Six reasons I regret giving my children their father's surname

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

I didn't take my ex-husband's name when we married. I never seriously considered the idea, and he wasn't fussed either. In fact, he said he'd lose respect for me if I did want to take it. Fair enough.

When our two children came along, there was some robust discussion about what their surnames would be. I already had a child from a previous relationship who had her father's surname, but this was an opportunity to revisit the decision and decide what was right for my subsequent children.

In the end, after considering just about every idea under the sun, I opted to give each of my kids just their dad's surnames because I wanted to keep things simple.

Now I'm divorced and living with my three children, so that's three different surnames in a household of four people – all of whom are immediate family.

And now, even though both my kids' dads are decent blokes who are hands-on parents, I wish I'd made a different decision. It's not that I want to erase their fathers or remove their names entirely, but I wish I was represented.

Here's why:

1. You wouldn't know my children are related to each other by looking at their names. They all live in the same house (for half the week, anyway), and it feels strange to me that from the outside they could seem like strangers.

2. It's a feminist issue. Why should my children take their male parent's name and continue the patriarchal tradition? And what sort of message am I giving to my children about my support of the systematic erasure of girls' and women's identities, and their value along with it? When I first decided to give my eldest daughter her father's name, I was still pregnant with her. I got to experience feeling her inside of me throughout the pregnancy and, to him, she still felt a little bit unreal. I wanted him to feel connected to her in some way, so I gave him that gift. It didn't occur to me until later I was also telling her that his identity mattered more than mine.

3. My children know who their fathers are. Giving a child their father's surname was once thought of as a way of confirming the father's identity but that's not needed here. Their fathers are happy to "claim" them (well, most of the time – they each have their moments).

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4. When my children act up online, it's not me that is contacted by strangers. My teenager recently did something stupid on social media, and another parent was kind enough to screen shot it and try to find her parents to inform. Going through her friends list, how were they to know I'm her mum? They contacted her uncle on her dad's side instead. Eventually, I got the message, but I wish I was the first port of call when my kids are idiots in public.

5. All the times – especially at school – I have to say, "No, my name isn't Mrs Blah-Blah." It's amazing to me that in 2018, people still assume a mother's name must be their child's name with "Mrs" stuck on the front. For what percentage of the population is that actually accurate?

6. I feel like I've earned it. I've carried each of these little people inside me for nine months, plus for years on the outside – my five-year-old still wants to be carried on a daily basis. I've wiped their bottoms, cleaned up their vomit, mopped up tears, sat next to hospital beds, and stroked furrowed brows more than anyone else. Why shouldn't they have my name?

I have no intention of changing my decision now, or asking anyone to change anything, but I wish I'd thought it through more at the time. And if I'm honest, I'd say I'm cheesed off at myself for not being stronger and not asking for what I want and deserve. If I had my time over, my kids would have my name.