Ever heard of a woman vs. wife vs. mom identity crisis? Holler if you hear me. I curse these maiden name vs. married name dilemmas. Who am I? At this point in my life, I do feel like I know who I am. But, ask me to put it on paper and, well, I start feeling weird. Disrespectful. Wrong, even.
When I got married, I made a snap decision to keep my maiden name … and now as a mom I feel like I made a huge mistake.
Back when I got hitched, keeping my maiden name seemed like an empowering thing to do. Yeah! I'm modern! Fabulous! I didn't change it because parting with it was inexplicably very scary for me at the time (no, it had nothing to do with having any doubts about who I was getting married to, that I was sure of). I just (selfishly?) liked the way my name sounded. (Always have. Vanity alert.) I'd also just gotten a big new job literally a week before my wedding and I happened to (vainly) like the way my named looked across the bottom of the TV screen (I was working as a TV host and reporter).
My name doesn't match the people that are most important to me, which makes me sad, guilty, confused and scared.
I also (again, vainly) liked the way I felt when I heard me say my own name while working: "Jill Simonian here…" With every shallow, on-air reporting tag I'd say, all the hard work I'd managed to pull off and the person I eventually became flashed through my mind. Looking back, I irrationally tied my maiden name so tightly to who I was. I linked my maiden name to all the life experiences that all young women cope with: heartbreaks, good plans gone wrong, triumphs, disappointments and also the strength I was required to develop to overcome those things life throws all of us. (I think most of us have these same feelings as women? Or maybe I'm just nuts.)
Giving up my name felt like I'd be giving up the inner strength I'd toiled for years and years to earn. Giving up my name meant that I'd be snapped back to a place of not knowing who I was and what I stood for. And that scared me. My husband was indifferent about the whole name change and hyphenating was a no-go (thanks to the ridiculous length of letters should I put both our names together in a row). So that was that. Decision made. I'd stay Jill Simonian.
But now, hearing my 4-year-old say that her last name is my maiden name (because she hears me say it to others) makes me wince. I cringe inside when someone addresses me as Ms. Simonian when I'm out with my husband. I feel disconnected to my husband, to my kids and to most parents at our preschool when they see my maiden name pop up on emails and don't know which name to address me by. (For the record, I answer to both my kids' names and my name and have started signing my husband's and kids' last name on all school-related paperwork to make things simple). And let's not even talk about what my parents have said about this. Reality has hit me after one wedding and two babies in the last five years: My name doesn't match the people that are most important to me, which makes me sad, guilty, confused and scared. All the feelings I was trying to avoid in the first place. Huh. I blame my kids for this.
So why have I not changed my last name given all these conflicting feelings? Because, after much soul-searching (and Internet searching for what doing it now actually entails) this mom still feels like that young girl who fought, toiled, did, tried, cried and overcame. One day, when they're older, I'll tell my little girls all about that young woman and how selfish, stupid choices in life must be lived with—but also how they (sometimes) work out.
Did you keep your maiden name or take your married name? Any regrets?
Jill Simonian is author of the confidence-building book for first-time pregnant moms, The FAB Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby.