My Wife Wanted To Take My Name And I Told Her No

This originally appeared on Republished here with permission.

Have you ever done something that at the time you thought was the right thing to do but now realize that it may have been a mistake?

And to make it worse, your spouse TOLD you it was a mistake?!

When I was in college, I had very liberal ideas and was against nearly every conventional thing out there.

I actually voted for Ross Perot in 1992, for goodness sake!

While I very much wanted to get married, I hated the idea of my wife changing her last name to mine. I detested it when I heard wives referred to as “Mrs. John Smith,” as if she doesn’t even have her own name. I didn’t even like “Mrs. Mary Smith.” It sounded like these women were the property of their husbands, which until the last 60 years or so, they sort of were.

To me, it seemed wrong that a woman of the 1990s should have to discard her family name. I strongly believed in equality for my wife in our marriage and I felt that taking my name would strip her of that, at least in the eyes of society. In a way, I guess I was trying to make my own statement against a family tradition that I believed was out of date.

Little did I know I would blast through family tradition seven years later when we decided I should be an at-home dad.

My wife, though, explained that keeping her maiden name would complicate things for us. For one, we had already decided that our children would bear my family name because her two brothers at the time already had five boys between them to carry on her family name (not to mention numerous cousins), while my brother and I were the last of our family line. Without having the same last name as her children, she feared that doctors or teachers or anyone else might think they weren’t her children.

Secondly, she argued, it would be much more difficult to change her name later if I changed my mind.

Third, she said no matter what her last name was, everyone would know who was really in charge (OK, she didn’t actually say that, but it’s true!).

I wouldn’t budge. This was my stand against convention! This was my Alamo! This was my bra burning feminist tirade (without the bra, of course)!

Seeing how determined I was, she decided to go along with it. We have had different last names ever since.

After 15 years of marriage, I have to admit that my wife was … right.

(Wow, that was painful to admit).

People don’t know how to address invitations to us. Our kids’ friends don’t know what to call my wife since they know our kids’ last name is “Watts” but don’t understand how or why their mom is not “Mrs. Watts.” Every call to customer service about a bill in her name is a hassle.

I had thought this would prove to others that we were equals in our marriage, but instead it has just left them confused.

What’s worse is that it has become exactly what my wife predicted: an unnecessary pain in the you-know-what.

Sometimes, I wish I could go back 15 years and tell that idealistic 21-year-old that some ideals are not worth it; that some do not turn out the way you think they will.

And that what was most important was how my wife and I treated each other inside our marriage, not what others on the outside might think.

Al Watts is the Vice-President of Daddyshome, Inc. – The National At-Home Dad Network and an at-home dad of four children living in west Omaha.

Photo credit anabelfarleyphotography/Flickr

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