If you’re a traditionalist, you go straight to the DMV office to change your driver’s license. If you’re a modernist, you say, “No way, I’m keeping my last name!” and things are status quo. Either way, people have opinions.
Keep your maiden name, and people say, “Why aren’t you changing it? How does your husband feel about that? Don’t you want to be married?” You’re kind of viewed as the crazy feminist.
Take your husband’s last name, and people say, “What about your career? Your identity? You’ve have your last name for decades.” You’re often seen as “selling out.”
The decision is not always obvious. When I got married, I didn’t embrace taking my husband’s name. I had worked hard for many years in the publishing industry to establish a reputation and develop a career track – all under my maiden name. I also felt that giving up my ethnic last name would be like giving up part of my Chinese heritage.
Then I became pregnant. I started thinking about how my last name would differ from my baby’s, and it didn’t sit well with me. I decided to use my husband’s last name. Though I could have hyphened our names, I didn’t like the sound of it. I also didn’t want to give my baby a hyphenated last name (I grew up with a hyphenated middle name which often caused confusion regarding my first, middle and last name).
I took one more step, a compromise. I legally changed my middle name to my maiden name. In New York, altering your middle name is like changing your first name so it’s a long, complicated and costly process. It includes lots of paperwork and going to court twice. As a last step the courts require you to purchase an announcement in the local newspaper to announce the name change.
Though the court process was convoluted, I’m glad I completed it. Changing my middle name to my maiden name was a way to keep an ethnic aspect while allowing me and my baby to have the same last names.
Ultimately it’s your choice, because you are the one who must live with the name. You can’t please everyone, so all you can do is make up your own mind and be at peace with it.