As I have previously mentioned, Monkey has horrible acid reflux. We’ve gone through 4 prescriptions since the start of the year, and while it’s gotten better, we still haven’t found the perfect remedy. Needless to say, all of the medicine, plus a national shortage on sodium bicarbonate, has made me get to know my local pharmacy very well. They know me and Monkey by sight now. However, we always confuse them when we go to pick up a medicine. If it’s my prenatal vitamins, it’s under one last name, if it’s Monkey’s reflux meds it is under another, and then of course, Frog had strep throat a few months ago, and that’s under a third last name!
I envy the homes that can have a simple address stamp that reads “The Smith Family,” followed by the address. If we did ours, it would read something like: The Smith-Brown-Jones Family, and we always exceed the letter limit. It’s just not practical for us. Instead we have personal labels for Frog, and then a “Emily and MM” stamp for everyday use.
Last names are challenges for lots of families, but they are particularly challenging for stepfamilies. I have plenty of friends who have kept their maiden names, or hyphenated their names, or the whole family hyphenated the two names, etc. Those situations are somehow easier than what a stepfamily goes through. A lot of the name challenges that keeping a maiden name causes are by choice, but you are somewhat more restricted when remarrying with children.
When I got divorced, I had the ability to change my last name back to my maiden name. I didn’t do it though. I wanted to have the same last name as Frog. I wanted us still to be a family. He was starting school, and I didn’t want to confuse the teachers or the pediatrician’s office, etc. I figured that if I remarried, I would just change it again. When MM and I decided to get married, I didn’t quite know what to do. Do I take his last name, and leave Frog separate from us, and our future children? Do I keep my son’s last name, and not have the same name as my husband, but a previous husband? I didn’t really like either option, so I went back to my maiden name.
Believe it or not, switching back to my maiden name, from a previous married name, with a marriage certificate with a third last name, is quite a challenge. It took me 3 separate trips to the social security office! If you ever try to do this, be on the safe side, and take ever official document you have ever received, all marriage licenses, divorce decrees, birth certificates, etc. They might decide to ask for them!
Switching last names in the middle of Frog’s school career has been a challenge too. The teachers and my son’s friends don’t know what to call me. When I send emails out to parents, I now have to put my relationship in parentheses after my name, like this: (“Frog’s Mom”). This prevents people from writing back and saying, “Who exactly are you?” In fact, in my email signature, I have my maiden name, and Frog’s last name in the header. I figured that would cover all of the PTA/School/Sports related messaging I do, while clearly helping people know that I am now going by my maiden name.
Unfortunately, this past week, I realized that I had even a bigger problem. You might recall that little Monkey has just started preschool, two days a week. Well, neither of my names on my email account are Monkey’s last name. I was asked to help with a preschool fundraiser, and I replied back to the chair of the committee, answering her questions. She replied, and told me that she wasn’t sure who I belonged to, as neither of my last name options applied to any child on the school’s roster. Yes, it appears that I now need to have both of my children’s last names in my email signature! I replied with an emoticon, and told her that I was part of one of those wonderful modern families, where no one’s names really matched.
These families are more common than you think. Stepfamilies, or some variety of non-traditional family with children are no longer just the exception! To deal with these challenges, I know that modern stepfamilies are doing all sorts of things. I know a mom who hyphenated her last name, so that both sets of her children from both of her marriages had the same name as she did, at least in part. There are lots of variations out there, and none of them are right for everybody. Each family has to do what works best for them, but each family is just that—a family!
I don’t mind if you can’t figure it out, or if you are confused. It is confusing! I’d rather you just ask if it doesn’t make sense to you. I’m not embarrassed. I’m not ashamed. It’s not a hush-hush topic. I’m also not trying to be difficult or make things complicated for pediatricians, schools or other organizations. Nor, am I trying to make a political statements with confusing family name situation. It’s just how my family works!
Here’s the other thing that’s important to know, I’ll answer to whatever last name you pull out of the hat. Or Frog’s Mom. Or Monkey’s Mom. Or even, Hey You! But, I hope you won’t mind or be embarrassed if I tell what I’d like you to call me. (I’m happy for you to do the same!)
I’ve found the kids that know our family just roll with this oddity far better than adults. In fact, a lot of times, they don’t even bother with my last name, and just call me: Frog’s Mom. At the end of the day, that is what’s more important to me than having the same last name as my kiddo, making sure that everyone knows that he’s mine and I’m proud of him. Now that Monkey’s in school the same is true with him, just know that he belongs to me, and I belong to him, and we’re all good, no matter what last name you use!