26 answers

Should Baby (Of a Single Mom) Take Surname of Mother/father?


I have a dilemma and I honestly can't decide what to do. I need your opinions and/or advice. My ex-fiance and I are expecting a baby in October. We have attempted reconciling, but it proves to be futile. He is planning on being active involved. Being that we are not married, we have different last names. (And we each have a child from a past relationship who bears our respective last names...i.e. my son has my last name.)

I have discussed with my ex the possibility and my desire to use both our last names, in either order, when naming the baby. He is STRONGLY opposed as he thinks that it should be his, and only his, name given to the baby. He has said that giving the child both names or just mine (which I have not suggested) will "ruin his/her life" and he/she will "struggle in his/her identity."

I cannot tell you how much I disagree with this. So, for many reasons (including that we are not married, that my son and I have my last name, and that my family name is incredibly important to me) I want it included either as the last name or second middle name.

Mamas, what do you think? Have any of you gone through this? What is your honest to God opinion? Am I way out in left field?

Keep in mind, I have in no way suggested combining our names to make a new last name or even hyphenating it. I just want my family name represented.

Thank you!


P.S. Our last names are Swan (mine) and Reed (his). Thus, nothing too crazy. One of his arguments is that my name, Swan, is not a proper first or middle name and would thus be absurd as a middle name.

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More Answers

If I could do it again, my son would have my name or both names but not his dad's name only. As much as I wanted my son to have my last name, I thought if I ever got married again or it turned out to work btw us it would make more sense for him to have his dad's last name. Boy was I wrong! My son is now stuck with a name to a dad that is hardly in the picture. Plus once school starts, you will be constantly correcting teachers and parents about your last name being different from his. Last week my son was correcting his friends when they called me by his last name. People will want to know if you got divorced or what happened to the dad. Honestly though, unless you know you two will get back together, I would do what is best for you and your child. Go with your heart. Our instincts are wonderful and too many times we don't listen to them. I would give anything to go back and listen to mine. If your child will be with you full time, it makes more sense for them to have your name. Life will be a lot less complicated this way. Plus your son already has your name and it will make it easier as they grow older together.

Hello M.,

My sister is a single mom with two kids. The last name dilema also came up. In the end she gave them their father's last name even though he left her and to this day provides no support to the children. She now regrets not giving them our last name. After all, it is ONLY our family that provides all the support. His family couldn't care less.


ok I can honestly say I feel you...I have 3 children 2 boys and a girl I was a single mother for all 3. I gave my boys my last name as I figured they are going to be with me anyways and I kinda wanted my last name carried on since its rare and judging by my brothers having girls its not going very far once they get married and well my sisters changed their last name when they got married...anyways my daughters dad was in the picture when I had her and although we werent married I gave her his last name well 2 years later he left me for another female but thats another story...so now my daughter is almost 11 and since she was about 7 or 8 and figured out she was the only one with a different last name she hates it and feels left out she says she is always being asked why she has a different last name then her brothers and although she know they have different fathers she doesnt see her brothers as half brothers. I am trying to change her last name to mine but its not the easies thing in the world....so my opinion give him yours!

If I found myself in your shoes I would probably give the child my last name. It is my opinion that you and both your children having the same last name will make all your lives much less complicated.

It is really up to you in the end, there is no right or wrong answer, this is the 21st century. I will tell you this, if your children end up with different last names you will be called Ms. Swan and Ms. Reed; if that is okay with you anyway... This is my opinion, it really makes me mad when guys are so demanding on having their child carry their name but don't step up to the plate and be the Dad. This will mess with a child's identity; not having both of your last names. I'm not sure about Texas, but in Illinois, when you give birth the baby tag will have the mother's last name so the baby will be "Baby Swan", even if you do use his last name...
I don't know, maybe I'm reading something that isn't there, it sounds like you want approval to name your son after your family and there is nothing wrong with that. My middle son has my maiden name because my husband and I weren't married. And my son is proud to have my dad's last name, heck he pretty much has all of my dad's name. My husband was upset at first, but he knows our son wants this...Our son has a very close relationship with my dad but he also has a good one with his dad.

Wow, after reading some responses, I guess this really is the "Good Ole Boys" state, wow, I know in Illinois they do not by law make a mother give her son or daughter the father's name, it's up to the mother if she's not married. And you can even get child support without having the father's last name...

God bless your family!

It's up to you! You will be the one signing the certificate! His reasoning does not make total sense, but I can see that he just won't budge on the subject! If your other son has your name, I think it would make the most sense to continue w/that! You are the one that he will most likely live w/90% of the time. You will most likely be dealing w/his teachers, dr's, coaches etc. Make it less confusing for you! He's obviously not willing to make your life easier, so make things easier on yourself!....Maybe baby SWAN can take Daddy's last name as his middle name...good luck!!

To be honest, I think it would be more confusing for your son to have a different last name than you (since you will probably be the primary care-giver). I would give him your Ex's last name as a middle name or hyphenate it Reed-Swan. My cousin just had a baby after her husband of 10 years divorced her while she was pregnant and left her with no support. She is naming him with her maiden name alone. Best wishes to you and your future baby.

I agree with the moms who have said your last name because of insurance, schooling, etc. since you will be the primary caregiver and he will live with you. Re. identity, it'll be confusing if the child has a different last name than the people he/she's growing up with. Honestly, it's all about him and he's wrong. I like the middle name of Reed - I think it works really well for a boy, and just fine for a girl. Baby Reed Swan - and Swann is a football player's last name - Lynn Swann (so, there, nyah!) LOL

I think your ex-fiance's reasoning is way out in left field. A last name won't ruin a child's life or make him/her struggle in his/her identity. I would think the best thing would be for the child to take the last name of the parent with primary custody. I would fight for my child to have MY last name.

I agree that your ex-fiance is being ridiculous in his thinking. I would make the baby's middle name Reed (your ex's last name) and the last name Swan. JMO

I gave my son my last name...turned out I got married to another man and his biological father let my husband adopt him and he has our last name. I just wanted to share what I did and maybe it could help you in your decision. You get the final say because you are the one who fills out the birth certificate. Just a thought you can keep in mind and don't even have to bring that to his attention. Good luck, I know you want to do what is best for your child.

I'm in the middle of a similar situation right now! I'm due in 6 weeks. The father and I are not married and though we we're once high school sweethearts, we were just 'dating' at the time. When I brought this up in the beginning, I suggested giving child both names since we werent married and he responded very defensively and said that was stupid because he was going to be a part of his childs life. I didnt want to deal with it and gave in thinking I would just give him his dad's last name.

During the coarse of the pregnancy, his father has been half present and not very supportive. He is now seeing somebody else and has recently told me a life with me would be a life of unhappiness and that he did not think me and the baby were worth trying to work things out.

He asked recently if the baby would still have his last name I said I haven't decided but probably not. He keeps saying I'm acting like he's not going to be a part of his sons life. I'm on the fence about this because he hasn't really been a part of this pregnancy. And bottom line is, not only are we not married, we're not even in a relationship, I will have primary custody, shouldn't child have my name?

I understand that the daddy wants the baby to have his last name, that is the way the world works, whether right or wrong. My nieces middle name is my mothers maiden name, Chastain, which makes a goody middle name, but represents my mother and that was important to my sister. I think that since he does want to in the baby's life etc that maybe he should have his last name. Your last name is carried on by your son. I dont know if I am right or wrong and I fully see your dilema but in my mind if the father is going to be a father, then the baby should bear his last name. Just like when I got married, I changed my last name. I get that your household would have 2 last names but anymore, that is so acceptd that teachers dont even assume. They no longer ask, is this Mr or Mrs _____. They say, is this the parent of said student. Good luck with this is!

My son has my maiden name as a middle name and his dad's name is his last name. It has caused no problems for him and he is finishing up his 2nd year of school. I'm divorced and very glad that I insisted on his middle name being my maiden name. Now he has both our names. I kept my married name in this case only because of my son, however if I were to ever remarry then I would take on my new husband's name by keeping my maiden name and my new husbands. Again, my son would still have part of me.

Keep your name. I have not been in your situation myself BUT if I was, the baby would keep my last name. You are going to be the primary care giver of the child. Is he planning on playing a very active part in the babys life? If not then that will only confuse the child more to carry a name of a parent he rarely sees. Also, I've had 3 sisters in your same situation. Only one chose the last name of the father (they were sort of together at the time of birth) and now she regrets more than anything doing that. The father NEVER sees his son so it only reminds him more of his absent father by having his last name and having to write it every day in school. The two sisters that chose to keep their last names are both VERY glad they did. Good luck with your decision!

When my son was born I gave him my last name because his father and I were not together nor did we plan to be. Since I was going to be the one carrying insurance, taking him to all of his dr's appt's etc. it was better in my opinion for him to match me. Before my son started kindergarten I agreed to hyphenate his last name to his father's as well. I figured but don't know this for sure that the court would have at least made me do that if he took me to court. My son has no identity probems and this was not something he was born with. His father and I are both married with kids so it kind of works out because he not only matches us but also matches his sisters. HTH's a little. Good Luck, I know it is hard. :)

It is important that a person feels connected by last name.
I have four ways of seeing this:
1. Being a child of divorce, growing up I always wished I had the same last name as my mom.
2. I was very close to my father's family. So in the end, I was glad to have his name. How involved do you plan on your child being with the father's family? If the baby has his father's name, the child will have a consistent name connection.
3. If you remarry, you will run into the same issue - if you take his name, your kids won't have the same name as you. Then, if you have a baby with your new husband that child will have a different last name. If both of your children have the same name but you end up changing yours thru marriage, both of them will be glad they share the same name.
4. If your family has a strong name line (meaning there are plenty of family members that hold your maiden name) then your child will have a consistent name connection with your family.
The school issue is really not a big deal b/c teacher's know not to assume each child has the same name as their mom (I am a teacher). This is a tough decision - do what you 'FEEL' is right, not what anyone else thinks. Good luck!

I know my sister did not have a choice when her son was born. She also was not and did not marry his father, but the court required him have the father's last name. I would find a way to have your name in it as a middle name if it is a boy. I am not sure if it matters as much if it is a girl....not sure if the courts have a different opinion based on sex of baby. You could also find a name that matches the meaning of it for the middle name or first name...my sister found that Matthew and Michael had the same meaning so she used them for her two boys.

I'm going to try not to go off on your ex here, but it's going to take some effort! I honestly, really, don't at all see his reasoning. After a lot of very long and very fraught decisions with my now husband, I hyphenated my last name--I wanted to keep my name, he wanted me to take his, and we compromised. Neither of us thinks it's ideal, but we love each other and compromise is part of marriage. That being said, our DD has my (maiden) last name as her second middle name, and his last name as her last name. I DO NOT GET why it's a problem to have a last name as a middle name, but I'm a bit biased here--at birth, I was given my mother's maiden name as my middle name, so have always had "Wickins" as a middle name. I've been proud that my name represents BOTH sides of my family. Of course, that means I now have THREE last names, which is a bit long, but I still find ALL aspects of my family important, and want them all represented. My sister has my grandmother's maiden name (McCoy)as her middle name--so it seems totally normal to me to have a last name as a middle name, for either a boy or a girl.

On top of all of this, of course, if the baby is going to live with you, and you're not married to the Dad, I would think that the easiest and least "identity crisis causing" option would be to give the baby YOUR last name, since then he/she would have the same name as everyone s/he lives with. Maybe your ex being completely unreasonable is part of why you're better off without him?

Maybe I'm being too simplistic...and maybe this has been brought up before...but...um...if there is no hope in reconciliation...why do you care WHAT your ex says?

I don't want to cause a rift between you but...you are giving birth, you are the one who's PROBABLY going to have to take care of him/her...YOU should be the one to make the decision on naming rights and for all defense and purposes can name your baby what ever you want to name it.

If I was in your shoes...I would name it after everyone in the family...which is your son and you. That way EVERYONE IN YOUR HOUSE has the same last name. Far better and easier to explain than, "you have a different lat name because you have different dad's ect" conversation.

I also think that REED makes an excellent MIDDLE name for a boy.

Good luck to you.

Ok, I do not want to add fire to the pot, but in the end it is up to you. You alone. Is the ex helping you? Will he be the child's life ALWAYS? I think that your ex should be reminded that, when a good father is not in the picture is when kids have stuggles with identity. If I were you I would give the child your name. Not only because you have another child, but because dad is not going to be living with you. Besides, Reed makes a cool middle name, or even a good first. Good luck to you. I know these are hard things to face.

I watched a little boy a long time ago who had his mothers last name, I assumed it was because the father was not in the picture since I had never met him. Well he was in the picture, paid child support and had his son every weekend and his son didn't even have his name. I think that if your ex is going to be involved with the new baby you guys need to come to a compromise on the last name, whether it's hyphened or either of yours. But if he's not going to be involved or pay any support, the baby should have your name. It's a tough decision, lots of luck.

I am married and have been for almost 16 years. I didn't take my husband's name when we married for several reasons which I won't go into here. We used 4 names for my son's name so we could include my last name as one of the two middle names. It's worked out great. He has no "identity" issues with regards to his name at all. In fact, we didn't do that for my daughter, which I now regret, and she did have problems understanding why her name was different than mine when she was younger. She even wanted to change her name to mine at one point. We didn't do that, but again, I wish I would have included my name in her name as well.

It's true this is not the traditional way to do it, but more and more people are doing this now. My sister-in-law and her husband used 4 names for both their children (girl and boy), and my SIL hyphenated her name so it's not even like the kids wouldn't know she had the same last name. They just wanted to include both names.

I don't think it really matters which of your last names comes first as long as they are both included. Given your two last names, I do think "Reed Swan" would be better since "Reed" would make a good middle name, but you're going to have to live with how your ex handles that choice so it just depends on how much heat you want to take for making that call. The point is, however, that it is really your call. You're not married so it is your decision what you name your child. You need to decide based on what's best for you and your baby.

I personally think it's a great idea to include both names when the parents don't share the same last name. Our family is proof of that.


As someone who has worked in the private school sector for 23 years, I have noticed it is much easier on the child to have the same name as the rest of the family. I have had many students feel so deeply about this that they do not use their legal last name unless they must for legal documents. We also have several friends with yours, mine and ours situations, her child/children use the "family" name not their legal name because they want that sense of belonging. You should do what you think is best for your child regardless of anyone's opinion.

Hello M.,

what would you do if you two were married? Personally, having 2 lastnames is not the end of the world... over 1 billion people in the world have 2 lastnames. If the dad is in the picture, I think that his lastname should be used. and if you also want to add your, well, go for it.

By the way, both of our children have a two lastnames.
For a lot of things they drop my lastname. for legal documents then we use both.

Another question, will the father's name be on the birth certificate? think of any future claims... child support, social security, etc... if the father's name is already on the birth certificate, it makes things easier. however, if he's not going to be in the picture... if he has only your lastname, it would be easier for traveling outside the US.

Baby Reed Swan

Good luck with your decision. ~C.~

Personally, unless your ex is going to be highly involved in this child's life I would give yours only, or yours as last. Remember this child will be with you for the rest of his/her life. Your ex doesn't want this child to struggle with identity, but if his/her name is different from mom and brother he/she lives with how much struggle will that cause? Tell him Reed is a great first/middle name so that makes Swan a perfect last name. Seriously if your ex wants what's best for your child he should consider the life that child will lead, and its very unlikely that child will be with him more then 1/2 time, so should have same name as those he/she is with more then 1/2 time.

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