How about having kids?
Based on some of society’s traditions – like what happens to your last when you get married particularly as a woman – it sure seems like people assume the answer is “yes” (i.e. even some of our close friends assumed that when Andy and I got married, overnight, my identity changed from Cynthia Chang to Mrs. Cynthia Porter – or better yet… Mrs. Andy Porter!).
But societal assumptions like those around how your identity changes with marriage are exactly those that Andy and I aren’t willing to blindly make without first doing some questioning.
When Andy and I got engaged 5 years ago, we considered all the options around what to do with our last names, talking through what each meant to us as individuals and as a couple.
- My taking his last name?
Before getting married, I spent 3 decades as Cynthia Chang. It’s who I am. It’s who I know myself as. And it’s who others know me as, not to mention that I’ve worked hard to establish my professional brand as Cynthia Chang.
Plus, this is the 21st century. Families don’t need to marry off their daughters, pay a dowry to have a man’s family take them on as their burden, and send them away on a donkey cart!
- His taking my last name?
To play devil’s advocate, I asked Andy if he’d be willing to change his name and take mine. The answer was no – interestingly for many of the same reasons I stated above (except maybe the thing about the donkey cart!).
- Hyphenating our last names?
Too complicated for us! We like to keep things clean and simple and prefer to spare our child the inevitable headache-inducing decision-making around what to do with her last name if she decides to marry someone in the future.
- Combining our last names to come up with a new one?
This was appealing to us. Neither of us would be giving up who we are, but rather would be embracing a new family identity that we would be responsible for crafting. Nice idea, right? We tried to come up with something that made sense, but the best we could come up with was “Pootang”… a little too reminiscent of the late 1990’s rap group, the Wu-Tang Clan. Kind of awesome, but we could never live with torturing our kid like that!
- Keeping our own last names?
This is the option we went with. I chose not to take my husband’s last name – not because I don’t love him or because I’m anything short of ecstatic to be part of his family. When it comes to keeping my own name, I could make the feminist argument. I could also make the ethnic identity one.
But at the end of the day, how I decided to keep my name the same it has been for over 30 years boiled down to something really simple.
I think about getting married as enhancing – rather than changing – the person I am.
This is the kind of stuff that this blog is all about. We all have choices to make in our lives – whether it’s about marriage, parenting, work, family, or otherwise. And whether difficult or seemingly trivial, Andy and I like to be thoughtful about these choices, talk about the options, and have a rationale for whatever choice we end up making.
As you can imagine, conversations about our kid’s name are well underway. More to come on that soon…