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By Mary Lanaux Katzman
A few weeks ago, the kindergarten moms in my neighborhood devised a plan on their Facebook group. When we received our teacher assignment in the mail, we would reply with our child’s name under a post for each teacher. This, of course, would tell the group who is in whose classroom and allow the opportunity to reach out to future fellow classmates to make that first day of school a tiny bit more familiar.
The day finally came, my daughter and I excitedly opened our Meet the Teacher letter, and soon after I pulled up my Facebook app to post her name and picture in the private group.
But I hesitated for a minute because there was another decision to make.
My husband and I will be celebrating eight years of marriage this coming October. I legally changed my last name to his within a few months of the wedding date, but I didn’t necessarily use it everywhere. Financially, yes. All of my bank accounts and credit cards were updated. Medically, yes. My doctors all knew me by my married name. Any official forms, yes, but I always used my full name — first, maiden as middle, and married. Restaurant reservations – sometimes. Random other instances like loyalty accounts at retail shops – it was a toss-up. Usually the clerks had to look up both names before we figured out the one I used.
However, I purposely chose not to use my married name at work. I wasn’t a doctor or a published author, but my fifteen-year career was still something that was mine and not my husband’s. Plus, my maiden name was something special to me. It is interesting and unique, it reflects my family’s roots, and it was a big part of my identity. I didn’t want to lose it completely. so I told my employers to update my HR and payroll files, but not my email address or business cards.
Another, more public place I kept using my maiden name was social media. With this decision, there was no disrespect to my husband. He didn’t care one bit; he didn’t even care if I took his name at all. (He also doesn’t care for Facebook.) My profile clearly said I was married; the wedding pictures are posted to prove it. But again, my maiden name is a big part of what makes me — me. I couldn’t move past the thought that Mary Katzman was somebody else. Yet, Mary Lanaux Katzman is someone I would grow into as a mom.
The driving reason I legally changed my name was because I wanted to have the same last name as my kids, in addition to my subconscious pull toward tradition. As my children started daycare and preschool, I introduced myself to other parents with my married name and would later explain how to find me on Facebook. No one commented or questioned.
But on the day our kindergarten teacher letter arrived, I questioned myself. I only knew four other moms at the same school. I joked to them that, with kindergarten, I felt like we were being called up to the major leagues of parenting. I was going to be meeting and making first impressions with a lot of other parents. And there had been another huge change for me recently: I was no longer working for that company. I am a stay-at-home mom now, and as I mom, I’m Mary Lanaux Katzman. So, before I posted that picture of my daughter for her classmates to see, I updated my name on Facebook. And so far, no one has commented or questioned why it took me so long. And I’m still me, but just as everyone does, I’ve grown and evolved into a new version.
Accepting this new self-identity amidst so much change is still in progress. But, so far, it’s surprised me. My assumption had been that my priorities would shift solely to my family’s needs because I no longer had something of my own. The opposite has proven true: I’m finally prioritizing myself and what’s important to me, and my family’s quality of life has benefited.
For several years, I had walked a tightrope over two perceptions of myself. Now that I’m firmly on this side of the line, I am ready to embrace what’s just getting started, and I’m bringing everything I’ve learned about myself with me.
Mary Lanaux Katzman is a former marketer and emerging writer. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and two young children. You can find more on her blog at homeontheedge.com.