Dear Amy: My brother and his wife are expecting a third child.
My sister-in-law is pushing to have the baby use her last name because her side of the family doesn’t have any males to carry on the name.
This has caused a huge rift in our family. My older parents are heartbroken.
I would like to know, is it an accepted social practice to have different last names within the same family? Would not having the same last name as siblings cause any negative emotional impact to this third child?
What would be a compromise in this situation? I am thinking of suggesting a hyphenated name (her last name, his last name). What do you think?
Thank you for your wise advice.
Dear Sister: My first piece of advice is for all of you to remember that this baby has two parents who are making decisions regarding their children. This is their issue (not yours), and the best thing you could do is to urge your brother and his wife to deal with your parents.
You could influence your parents by encouraging them to accept this family’s choice with equanimity.
Many families sport various last names within the family unit. (In my family of five daughters, there are four different surnames.) Rarely, families choose to divide the spouses’ surnames between children; and this can cause paperwork hassles and some issues when traveling as a family, but you should assume that your brother and his wife are anticipating this.
Hyphenating one child’s name when the other children don’t have a hyphenated last name seems more cumbersome than giving the child the mother’s surname – nor would it cut down on the questions or explanations as the child moves through life.
Children can adjust to this quite easily: “Two of us have our dad’s last name and our baby sister has mom’s last name,” is all the explanation they need to give.
Dear Amy: My husband and I are having marital problems. He’s abusive, controlling and has cheated on me at least five times. He takes any money I get, and doesn’t cook or help with our daughter. He is an alcoholic.
I want things to work out, but he doesn’t make any effort. I love him so much. I don’t want to lose him. He is the love of my life. I’ve been with him since I was 17 and I’m going to be 21 at the end of the month.
I don’t know whether to try and save my marriage, because he hasn’t changed. He keeps saying he will, but doesn’t. I’m a stay-at-home mom. I don’t know what I’d do without him. He doesn’t want to go to marriage counseling because he says it doesn’t work.
I’d be devastated if we fell apart. He isn’t only my husband but my best friend and my other half, all wrapped up in one. I don’t think he understands that.
What do I do?
Dear Sad: It is a shame that you love your husband more than you seem to love yourself, or value your daughter’s future. Because raising a child in a household with abuse, drinking and cheating will teach her that this is OK. If she thinks that this is OK, then she might choose this for herself, some day. I hope you want a better life for her.
You describe your husband as your best friend. But is this how friends treat one another? No.
You are young. You are still maturing into your own adulthood. The journey toward your own healthier future will start with you learning how to love and value your own life. I hope you have people in your corner who will help you to see your strengths.
You should assume that your husband will not change. You are capable of change, however, and you need to. Change starts with one step, and counseling (for yourself) could help you to take that first step.
Dear Amy: “Waiting” described her relationship of 10 years. She said she was 28 and her boyfriend, 26. You said, “You have been in this relationship for almost half your life.” Why didn’t you point out that this duration was almost half of HIS life?
Do the math, lady.
Dear Uninspired: He didn’t write to me. She did. But I also realize that I didn’t describe the math correctly (nor did you). I should have referred to this as “almost a third” of her life.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.