Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that “maiden names are on the rise,” which is weird way of saying that more women than ever (20% of those who have married in recent years) are opting to keep their own last names (and an additional 10% hyphenate or legally change their last name while keeping their given name professionally). This percentage is up from a dip in the 80s and 90s after a surge in the 70s when women kept their last names mainly for political/feminist reasons. These days, while feminism is still a motivating factor, it isn’t the biggest reason women don’t change their names upon getting married.
As modern women go to college at a higher rate than men, have careers, marry and have children later, and often live with a partner before marriage (getting used to sharing a home with two last names), “[Changing their names] often comes down to weighing the inconvenience of changing versus keeping. Some say it would be too complicated to change their professional or social media identity. Others say it is too difficult to have a name that’s different from the one for the rest of their family, or fear the prospect of divorce.”
According to data from a Google survey, “women are more likely to keep their names if they are older, not religious, have children from a previous marriage or have an advanced degree and established career,” but, of course there are exceptions. “Sarah Marino, a lawyer who lives in Connecticut, has degrees from two elite universities. At 37, she was older than the average bride when she married this month, in a ceremony overlooking a pond in Vermont. Her husband does most of the cooking. She earns more money. The marriage is a modern one; even so, she changed her name.
“It’s like you’re a unit if you have the same last name,” Mrs. Marino said. “And it makes things easier in terms of hotel reservations and things like that.”
Speaking of hotel reservations and the like, in our family, I’m often the one to make those kinds of arrangements — travel plans, restaurant reservations, doctor appointments, etc. — and every once in a while this results in Drew being called “Mr. Atterberry,” which always makes me giggle. I’m called Mrs. Condell so often — and I really don’t mind — that it’s only fair that he’s sometimes called by my last name.
I, personally, have no regrets at all about keeping my last name. I did so mostly because I like it and it’s my identity. I wouldn’t feel like myself with a different name. There was a little feminist motivation and some career consideration, but I’d be lying if I said those were the main deciding factors. Still, since having Jackson, there is a part of me that’s a little sad we don’t share the same last name. I’m not sad enough to consider changing mine now, but sometimes I think about the idea of all of us having MY name. That’s not going to happen and it’s not a big enough deal for me to fight for it, but a few months ago when we told Jackson we were having another baby and it was a girl, he actually asked if her last name would be Atterberry. He just figured the boys in our family would have one last name and the girls would have another. Part of me wishes I’d fought for that a little. Part of me is just proud that he hasn’t yet been influenced so much by the patriarchy to think such a thing unfathomable. Mostly, though, I feel like what makes us a family unit is so much more than a name and, in the end, what we call ourselves and name our children really doesn’t matter.
So, where do you stand on the whole name-change idea? If you’re married, did you keep your name, and, if so, what were your reasons? (And what were your reasons for changing it if you did that)? If you’re single, do you have any thoughts about what you’ll do if you marry eventually?