Mom Talk: The Last Name Debate

10:00 am
06/15/17

PHOTOGRAPHED BY VALERIE DENISE

We’re back with another round of  “Mom Talk”, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Geneva “Janowski” talks about her choice to give her daughter her last name. -JKM

Andy and I don’t have what I’d call traditional values. We dated for years and never really planned to get married, although we did research on forming a domestic partnership (in California you have to be a same-sex couple, or over a certain age to go that route). When we did eventually decide to tie the knot, our reason for “making it official” was really all about the tax and insurance benefits. Although, honestly it did end up feeling really special to celebrate our union with our close friends and family.

So, when the question of last names came up, we barely gave it a thought. I mean, we weren’t even merging bank accounts, of course I would keep my last name. But, when I got pregnant that’s when shit got real. We were going to be responsible for a life. We were no longer two footloose, fancy-free, free-wheeling kids in their mid-thirties. We started making some grownup decisions like contributing to our 401k plans and getting dental insurance, and we even merged our bank accounts. We were going to be a family unit, and all of a sudden, I wanted all three of us to have the same last name.

Hyphenating sounds like the simple solution to this dilemma, right? Wrong. Because we both have clunky, three-syllable last names. Mine is deliciously Polish, and his is deliciously Irish. Our last names are very distinctive and I make my living posting pictures of my child on the internet (a story for a different day), so I won’t disclose them here in order to maintain a little privacy. But, just think “Janowski” and “Galloway”. As you can see, hyphenating isn’t really an option.

So, next I had the idea of us all getting a new last name. We could make up a super cool one like “Rainbow” or “Cloud” or something else fabulously hippie, or we could even merge our existing last names into one name, e.g. “Janaway”. I truly thought this was a genius idea, and when I brought it up to Andy he did, too. But, unfortunately he was a little drunk at the time. And, the next morning with a clear head, he said he thought the idea was weird.

Neither of us wanted to give up our last name and take the other’s, so we were at a standstill. We resigned ourselves to the fact that the three of us weren’t going to have the same last name, so it was just figuring out whose last name to give the baby. I want to tell you there was some cool way we decided, or even that we said, “If we have a girl, she’ll get my last name and we have a boy, he’ll get yours!” But, nothing was that planned out. We were in the hospital with a blank birth certificate staring up at us, and once we decided upon her first and middle names—Prairie Rae—we then decided to use my last name because we thought it sounded better together. Prairie Rae Galloway is a little too rhyme-y, you know? We did tack his last name on there at the last minute as a second middle name. So officially her name is Prairie Rae Galloway Janowski, but for all practical purposes, she’s Prairie Janowski.

The fact that she has my last name super weirds people out to the point where they can’t even acknowledge it. I’m not sure that either of our parents know what her last name is, to be honest. But, since she’s still a baby, the whole last name issue hasn’t come up too much yet. And, for the future, I’m still scheming on changing all three of our last names to a new one. But, I think this is a real dilemma in the works for the future generation. Most of my friends chose to hyphenate, but you can only hyphenate for one round right? When their kids get married they won’t be able to hyphenate two hyphenated names. Have any of you faced this decision? Got a solution? I’m all ears!

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12 comments

roxanne

When we got married I thought about what our kids would have as a last name. I really wanted all of our names to be the same so we decided to have both last names with no hyphen, Pipkin Tamayo. It confuses people for sure.
When we had kids we did no middle name so they only have a first and last but that last name is two names (Haddie Pipkin Tamayo). My idea was that way when we they got older they could easily drop one should they chose to, or move one to the middle.
It all really confuses people and my husband really only writes Tamayo, and sometime I just write Tamayo out of ease.

Kirsten

Argh, we are in the midst of this dilemma right now and it is making me crazy. We both kept our names when we got married, but our first kid is on the way now and we can’t make a decision! I don’t super-love hyphenation, both because of how our names sounds combined (mine is super Germanic and his is Indian) and because it just seems long with many of the first names we like.

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