In the few months that I’ve been married, I’ve been asked the same three questions a number of times.
How is married life?
When are you going to have kids?
Are you changing your last name?
So, if you are dying to know, here are the answers.
Married life is great. People often say it’s no different than before, but I disagree. As husband and wife, Ethan and I are more accountable for each other. We are now each other’s first contact. We make decisions as a team, not as individuals anymore. Me returning to school has also redefined our relationship, as Ethan has the sole income in our house. It’s the first time since I was a kid that I am reliant on another person for my well-being, which is an adjustment that I am not making entirely smoothly. But I trust Ethan more than I trust anyone else, and at the end of the day, he is the person I want to hang out with on the couch doing nothing. So, yeah, married life is treating us well.
Question #2: Not sure. As I am approaching 34—the year before my fertility starts to shrivel—it’s on our minds, but I am in the midst of a big career change. We want kids, but again, we are down to one income right now. Ideally, I get pregnant my last year of graduate school, but I’d prefer to wait until at least after January, when we are going on our honeymoon. We are taking the “when it happens, it happens” approach.
And, for the final question, will I become Mrs. Fife? No, I am keeping my last name, but it was something I thought long and hard about and might still change.
You all know the show “Growing Pains”, right? In that show, Maggie Seaver is an adoring wife and mother who has a successful journalism career as Maggie Malone. That became my name goal – make a career as Heather Mangan, but privately take my husband’s last name. This theory was reassuring as I got older and watched many of my friends get married; I was still bringing Heather Mangan out into the world. I would be come a famous journalist or writer with my maiden name. It would be my public persona.
By the time I did get engaged, my name wasn’t exactly what I had hoped it would be. I didn’t author any books as Heather Mangan, and while I have gotten most social media handles and URLS under this name, it’s not the famed success I thought I would have. Really, I could abandon the name and not be any worse off in my career.
For months, I thought about whether I would take my husband’s name or keep my own. I went back and forth about what each would mean to me, and the person I would be with either name. Heather Mangan, I knew her. She stumbles from time to time, but she is resilient and she tells it like it is. There is still hope for her. Heather Fife would be a fresh start. She’d have to prove herself, but maybe that would be easier than scrapping together small success to prove worthiness.
I liked the idea of having the same name as my husband. I would be a few spots up in the alphabet and it was shorter. It would also stop the annoying habit some have of calling me Megan (Mangan sounds like Megan and so for much of my life people have thought that was my first name). It’s traditional, a solid choice.
Then again, I’ve have a lot of strong female friends who have chosen not to change their name. They stand proud with who they were at birth, husband or not. I admire these woman, believe in the same individuality that they do, want to be more own person. On the other hand, I felt a bit of pressure (albeit perceived pressure) to keep my maiden name if I wanted to an outspoken woman who supports other women.
In the end, what ultimately made my decision was time and money. It’s not cheap or easy to change your last name and then update all the necessary documents, and the fact that it falls on the woman is patriarchal. Ethan was very clear that the decision to change my name was my decision—and mine alone—to make and there would be no pressure from him. Also, he added that he would never change his name because of the work involved. So, that became my reasoning, too. I would stay Heather Mangan, at least for now. When we have children and for the sake being tied to them by name, I will likely add Fife as a second last name or hyphenate it, but the Mangan will stay with me. I have built whole life as Heather Mangan, and I am not going to change, married or not.
I am curious to hear from my readers. Are there reasons you decided to change your name or not? Any regrets in doing so or not doing so?