Why don't more families give their children the mother's surname?

Only 4% of couples opt to give their baby the mother’s surname [Photo:
joel carter via Pexels]

Choosing a baby name for your little one is up there with life’s tricky decisions. And that’s before you’ve even given thought to the surname your baby will take.

Deciding which last name to give your child can be even tougher, especially if you and your partner don’t share a family name.

For many couples it goes without saying that the baby will take the surname of the father. A recent survey by BabyCenter revealed that 18% of mums have a different last name to their partner and children.

But though it works for some, not everyone is happy with this arrangement and the same survey revealed that half of mums with a different last name than their child and partner say they’re not entirely happy with the choice because they feel left out.

So why don’t more parents choose to give their children the mother’s surname?

According to BabyCentre, only 4% of families give children the mum’s last name. But that isn’t the same all over the world. In the Netherlands, the woman’s name is used before a man claims fatherhood. And both the father and mothers’ surnames are passed on in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries (although the dad’s name is more often used day-to-day.)

It’s likely tradition plays a huge role in the whole dad-centric surname thing. Many parents opt to give the baby the father’s second name simply because that’s the done thing.

But women are bucking tradition when it comes to taking their husbands survey when they marry. According to a Google consumer survey approximately 20% of women keep their own names when they marry.

So why then, when a baby joins the family, is he/she usually automatically given the father’s surname?

Why don’t more couples choose to give their baby the mother’s surname? [Photo: Unsplash via Pexels]

No doubt for many families adopting the dad’s second name is the easy option. Far less complicated for everyone to have the same surname.

But could there be something else at play? According to some experts automatically adopting the dad’s surname could be more to do with identity.

“We have a long history of names representing ownership,” Kasey Edwards, best-selling author of Guilt Trip, told Ozy.com. She believes that this ownership-based convention is something parents often just default to and is an indication of “just how deeply the idea of male ownership of women is entrenched in our culture.”

So what’s the solution? For two percent of families in the BabyCenter survey children were given both parents’ last names, either linked with a hyphen or not, with some parents feeling this offered the best of both worlds.

But if you really want to offer a statement of intent to your little one about living in a slightly less patriarchal world, then perhaps it’s time to channel the royal family.

Early in their marriage Queen Elizabeth II reportedly decided that the children she had with Prince Philip should bear her surname (Windsor) and not his (Mountbatten). Philip might not have been entirely happy with the arrangement if accounts in a biography are to be believed, but regardless it has set a precedent for other families to follow suit and allow their children to take the mother’s surname.

And if it’s good enough for Her Maj…

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