Notes From a Single Mom: Name Dropper—Keep the Married Name or Change it?

Lynn Armitage

I never really liked my maiden name: Overman, a German derivation I always had a hard time pronouncing. Kids always teased me: “Hey, Underwoman, do you like being ‘over man?’” It made for good playground banter, I suppose. I would have rather inherited my paternal grandmother’s name, the Native American: King. Easy to pronounce. One syllable. Regal.

So when I got married, I was secretly thrilled about ditching the old name and moving up in the alphabet, from “O” to “A.” I like being first (who doesn’t?), and my married name allowed me to be Numero Uno in many alphabetic situations. Besides, “Armitage” has a nice ring to it.

So when the ex asked me to give his name back, it threw me. He got remarried and now there are two Mrs. Armitages. I understand his point of view, truly I do. Through marriage, he has given his name to two different women. On paper, it looks like polygamy. And since I’m no longer married to him, why should I be allowed to keep his last name, right?

Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. See, my name has been my identity for many years. As a writer, it’s also my established byline. After carrying around this legal appendage for so long, “Lynn” has grown quite attached to the name that follows it. Giving “Armitage” back would be like losing a limb. Or, like returning a wedding gift so many years later. It just wouldn’t be right.

But being the curious sort, I looked into it. Apparently, people change their names all the time. According to the Name Change Law Center, there are more than 3 million name changes every year in this country. For under $200, you can do it yourself, without a lawyer. Simply go online and type in “name change kit” to access plenty of resources.

My children’s stepmother has decided to play a different name game altogether. She has asked them to call her “mom.” That just burned me. First, the latest Mrs. Armitage wants to strip me of my last name. Then she wants to share a coveted title she’s never earned. OK, now she’s trespassing. Thankfully, my oldest daughter said, “I feel funny about that. It doesn’t sound right to call her ‘mom.’”

And that’s exactly it. The real reason I’ve decided to keep my married name is because it’s my children’s name, period. I’m their mother, nobody else. We share a bloodline, living space and an impenetrable bond. It’s only right we share the same last name. Besides, it would be too confusing to have different last names—on paper, in school, in social situations. I don’t want them having to explain our divorce for the rest of their lives.

So Armitage it is, and Armitage it will stay. And while anyone can call me “Lynn” if they like, there are only two people in the whole world who can call me, and no one else, “Mom.”

Freelance writer Lynn Armitage is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. Her husband isn’t around anymore. But his last name is.

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arw00's picture
Submitted by arw00 on
dont waste yer time with the online kits. go to the courthouse and see the county clerk. he will give you what you need and the instructions.My lawyer told me $1500 and 4 months. I did it myself for $100 and took me 2 weeks

lkg1965's picture
Submitted by lkg1965 on
I didn't change my name when I got married in the first place. It wasn't confusing to anybody. And when I ultimately was divorced, there was no issue about dropping. Though I would have immediately. And my daughter, who unfortunately has her dad's name, has never had a problem with any of it (she's 14). I always wonder when I hear women say it's confusing or that they're keeping a name to have the same name as their children, if they'd change again were they to remarry. Interesting conversation - thanks.

joraestev's picture
Submitted by joraestev on
I am a first time married woman to a first time married man. I have always joked with my husband that if we get divorced I would keep his name. Honestly I wouldn't though. For one I would want to move on and find a companion, no man is going to take a woman seriously when she holds another mans name. Second I would do as little as possible to upset my husband and his new lady because I understand how simple fights like that upset children and make a home unpleasant. I have two children who hold my married name, and two that hold my maiden name. I would easily take my maiden and I am sure that it would affect my children for as long as my first name change affected my first born. It didn't, he mentioned we won't have the same last name anymore and that was that. As a writer and a professional - people change their names every day and I am sure your fan base would follow you by any name. I think when people leave relationships they will use anything to stay connected to that relationship and offer excuses to justify that behavior. If you cannot move on, you should just admit it and deal with it. Not in a mean manner at all, but as a woman who is generally concerned for women in general. Today we have many women who handle failed relationships in an unhealthy manner. I think it is not only unhealthy of you to keep your married name it also sound like someone who is pulling at strings. I wish you the best and remember your children will learn how to let go in a healthy manner from you, their Mom. There will be a day that they will have failed relationships and you would want your daughter to move on and you would want any woman to move on from your son. Everyone deserves a fresh start and so do you!:)