We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!
This isn’t a name question exactly, but I’m hoping you have some advice for us.
My husband and I are expecting our first child. Since we are both almost forty, it is possible this could be our only child, but we’d love to have at least two kids.
My husband has a younger sister in her mid-thirties. She is not pregnant (or, as far as we know, in a relationship), but she’s often talked about wanting a family.
Here’s the question: we shared that we were expecting at my husband’s birthday dinner last weekend. The next morning, I woke up to a text from my sister-in-law with a list of names she has reserved for her future children.
I’m mostly fine with that. (Really!)
Except she has called The Family Name on their side. Let’s say it’s William. (It’s not, but it’s a very traditional, common name.) William is my father-in-law’s name and my husband’s middle name, and it’s the name we had decided to use. (While we know that we’re having a boy, we didn’t share that and don’t plan to announce it in advance.)
I’m the youngest of three, and my older siblings aren’t having any/more children, so no conflict there. Also, my siblings have used all the family names on my side that we’d ever consider.
We planned to use my last name as our son’s middle name. (And probably would do the same for any future children.)
Here are my questions:
- I feel like this is weird, right?
- Should we choose another name to keep the peace? We could. It would be okay.
- But wait, it’s my husband’s middle name. Isn’t it already his, sort of?
- My father-in-law’s health isn’t great. Giving him a grandson named for him now seems like it would mean a lot. I know there are never any guarantees and I don’t want to be grim about it. But why wait?
My husband feels like maybe we should just wait a few weeks and see if everyone calms down. But we waited until I was past twenty weeks to share the news, so we really don’t have a lot of time if we’re going to choose something different. Also, we had a list of maybe five or six girls’ names we both liked, but since we agreed pretty quickly on William, we don’t have a list of boys’ names to fall back on.
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your new son!
And OOF … this is a doozy.
It sounds like you know the answer already: you are free to name your son William.
There’s no good reason NOT to use the name. In fact, it sounds like you’ve already named him William, but just aren’t ready to share.
And there’s really no argument that your sister-in-law has a stronger claim to this family name. If she were also expecting around the same time and knew she was having a boy, then maaaaaybeeeeeee you’d have to flip a coin and agree that one of you would choose another name.
Or not. Cousins can have the same first name.
To answer your questions:
- I feel like this is weird, right? Yes, it’s weird. But it happens all. the. time. Families are weird! Relationships are complicated. And one sibling having a child of their own can make the other sibling feel all sorts of things, from joy to jealousy to a general anxiety about falling behind, and probably most often, some complicated mix of emotions.
- Should we choose another name to keep the peace? Nah. Yes, you could. And yes, it would be okay. But it seems pointless. After all, imagine that you choose a different name and your sister-in-law never has her William, either.
- But wait, it’s my husband’s middle name. Isn’t it already his, sort of? I mean, I’m not keeping score. But if I were, this feels like it gives you a few more points.
- My father-in-law’s health isn’t great … why wait? I think this is a fair point. We give family names for lots of reasons, but certainly seeing our loved ones rejoice when a name is handed down is part of the calculus.
So the question is how to handle the potential conflict, right?
I think, in this, your husband might be on to something. What if you just wait?
First, if there’s any possibility you’ll change your mind, then better to walk through that decision on your own, without family influence.
Assuming you’re set on naming this child William, remember that your happy news is fresh to your husband’s family. Our immediate reactions aren’t always the way we feel a few days or weeks later.
Presumably there’s a chance for your husband to talk with his sister one-on-one over the next few months. If they’re not close, possibly he can talk with his mother about the issue?
I think it’s important to frame it this way: We have decided we’re naming our son William, and I know that your/Sister’s feelings might be hurt by this decision.
You’re not asking for permission. But you’re acknowledging that your choice might cause discomfort for someone else you care about.
Beyond that, so much of this comes down to family dynamics. Go (a little) slow, be compassionate, and know that you’re doing something really lovely naming your son after his grandfather – and dad, too!