To Change Name or Not Change: That is the Question

Jann FreedLiving Leave a Comment

Since I blog about leading, learning, sage-ing and living, this post concerns a life question on which I have been thinking.

From last April through June, my husband and I were on the wedding circuit. We attended six weddings—all in Des Moines and all at different venues. It is fun watching the kids of our friends get married. We had a great time, but I was struck by the fact that none of these brides in 2016 were keeping their maiden names.

When I got married in 1982, keeping one’s name was controversial but a growing trend. While it far from the norm, I thought by now at least 50% of the women getting married would keep their name since more women are working and more couples have dual careers. Many of my friends and contemporaries kept their names. So why isn’t this more common?

After decades of being married and raising three sons, I can say from personal experience I have never regretted keeping my name. It was never an issue with my husband or my sons at school. For me, it was easier and my name was important to me. All of our sons have FREED as their middle names and I have always loved that pattern.   In elementary school, it made me smile when they would say their full name including the FREED middle name.  In fact, a few of my college friends who teased me in the 80s about being a “rebel,” are now divorced and have taken back their maiden names and have told me they now understand why I kept my name.

This summer while on vacation, I was with two women friends (corporate executives) from Colorado who also kept their names, have MBAs, have always worked outside the home, both have two adult children, and have been married for over 30 years—to the same people! So I asked them why they kept their names and why they think it is not more the norm today. This is a summary of what they said:

In the 70s, the women’s liberation movement was alive and strong and we felt we needed to make a statement. We saw keeping our names as a sign of our independence. Now women take independence for granted and don’t see this as a necessary step to being a feminist.

 This conversation took me back to a college course in the 70s focused on women’s liberation. I remember writing a major paper titled: Women’s Liberation = Human Liberation. And I still believe what I advocated in that paper. By freeing women, men are freer so they don’t have to be the primary breadwinner. Over the years, I have appreciated having my own credit rating in my own name and my own identity.

I am not judging people who decide to change or not to change their name–just curious. My purpose in writing this is to read comments from women as to why they did or did not change their name or why their daughters are keeping or not keeping their names.  When I got married, my almost 90-year old grandmother said if I loved him I should change my name. I said, “Grandma if he loved me he would change his name.” She said I had a good point! And that was more than 30 years ago.

Every Sunday, I read the New York Times Style Section and I like to pay attention to the trends in names. Some people are getting creative by combining names or using hyphens and many are changing their name.  And some are not changing their names.

None of this may matter to you and it may not seem important to even discuss. There can be value in questioning assumptions.  But I am glad after 34 years of marriage to have kept my own name.  No regrets.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

If you changed your name, do you have any regrets?

If you kept your name, do you have any regrets?

Was this an issue of conversation when you got married?