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Can We Leave One Grandma Out of the Baby Name Game?

I have always loved the idea of honoring a family member by giving a child a meaningful, family middle name. My husband and I both like my mom's name (think "Jane") as a middle name, and had agreed on that if we were to have a girl. Turns out we are having twin girls! Neither of us loves his mom's very '50s name (think "Cheryl"), but we can't exactly name one child for my mom and not name the other for his … can we?

For me, the symbolism of naming our girls after our mothers is more important than loving the name itself, but my husband feels the opposite: Why give your child a name that you don't like, even if it is your mom's name? Do I try to convince him, or do we start over and give up using my mom's name?

–Mom in a Middle-Name Muddle

Your question made me think of President George W. Bush’s twin daughters Jenna and Barbara, each named after a grandmother (they even got the grandmothers' surnames, Welch and Pierce, as middle names). Stylistically, the names are quite different, but as you point out, their symbolism can outweigh the style difference and make them a cohesive set.

But your husband has a point too. He doesn't want to feel locked into a name choice because of the symbolism. I don't believe either of you should try to badger the other into making a choice you don't feel good about.

Still, that shouldn't mean you have to give up on Jane—a name you've already agreed you both like for a daughter's middle. Instead, recast the choice as "one name from mom's side of the family, one from dad's." For example, is there a grandmother's name or maiden name you like that would honor your mother-in-law or her family? Or could you represent Cheryl in another way: her middle name, birth month, favorite flower, etc.?

Let's say you weren't having twins, but two daughters born a few years apart. What middle name would you consider for each baby? Some families focus honor names on mom's relatives, since dad's are represented in the surname. So the first name is chosen for style and personal identity, the middle name honors mom's family, and the surname honors dad's family. That's another strategy you could employ, if you're planning to give your twins your husband's surname.

There are so often more honor names than there are babies to give them to, so choices have to be made. Just because your babies are twins doesn't mean their names have to be matched grandma-for-grandma. Each daughter can have a meaningful name to call her own, one that both parents love.


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December 26, 2016 4:32 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think it depends on your family dynamic. There is no way I could use one grandmother's name & not the other (especially for g/g twins) without causing hurt feelings & much drama. So I'd caution you to carefully consider possible hurt feelings.

I also think your argument slightly outweigh's your husband's. I think it is important to like the first name, but it's not as important for the middle. In fact, the middle name is exactly where most people tuck away family names that they don't care for. The middle won't be said in daily use. After the birth announcements are made, it won't come up except for special events and maybe when she's in trouble.

Maybe you could do something like your husband gets more say for the daughter who'll get Cheryl & you get more say for Jane. It might make him feel a little warmer towards Cheryl if it's paired with is favorite first name.

December 27, 2016 5:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Consider asking Grandma-to-be Cheryl. We had every intention of naming a daughter after a great-grandmother. We revealed the name after having our second and last boy. Turns out she hated her name! Maybe Grandma has a favorite name to share?

December 31, 2016 1:05 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

G-G hated her name LOL! Great point, I wouldn't want a grandaughter named for me as I also dislike my name. Tread carefully though as 'Cheryl' may love her name, or (even worse) once consulted may feel intitled to naming rights. Could Cheryl be on the birth cert but use a cute/medern/edgy nickname for everyday?

December 31, 2016 12:48 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that if the babies are getting your husband's surname, the middle names should come from your side of the family. Maybe your name (first or last) could be the middle name for the non-Jane twin.

December 31, 2016 4:08 PM
By M (not verified)

Grandma Cheryl is going to notice that "one name from Mom's side" just so happens to be Grandma Jane's, believe me. Personally, I'd ditch the whole "middle name after Grandma" thing and have the grandmas submit a list of five possible middle names for the babies. Pick one name from one list and one from the other list.

This is why I decided not to name any of my kids (I have one so far) after anyone in the family, although my dad's first name would make a great middle name for a boy. Who gets picked and who doesn't brings out all sorts of family tensions.

January 1, 2017 9:50 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You could do an altered version of Cheryl for the middle name of the second baby. Carly, or Charlotte, or something.

January 2, 2017 10:36 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Does grandma Cheryl have a middle name? If so, consider that. Otherwise, is there another relative you'd like to honor?

Personally, I'd still use Cheryl as the middle name, even if I wasn't in love with it. How often does your family actually use middle names?

February 22, 2017 10:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We want to use my mom's name as a middle name but her first name we don't love and her middle name she doesn't like. So we have decided to shorten the middle name to use as a middle name. Makes all of us happy. Our son has her maiden name as well. We feel like since our children get my husband's last name that it's fair to everyone.

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