How changing my last name taught me who I am


What’s in a name?

By Vicky Townsend

One of the options you have as a woman going through divorce is “do I change my name”? But there were more questions than just that for me; Who am I and how do I leave the last name that no longer serves me, a name that represented a life I had with someone else? For me, the answer took some time, it didn’t come to me overnight. Actually, it took more than a year of pondering the pros and the cons, the old “Ben Franklin test”, and I’m glad I took my time, because  I had peace knowing that I had considered all options and had taken the steps I needed to take.  I was able to come to the conclusion that changing my name was the right choice for me. I did it calmly and with confidence, knowing that it was the right decision for me.

When I first married my children’s father back in 1989, we were both in the radio business, and he had an “on air name” that was different from his legal last name. When we got married I did not take his last name, primarily because he didn’t use it. He used his on-air name for practically every situation, including personal encounters that did not require them to know his on air name. (I guess it was a part of him that I wasn’t a part of). So, as far as taking that long (and I felt completely misspelled) last name, I figured if he didn’t use it, why should I?

It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my daughter, and knew that she would have his legal last name as her last name, that I decided to change mine. It was all fine, because my daughter and I, and eventually my son, all had the same last name and that was what mattered to me. As the children grew up with reputations of their own, their father began using his own legal last name more and more often, because it made us a family.

When we divorced, I kept his last name because it was my children’s last name, and I wanted the three of us to remain a unit, a family. When I remarried again several years later, I decided I would not take my new husband’s last name, but would remain with the last name of my children. I never actually considered changing it to another married name. My children were still young, and it mattered to me that we all had the last name together. We were the Three Musketeers.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending upon how you look at it,)  that marriage didn’t last. It was at  the final hearing that I had the opportunity to change my name. Do I keep the last name of my children’s father, someone that I was no longer connected to other than he was the father of my children, or do I go back to the last name I had as a child, A name that was now foreign to me? Add to that the reputation I had built in my business with my married name. There were pages after pages of articles about me on google. Do I give that up? The more I thought about it the more confused and alone I felt. Who was I with a man’s last name that I no longer communicated with? But as a mother, who was I without it? I did some soul-searching and finally determined that it was time to see how my children felt about me changing my last name. I actually felt nervous as I asked my children how they felt about me changing my name back to the name I was born with. My palms were sweaty, and my voice shaked as I asked them how they felt if I had a different last name than they did. I recalled how my son didn’t want me to change my last name when I remarried. He was rather adamant about it, as a matter of fact, so I knew he would be the deciding factor. If either one of my children said no, then it would have been a deal breaker, and I would have kept my married name. Much to my surprise, my son looked at me and said “your name is mom. Your last name doesn’t matter to me. You will always be mom to me.”  You see, we are STILL the Three Musketeers, and nothing will ever change that!   I swear, it was as though the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders and I boldly made the decision to change my last name while I had the chance to do it as a part of my divorce decree.

On that day, I felt born-again. I felt like I was me again. I felt like I didn’t have to tell the world I was someone I wasn’t.

You see, my name isn’t some long name…it’s a very simple one. It’s MOM, and there are only two people that walk the planet that can call me that, and while we have different last names, we are forever connected through a much stronger bond; love.

Now this may not fit well for you, your children may be young, or maybe you don’t want to go back to the life you had when you were younger. That’s your choice, and I wish you well with whatever you decide. I just know that changing my name also changed my world. Changing my name set me free. Changing my name taught me who I am. My name is no longer Victoria Pestrichelli…my name is Victoria Townsend. You may call me Vicky. It’s nice to meet you.


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Vicky Townsend is the proud mother of two amazing children, Kristen and Connor, and mother to two incredibly cute, and yet completely ill mannered dauschunds, Alfalfa and Froggy. Vicky is president and CEO of Inspiration University. Through Inspiration University, Vicky is able to help thousands of women across South Florida, grow their businesses, and increase their bottom line profitability. Vicky’s events inspire, motivate and inform women entrepreneurs to be their best and create the life they want. After a series of painful divorces, Vicky’s passion and purpose let her to her newest venture “The Café’ D”, an on line respite site for those that find themselves going through the pain of divorce, providing them with referrals, resources and emotional support at a most difficult time in their lives. She’s also created “National Association of Divorce Professionals”, which connects those in the industry with one another and helps them expand their referral base amongst industry professionals.


  1. Never legally changed my last name when I married which was still very uncommon back in the 80’s. I used my married name socially, I wasn’t going to make a big deal and say, no I’m not Mrs. so and so! But my son never cared and now that I’m divorced, I’m glad I kept my name.

  2. Spot on, Vicky! I’ve been married twice. Both times upon divorce I took back my maiden name. “Banks” is an easy name and I have always thought of myself as “Rosie Banks” the name I was called up until I was 18, the name my family and childhood friends still call me. Sure, I thought twice about the name change because one, I have a child in middle school and two, it is such a pain in the neck to do so. In the end, the change was more about coming home, than about purging or being spiteful.

  3. This was a really great article. I am a man, but I took my wife’s last name. We have four children. When we got divorced six years ago, I faced the same decision that you all have talked about. In the end, I decided to keep my name as is, but it was a close call.

  4. That’s what I did, Mark. I was just “lucky” or unlucky to have been able to do it when I was getting my divorce from my last husband. It made it pretty easy.

  5. That’s right. When our divorce finalized 5 years ago, my kids were 6, 10, 16 and 18. I wanted to have the same last name as them as they grew up and finished school. My youngest will graduate high school in 7 years. Maybe then I’ll make the switch. But maybe not – by then I’ll have been Mr Kemp for over 20 years.

  6. It probably will. I know that it is much easier to do it in connection with the divorce. This way, I will have to do a formal name change legal action. Oh well, not that unusual.

  7. I wish that your article have been around five years ago and that I would’ve read it. In hindsight, I probably should have changed my name as part of the divorce but kept using my married name socially, at least for the kids and in the neighborhood. So many choices.

  8. Great article!
    The bottom line is to be thoughtful….
    for yourSELF
    those surrounding you, specifically your children!
    Mine were young, first and third grade when divorce changed THEIR identities.
    The relationship they had with their father was unstable….
    they HAD to experience stability through me, if I’d change MY name it would have been confusing to them to have a different last name then “mom”.
    My identity comes from my behavior…
    from choices I make and how I live
    Vicky, as you conclude
    my first name matters
    although, even THAT does NOT define me!
    Best wishes to all!
    It’s a heck of a journey!
    Each step defines us!!!!

  9. Hi Cheryl! Thank you so much for your story, it says so much about you. You seem like a great mommy. As for me, I am not certain that I would have changed my name either when my children were so young, as a matter fact I know I wouldn’t because I didn’t! I waited until it was okay with both of them. Interestingly enough, I have slipped back into my Maiden name like a comfortable pair of shoes. It feels really good.

  10. Thank you for this article Vicky. As a divorce attorney, and being divorced myself, this is so often a difficult choice for women who have young children. I echo your feelings…as to what truly is in a name….tho it feels distant to be known by a last name that you as a woman no longer connect with. Upon my divorce I changed my name to legally include both my married last name and my maiden name; however, I still think about leaving behind my married name entirely. I may just create myself a new last name! What’s in a name!

  11. Jaimie, I totally understand. It was a difficult decision, and one I would never have made had my own children not been accepting of it. Honestly, I waited till they were both adults. At that point, my last name was not as important as my first name…Mom.