Keeping Your Maiden Name: Y/N?

Should You Keep Your Maiden Name at Work?
To keep or not to keep your maiden name? That is the feminist question.
Growing up, I always assumed that when I married, I would change my last name to that of my husband. Even as I grew older and learned that some women chose to keep their maiden names, I simply did not have strong feelings on the subject and planned to stick to tradition. That was until I, with the last name I was born with, started to accomplish things. One day, years later, after about a hundred articles with my byline had appeared online, the topic of changing one's maiden name came up in conversation with my girlfriends.

That’s when it dawned on me. Jacqueline “fill in future husband’s last name here” would not have a web presence. The digital footprint and Google ranking I had been working so hard to build would no longer be relevant. Let’s just say, it only took about thirty seconds to decide that hundreds of hours of work were not about to go down the drain. It turns out my girlfriends weren’t so sure about the name change, either. They weren’t all that comfortable with losing part of their lifelong identity. Hey, we can’t all be as eager to change our identities as Sean Combs/Diddy/P. Diddy/Puff Daddy. Think of another line at the DMV!
The horror!

I’m not alone in the desire to keep my maiden name, and the ranks of women like me are growing. The rate of women maintaining their maiden names is higher than ever before. The 2010s saw 22% of women keeping their maiden name versus the '70s which only had 17%. And in 2014, 29.5% of women in the New York Times wedding pages chose not to change their name. Women who are older, not religious, have children from a previous marriage, have an advanced degree, or are established in their career are more likely to keep their maiden name. Unsurprisingly, the most important factor in predicting whether or not a woman would maintain her maiden name was if she had “made a name” for herself before marriage, according to Claudia Goldin, an economics professor and an author of the study.

The concept of “making a name for yourself” is a little irrelevant to this argument when you really think it over. You, with the fairly integral help of your parents, made a name for yourself the day you were born. And the longer you live your life, the more that name is attached to your memories and your experiences, regardless of your accomplishments. You don’t need a portfolio of work or a robust network to want to keep your maiden name upon marriage. A Harvard University study found, among its alumni, that each year women delayed marrying or having children related to a one percent decline in the probability that they would change their names. Like anything else in our lives, as time goes on, we become increasingly attached to our last name.
The concept of “making a name for yourself” is a little irrelevant to this argument when you really think it over. You, with the fairly integral help your parents, made a name for yourself the day you were born.
But I have to admit, there is something to be said about sharing a name with your spouse and the unity it creates (and I would be lying if I said I didn’t want that). And there are arguments to be made for taking your spouse's name. Really, your identity is not defined solely by your last name and your successes won’t be diminished by the name change.

And of course, the moment you have all been waiting for: what about the kids? Many parents would find the idea of not sharing a last name with their child to be a horrifying thought, to which a hyphenated name could be a solution. But what if your child marries someone with equally progressive parents? What will their child’s last name be? 

A shared last name provides an important sense of unity for many families, which requires some sacrifice. But that a woman is expected, and, until recently, essentially required, to make this sacrifice is a little frustrating. Okay, more than a little frustrating. And we deal with it a multitude of ways—having both a personal and a professional name, hyphenation, or even merging the two last names to create a new one. 

According to the New York Times, some women choose their solution based on whichever path seems the easiest. For some, the idea of changing passports, driver licenses, work records, and other documentation sounds unbelievably tedious. For others, the discomfort associated with not sharing a family name makes the change worth it. 

If you are waiting for a verdict on whether or not women should change their names when they marry, get ready to wait for a while. The truth is, there is no right answer. There is no "good feminist" thing to do. No matter how this tradition started, there is no winning side of this argument. Because living your life according to others' beliefs is always backward. Only you can make the decision that is best for you, your marriage, and your family. Society’s (exhaustive) opinions on the subject be damned!
Would you change your name upon marriage or have you already? Why?