March 15, 2010

Name Change Remorse

A little under a year ago, after almost 6 years of marriage, I finally decided to change my last name to my married name. I have used my married name before, like when I go to the tailor or get photo prints made. I had even used my married name at my old just, just after I got married. But I've used my maiden name in the two jobs I've had since then, mostly because all of my ID was in my maiden name, and I didn't want to confuse everyone by requesting that they use my married name. That and I was just plain lazy.

But then when I was pregnant with PK, one week away from giving birth, I had to renew my driver's license, and thought it would be neat if I used my married name. After all, it would be terribly weird if I had a different name from PK (I blame this on years of being brought up as a Catholic). I actually ended up combining my maiden name and the hubby's name, except that instead of having a hyphen, I used a space (I really hate hyphenated last names - apologies to any of my readers with hyphenated last names; it's a personal choice). For about 8 months after the driver's license renewal, every other document I had used my maiden name. But then my passport was up for renewal, so I decided to use my married name. We were also planning on going away for a week to Myrtle Beach that summer, and I wanted to make sure that PK and I had the same last names on our passports. (Aside: I had heard that you can get flack for having a different last name from that of your child. I'm not so sure anymore - so many people have children out of wedlock and the child oftentimes ends up with the father's last name. But I digress...)

And since my passport now had my married name, I thought that I should change my bank accounts so that they had my married name as well. Then I got my Brazilian passport renewed and since my Canadian passport already had my married name, I figured that I should make sure that the names matched. Which meant that I needed to register my marriage in Brazil with my married name before I could use it on the passport. So freaking complicated!

I was totally excited about the name change thing at first. It was really really important for me to have the same last name as PK. But now, I feel like I have a bit of an identity crisis. I feel that by changing my last name, I've lost a bit of who I was before. And yes, I have lost a bit of who I was before. Ten years ago, I was unmarried, childless, just finishing up university, and eager to start my career. Now, I am trying to balance having a career with being a mom and a wife. Some days, it's too overwhelming. And yet, I only have one kid to worry about, and a husband who exemplifies what it means to have a true partner.

So why do I feel so much damned remorse over having changed my name? And moreover, why does it bother me so much, if my last name includes my maiden name? It's not like I'm a feminist or anything. I don't have with women who take on their husbands' last names. I don't over-analyze this whole patriarchal society thing. Yes, things have evolved in a very male-centered manner, but it's not like anyone is forcing us to follow these male-centered traditions. And if we do, then it's our own prerogative. I wasn't even bothered with my name change before. But somehow now it eats at me. Also, if and when PK decides to get married, will I be upset if she decides to drop her last name and take on her future partner's name? I hope with all my heart that it doesn't bother me. After all, if I were in her shoes, I would expect full parental support, no matter what her decision.


Mr. Shiny and New said...

As a guy. I grew up expecting that my future wife would take my name. When I got married, she did, but if she had wanted to keep her name I wouldn't have objected. However, now, I wonder if it was worth it. It took years to get everything sorted out.

It does make it simpler for the kids when the whole family shares a last name. But I think the practice will fade away a bit. I suspect that it's natural for you to feel that your identity is changing; when you do something symbolic like changing your name it is a statement of that change in identity. If it took you six years to make that statement, maybe it wasn't the statement you wanted to make? Or maybe you just need some time to get used to it now that it's "permanent".

I will recommend to my daughter that she keep her name, to avoid the hassle. Maybe it's time for people to come up with new traditions on family names. The existing traditions are antiquated and don't recognize the new status of women and the changing nature of a family. But considering that the government won't let you assign arbitrary last-names to your children... maybe it's easier for now to keep it simple.

And don't worry. In a few years, when you're visiting some other city with your daughter, who is now a teenager, and a childhood friend comes up to you and calls you by your maiden name, you will feel odd to hear it :)

Fawn said...

My understanding is that Ontario, your married name is an "assumed name", so legally nothing has changed. ;)

I always said from childhood that I wouldn't change my name. In the months leading up to my wedding, though, I really debated; it seemed so unromantic to refuse to change. In the end, I stuck with what had always been my name. And now I no longer object to being called Mrs. Pealow, either. :)

One of my male friends here in Whitehorse changed his name to hyphenated one when he got married, as did his wife. Sadly, while it's free for a woman to change her name when she gets married, a man has to pay. How sexist is that, right? And then of course it was all complicated when they ended up divorcing...