at all. And since you have such a simple and understandable reason for doing it, I say you should go for it.


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October 5, 2015 10:54 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This is what we did in our family-- son has dad's name, daughter has mine. In our case, there was no cherished family name in danger of dying out. We did it just because. It has never been a problem, even when I have traveled with the children internationally without their dad (although I do carry a notorized letter, just in case). Hardly anyone ever asks why. The kids tell us they like it that way. People refer to us as the S_____-J_____ family, and nobody seems confused.

October 5, 2015 10:59 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It will be a big help to your younger child in school. So many younger siblings have to deal with being unfavorably compared to elder siblings. Your daughter will be free to make her own impression on the teachers, rather than always standing in her brother's shadow.

October 5, 2015 12:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

So what about when your daughter has a child? Will she be pressures to give her name to her child, girl or boy? Personally, i think familys should have one name, his, hers, theirs, or a new one.

October 6, 2015 2:58 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Anonymous 12:17, wouldn't the son face the same pressure? I bet nobody was arguing against giving the son his father's name.

If the letter had been from a gay male couple, nobody would have a problem with their children having different surnames or a hyphenated surname. It's only when a woman tries to pass down her name that people suddenly have reservations. I think this is an excellent example for both their son and daughter of the parents being equals.

October 6, 2015 3:40 PM
By Danie Jones (not verified)

Go for it! With all the blended families these days, no one is likely to turn a hair. It's an eminently sensible way of keeping your surname alive and a far easier one than changing it by deed poll or similar document.

October 6, 2015 9:19 PM
By Juli (not verified)

I agree that it's a fine idea. (They used to do it with religions rather than names: girls got baptised in mom's religion, boys in dad's.)

On the subject of traveling with a notarized letter from the non-traveling parent: we did that, and we all have exactly the same surname. Names are irrelevant when the laws/rules are addressing possible custody battle abductions.

October 7, 2015 5:05 AM
By EmilyM (not verified)

@anonymous 12:17. I see absolutely no reason why that should be a problem or why families all need to have the same name. In fact, in many cultures, they do not.

If it were my daughter, I would hope she would want to pass on the dying family name when her time came, but I would hope not to "pressure" any of my children into passing anything on that they didn't want to.

October 21, 2015 12:42 PM
By Charly (not verified)

This might not be legal, depending where someone lives. For instance, in Germany, all children must have the same surname.

But if it's legal, go for it! Don't be offended, though, if people think there was a step-parent situation involved.

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