Your name is your identity.

As a society, the tradition is for a woman to change her last name to that of her new husband’s name. When I got married at age 21, I promptly followed suit and went through the legal process of changing my name from Lori Hildebrand to Lori Barland.

When that marriage ended and the divorce was final in January 2014, I opted to keep the name I had now owned for 15 years. My thought was that because my boys were very young, it’d be weird for us to have different last names. I had crazy ideas that somehow their school wouldn’t recognize me as their mom if I had a different name (especially if their Dad remarried and that woman now had the same name as my kids, ugh!).  So, when I filed the paperwork it was an easy decision at the time to just keep my name the same.

The subject came up in my mind again this year. It really started to bother me when I was Christmas shopping and, for some weird reason, saw things everywhere with monogrammed initials on them. I knew I wasn’t happy with my name when I thought to myself  “I’d never buy something with a big ‘B’ on it, or that says ‘Barland Family'”, I put the thought aside until I sent out my Christmas cards (don’t make fun of me, I love this tradition!).  As I’ve done every year since I separated in 2012, my cards always said “Love, Lori, Henry and Max” not “Love, The Barland’s”, it never felt right to sign it like that. But, this year for some reason made me think a little more.

Your name is your identity. It’s personal, it’s part of who you are.

The heart wrenching dilema is, is it ok to have a different last name from your children? A shared name is a family name, we are a family and should all have the same last name, right? But, do we really? It’s pretty normal now to have blended families and remarriages, new names, etc.  So why would it be hard to take my own name back that I so identify with?  It’s that strange little voice in the back of my mind that asks if I’m being selfish for choosing to have a different last name from my kids.  This is the dilema, I know the answer is different for everyone.

For me, I now realize that I don’t need the same name as my children to still be their mom (they agreed when we discussed this together). I choose to return the name to the family that I borrowed it from. That family will always be in my life, when you divorce you only divorce the person, not the entire family. And I will always love the members of that family as my own (plus they share blood with my kids, so there’s that!), and I will always honor them. But, I am a Hildebrand, I am proud of that name and it’s who I am. To change or not to change is a very personal decision, and one you shouldn’t take lightly, decide for yourself and be confident in that decision. 

I’ve been asked what I’ll do if I ever get married again. Well, I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. My feelings now are that I would’t change my name again, even if I do get married. I love the man I’m with, we are living a fully committed and wonderful life together, but that has nothing to do with a marriage or a new name. I don’t see the society norms as pressure any more. Married, divorced, committed, nuclear families, bonus families, same names, different names, it’s all up to you. Be you, find your own identity and you’ll be happier than you’ve ever been.

With love and gratitude, I give the Barland name back. My name is Lori Hildebrand, it’s nice to meet you.