On Not Knowing What I Should Do With My Name

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I can’t stop thinking about my name.

I’ve been Alice Harold for four years now but it has started to feel wrong that I still use the name of a man I am no longer married to. Changing it in the first place was kind of a big deal; my old surname, Judge-Talbot, was a really lovely one to grow up with (is that a weird thing to say?) and I was quite sad to lose it. The traditionalist in me wanted to take on my husband’s name though, and I know he was keen for me to become a Harold. But I think the fact I never got round to changing my name on my passport and driving license says a lot.

I’m left feeling like a bit of an imposter. Although my ex-husband and I have two beautiful children together we are no longer a family and shouldn’t my name reflect my newfound independence and life?

One small stumbling block is of course Elfie and Hux. They will always have their father’s surname, no matter what mine is, and this is where some people seem to feel uncomfortable (mum, I’m looking at you. Not in a bad way, but I am). There seems to be concern over how I/they will feel when they start school and we have different surnames. But for me this isn’t really an issue; for one, there are plenty of women who don’t change their name upon getting married these days. There are also lots of women in the same boat as me who may have reverted to their maiden names. And crucially it doesn’t make them any less my children, or means I love them any less, so why is it an issue? I think Hux’s eyes and Elfie’s bossiness will always make it clear they are mine and no-one elses.

Adding my double barrelled surname to Harold and forcing them to go through life triple barrelled is not something I want to do, but maybe I could gift them one of my surnames so both my ex-husband and I are represented? Talbot-Harold is a pretty nice surname if I do say so myself and as the primary parent I feel justified in really wanting a part of me to be represented in their name.

Another issue I’ve been pondering is my work persona. I’m Alice Harold in my professional life, it’s my email address, Instagram and Twitter handle, it’s what people know me as and it’d be a pain in the arse to email every single person I’ve dealt with in the last four years to say hey, I’m changing my name again, but no need to send congratulations this time OK? Admittedly I’ve purchased alicejt.com and still own my old alicejt@gmail.com address but just can’t seem to make the commitment to go back to my name-roots.

What would you do?

 

44 Comments
  1. It depends on what you’ve built around your married name. When Tina Turner divorced Ike the only thing she asked for in the settlement was to keep and perform under the name Turner because it was her brand now as well as her name.

    But by the sounds of things you want to revert to your maiden name, and I think you should – it’s a great name!

    1. Unfortunately I don’t have a brand like Tina Turner… just an email address ;) But I suppose I could look at it like I’m changing jobs. I’d have to get a new email address then and it’s never as much as a pain as you think it’s going to be.

  2. You know what I think… change it. J-T is an awesome surname and as I said the other day, who introduces themselves at the school gates with their whole families full names? Maybe I’m biased because me and the girls have different surnames (and the chances of them becoming the same anytime soon are getting slimmer and slimmer) but I honestly think that this is something for you, as a person and not as a Mum. If you’re ever to get married again the chances are your name will change anyway… just do it!

  3. You should do what makes you, personally, fell most comfortable. If you ‘feel like an imposter’ (to use your words) using Harold, a name you only had for four years, and are still drawn to the JT you grew up with, then I’d go with those feelings and change it. As for the kids, yeah, it’s a bit of a pain to have a different surname (my situ) but no more than that. You (and they) will be in good company. Modern families outnumber traditional ones these days, it seems….Twitter, etc are easy changes in the grand scheme of things, and shouldn’t be primary concern? Good luck!

  4. I’m changing mine by deed poll, which is what you need to do if post-divorce you want to go back to using your unmarried name. It’s not as complicated or expensive as I thought, here is the form and information on it: http://www.ukdps.co.uk/

    I won’t be keeping my married name. I don’t like seeing it at work and on Facebook and Twitter I use my former, unmarried one. However, this doesn’t feel right at all for some reason. In the interests of looking forward, I’m changing my surname to something totally different. Watch this space (It MIGHT be Brody. Who knows?!)

    1. Do you need to have a deed poll if you never changed your ID documents? I guess your bank account perhaps might need it, but if your key ID documents remain in your maiden name, it would seem pretty easy to just revert to your maiden name.

      So far as whether you should or not, only you can decide. Given how many women never change their name at marriage anyway, I don’t think you will receive any judgement from our generation. Good luck with the choice though, these things often suddenly have a way of making sense.

      1. on the subject of changing to a different double-barrelled name, you could do that by deed poll for you and the kids, but you would need their Dad’s consent has he has parental responsibility. Not saying he wouldn’t give it, but you would need him to sign an additional form saying he consents.

        1. I agree with you Laura – the only thing you might have a problem with is if you changed, say, your bank accounts to your married name, you might need evidence of returning to your maiden name – a decree absolute for example is sufficient I think, but a deed poll does get round the problem without having to either have the decree absolute or reveal your reasoning to the bank (or wherever).

  5. When I got married I changed my name over, but as it was an English name it didn’t sound right at all next to my Indian first name. I tried it out for a year but it didn’t stick, so I changed it back.

    Maybe before the kids are at school change it over to your maiden name or a mixture and see how it works for you? Nothing wrong with testing it out – paperwork is a bit of a nightmare but its worth it.

    I’m glad I gave it a go to see how I really felt.

    And your emails, you can forward aliceharold@ to your new alicejt@ and so people can still email you, and then phase it over to your new one eventually.

    x

  6. I went through the same problem after myself and my husband broke up. I hated the thought of having his name but I hated the thought of having a different name to the children. I had to go back to my maiden name though, I felt like I needed to break away from the marriage in every sense. To be honest it hasn’t been to bad having a different name to the boys. The first time I wrote my name on their prescription however was hard but I think that was because it was all a little raw for me. Now we are happy to be the Richman/Davies house hold and it kind of just feels like a double barrelled name.

    I hope it all works out for you.

  7. Actually Alice J-T I think you should do whatever makes you happy. It won’t change any of the important things in the children’s lives. If you have given it thought and that’s what you want, (not that I’m saying you have a tendency to impulsiveness) it doesn’t matter a jot what anyone else thinks or says. My initial reactions may have been somewhat old fashioned, I’ve no idea why ’cause I’m such a young, forward thinking sort of Grannie (he he).

  8. Leave the kids names change yours back. BAM! It’s no biggy them having your husband’s surname. Altho the double-barrelled thing totally works too.

    (My mum’s weird on this issue too. She address my post to my non-existent married name, altho I didn’t take my husband’s name. Which winds me up, admittedly more than it probably should. ;p)

  9. Do you remember that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie marries herself? You could marry your old self and Talbot-Harold is indeed very pretty. Plus you could throw a little party.

    I am Spanish (as you know) and I didn’t change my surname, I can’t change my surname, Spanish law doesn’t allow it. Spanish women don’t change their surname when they get married. There isn’t such a thing as a maiden name. In fact we all have two surnames: the first one is our father’s first surname and the second one our mother’s second surname. Apart from those who have double barrels which in many cases are quadruple barrels if both their parents had double barrel surnames.

    My daughter has been learning that she has a name, a middle name and a surname. We haven’t told her about the second surname (but we made a point of registering her with it) yet so not to confuse her, my surname is a bit of a mouthful so for day to day things, like nursery and the NHS, I drop it. She has decided that I am Mami X (insert my husband’s surname). Which is fine, I use Mrs X for appointments and the like.

    To be honest when I got married at 35 it was ok with me to keep my identity (and it is my business name too) but I know who I am: I am Mami S. No, I am Maria Feisty Tapas. Oh who knows anymore.

    At the end of the day, as you say, things are changing! If you like who you are, don’t change it. I like you as you are.

  10. People will adjust to a new name, even professionally (my manager’s built a whole brand around her original surname but happily jettisoned it as soon as she married – she changed her Twitter handle the same day!). If that’s what’s holding you back, don’t let it.

    There are also members of my family that don’t have the same name as one of their parents. Thus far they’ve survived admirably, with no sign of scarring. Or, you know, caring. (Yes, I’d worry about it too in your shoes, but that’s because I’m foolishly paranoiac about every decision I make and how it affects Ramona; from the outside I can tell you I cannot see it being an issue.)

    Who are you? Are you Alice Harold or Alice Judge-Talbot? Which feels more like you being in your own skin? Basically: what makes you happy? Go with that.

  11. I really don’t like my married name, and don’t like using it…. all the repeats, incorrect pronunciations annoy me more and more and more each day, and to be honest, I really regret taking it. (Its Utting, by the way. From my classic previous surname- Blake. Yes, I see you wincing. How to pronounce? Rhymes with ‘Putting’ like in golf. Putting Green. eugh.)

    However, the reason I (begrudgingly) took in the the first place, is that I felt me and my (future) children should be united by name… Growing up, my mum didn’t change her name back following her divorce, and referred to us as ‘the three Blake girls’ all in it together, a team. I’m not saying we would have been any less a team if she had changed her name, but I felt a certain sense of belonging all having the same, and was/am really sad to be the first one of the three to deviate from the Blake name, and leave it behind.

    That said, if you want to change it, then do. And if you keep thinking about it, then you probably should. What you have built up on your name has been in 4 short years, compared to the rest of your life with whatever you choose (unless/when you re-marry….!) :)

    xxxx

  12. Yes, go with what makes you happy….. Although, my two cents:
    I like the suggestion above of you adding Talbot to Harold, like you pondered with the kids. Then all three would be Talbot Harold. You are a new YOU, but it reflects all the beauty and importance of everything that has happened to you, including your childhood and first marriage. (I have a kind of “No regrets” life philosophy.)

    I also reckon it sounds ace :)

  13. I guess for me it depends on how I felt about the name. I’ve been married for 10 years now and it is who I am, I don’t want to go back as the old name is an old me, so if we were to divorce it wouldn’t stop me being me. I can see how that is different for you though because I have changed everything (including my son’s name from a previous relationship). My mom married 3 times and I kept my dad’s name. I was the only one in our house to have a different name (my half-brother’s dad was not around so was changed when she married again but not mine) and I never felt I fitted in. This is why I decided to change my son’s.

    I think whatever you do decide is what feels right for you, and not what other people tell you is right, or try and make you feel. Don’t justify it, just do what is in your heart. Best of luck with your decision.

  14. When I divorced I kept my married name until I got married again. This was purely for work purposes, I had been known by that name for 8 years and had built my career under that name. I didn’t want to miss out on work opportunities because I no-one knew who I was.
    Locally I had always been known by my maiden name ( and still am by a lot of people)
    When I married again I took my Husbands name etc but was no longer in my previous career so there wasn’t as many implications.
    Kyle has his fathers surname and when we travel abroad I have to take my marriage certificate with me to show that he is mine.
    Either way you have to do what feels right for you xx

  15. When a woman gets married in Italy she keeps her maiden name and it is perfectly normal for children to grow up knowing their mum has kept her family name. So when I married my Italian I remained with my Irish difficult-to-pronounce Whooley, I was pretty gutted about as I was hoping for a pronouncable name at long last!

    I’m sure there are plenty of other countries who do the same so if you really really want to change your name, do it.
    My mum did after her divorce with dad and she was very pleased to have made that decision. It never ever once affected me or my brothers.
    There that’s my tuppence on the subject ;) xx

  16. Well, in Italy women don’t change their surnames anymore after getting married. You have a different space in your id where you can (or can not) write your husband’s surname. And you can’t even change your sons family name after you registered them at birth. This just to say that to me it doesn’t sound strange at all if you have a different surname from your children :)
    I think it’s not right to keep your husband’s name, since you are no longer married, but I see your concern. Did you talk about this issue with him? Is it something you two can discuss?
    Anyway, keep the new website and the new email, and keep thinking about this. Maybe you’ll wake up next week thinking it’s not at all bad to change your name back. ;)

  17. I can’t say if I would stay true to this because I’m not divorced, but if Julian and I were to get divorced I think I’d keep his name. For a few reasons:

    a) Ingram goes better with my first name.

    b) People were completely unable to get that my previous surname didn’t have a ‘W’ in it (Eastick… “like the witches?” NO!) – it was annoying to constantly have to spell it out.

    c) It isn’t my biological grandfather’s surname but my step-grandfather’s, who died when I was little. My biological grandfather wasn’t a nice man so my dad decided to change his name when he was 18. But he doesn’t have links with his step-dad’s family and nor do I. As such I have grown up feeling “it’s just a name”.

    d) I wouldn’t like to have a different surname from Caspar, especially as if I got divorced tomorrow (tempting sometimes) I would be his primary carer and so it would be just me and him, both with different names. I don’t know why it feels different, somehow, to me, if there is more than one child in their primary home with a different surname to their primary carer – at least they still have the same surname as each other.

    That said, I don’t know if I’d want to change my name again if I remarried. I think I’d go down the same route as Ruth, pick myself an entirely new one and get Julian’s consent to double-barrel it with Ingram for Caspar.

    Would you change yours again if you got remarried? I think that’s quite an important thing to consider. I think if you change back and are definitely keep it despite remarriage, I would certainly be inclined to give the children one of your names. That way you could do the same with any future babies (hold up!) and they would all have that link.

  18. Names are such an emotive thing aren’t they? I changed my name when I got married, but I still use my maiden name for work. Hence, all my portfolio and demos have “Molly Forbes” on them, so it’s like I haven’t really given up my old name. It’s funny, because my 3yo always says “You’re Molly Forbes when you go to work Mummy!” I think you will come to the best decision for you and your kids naturally – sounds like you already have to be honest. As with everything, only you can know the answer – if it feels right then it is right. x

  19. I would keep Harold. It’s part of who you are, whether you are still with your husband or not. Plus it’s such a hassle to change it back!

  20. Echoing others above, I would do what YOU feel most comfortable with, and screw what others think, or how you think others will perceive you. I’ll be extremely unhelpful here, and sit on the fence somewhat- I totally see why you would want to change, as 4 years is a small part of your life (and future life/possible relationships), BUT having a different surname from the kids can sometimes be a ballache when it comes to some official things. The kids have Adam’s surname (we’re not married), and when it comes to filling in paperwork/signing them up to stuff I have to fill out more blurb proving that i’m their mother, which I find a little irritating. I’m in the process of filling out their passport application forms, and since we’re not married AND both born after 1982 AND we have different surnames, we have to present all manner of info just to send the bloody things off. Either way, once you’ve made a decision, I bet you’ll feel a great weight lifted from your shoulders! Let us know what you decide!

  21. When I got divorced I kept my married name because I liked it more than my maiden name, and that is the only reason I kept it.

    When I got remarried I took my new/current husband’s surname. The child we had together always had his surname. The two children I had with my ex husband kept his surname until one day they asked if they could change it so that we all shared the same surname. We were more than happy to do this. They also wanted to keep a link to their father’s surname so we had that added as a middle name for them.

    We did what worked for us. We were really, really happy when the girls decided that they wanted to ‘officially’ take on the family name and we were delighted that they chose it for themselves.

  22. In Spain women don´t change surname when marry. I think is important to keep ours because is a piece of our personality, as we were born and grow.

  23. I am married but i have kept my own name,my husband has his name and the kids have my name,i dont see why children automatically get the dads name?i would of been happy with a double barrell but husband hates them and said he would rather they just had mine,hes not old fashioned.

    As for your name,i can see why you want to keep your married name because of the kids,just do what feels right for you.

  24. I think if I were in the same situation, I would most likely feel compelled to change my name as part of my moving on from my marriage and I think I would feel strange having my husband’s name if we weren’t together any more but I would also feel sad at not having the same name as my kids. I think you’ve got it right to go back to J-T (awesome name by the way) and have the kids double-barrelled as T-H… like it xx

  25. I am both a mother with a different name to my daughter (she has my boyfriend’s surname) and the daughter of divorced parents whose mother took on her new husband’s name.

    As a mother, I would have liked her to have my name too, but post partum exhaustion meant I caved very easily in the disagreement with my other half! Day to day it doesn’t affect us in the slightest and I don’t mind too much. But this isn’t the decision I would have made because…

    As a twelve year old girl whose mum was remarrying, iwas absolutely gutted to not have the same name as my mum. So much so that as soon as we were old enough my brother, sister and I all changed our names by deed poll to reflect both my fathers and mothers names (she double barrelled her maiden name with her new married name as well). So, in longgggg conclusion… had my daughter’s name been solely my decision, she would have my name too simply because of just how much I hated hated hated the feeling of not having the same name as my mum when I was little. I desperately wanted that connection with her, especially when stepbrothers and sisters came into the mix and it was hard hearing her have the same name as them and not me & my siblings. Thinking of your possible future family set up: stepdad/step siblings/new baby… Perhaps you should consider giving the kids Talbot-Harold, if your ex is open to it. I know that’s what I wanted as a girl xx

  26. I’m keeping my name as I get married (I like it), but it sounds like you’ve made your decision in your heart. If you want to go back to your maiden name, do it! It’s not like your kids will forget who you are!

    But other commentators have made a good point – will you change it again if you remarry? Might be worth thinking about!

  27. I’ve wanted to comment on this for ages, even though I now know the outcome. My parents split nearly ten years ago and they’re not divorced (“haven’t got round to it” / “it’s too expensive”) and my mum has kept my dad’s name all this time despite them both very, very happily living with other people. Even though I’m 24, I hate the thought of my mum and I not having the same name and I like the fact she kind of kept it for me. When I get married, I’ll take my husband’s name and I think it’ll be a whole crazy ballpark because my mum will have no reason to keep my dad’s last name but, equally, would have had it for 30 years.

    Who knew names could be so complicated, eh?

    PS/ I think you made the best, most awesome decision :)

  28. Wonderful blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused ..
    Any suggestions? Thanks a lot!

  29. I’ve come very late to this “Name” party but I just wanted to add my bit. I have kept my married name as I want my children to have the same name as their mummy. Call me old-fashioned but I still refer to myself as Mrs anyway. I really like my married name and as it’s Greek, it is often noted and commented on.
    My ex and I are amicably divorced, he has a lovely girlfriend and I am single (dating) but am really happy that I kept the name I married into. I guess it has much to do with the feelings associated with the marriage. Mine was generally a good one, in spite of a couple of fundamental issues.
    love your blog and am inspired….
    Joanna

    1. That was my battle Joanna – but in the end I’d only been married a couple of years and I just couldn’t leave my old name behind forever. I find it so interesting how women feel differently about these things! My ex husband has consented to having the children’s names double barrelled to incorporate mine, now it’s just a case of deciding which of my names I’d like to include ;)

  30. Hey hey :)
    I’m totally with you on this one.
    I grew up with a double barrelled name and adopted his when we married.
    Keeping his name makes me feel – oddly – like property, BUT I’ve built a business in my married name which is my trading name.
    So in my personal life I’ve gone back to my maiden name of Lloyd-Jones and the nippers have the hybrid of Lloyd-Turnbull as I also felt uneasy with them dropping his name altogether

    1. I love to hear others stories of their names!

      My ex has agreed to let my two have a mixture of our both so I’m going to figure out which of them I want to give. I was only married for a couple of years (and was on maternity leave for a couple of these) so always felt a stronger connection to my maiden name. I think if I got married again I’d keep the maiden name for work and adopt the married name for bills ;)

      Are you a LLJ? That’s very catchy: I love being AJT to my friends! Ax

      1. Even better – I’m Lucinda Jane so LJLJ. So at school I was called LJsquared or LLcoolJ (kinda showing my age there) :)

        I was surprisingly happy to go back to my name. It was like going home and finding old slippers you used to love but had forgotten about.
        I did chuckle at how may people commented on how they loved my new name and asked how I chose it.
        ‘Um – it’s my NAME?’ Lx

        1. LLcoolJ? I think I’m in love!

          My favourite thing was returning to my old (massive) signature. Oh, and making people feel uncomfortable when they enquired about my name change. “How lovely, have you just got married?”
          “No, divorced”.
          I don’t know why that gave me so much pleasure!!

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