name changes

I would be a rich woman if someone paid me five cents every time I contemplated whether or not to change my name before the divorce was final.

So, here’s some background:

  • I filed for divorce at the beginning of January in 2014.
  • In that filing, I had to list whether or not I would be changing my name back to my maiden name.
  • I chose to keep my ex’s last name because of the kids…because I thought that schools, church, friends, and acquaintances would think less of me and the kids if I had a different last name than the boys.
  • The beginning of January 2014 – I started hating that I made that decision but I kept wavering, right up until the end (March 2015) on what I really wanted.
  • In the end, I kept the same last name as my boys.

Hindsight is always 20/20. I regret keeping my ex’s last name, every day…every darn day. I regret it every time I have to sign a field trip form. Every time I sign his child support check (yes, I have more custody). Every time I have to introduce myself in front of the boys because I have this incredible guilt because I have zero desire to utter my ex’s last name yet I know the boys would notice if I said something different.

When my now-husband asked me to marry him, I eagerly said yes, because I’ve never known love like I know with him, but I started to sweat bullets….what would my name be? Would my boys feel excluded if I changed my name fully to my new husbands? Would my daughter feel weird introducing her mom by including someone else’s last name if I chose to hyphenate it? Most importantly, how would it make my new husband feel?

So, here’s what I did once he proposed (and this isn’t necessarily the right thing to do, so keep reading…)

  • I sweated bullets about my name change dilemma.
  • I talked about it a lot….like, a lot…to everyone except my now-husband. I wanted their thoughts – do I go back to my maiden name because then at least no one will feel tied to me by name? Do I hyphenate my maiden and new married name because then…well, honestly, this was my last option. Do I hyphenate my ex husband’s name with my new husband’s name in an effort to avoid making the kids feel disconnected from their mom? or Do I change my name to my new husbands name because I know that this is what his preference would be and mine as well, but the boys had already questioned what it would be and my oldest had been in tears about me changing my name and making it something different from theirs.
  • Then I sweated more bullets about this.
  • Then I talked about it some more.
  • When I did finally have the guts to talk to my now-husband about it, I stumbled over every.single.word. Shared every single worry, fear, guilt, that I had. And then he did the most amazing thing that he could possibly do. He suggested that I hyphenate my ex’s last name with my new last name. He okay’d something that I thought he would absolutely hate, considering that my ex is not his favorite person but he saw the pain and guilt I held because I didn’t want to upset the kids.

So here’s what I wish I had done:

  • Most importantly, I wish I had changed my name back to my maiden name. This was a name that I associated with a time when I was “Staci”, when I really was carefree.  All good memories – all my memories and only mine.
  • Actually, I wish I had never changed my name in the first place.  I wish I had gone into this as Staci Durham. Then my boys would never have questioned the difference between my last name or theirs.  They would have been used to it from the get-go.

If I had changed my name during the divorce, it would have hurt them, tremendously, yet the months to follow would have been fine. And I wouldn’t have had to repeatedly tie my ex-husband’s name to my world every time that I introduced myself to someone. The world wouldn’t have ended and the boys would have moved on and realized that I’m the same “mom” that I’ve always been.

In the end, I hyphenated my last name between my ex’s and my new husband’s but I’m in the process of dropping my ex’s last name altogether, legally. And I’ve gently introduced calling myself by my new last name in front of the boys and they don’t even flinch. What I’ve realized and have to continually remember is that while my ex and I may have had an unhealthy relationship, the boys come home healthy without scars or scrapes, get good grades, and I’m learning how to deal with any emotional scars that they may have…and they only know me as “Mom” and that’s all that matters to them.

And my husband…the reality is that he really wanted me to have his last name and only his. It came out later that he didn’t want me to hyphenate and I know that he was only trying to help me with the guilt I carry because of the divorce, but he was focused on me, I was focused on the kids, and we really should have focused on what was important to us – my husband and I.

So learn from my mistakes. If there is a Band-Aid, of any kind, that needs to be ripped of, rip it off fast and work to heal quickly and then do what you need to do. Kids are resilient and the thing that is the most important to them is to feel your love and devotion.

Do-it-yourself Name Change