What’s in a surname?
Well, for some, it’s the one thing that identifies and defines them in the universal public forum for the rest of their lives. I present Lisa-Marie Presley as an example.
For most of us though, we’re bequeathed our father’s last name and that, quite simply, is that. Now, however, this trend of assuming your father’s name appears to be taking quite the sharp turn in the opposite direction.
This week Teresa Palmer, the Aussie actor most notable for her role in Warm Bodies and her husband Mark Webber, welcomed their first baby into the world and released the following picture and statement via Instagram.
“Thank you God for blessing us with the most divine gift of our baby son. Introducing Bodhi Rain Palmer born safely, lovingly and naturally last night. 8lbs even.”
“Bodhi means “Enlightened one” Rain means “Abundant Blessings From Above” and we chose Palmer as his last name as Mark’s son Isaac didn’t take his dads name either.”
At first glance, this all seems a bit unusual. Not only Palmer’s decision to give her son her last name and not her husband’s but also, equally as interestingly, her apparent need to justify this decision with a detailed explanation.
Regardless of marital situation, naming babies after their mums isn’t often the case. EVEN when women have been successful and established under their own surnames, they will still often name their children with their partner’s family name.
Yet, recently it would appear that this tradition is about to change. Starting, most notably, with actor Kate Winslet.
Winslet, who has three children with different biological fathers, has given her children her last name – and defended her decision publically when her third child, Bear, was born.
As reported by CNN:
The actress, 38, assures Glamour magazine’s U.K. edition that she’s more than comfortable with her decision to give Bear her last name instead of the surname of his father, Ned Rocknroll.
“People might judge all they like, but I’m a f*****g grown-up,” she told the magazine.
The Labor Day star has two other children, 10-year-old Joe and 13-year-old Mia, from prior marriages, and each kid bears Winslet’s name. So with her third baby with her third husband, the Oscar winner saw no reason to suddenly switch things up – even if Ned’s moniker is [a] particularly unique last name.
“It was always going to have my name,” Winslet tells Glamour UK, adding that the couple didn’t even really discuss it. “Mia and Joe have it as part of their name, so it would be weird if this baby didn’t. Of course we’re not going to call it RocknRoll.”
Calling their son Bear, on the other hand, seemed to have made more sense. Before becoming, through vows at least, Mrs. Rocknroll in 2011, Winslet was married to director Sam Mendes and then Jim Threapleton, respectively.
In this modern world though, should this even be a discussion we are having? Shouldn’t it be up to couples to decide how and why they decide to name their babies what they do? Many women choose to keep their own names when they get married for all kinds of different reasons.
Surely the whole “family name needs to be continued” reason only applies to royalty these days? And even then, I’m sure many would argue that George Middleton could still rule Great Britain just as effectively.
Is this simply a tradition we think we have to uphold?
When discussed over at The Salon, they had this to say:
Of course, patrilineal naming assuages both marital conventions and male egos. But there would seem to be plenty in our recent history to make women less likely to bow to such societal pressures. We’ve had three decades of skyscraping divorce rates and a growing contingent of dead-beat dads. Meanwhile, happily married women increasingly work double shifts as the primary parents and breadwinners of their families.
Yet the patrilineal torch has hardly flickered. Rarely do women give their children their last names — even after divorce leaves them as sole providers and caretakers. (Though they often pay the several hundred dollars it takes to erase the taint of an estranged spouse from their own identity.)
And to be honest, there are many people that take their mother’s surname for many different reasons. Either via divorce, or through a simple change of mind or moniker, the following stars and well known people, weren’t born with the names that you recognise today. In fact their surnames are their mothers’. And this is the way they prefer it be.
No, our name shouldn’t ultimately define us – but it should also always be one we feel comfortable with.
How about you, do you think it’s becoming ‘more normal’ for the baby to take on the mother’s surname than the father’s? Have you seen this happen in your own world? And really, should it even be an issue? What surname did you give your kids?