March 10, 2008

What's in a name?

There are many option afforded to women in today's world and we have come a long way! Women have many choices that they did not have sometime ago. Women can choose to work, women can choose to vote, women can choose to have a child, women can choose not to take the surname of their husband. The decision of whether or not to change your name after marriage can be a difficult one. There is no right or wrong, just deciding what is best for you. I don't know if as many women struggle through this decision as I did and I am fortunate that I have this decision to make and that it is not one that is dictated to me. However, the process of making the decision was a difficult one.

I contemplated this decision during our entire engagement (over a year!). On the one hand, the traditional part of me wanted to take my husband's surname. I liked the idea of taking his name and making us appear more united and more like a family. I realize that a common surname does not make us a family nor does it make us more married by any means. What a family is goes beyond a surname and family can be defined in so many different ways. So was that enough of a reason to change my name?

Because I knew that we would be a family no matter what surname I chose, I also wanted to keep my maiden name. I love my maiden name and I had that name for over 30 years! I worked very hard under my maiden name to gain my professional degree and publish papers. In addition, being an Asian woman marrying a White man I liked how my maiden name kept me tied to my culture. But my maiden name did not define me professionally or culturally, I am who I am no matter what my last name is. So was that enough of a reason to keep my name?

Luckily, Mr. Bear was supportive of what ever decision I made and didn't have a preference one way or another. He even thought that I should keep my maiden name for professional purposes. So basically, he was no help! It was all up to me to make this decision (As I guess it should be).

What really made the difference in my decision making process was my father-in-law. I don't think he knows that he was instrumental in my decision and he had no idea that I was struggling through this decision in the first place. A few days before the wedding, we were sitting on the porch and he said (unknowing of my uncertainty) that it was going to be nice to have a Mrs. Bear in the family again, we hadn't had a Mrs. Bear since his mother (Mr. Bear's grandmother) passed away several years ago. My father-in-law is not married and he has two sisters who have long since taken the surnames of their husbands. His comment was really meaningful to me and something I had not even thought about. Even though I knew that if I had told him I was not going to change my name that he would have been fine and supportive, it was at that moment that I decided to take my husband's surname.

I did, however, keep my maiden name as part of my full legal name, and I do use it professionally, but legally I have taken my husband's name. It does make for a long name, but I am really happy with the decision I made. I like that I have retain my maiden name so that it is always a part of me and I like that I have taken my husband's name so that there is now a Mrs. Bear in the world again. It was definitely the best decision for me and for my family. In fact, I also changed Chase Monster's last name at the vet too! Chase also keeps my maiden name as part of his full name. :)



  1. Glad you found a good sense of balance! It's a nice compromise between your own identity, and your, now, married identity.

  2. You are difinitely not the first to go through this. This was a very hard decision for me too. Glad you found an answer that works for you! :)

  3. I'm glad that I'm not the only person who has had a struggle with this. I'm still undecided but I may take a page from your book and and his name to mine. Thanks!

  4. It's nice to know that other women have struggled with the dilemma. We decided to both change our names. What a pain in the ass that whole process has been, but I don't regret it. Then again, I haven't been able to change my name either.