Did You Change Your Name When You Had Kids?

After 13 married years (and many more non-married years) of exclusively being Jill Cordes, I am partially changing my name. I am going to use Phil’s last name for personal travel with my kids.

I have always been proud of my Cordes name. I have more than 90 people in my extended family, 25 of them first cousins. My father came from a long line of ranchers in Western South Dakota. Most of them still ranch there and it is a place I really feel connected to. And somehow my last name is part of that connection.

So why I am changing it? Because I feel like a partial outsider when we travel as a family. My kids and Phil all have the name Johnston. I am the odd-woman out. One time when I was traveling with Fia, we didn’t have seats next to each other at time of booking. So when I got to the gate the agent said, “Shoot. I saw that you weren’t sitting next to each other in the reservation and was about to give you the bulk heads, but then I thought maybe your daughter’s father was also on the plane and she was sitting with him.” Obviously she still managed to find a way for us to sit together, since Fia was only 18 months old, but it was the most concrete example of why I want the same last name. It just feels more cohesive.

However, I have to confess another hesitation in doing this. It’s the vain side of me. I don’t like the way “Jill Johnston” sounds. My initials would be JJ. It feels campy.

I also keep trying to picture myself typing in credit card charges, etc, under Jill Johnston. It just doesn’t feel totally right to me. Basically it doesn’t feel like me. But hyphenating would make it a really long name. I could use Cordes as my middle name, but then I either give up my middle name or have 2 middle names. And since middle names are kind of pointless, why have two of them? Especially one that is a former last name?

For now, I’m only changing the bare minimum for travel. So no one really even needs to know. I will still introduce myself as Jill Cordes.  I’m hoping all my credit cards, etc can just remain as is. I will continue to act like nothing has changed until I hear differently.

Who out there has done this? Are you glad you did? Did you feel hesitant?

It’s a big step, but I’ve sat on the paperwork for a year, and decided it’s time.

I remain, as always on my blog and in my professional life, including mommy-blogger life, yours truly, Jill Cordes/Fearless Feisty Mama.


Name Change pic via Shutterstock


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  1. by steph

    On February 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    I reluctantly changed my name when I got married, for the same reason you mentioned. I go by 3 names, using my maiden as my middle name. Hyphenating would still not give you the same last name unless you all took on”cordes-Johnston.”

    Now I’m divorcing and want my name back. Many friends have kept their old married names to have the same name as their kids, only to remarry and have a different last name again.

    I understand your plight. My college roommate and I always made up a last name when we ordered takeout since both our names are hard to pronounce. Hey…there’s an idea!

  2. by jill cordes

    On February 5, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Thanks Steph. Fun idea…a whole new name. Ha. But in regards to the hyphenating, wouldn’t having at least the partial last name as his make it more cohesive, for say, airline personnel? Because I could still just book it under “johnston” even if my documents said Cordes-Johnston, right? Hmmm….maybe I need to do more research. Thanks for the comment.

  3. by Chrissy

    On February 5, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I don’t mean to sound snotty or anything, but I really embraced taking my husband’s name when we married 10 years ago. I definitely felt sad that I wasn’t going to be known by my maiden name anymore, but I looked at it as entering a new phase of my life, ya know? And like you said, there’s definitely a feeling of uniformity among our family — we all have the same name.
    I think it just comes down to preference. And convenience. I’m sure changing your name will make travel easier with the entire family having the same last name.
    Good luck on this one! This is a tough one!

  4. by Cindy

    On February 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Wait, you’re worried that Jill Johnston sounds campy? You’ve been “Phil and Jill” for 13 years. It doesn’t get more campy than that!

    When my husband and I got married (17 years ago) I had always planned to change my name. But then one day my soon-to-be husband told me I HAD to change my name and I was PISSED. We went around and around about it for weeks, which was completely crazy since I still fully intended to take his name. When I finally managed to articulate that I was upset because I didn’t have a choice he said “Baby, you always have a choice. You either change your name or marry somebody else.”

    My husband probably doesn’t come off looking too good in that little anecdote but I can assure you he only said the most outrageous thing he could think of to make me laugh and end the nonsense. It worked. He knows me so well.

    If you’re going to change your name for some things and not for others, the lawyer in me would suggest that you choose your legal name carefully. So, if you want to use Jill Johnston for travel purposes, you will want to change your drivers license, passport, etc. so they all match. Otherwise you will run into trouble when they check your ID. Guaranteed. That means you will want to consider legally changing it to Jill Johnston. Then you will be Jill Johnston to the IRA, the Social Security Administration, DMV, etc. You can still use any name you want professionally. Let us know what you decide!

  5. by steph

    On February 5, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    One of the reasons I chose to use first — maiden — last, rather than hyphenated, is that you will not be cohesive. They will still be listed under “Johnston” and you would still have to scroll up on the registry to find you under “Cordes-Johnston.”

  6. by Pamela

    On February 6, 2013 at 8:29 am

    The lawyer in Cindy is correct. If you plan to change for travel, then you’ll have to change the legal documents. Which means you’ll have to change the credit cards because they must match if any cashier asks you for ID. So basically, everything except this blog and any other professional stuff.

    As a side note, I have a 4YO and have taken about 35 trips with her on several different airlines. I have never once had a seat problem with our last names being different. I think you experienced a new or dense airline employee.

    In this day and age it’s extremely common to have different last names. Especially with the divorce rate/blended families that are so prevalent now. I never have any intention on changing my name. It’s not because of some feminist stance, I’m just lazy and it’s a lot of work to do it across the board.

  7. by Tammy Dill-Flores

    On February 6, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I just changed my name one year after my son was born. I always thought I would change my name because I never really liked mine growing up. But now it was a part of me. I hyphenated mostly because I didn’t like the way my first name went with my husbands Spanish last name. My first name is Tammy and my middle name is Lynn, it’s very country singer sounding. So changing to just Flores made me feel like my name didn’t flow well and people look at me with confusion when they hear my name with the hyphen. My husband wasn’t thrilled at first but in the end I had to be happy with it.

  8. by Andrea

    On February 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I had all the intentions of hyphening my name. In fact it is on my international marriage license that way. However, once I started using it, it was just too long. I went from 4 letters to 12 letters…. I decided to change so that I would have the same last name as my kids. At first it was hard as I had fought for my maiden name when I was five. (My step-dad legally adopted me and I had to sit in front of a judge and agree to it and also explain why I wanted to change my last name instead of keeping what I had). This made me sad that I was losing what I had to fight for. However, 7 years later, it is not the last name but the family connection. I am still me even with my last name and I am still connected to my family. It just adds some diversity to it!

  9. by Cali's mommy

    On February 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 4 years now, we have a daughter together who will be 2 in March. I’m the only one who doesn’t have the same last name and sometimes I feel a little left out. My boyfriend and I love each other very much were just not in the position to get married yet and we’ve discussed changing my last name for the time being. Not sure if I should just change my name or suck it up till we finally get married.

  10. by NoAdditives

    On February 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    I took my husband’s last name when we got married. I never considered not doing it. Our first child was born two months after we were married and my health insurance still had not changed my name, so it was a little awkward that I had to have my maiden name on the bracelets and forms. I was more upset about it than my husband was. We were about to become a family, it felt wrong that we didn’t all have the same last name on everything.

  11. by Jill Cordes

    On February 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    these are all such good, insightful comments. I think I’m more on the lines of Pamela in that I’m too lazy to do all the work. Though now the social security application is sitting in front of me… lawyer Cindy–good point too. But if I hypenated the name, then it would partially match on credit cards..oh, well, except there is no room for the whole name. You’re right. Hmmm. I will let you guys know!

  12. by Kritin

    On February 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I hyphenate my name. I was married before and it is a pain I the ass to get my name back. My husband does not mind at all He wanted me to do what I wanted.
    However, our daughter was born prematurely ( 21 months ago) they used my hyphanated name on her isolate in the NICU. My mother in law wasn’t too happy. Our daughter has my husbands last name and so do I. I just kept my maiden name as part of it too.

  13. by Kathleen

    On February 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I did not change my name when I got married. I was only 25, but I still felt so attached to my name, I could not imagine changing it. And my husband was more than supportive. We had kids after 5 years of marriage and decided to hypenate their names. I also could not imagine my kids not having my name!! I never had a problem until my oldest entered kindergarten and we started having so much communication with other parents and teachers. I decided to use the hyphen with my son’s school and new friends, so we would have the same last name. I never legally changed, but have been using the hyphen for the past 2 years and I like it. I even changed my Facebook profile a few months ago! :)

  14. by Dana

    On February 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    I was married 7 years, I think, before I officially changed my name with the Social Security Office. I changed my drivers license using my marriage certificate, I used my husbands name at work, and on credit cards. I was just too lazy to go to the SS office. For me it wasn’t about losing my last name it was about having the same last name as our kids. I loved my last name and my dad’s family but I loved my mom’s maiden name and her family just as much. So to me it wasn’t about my dads last name it was about my family’s name. And when I got married and had kids I had a new family and name to go with it.

  15. by Mia Eilebrecht

    On February 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    I kept my maiden name until we got pregnant. I didn’t really like my husband’s difficult to spell and pronounce long German name, but my dislike of it was outweighed by the desire to feel like we were a cohesive family. And I didn’t want my kids to grown up thinking their last name was good enough for them, but not for me. You give up a lot when you choose to become a parent, this wasn’t really that big of a deal in comparison. Now that I’ve had my husband’s last name for 7 years, it totally feels like me. I’ve got the signature down, and it’s automatic when I introduce myself. It’s also helped my relationship with my in-laws. I never realized that keeping my name set me apart from their family. Once I took the plunge, I felt much better about it.

  16. by Jessica Long Cooper

    On February 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    When I first got married I changed my last name. Then when we divorced I decided to keep my name the same so that it would be easier for my children. When I remarried it took me a long time to decide what I was going to do. Knowing that some day we would have children I opted to have 2 last names without the hyphen. This way I have the same last name as all four of my children. Most of the time I use just Cooper (my Husband’s last name) just to be simple. So I gone through the process to change my name twice now. So it is a personal choice, but I do think you would need to have a matching ID in order to use the name Johnston when you travel.

  17. by Lisa Milbrand

    On February 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I kept my name…and I’ve never thought of changing it. I’ve never had a problem when we were traveling (and we travel quite a bit). Keeping my last name was (and is) very important to me, and my ultra-cool modern husband encouraged it. I do answer to his last name, though, when my daughters’ friends and the teachers at school invariably forget. ;-)

    My daughters mostly wish that they had been given my last name, which is much easier to spell.

  18. by Kristen

    On February 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    I changed my name when I married my husband. I was happy with the change until one day a little over a year into our marriage, he said “I am so glad you took my last name because my name means so much to me.” I know it was meant to be a sign of gratitude, but it ended up making me think about my maiden name. My maiden name is Johnson, a part of my Swedish heritage. My husband’s name is so French, it is almost unpronouncable. Now, my husband and I are separated and I really wish I had not taken his name. My son and I having the same last name does not bring me comfort anymore because this is his heritage, not mine. Once the divorce is finalized, I know I am taking my maiden name back and I’m never giving it up again. That’s just my preference.

  19. by Audrey

    On February 6, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Jill, I just had to comment on your blog because I think it is so funny. I asked allllll the same questions you did when contemplating the name change. Doesn’t everyone…apparently not from reading the the other comments. Maybe only the neurotic :) but being faced with the boring; one in 5 trillion Schmidt last names and Audrey Schmidt sounds like a grandma’s name, I decided to put my middle name out there for all to see it so I felt like I was still me when I looked at my license. My middle name makes me even more of a grandma name but at least it still feels like MY name. No more Audrey F. Once married became Audrey Fern and that Schmidt lady is still me.

  20. by Virginia

    On February 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

    My husband comes from a Latin country where the custom is that kids get both last names so this made it very easy for me to keep only mine without worrying that someone would not be able to tell I am their mother. Yes, their names are very long (both have first, middle and two last names) but if so many other people can handle it (in majority of Latin countries) then my two should be able to handle it too :-)

  21. by Jill Cordes

    On February 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Audrey, I am not sure I understand. So is your middle name Fern and that became your last name? Explain. Maybe you are onto something. I’m curious.