Hyphenated Surnames and Stay-at-Home Moms

battle-of-sexesIn several of the discussions between AJ and me about marriage and family life, the issue of names has come up. More than once in such conversations, he has expressed that he would never agree to my hyphenating the last names of me and our children. AJ believes that a wife and children having double last names shows that the woman “wears the pants” in the marriage and heaven forbid anyone, especially himself, think of him as an emasculated, purse-toting pansy! Since I rather like his name and have no desire to hyphenate my married surname, his opinions don’t bother me. However, I find his strong reaction to this idea to be strange. Is a woman wishing to keep her last name upon marriage asserting her will over her husband’s? I’d never thought so, but his ideas add another perspective to the matter.

Another marriage and family life issue that we’ve recently discussed is that of a wife being a stay-at-home mother. I have little desire to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), but I admire them. It is no easy task to take care of children, cook, and keep the home in general order; it sure seems more difficult than many 9-5 jobs. I wish my mother would have stayed at home, at least for my first few years, instead of hiring the nanny from hell to take care of me (more on that at a later date), and I plan on taking a leave of absence from my career for my children’s years before schooling. Bringing up the topic with AJ, however, I was quickly notified that telling a man you’re dating that you want to be a stay-at-home mom is essentially telling him that you want to leech off him and his hard work for the rest of your life. I didn’t think so: is a woman who dedicates her life to taking care of your children, cooking your meals, and cleaning your clothes, a blood-sucking parasite or a welcome helping hand?

What are your thoughts on stay-at-home mothers and hyphenated last names? Do you know anyone who does either?

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25 thoughts on “Hyphenated Surnames and Stay-at-Home Moms

  1. I know many women who have hyphenated surnames. It’s seen as a sign of an intellectual, wise independent woman and a feminist. Some women feel extra “speshul” for having two last names… Just for the sake of it, of how “important” it sounds (so, it’s not much out of wish to keep their own last name but to sound intellectual). Yeah, right.

    One huge problem with this is that having two last names means your name is really, really long and it’s not the best thing.

    As for myself, I took my husband’s last name. I never even thought about keeping my own last name or (the worst) add his to mine. My maiden name is really long and didn’t quite suit my first name. Adding another last name to it would make it incredibly long. My husband’s last name, on the other hand, suits my first name better than my maiden name. It’s also one of those last names that don’t have the usual “ić” at the end, which was a bit strange for me at start, but I got used to it pretty quickly, because… Well, like I said, it suits my first name better.

    My husband never demanded for me to take his last name or anything and he even experimented on writing his name with my maiden name (to see what would be like to take my last name as family name), but at the end we decided for me to take his last name.

    To be honest, I am not sure I like AJ’s attitude towards this issue. A woman can take whatever name she choses. It has nothing to do with who “wears pants”. I mean, I took my husband’s last name not because of tradition but because I thought it suited my first name better.

    As for stay at home moms, they are- or were- relatively rare here. My culture is not economically rich, and one salary is rarely enough to raise kids properly. Also, my country was socialist (communist), and communism value workers, regardless of gender. This meant that it was a norm for both men and women to work. On the other hand, the same socialist regime allowed a long maternity break: my mother started working again when I was 3 years old. So it was manageable.

    Today it’s more and more difficult to find a job so there are, sadly, more households where only one person is working. Also, many employers simply choose to fire pregnant women because they don’t want to pay for a maternity leave. It means there are more and more women who are forced to be stay at home mothers even if they don’t want to.

  2. Mira,

    “I know many women who have hyphenated surnames. It’s seen as a sign of an intellectual, wise independent woman and a feminist.”

    I think the bolded part is what AJ is worried about. Although he claims to support feminist issues, I think he appreciates that I don’t have a strong opinion on most of these issues.

    “To be honest, I am not sure I like AJ’s attitude towards this issue.”

    *looks at AJ*

    AJ, you hear that? (Actually, he’s asleep now, but when he wakes he’ll probably comment.)

    “A woman can take whatever name she choses. It has nothing to do with who “wears pants”.

    This is what I thought too. I’d never heard of this idea that a woman having two last names shows she is the one who runs the marriage.

    “On the other hand, the same socialist regime allowed a long maternity break: my mother started working again when I was 3 years old.”

    That sounds great.

    “Also, many employers simply choose to fire pregnant women because they don’t want to pay for a maternity leave.”

    That sounds awful. 😦

  3. I don’t like my last name, so I would’ve taken pretty much anyone else’s (:-)), though I know that if I marry my current boyfriend people will mispronounce it all the time. (His last name is an English word, but it’s not pronounced how you would think, and people tend to think it’s an Asian last name when they hear it.) When I think of women with hyphenated surnames I tend to think of women who’ve established themselves by name in their career and want to maintain the recognition, or blended families that include half- and step-kids. I never really thought of it as a matter of being assertive–some people just like their last names. Maybe he feels it would be awkward to get mail addressed to “Mr. Jones & Mrs. Smith-Jones”?

    I couldn’t be a SAHM full-time, but my boyfriend wouldn’t mind being a SAHD if he could make enough money as a freelancer. I think he’s a bit more kid-friendly than I am, though I would like to be at home at least most of the time during those pre-school years. My chosen career (professor) is compatible with that, but I don’t think SAHMs are leeches: cleaning, cooking, and caretaking are full-time jobs (with crappy pay and vacation :-P).

    A friend from high school has a mom who’s been at home since the oldest child was born–the problem is that the youngest of the 4 is currently a Senior in high school. After age 10 or so, I feel like a full-time SAHM pretty much turns into the maid/housekeeper. She cleans her kids’ rooms and cooks for them, and since the dad is an electrician who works a lot/has odd hours, it seems like she spends a lot of time by herself. Now that kids have so much technology and extracurricular options, the role of the SAHM as a source of significant social interaction and teaching diminishes pretty quickly.

  4. Hey, technically, I’m more of a feminist than Alee is!

    I guess my main issue with hyphenated names, is that the children would have hyphenated names. On my dad’s side, I’m the only guy that can carry on the name, everyone else is female. So I’d want to pass it on intact. Alee, you have a brother that can do that. 😉

    My mom hates how my dad’s last name sounds with her name, so she just kept her last name. I don’t think I’d have a issue with that, or the person having a hyphenated name but not passing it down.

    I figure if I go along with all the other equal partnership liberal feminist stuff in marriage, which most of it I’d want to do (except for laundry) I get that one traditional thing. 🙂

  5. Jasmin,

    “I don’t like my last name, so I would’ve taken pretty much anyone else’s (:-))”

    Lol.

    I guess I’m used to my last name. Changing it would be weird, but I guess I’d get used to it in time as well.

    “my boyfriend wouldn’t mind being a SAHD if he could make enough money as a freelancer.”

    I could see him as a SAHD too, for sure, with the baby carrier strapped on and all. He would be perfect! 😀

    AJ,

    “Hey, technically, I’m more of a feminist than Alee is!”

    O RLY?

    “On my dad’s side, I’m the only guy that can carry on the name, everyone else is female. So I’d want to pass it on intact. Alee, you have a brother that can do that.”

    Hmmm, okay, I guess that makes more sense. You didn’t mention that before. Although, really, that last name isn’t truly “yours” (since it’s Anglicized) and it’s so common that many other people could pass it on for you. 😉

    “My mom hates how my dad’s last name sounds with her name, so she just kept her last name. I don’t think I’d have a issue with that”

    So I can hyphenate my last name, as long as the kids just have your last name?

    By the way, I think your mother should have hyphenated her name. That would have sounded awesome, even if the name is extra long.

    “I figure if I go along with all the other equal partnership liberal feminist stuff in marriage, which most of it I’d want to do (except for laundry) I get that one traditional thing.”

    But that’s not the only traditional thing you like/require…

  6. I agree AJ. For me, it’s about passing on the last-name, carrying on the family-name/tradition/whatever. Maybe it has something to do with our fathers? Or possibly grandparents. I know mine are ALLLLLL about having my full-brother & I make some Jewish kids with our last name.

    But for me, it does feel like being emasculated to have a woman keep her last-name or try to hyphenate it. For some reason it feels personal, like isn’t my last-name good enough? Obviously it doesn’t have to be personal, but it feels that way.

    @Jasmin: I don’t like my last name, so I would’ve taken pretty much anyone else’s

    O RLY?? I suppose all of us wonderful men are just interchangeable last-names for you to try on like a pair of shoes, huh? =P

  7. Interesting: so the men think a woman hyphenating her married last name is emasculating for her husband. And the women don’t.

    Whodathunkit? 😀

    Zek,

    “I suppose all of us wonderful men are just interchangeable last-names for you to try on like a pair of shoes, huh?

    Lol. Yes, she’s trying on the Jewshoes now. It seems she likes the fit.

  8. My husband would love to be a SAHD. He is really open to this idea. I, on the other hand… I don’t think I could be a full time SAHM. My husband is really good at the “domestic stuff”, such as cooking, so it’s ok.

    I don’t know about America, but kids here can have only their father’s last name even if mother has a hyphenated surname. However, some people say it’s not the happiest option because kids in general want their mothers to have the same last name as them. It’s not unusual for a kid to lie about his mother’s last name (he says it’s the same as his).

    So, I might be traditional here, but I think it’s the best if everybody in the family (mother, father and children) share the same last name… Whatever that name might be.

    Zek,

    For some reason it feels personal, like isn’t my last-name good enough?

    Hmmm… But you could put it this way: isn’t her father’s name good enough?

    The only reason guys expect women to take their last names is because of tradition… It’s not “natural” in any way. It’s interesting to note a somewhat modern phenomena in my culture concerning women who keep their last names. Maybe I haven’t mentioned before, but in my culture there is an extremely strong relationship between fathers and daughters. If you would call my culture patriarchal, it’s always about the father, not husband. A woman who will pride herself as being independent and would not listen to her husband would always run to her father for support. Father is the highest authority and the woman’s main supporter.

    So in this sense, it’s not unusual for today’s women to refuse to take their husband’s last names because they want to keep their father’s last name. It is a relatively new phenomena, but it exists.

  9. Mira,

    I don’t know about America, but kids here can have only their father’s last name even if mother has a hyphenated surname. “

    Maybe AJ should move to Serbia. 😉

    “However, some people say it’s not the happiest option because kids in general want their mothers to have the same last name as them. “

    Good point. AJ and his sisters don’t have the same last name as their mother. I wonder if they felt weird about that growing up.

  10. Alee,

    I would’ve preferred a last name that ended with an “n”, like Anderson, since I think that would’ve sounded nice with my first name. And I have all sisters (my parents tried for boys and had girls–triplets! :-P), so the chances of the family name getting passed down was slim from the get-go. My last name will be gone once my sister and I marry, because my bio dad has just one brother, and he has no kids. My step-dad also has just one brother, and he has one son, so that’s it.

    Zek,

    Yea, yea, yea, drama king. I’m willingly taking on a last name that rhymes with the names of some rather unfortunate-looking animals–cut me some slack!

    Mira,

    My parents got divorced when my sister and I were really young, and my mom remarried pretty quickly, so I don’t remember us ever having the same last name. It does get annoying explaining it some times.

  11. Jasmin,

    Actually, the “kids want to have the same last mother as their mother” thing is something I’ve heard. Teachers report it, psychologists talk about it. I have no idea if it’s true, though.

    I know my grandmother opted to keep her married name even after she got divorced because of this. She wanted to have the same last name as my mother and my aunt. It’s not I can’t understand the logic behind it- I am just not sure if kids really do suffer if they don’t share the same last name as their mother (but not father).

    Actually, I understand the guys wanting to continue the name… We (women) can talk whatever we want, but keeping- or not- our maiden name is a choice. There’s no huge tradition behind it. As a kid, you hear all the time you’ll change your last name once you get married (at least you hear that here), so whatever your final choice actually is, you are growing up with an idea that you MIGHT take another last name. It’s different with guys. They learn about the tradition, about their role of continuing the family name… They learn it’s something you don’t give, something that should be treasured and preserved. (Wait… Did I just compare virginity with last names?)

    So all in all, it’s not that I don’t understand the guys… Or even the feeling of rejection at the girl who refuses to take your last name.

    (I still don’t get the thing about keeping the maiden name = wearing the pants… Or why women “wearing pants” is *gasp* such a horrible idea).

  12. I know my sisters and I never really gave it a extra thought that my mom kept her last name. Don’t think my dad did either. I think if you’re in a family that doesn’t focus on tradition, it’s not an issue.

    On the “wearing the pants” stuff… I think some guys are on guard about ending up in a relationship where they’re the subordinate and getting walked all over. I know that’s not implicit in wearing the pants, and I prefer a strong woman, but it happens.

  13. AJ,

    “I think some guys are on guard about ending up in a relationship where they’re the subordinate and getting walked all over.”

    But I walk over you all the time… you said it’s kinky.

    Just kidding…

    “…I prefer a strong woman, but it happens.”

    Well, then you’re just asking for it. 😛

  14. *tries to hide masochist nature*

    Oh and I guess I wouldn’t care too much if you had a hyphenated name, but it didn’t get passed down. It would just be a small ego blow.

    Also, it’s kind of like a different version of signing a prenup… just in case things don’t work out, you didn’t totally scrap your last name identity, so it’s easy to go back to.

  15. Hmmm, a nomenclature prenup. Now that’s a concept.

    @Jasmin: By the way, my last name is also a clever reference to car service, a drying device, AND a local plumber in my hometown.

  16. Not sure about America, but in my country, your new last name is yours to keep. Even after the divorce, you are free to keep it- it is YOUR last name, and not HIS. I understand why many women choose not to do this, but essentially, by taking your husband’s last name you are gaining a new last name for yourself that nobody can take away from you. And you also have a choice of going back to your maiden name should you feel like it.

  17. Zek,

    I’m lost on the drying device…and thanks for just putting me all up out there! Well, at least if some weirdo tries to stalk me, s/he’ll end up at your place. 😛

    Thanks Mira–I don’t like it. 🙂

  18. No problem, I just don’t want anyone having all their personal information out there if they’re not comfortable with that.

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