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.