Why I said “I don’t” to my husband’s name

A question I've been asked a lot since marrying my husband 6 years ago is, "Why didn't you change your surname?" It's a question I find as confusing as I do disconcerting. The answer is in another question: "Why would I change it?"

While many aspects of the wedding ritual have evolved, the practice of giving up one's maiden name has remained, statistics show. Bride to Be magazine's Cost of Love survey found that 82% of brides plan to change their surname, while 11 % expect to keep their name, 5 % will hyphenate, and the remainder were undecided.

I am baffled that so many women who have had careers and led independent lives, forfeit their name in exchange for their husband's. I have just been to my 20-year school reunion. Surprisingly to me, most of my alma mater had different surnames to the ones they had at school. And I am in the minority amongst my friends. I respect everyone's entitlement to do as they please but I don't understand why any woman would want to change her name.

Among the many decisions that a wedding presents, one that I gave zero thought to was the possibility of changing my name once married. I can't even recall having a conversation about it with my husband. He placed no importance on the name change, nor did he impose any pressure. Rather, he respected the strength of my conviction and independence.

I always get a shock when I receive an email or Facebook post from a friend who suddenly has a different surname to the one she grew up with. I am baffled at how women happily adopt a different name; a different identity. The reasons behind the decision are different for everyone. Traditional, old-fashioned values have significance for some. Others say "It makes us more of a family, "It means a lot to him", or "It's just easier when kids come along."

A close friend of mine jokes that I kept my surname because it's "cool". We laugh about this but it had absolutely no influence whatsoever. Does a woman ever change her name because the one up for grabs is a more attractive alternative?

Having a different name to your children can sometimes be confusing but I tend to stick to first name only in most situations. And it certainly doesn't make us less of a family. My young children understand my explanation, and I am proud to model less conventional practices to them.

Despite best attempts, I still receive lots of mail addressed to Mrs My-husband's-name. When I see an envelope addressed this way, I assume it is for my mother-in-law, as that is my immediate association with that name. I don't get offended if people make a mistake, but I don't like people to assume.

Keeping my name has little to do with feminist principles. I was born a "Fox". I love my family and my origins. It is who I am. It is my identity. To part with my surname would be like shedding an important part of myself, and let's face it, there's enough identity loss when you have children!

My three daughters have inherited their father's surname, with little resistance from me. I am not as attached to the significance of my name for my children. After all, they share our genes equally, and they each have Fox as a middle name.

Wedding season is upon us and the majority of women will change their surnames after saying, "I do." Each to their own, but I don't understand why I get asked why didn't you? when the more interesting question is, why did you?

Last modified on Friday, 13 November 2015 16:39
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Michaela Fox

Michaela Fox is a freelance writer with over 15 years experience in marketing and event management. She has three young daughters.

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