Even though we are not legally married, my partner and I often refer to each other as husband or wife. We never correct new friends or co-workers when they assume that a couple with a child and a mortgage payment would be a legally married couple. For all intentions and purposes, we are married. We just chose to not get legally married.
As a career woman, those who assume that we are married don’t think twice about me having my “maiden name.” And that’s okay. I don’t mind when people assume we are married. I don’t mind being called a wife. I love Neville as a wife loves her husband.
But there is one part of this whole “married, but unmarried” lifestyle that I never considered. What will I choose to be called as a mother?
Our son has his father’s last name just as I have my father’s last name. But since Neville and I aren’t married, I wonder what I am supposed to be called?
Am I Ms. Roark? Miss Roark? Mrs. Roark? Mrs. <insert Neville’s last name here>?
The first time my pediatrician called to check on our newborn son, he asked for “Mrs. <Neville’s Last Name>.” Without skipping a beat, I told him he had the wrong number and hung up. I didn’t even think that the person on the other line could be looking for me. And boy was it embarrassing to have to pick up the phone a minute later and talk to a flustered doc who probably thought this new mother was crazy.
With my godson and goddaughter, I have always been Auntie Robyn. After some negotiating with the pediatrician, I am Mrs. <Neville’s Last Name>. At work… well, who calls anybody by anything other than a first name at work these days?
And for those of you who think that children no longer need to use the formal Mr/Miss/Ms/Mrs anymore, just this week I’ve been called with a Miss or Mrs in by five separate families. I have his kindergarten teachers thoroughly confused. I sign everything with my legal name. But then I told all the kids to call me Mrs. <Neville’s Last Name>. I thought it would be easier for the kids to call me the same name that they use for Darius.
Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon for women to keep their maiden name when they do get married. Even if Neville and I had chosen a traditional path, I still would have kept my last name. It’s my name. It’s a part of my identity. And, yes, the feminist in me thinks the whole name-changing thing is stupid when you consider the origins of the tradition.
So even if we were married, I still would be struggling with my formal name.
When I hung out with a mom-friend this week, her daughter kept calling me “Darius’ Mom.” I’m thinking that’s what I’ll stick with until I figure this whole thing out.
Photo credit: Ana Garza