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Husband gives baby wife’s surname

27 October 2014, 08:19 Sipho Yanamo

“Hey, do you want her to have your last name?” a husband recently asked his expecting wife. The wife readily agreed to give their unborn child her maiden name which she had kept after their marriage. Unfortunately the husband’s parents did not share the same sentiments.

The expectant mother wrote to Slate’s Agony aunt Dear Prudence: “It turns out they’ve  (in-laws) always been offended that I kept my own name, they think I’m too bossy, they think I wear the pants in the family—his father actually said, “You better get that wife of yours in line.””

I’d expect the same reaction from my parents if I ‘loaned’ my child to my wife’s family by letting my wife give our child her family name. Coming from an African background I can imagine neighbourhood gossips whispering after me, “He’s the man who gave away his child. That wife of his probably cast a strong spell on him. Never trust those beautiful women. They control too much. He’s a fool to give up the right to name his own child. He needs a witchdoctor with strong medicine to fix him.”

But what’s surprising is that some of the men who may scoff at such an arrangement have kids out of wedlock who they probably refused to give their names or take care of, which is something worse.

When I asked a few close male friends and acquaintances if they would give their children their wives surnames most said, “Are you crazy?” One father said to me, “After paying that much lobola (bride price) do you think I’d let my wife’s family have my children too? Over my dead body!”  
There is a feeling, among the fathers in my circles, that they own the children, hence the zero chances of giving their children the wife’s family surname.  However, they don’t have these same feelings when the child is born out of wedlock and stays with the mother. Some dads will only demand that their child get their surname after being forced to pay child support.

But then, what could motivate some parents to go against the social norm of naming their child after the wife’s family name? The letter writer mentioned earlier gave her reasons: “My last name is very uncommon, and my dad and I are the only two people in my family lineage who still have it. My husband has six brothers who have all prolifically produced sons with his family’s last name.”

Couples who go this unusual route usually quote their wish to continue the wife’s family name as one of the main reasons.

Some open minded husbands have even taken the phenomenon a step further- by adopting the wife’s family name themselves- discarding the surname their parents gave them.

I have often wondered if I would be liberal enough to allow my wife to give our progeny her family name. Well, I’d probably consent, if it was a good sounding name. But, to be honest, at the back of my mind I would always feel cheated of my heritage.  Would I adopt my wife’s family name as mine? To quote a dear friend of mine: “Over my dead body.”

Would you consider giving your children your wife's surname?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

 - Parent24


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