The very complicated reality of naming a baby in 2023.

When I fell pregnant with my daughter two years ago, I already had a loooong list of baby names in my phone. 

It was full of sweet, girly monikers like Violet and Daisy and Posie – yes, there was a definite floral theme going on – and I figured choosing one would be the easiest part of having a baby.

I mean, compared to changing nappies and getting up at all hours of the night, it’s a piece of cake, right? 

But suddenly the prospect of naming an actual living human and sticking with it for her entire life felt very daunting. 

What if she wanted to be a teacher? Or a DJ? Or a doctor? Would I be limiting her with a name that just wouldn’t cut it in her chosen profession? God forbid she wanted to be a florist…

But these days, there’s also the added layer of complication that comes when you and your partner have different last names.

When I got married eight years ago, I decided to keep my own last name because I felt connected to it, I used it for work and, I’ll be honest, I was too lazy to bother with all the paperwork to change it. 

But it was still relatively unusual to keep my last name. 

I got lots of puzzled looks from friends and some older family members telling me it would be too confusing or that I’d regret it if/when I had kids. 

But while I’d definitely chosen the less common route in keeping my own name, when it came to our daughter being born, it just felt natural to both of us that she would take her dad’s last name.


In fact, I can’t even remember it really being a conversation. We just both assumed she would.

Did it feel slightly like I was going against my feminist beliefs by naming her after her father’s family and not my own? 

Kind of. 

But did I think we were going to somehow be less of a family if we didn’t all have the same last name? Absolutely not. 

However, I started to feel like I should’ve questioned our decision more when British barrister Dr Charlotte Proudman sparked furious debate this week.

“A message to pregnant women – please give the baby your surname. You carried a baby for nine months, gave birth, and will be responsible for that child for the rest of your life,” she wrote on X (formerly Twitter). 

“When you’re registering the baby, ask yourself: why is the father’s surname more important than yours?”

In another tweet – if we’re even still calling them that – she went on to say, “almost 90 percent of straight married women take their husband’s surname and then give the baby the father's name – eroding their identity. Name the child after the mother.” 


The reactions from women were as visceral as they were varied. 

Many insisted they wanted to all have the same family name and had made a conscious decision to do so.

Other women, particularly those who had since separated from their partners, said they wished it had been more socially acceptable to use their own name for their children at the time. 

But I’d never really been able to put words to the reason why I gave my daughter my husband’s last name until Mamamia’s Executive Editor, Clare Stephens, spoke about this very thing on Mamamia Out Loud this week.

LISTEN: In this episode, Mia, Holly and Clare discuss how they chose their children's last names. Post continues below.

“I’m sitting here just over halfway through my pregnancy and I can feel (my baby) kicking, and I’ll feel her more and more in the coming months, and then I’ll have the mutually magical and fucked up experience of birthing her,” Clare said. 

“I believe that’s really special, I don’t feel the need to give her my last name. If I took gender out of it completely, if I’m the one carrying her and I’m the one who is always going to be connected to her in this way in that we’ve shared a body, is it not a symbol of the other parent’s connection to the baby to use their surname? It feels like a way of including them and I feel really lucky to have had the experience of growing the baby.”


Thanks, Clare, I’m taking that rationale and running with it!

However, the other option that hasn’t really been spoken about is the idea of picking a completely new family name when kids come along – something Yvette did when she was pregnant with her first child.

“My husband and I talked about it for a year then decided to both change our surname to a completely new one with no ties to anyone or any history. We wanted to make our own family and create a new story,” she told Mamamia

“While I was pregnant, we finally settled on a new last name (the one I have now) and processed the paperwork.

“Both my kids now have the new name and they will live with it longer than us.”

Of course, it wasn’t without a few raised eyebrows. 

“Publicly it was harder for my husband to explain his name change. Especially at work and his industry reputation being tied to his old name,” Yvette said. 

“But everyone adjusted and our families are all on board now. It's been one of the better decisions we have made. We still get a silly kick out of using our last name when referring to our family as a group.”

What do you think? Would you consider picking a new family name?

Feature image: Getty, Canva.

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