Why the Baby Will be Taking Steve's Surname

When Steve and I first adopted a cat, there were a lot of conversations about which surname she should take. I felt strongly that she was 50% my cat and I wanted her surname to reflect that; Steve felt strongly that she was 50% his cat and he wanted her surname to reflect that, too.

The eventual compromise was to make up a completely new (slightly ridiculous) surname by combining both of our own. When our second cat came along, we gave him that surname, too.

When Steve and I told our friends that we were going to be parents, a lot of them expected a similar debate. Surnames are a feminist issue and I, of course, have always had - and shared - my opinions.

I don't agree that it should automatically be the wife who takes the husband's name on marriage. I don't agree that women should automatically be the ones to give up their family identity in favour of men's. I don't, for that matter, believe that married couples should have to be one-male-and-one-female. And I don't believe that both partners need to have the same name.

But a shared surname does make sense to me.

To me, a shared surname feels symbolic: the couple are no longer She-of-this-family and He-of-that; they are something strong and new and all about the two of them. They are combining their two family backgrounds and building their own new unit. If you're going to get married (and that's a whole other blog post), choosing a shared surname strikes me as more of an outward commitment than a wedding or a new piece of jewellery.

I had always assumed that if Steve and I ever got hitched or had children, there would be a lot of discussion around the surname(s). We've talked about it before. We've ruled out double-barrels (which, to me, are just storing up bigger issues for the next generation - do they quadruple-barrel?). We've joked about using the same ridiculous surname we've given to the cats. We even discussed picking a random word and using that but they all seemed kind of naff. I assumed marriage or parenthood - if they ever happened - would be the crisis point when we finally had to thrash out a decision.

So it came as a surprise to me, when we started discussing baby names, to find myself trying them out with Steve's surname rather than my own (or the cats').

Quite simply: the surname detail didn't feel important any more.

Somewhere along the way, my family surname has stopped having much significance for me. My sister has married and taken her husband's name; my mum has remarried and taken her husband's name; I'm the only one of my family left in the UK with this surname and, rather than feeling like I should be clinging on to it or protecting it (it's pretty unusual), that leaves me feeling free to let it go. It doesn't represent my bond to my family members - they no longer share it and that hasn't changed our relationship. It's just the name I happen to have.

Steve, on the other hand, does feel quite tied to his name. As much as we've joked about made up names in the past, in reality he doesn't want to change his surname and he likes the idea of passing it on.

Getting into a debate about something which is important to him and isn't important to me doesn't seem right. I'd be arguing for the sake of arguing; he'd be arguing because he cared.

And, finally, after all these months of pregnancy - of watching my body change to accommodate a baby; of feeling this tiny new human kicking inside me - I don't feel I have anything to prove. This child is mine, whatever its surname.

It's Steve's, too, whatever its surname, but I'm not sure the thump of belonging hits men as hard until the baby's actually born. There isn't that physical connection. But there can be a symbolic one.

So, there we go: Steve's surname it is. That's one naming issue painlessly solved. Now we just need to figure out what we're actually going to call the kid...!


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