parent opinion

'I'm being told I should give my baby my own surname. And I'm ignoring it.'

This week, a tweet aimed at pregnant women went viral. I’m sure you’ll be shocked and surprised, as I was, to learn that its purpose was to tell them that they’re going about motherhood all wrong (yes, already). 

British barrister Dr Charlotte Proudman made headlines with the following pronouncement: 

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

Watch: Be A Good Mum. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Some parts of Dr Proudman’s message are indisputable. If you’re currently pregnant, you will carry your baby for a certain length of time (although shout out to other premmie mums not always for nine months!), and you will give birth.

But it’s the next part that gives me pause. 

“You will be responsible for that child for the rest of your life”. That’s also indisputable, but it’s only half the story. Because so will your partner, for the rest of their life. 

Before you start yelling, I know the statistics around absent fathers versus absent mothers (namely, there are more absent fathers than absent mothers, by a very long and significant measure). I fully understand that Dr Proudman’s tweet is reflective of a status quo where it so often does fall upon mothers to continue to care for their children when their fathers fail to step up. And I know that even when parents stay together, it’s more than likely that the mum, not the dad, will take on the role of primary caregiver. 


I acknowledge all of that, but I still wonder: why would you use a worst-case scenario as the starting point for raising your kids? In insisting that you, the mother, are the only one truly “responsible” for your kids for the rest of your life, aren’t you implicitly agreeing from the outset that the father has less of a role in parenting your children than you do? 

When our family made the decision to give our son my husband’s last name, I thought about it a lot. I was adamant I wouldn’t just follow the beaten track because it was the path of least resistance (although there’s absolutely no shame in this approach either - not everything mothers do needs to be a feminist statement, and you’re perfectly entitled to do whatever you like with your own children). For me, it was a separate consideration to whether I would take my husband’s name which I did too, in the end, partially to give myself the flexibility to use my maiden name in some professional contexts.

Image: Supplied


Ultimately, after a lot of consideration, we made our decision regarding our son’s last name on the opposite basis to the one Dr Proudman insists should be the benchmark. Rather than asserting “my” stake in our son because I was the one who grew and birthed him, we gave him my husband’s last name because it was his baby too. When I told friends and family that this was the path we’d decided to go down, many were shocked.

“But you’re the mum,” they said, as though this was a surprise to me. 

“Sure,” I said, “but also, he’s the dad?”

In a truly equal relationship, I just don’t think there’s room for the kind of tit-for-tat that Dr Proudman is suggesting we engage in with our partners: “I carried the baby so they get my last name”. It leaves the door wide open for the same kind of negotiations to continue all through your child’s life. Because what comes next, and where does it end? 

“She got your last name, so we should spend Christmas with my family this year.”

“I’ve spent more time at home with him, so I should be the one who decides when he starts day care.”


“’ll be paying the school fees, so I get to choose which school she goes to.” 

“I went to all the effort of breastfeeding, so I make the calls on what they eat from now on.”

None of this leaves any room for parents to work as a genuine team. To see each other’s strengths and weaknesses, to acknowledge each other’s contributions, but ultimately to make call about their child together, as joint parents. 

In all honesty, I don’t think you can ever hope to parent equally if your starting point is that your partner will never be as involved in the lives of your children as you will. 

To answer Dr Proudman’s final question, your partner’s surname isn’t “more important” than yours. It’s not “less important” either. A child taking their father’s surname isn’t the mark of an evil patriarchal agenda, or the sign of a failed feminist mother. It’s just an option that your family can decide to take, or not. 

Listen to No Filter, On this episode, In this conversation, Jessie candidly opens up about her very real and personal battle with anxiety and depression and what happened during pregnancy.  Post continues below.

So give your kids your partner’s last name or don’t - that’s entirely up to you and your partner. There are pros and cons on both sides, and there’s no “right” answer.

But if you’re holding back from doing so because you don’t expect that your partner will ever be an equal parent to your child, then it could be time to ask a question bigger than what your child’s birth certificate will say.

Feature Image: Supplied

Do you use anti-aging skincare products? We want to hear from you! Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.