I Hyphenated My Last Name…Here’s Why

I was raised in what many would consider to be a traditional home by my married, biological parents and in tandem with my biological siblings. I grew up in a conventional setting and have since returned to my conservative hometown to raise my own family. Yet, the feedback I received (and continue to receive) about my “radical” choice to hyphenate my last name has ranged from confusion to judgement. On top of this, there are opinions out there about women who do not give up their maiden names suggesting ridiculous things like non-commitment, selfishness and disrespect. I ran across a post by Girls Gone Wise that was published two years ago. It states these things. I am one of those “hyphenating women” and my reasons have nothing to do with being half married to my husband, only thinking about myself, or disrespecting anyone.

Celebrating Hard Work & Achievements

You’ll remember reading in Dear Dad: I Meant Every Word that it was extremely important to my father that I value myself as a woman and, should I decide to marry, find a man to compliment and support me. In return, I should do the same for him. My marriage consists of two people who worked hard to earn graduate credentials. I earned mine under my maiden name. This is something I chose to do before getting married and starting a family – also strongly encouraged by my traditional parents.

In addition, I decided to establish a career before taking my vows and bearing children. Just as Kerstin described in A 50/50 Marriage, Daddy D and I have a mutually respectful and equal relationship.  We share domestic chores and head of household responsibilities. Neither of us is the breadwinner as we both equally contribute to our family finances. We make up for what the other lacks, as well. We may not always have it all together, but together we truly have it all…contributing fairly. This is reason enough to not leave my identity behind. I worked hard for the beautiful life I share with my loving husband and believe I deserve the right to honor and celebrate these accomplishments by keeping the name I earned them under.


Committing to the Goose as the Gander

I had asked Daddy D at one point if he would ever consider changing his last name. He struggled with the idea of giving up his own identity and worried about how disrespectful such a thing would be to his family. I couldn’t help but wonder how this should be different for me just because I am a woman.  This month marks the tenth year we have spent together. I have been faithfully committed to him for a decade even though we have been married for a third of that time. I love my husband and respect our marriage. I meant the promises I made to him and I did take his last name on our wedding day. I’ve also legally changed my name to include his. I see this as love and acceptance on his part and mine. I am committed to my marriage and husband on the deepest level I know how to be and he knows that my hyphenated last name has nothing to do with devotion.

Strong Family Name Identity

My parents, especially my father, are very proud of their heritage and culture as both are grandchildren of immigrants to America. This brought heavy importance to the surname of my paternal side of the family. I was raised to be proud of my family and our reputation which was noted by our last name. In Hello! Chelse Here… I shared that “my brothers walked me down the aisle, my cousin danced the “father daughter” tribute dance at my wedding with me, and my dad met my son before I did.” Additionally, my family loves my husband and he shares in this mutual affection and respect. He knows how hard it was when I lost my dad, grandfather, uncle, and aunt all within five years of each other…he was there and unwavering in his support. Hyphenating my last name has allowed me to honor the loved ones I have lost. I view this as selflessness, not selfishness.


Other Cultures & My “Poor Children”

In many Hispanic cultures (and predominately Catholic countries) most married women have two last names. Do you know why? They keep their father’s surname and adopt their husband’s last name. Sounds quite like “these” American women who keep their maiden names, or hyphenate doesn’t it? I missed the memo where we should judge another person’s heart or intentions based on their name. I’ve also had people wonder about my “poor children” and their confusion over our family and names. Here is the thing: I decided to hyphenate my last name with the support of my husband. (Not that our children would be loved any less because of our names or theirs!) We made an agreement early on that our children would have OUR last name…not mine. We gave Baby A the second part of my hyphenated name which is Daddy D’s surname. It’s not hard because we share the same last name. (I did, after all, add a new last name onto mine when I got married.) I’m not sure how this is disrespectful on any level to anyone. It will, however, give me the opportunity to teach our children about many things including the capabilities or roles of women, different cultures, and my family heritage.


Despite the questions or judgment I have received because of my choice to hyphenate my last name, I’m glad I did. So far, it hasn’t created havoc in any important part of my life and has helped me to preserve the important entities I’ve described above. I encourage others to embrace this choice if it’s one they are considering. There are other ways for women to hold on to their maiden names, as well, as suggested by Danielle Tate in a Bridal Guide share. Some will simply keep their original surname or change their middle name to it. I’ve also heard of couples combining their last names to make an entirely new name that includes both. Whatever your decision, be true to yourself and your own pure intentions. I believe your heart will always lead you in the right direction. Mine did.

*All images from Free Wallpapers.Com

4 thoughts on “I Hyphenated My Last Name…Here’s Why

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Chelse.
    I know we’ve had this conversation in the past. I have asked, purely from the curiosity of wanting to know your name/family story, much like sharing a birth story. It is appalling to me that people find it their right to judge and tell you that your well reasoned choice is “wrong”.
    It can be so hard to remember the “correct” new name of a friend you have known for ages by their maiden name, so I find it comforting when there is a hyphen.
    As a pregnant teen mom in the 90s, I contemplated what the name of my son would have been had I kept him. My plan would have been to hyphenate, so he would have had both names of his unmarried parents.

  2. Well said my dear Chelse. I’m happy I hyphenated my name as well. A family member once said to me, “Why are you hyphenating your last name? Do you think you’re a movie star?” What the hell! No, I don’t think I’m a movie star, I simply wanted to always be reminded of who I am and my family heritage. When people see my maiden name it always strikes up a conversation. I’m proud of who I am. My heart lead me in the right direction too!

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