Flying Solo: What’s in a Name?

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By Vaishali K.

The moment the judge said in the court that my divorce is granted and asked if there was anything else I wanted to add to the list of wishes granted on my behalf, it was a no-brainer – I wanted my name back. My maiden name to be exact! This was in an essence, almost the final act of severing myself from a life, a role and an identity that in itself no longer existed.  I look back at that yellow copy of the judge’s hand written addendum to the divorce decree sometimes and still get the same glimmer of happiness I experienced that day in court five years ago!

Little did I realize then the implications it would have for days, months, and years to come. Just as it was cumbersome to go through the motions of changing my name on EVERYTHING when I got married, it was equally if not more bothersome to do so now that I was divorced. The excitement of the name change was somewhat bittersweet in the sense that once again, this was one more thing that confirmed and grounded that a dream I had of a perfect marriage, life and family was just that…a dream.

In my mind, changing my name back to my maiden was an act of freedom.  I would finally free myself of the association with this man and life that brought me years of pain and unhappiness. Having been a wife, a daughter-in-law, a mother, a daughter, a sister – everything but ME – this was my final release. This short lived joy came to a screeching halt the first time I had to update paperwork at the kids’ school and doctor’s office. I was looking at a piece of paper that now separated my kids and I by something as insignificant yet at that same time as important, as a name. I was now Ms.So and So, no longer Mrs. So and So.

Would my kids be looked at differently? Would people wonder if they were adopted or foster kids? Will there be speculation among the Indian teachers at their school as to the who, what, where and whys of my kids’ life? So many questions went through my mind at that one moment of filling out the emergency card for their school.

My kids, bless their heart, didn’t share or display any negative feelings towards me changing my name. Shortly thereafter a call from their doctor’s office was a jolt of reality as well. As I reveled in this new found identity; the customary changing of my name on every public forum and media as possible, notifying friends and family to update and change their way of identifying me, came the call. “May I speak to Mrs. So and So?”  My immediate, perhaps a bit bratty reaction was to tell the caller that they have the wrong number. However, seeing the caller ID with the doctor’s name snapped me back to reality. I politely notified them this is the mother and to please update their record to the name change.  This conversation was repeated numerous times over the next few months with the school, the teachers, the doctor’s office, the counselor, the old school, the courts … you get the idea.

Now comes the fun part…the kids’ friends.  The circle of friends the boys had was blessedly a well mannered group of kids.  They always referred to me as Mrs. So and So. To now have to tell these kids to instead call me Ms.So and So was a little bit more than awkward.  Between my kids’ prodding and my glares of “The  Look” the friends soon learned to call me with the new name.  I feel blessed that my boys understood the importance for me to change my name.  They themselves were always very quick to correct anyone that mistakenly identified me with their dad’s last name. I still find it a little strange at times when I introduce myself to teachers. However, I have accepted that a different last name among family dynamics today is an acceptable norm in the American subculture.  Perhaps not so much among the South Asian culture.

The reality is that it is becoming more common in all realms than before.  I could have kept my married last name as my mother had. However I felt it more important to disconnect myself in order to move on and create an identity for myself.  Their dad’s last name is forever a part of my kids’ life and future. That’s a legacy they will carry on for him and with them.  My role in that has been fulfilled and I am now free to continue with what I feel is meant to be my legacy. My contribution to that for my children does not have to be identified to a name. They as my children are a part of me and will carry that forth with or without a name associated with it.  So, what’s in a name you ask? It’s an identify for myself and myself alone.  In the end, that’s what matters.

 

Have you had a similar experience as a single mom? Send me your questions or thoughts to columnists@masalamommas.com

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There are 17 comments

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  1. Nisha

    Vaishali, Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. The strength that you exemplify while getting through this difficult phase in your life is admirable and will touch the hearts of more women than you know.

  2. Shrina

    You’re such a great writer! I’m so glad you’ve found your passion & it’s great to read your story, keep it up 🙂

  3. Sarah

    Beautifully written! It took me back to when I changed my last name to my husband’s and the excitement, fear, depression over lost identify and at the same time the thrill of new beginnings of our own family unit. I cried for days over lost identity but at the same time went to bed thrilled those same nights at the thought of my new one. But when my childhood friends still call me by my maiden name I know that’s still really who I am at the core.

    Love the writing and can’t wait to read more!

    • Vaishali

      Thank you Sarah! It’s kind of ironic how in our many roles in life, so many of us loose the identity that once made us who we are. I’m sad that I allowed that to happen and see so many of my own friends going through that as well. I hope we find a balance in our lives to reconnect with our own selves sooner rather than later.

  4. RSJafri

    Really enjoyed this article. A name carries with it so many notions and ideas but ultimately it should be about what it means to the one carrying it. Good job!

  5. Kulbinder

    Great article! It’s interesting how many things that were no brainers when we were single often become more complicated when we are a mother. Your name is one important way to identify yourself… I’m happy that you found what felt right for you and you persevered. Looking forward to reading more of your experiences so we can all learn from you. Congrats!

    • Vaishali

      Thank you Kulbinder. Life is a journey and we never quite stop learning. Be it this experience or another that makes one realize and separate what’s important in one’s life.

  6. Bonnie

    Hi Vaishali. You piece reminded me why I made my choice 6 years ago.

    When I finally decided to get married, I choose to keep my own name (Wolfe) instead of taking my husband’s last name (Church). People have often called me Mrs. Church and him Mr. Wolfe. It’s something that we have always found amusing and rarely correct people unless it is going to be used by them more than once. So no correcting hotel clerks, but yes, educating the children and parents who make up my Daughter’s friends.

    Many women have confided in me that they wish they had done the same. However, I do not live in a conservative community, so I don’t pretend to know what it would be like for a woman from another culture to make this choice and have to live with it. But I can say that I think women will never have full equality in the world, much less as wage earners until building and marketing their own identity is as important as their husbands.

    Ultimately if we want things to change we have to educate our girls and boys on why it’s so important to keep your own name. This is something they will be able to understand, living in the age of digital meets social, where your name or online identity continuity will be key to your ability to stay in contact with your social network.

    Bonnie Wolfe
    sometimes Bonnie Church
    always youtube.com/ExperimentsInHonesty
    or @BonnieAWolfe on Twitter

  7. Nidhi

    ” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet ” ~ Shakespeare
    Thanks for sharing your story. It is beautifully expressed. Looking forward to more insights into flying solo.


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