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Why Is It Still Strange To Give Kids Their Mother’s Last Name?

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Families have come a long way since the days of a husband, wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog. Nowadays, we see families in several different configurations! Single moms and dads, married couples with kids, unmarried couples with kids. Families with two moms or two dads, trans parents, and grandparent parents. There really is no right or wrong way to have a family, as long as that family is started out of love. With all the different types of families we see now, we're also seeing some changes to how children are named.

Specifically, many families choose to use the mother's last name for the kids, rather than the father's name. Or they go with a hyphenated name, so both parents are represented. Considering more and more women are choosing not to take their partner's name after marriage (some husbands are even taking their wives' last names instead), this shouldn't be surprising! But for some reason, a child not taking their father's last name is still somewhat scandalous, or at the very least, talked about. Why is society still so weird about giving a child the mother's surname?

A recent BabyCenter survey found that only about 4% of children are given the mother's surname. There are certain instances where this is more common, such as when a child is born to a single mother. It's also more common when a couple is not married, although the majority of unmarried couples still use the father's surname. Some parents choose to use the mother's surname to honor their heritage or pass on a family name that would otherwise end with the mother's generation.

But giving your child your surname can present all kinds of silly, logistical quandaries. When the child has a different last name than one parent, traveling overseas and verifying identity can be a hassle. Answering questions about why your child has a different last name than their father (but no one seems to bat an eye when their last name differs from yours!). Not to mention the none-of-your-business questions people will inevitably ask: how does your husband/partner feel about that? Does it make them feel emasculated? What if you decide to marry and take your partner's name one day? People love asking questions that do not concern them.

Just like a woman not taking her partner's name after marriage is no longer considered a scandal, one day giving your child your surname will be considered normal and just a thing people do. When someone's ideals are challenged, it can take some time for them to come around. Interracial marriage, gay marriage, unmarried couples starting families - they were all considered no-nos once upon a time.

Hopefully soon, society will catch up to the fact that a mother's surname and all the identity and family history represented in that name are just as important as the father's surname. It's a choice that some families make, and it's a choice that works for some families. Personally, we rather enjoy this new familial landscape where everyone is unique. And if you have a kick-ass last name, there's no reason your kids shouldn't have it, too.

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