The best of 2016: My daughter-in-law doesn’t want to carry on the family name

When our grandchild is born to our son and his partner, we naturally assume the baby will take the husband’s

When our grandchild is born to our son and his partner, we naturally assume the baby will take the husband’s surname. This is just tradition and many families do it and feel it’s right for them.

But this week, one of our reader Beth wrote in to ask for advice about her daughter-in-law who’s made a stand regarding her surname.

“Hi all. I have a brand new baby grandson but my daughter-in-law says he should have a different last name…namely hers. But both my husband and son want our new grandson to carry on the family name. It’s especially important to my father-in-law who fought in WWII. He’s elderly and you could see the disappointment when we told him the baby was taking the mum’s last name. I don’t know how to approach this subject with the new mum as all the certificates are lodged”.

What would you do?


This piece was originally published on Starts at 60 as ‘My daughter-in-law doesn’t want to carry on the family name’. It was one of our most popular contributions by the Starts at 60 community in 2016.

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  1. Annie  

    Selfish woman, only thinking if herself, & her ego!

    Years’ ago, & maybe still now, the only reason a baby had the mother’s surname was because it was illegitimate.

    This is going to cause many complications’ for this child, until he turns 18 to change his name by Deed Poll.

    A person can be known by any name, but when one has to start dealing with ‘legalities’, then he problems’ arise.

    The husband should put his foot down, well & truly with his selfish wife.
    It was obviously not discussed, by either of them, before they married.
    She probably thought he wouldn’t marry her if she’d told him what she wanted.

    What a deceitful woman.

    • David  

      So when a man and a woman get married and she keeps her maiden does that mean shes selfish as well as you put it

    • Carolyn Mash  

      I agree with you, she is selfish if this hasn’t been decided by both parents. She hasn’t considered how her husband or his family will feel. Presumably she has kept her maiden name as well, so ‘dad’ will be the only one in the family with his name? As for ”breaking tradition’ why do women even bother with the tradition of marriage if they don’t want to do it completely? Sorry but I think your son will become unimportant in this union if he doesn’t stand up to her about what HE wants, marriage is a partnership and important decisions should be jointly decided.

    • Diana swift  

      What a load of crock . How is she being selfish? How is she being deceitful ? What legalities will the child have to deal with? What century do you live I. To have such draconian attitudes. This is not about a woman wanting to keep her own name , it’s about making sure that women are kept subservient to men. His father fought in WW2! That’s emotive but what’s it got to do with the babies surname. Perhaps her grandfather also fought in the war . His contribution must be of lesser value I’m guessing. If this baby has been born into a loving and caring and supportive family then he will thrive. Don’t be such a goose!

      Here is a story that in some ways matches this one. Two people married but the women had a dog. The dog was a patient at a local vet. The couple went away for a weekend and asked his parents to house sit the dog. When they got there they collected the mail and found a letter from the vet addressed to to dog. The dog had the women’s surname. His patents were irate that the dogs surname hadn’t been changed since their marriage and promptly called the vet. How ridiculous to take such offence.

    • Faye Dapiran  

      How is she being selfish, perhaps it is really the mother who is selfish, it was not her decision to make. This is 2017, and I cannot see the problem. You can have either surname, or both, as many do these days. I have 2 daughters, one changed her surname and the other didn’t, so therefore one must be a bad person – how ridiculous. If he didn’t want to marry her because she didn’t want to change her surname [which of course he would have known], or the baby’s, which he probably knew too, but was too scared to tell his mother I would imagine – then I guess he didn’t love her in the first place. I have never heard such rubbish in my life – well of course I have at my age – but not for a long time. How ws she deceitful too by the way?

    • Loretta  

      The herstory of women is lost because of the practice of taking males are.
      This is actually 2017 not 1817.
      To my mind it is just as important for the mothers name to carry as the fathers.
      It can be a dilemma but lots have solved it with double bRrel names. Another I know named daughter with mothers name and son with fathers.
      The patriarchal system needs to be replaced with more equality.

    • John Thompson  

      When my wife and I got engaged 35 years ago she informed me that she was going to keep her surname. I completly understood as she said that all her degrees were in that name and she felt that she was a, (maiden name) and not my name. I had no problems with this and when we had our daughter we just hyphenated her surname. She is now 24 years old and has no problem with her last name. My father who is now 88 is really proud of his granddaughter and her name. I did say to my wife many years ago, ‘what happens if she finds a partner with a hyphened name. We decided that is was her problem not ours to which she completely agrees. 😎😎😎

    • It’s not a question of deceit, it’s a question of common sense. When dealing with government or other bureaucracies it will cause all sorts of problems. Especially where her marital status is relevant. I have a cousin who is in a battle with Centerlink because she kept her family name when she got married, Centerlink has decided based on her records that she is either legally separated or in a de-facto relationship with her husband. It’s even worse with the ATO. Some employee sees the surname in her records being different from her husband and “corrects” her marital status to unmarried/divorced/widowed… etc. But if your the kind of masochistic person who thrives on a life full of frustration, drama and stress, the kind of person who is only happy when they get a tax audit or have an insurance claim denied, go for it.

  2. Carmel  

    Why is she deceitful? I though deceit was when you went behind someone’s back to do something nefarious. She isn’t doing anything wrong it is her choice. Personally I can’t see the problem. What is wrong with a women wanting to have her name carried on. We seem to carry on traditions for no reason, just because that is the way it has been done forever. Good on her I say and I wish more women would do the same.


    • Ann Day  

      I fully agree. It is up to the parents, not the grandparents. they need to butt out and mind their own business, a name is just something you go by, not a description of you and who you are.

  3. Bev  

    My eldest daughter is not married to her partner they have 3 children together, she never considered NOT giving her 3 children their fathers name.

  4. Janice  

    I understand how you feel but the decision is not yours to make. It is between your son & daughter in law. As the papers have already been lodged the decision has been made. If you try to interfere it will only cause bad feelings between you & your daughter in law.

  5. Why shouldn’t the boy have his mums name I thought we had moved past this kind of 18th century thinking. If it was me I would have suggested both names,mums and dads

    • Faye Paull  

      Totally agree with you. And if papers have been lodged I would assume the father signed them. Really don’t understand what father-in-law’s war record has to do with anything.

  6. If she was so adamant about giving the baby her name, why could she not use her name and the fathers named, all she had to do was hyphenate it. Would that be such a problem then.

  7. doug  

    Deceitful and selfish? Who? Why should the child not have the maternal surname? Why should the mother’s wants be subservient to the grandmothers? The surname of the child does not in any way alter any genetic hierarchy. That being said I gotta admit it is ‘nice’ that the child has the father’s surname, it helps with some personal crisis following the divorce.

  8. My two grandchildren have their surnames hyphenated the parents are married my daughter hyphenated her surname too ,personally why does a woman have to give up her name on marriage ?

  9. Maureen L  

    It is time to throw out traditions that are not in line with present attitudes regarding equality. Women are no longer appendages to men. She has every right to keep her own name and give the baby her name. I am in my late 60s and to this day I regret not keeping my own name and I wish we had given a combination of our names to our four children. If surnames are hyphenated, female children carry on the maternal line and male children pass on the paternal name. That way both parent’s heritage is important. I married 37 years ago and I gave into my husband wishes to take his name. Today he agrees with me that the old paternal system is wrong and unfair to women.

  10. ANN McGovern  

    I remember not so long ago I received a letter addressed to Mrs Thomas McGovern. I was completely taken aback when I read the envelope because I knew the person sending it to me. I actually found it quite insulting that she would address me in this way, I am not my husband or a product of him. I think the daughter in law has every right to use her name. This father’s surname business was brought in by religious zealots to make women “know their place” and it went a long way towards marking a child for life if the father refused to give the child his name. In this day and age none of that matters but to insist the child have only the husband’s name is totally misogyny. When the child is older he/she can legally change their name to suite themselves.

    • Gwen Rhodes  

      It’s a personal choice – many women don’t take their husband’s name these days when they marry preferring to keep their own – as long as a child is loved and cared for it shouldn’t be an issue. Talk about traditions? well let them start their own traditions, the world won’t come to an end.

    • Gregory  

      …….’suite’…..odd wording; did u mean ‘suit’?

  11. Te Hau  

    It’s time to get over yourselves. Be happy that you have a grandchild.

  12. Nell Hamilton  

    Don’t approach it. Not your business. He may well get the other surname as a middle name.

    • Wendi nichols  

      Yes definitely
      I think the children should have their dads surname but their mums as s ‘middle’ name
      Hyphenation causes too many problems this is the best way to address the problem

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