I am thinking of changing my name. This comes as a great shock to me. When M and I had our (illegal) wedding in 2006, we discussed this and decided we would both keep our names. It was a pretty short discussion, really. Neither of us could envision taking the other's name, nor asking the other to take ours. We did come up with an all new name blending halves of each of our last names, and we still use it "internally" to this day, but it's not something we ever gave serious thought to taking on legally.
Until very recently, I've never second-guessed our decision to keep our own last names. I never thought it took away from our partnership, and in fact, I felt good about what it said about our individuality within that partnership. I have told people that I like to think I would have kept my last name even if I had married a man, and I still believe that. If I don't fall asleep before I finish this post, I'll even explain that seeming contradiction to you. Ultimately, I never gave much thought to last names at all... until a little over a year ago when it became apparent we would need to provide someone with one.
The one thing that was never on the table for us was hyphenating. This is 100% MY opinion for MY family, so I hope that I don't offend anyone with my explanation, but here goes: I was opposed for the obvious reasons - it makes for a last name that is cumbersome, long, awkward, etc., but the deal-breaker for me was that I wanted to equip Elliot with a name that would leave him all of the options to make when he is an adult and has his own family. In 20-something years, when he decides to spend the rest of his life with Ms. or Mr. Wonderful, I want HIM to be able to keep his name, take his/hers, or hyphenate the two. Hyphenated names are like T intersections in this scenario - you can turn left or right, but you can't continue forward on the same road. Can you imagine if he took theirs ALSO and had three last names? What if Ms. or Mr. Wonderful has a hyphenated last name of his/her own - they could put them together and each have four! Anyway, I just wanted to make things as simple as possible for him, both now and later, by giving him a straight-forward, single last name. Again, MY preference. I am not placing judgement upon anyone that came down on a different side of this complicated decision.
The decision to give him M's last name was mine. She was pretty uncomfortable with it at first. She didn't want my family to think she asked for that, and she felt bad that he and I wouldn't have the same name. I was adamant for two reasons: First, I felt that since I had the privilege of carrying him, she should have her own unique connection to him as well. Second, I didn't know if and when we would pursue a second-parent adoption, and I figured if they had the same last name, it would grease the wheels for her with his schools, doctors, daycares, and so on. Of course it doesn't make her his legal parent, but it might make some people forget they need to ask, and when you're in our shoes, that's a valuable thing.
I thought I was completely okay with him not having my last name, and once I got over the initial weirdness, I was, for a while. In the last couple of months, I have felt my Mama Bear instincts slowly emerging and I feel this intense need to define our family - K, M & E - as distinct from my family of origin. If we were legally married or Elliot was our direct biological offspring, I think that might alleviate the need for me a bit, but we're not and he's not. I still think we'll complete a second-parent adoption, although I don't know exactly when or how. But I want to do more. 2/3 of my family has one last name and I have another. The answer seems obvious, and yet I feel so much internal resistance.
I would love to unpack that a little more but I'm literally falling asleep typing this, so I'm going to leave it here for now, but I'll be back to work on this more soon.