Maiden Names, Family Planning, and Other Personal Decisions Everyone has an Opinion On
Getting married wasn’t like anything I had expected. First of all, I thought I would be younger. In fact, when I was younger (age 19 to be exact), I felt like my daily jobs were as follows: go to class, work, and date. I had just finished my first semester of college, and I was living the dream. As I continued to delve into my academics, I became very aware of how many of my high school friends were getting married. It seemed like every day, someone would make a Facebook announcement complete with a close up of their engagement ring and the never-ending string of comments made by friends and family.
Part of me thought it was so glamorous; these girls got to be princesses for a day! Another part of me was amazed that so many of them stopped going to school so that they could support their new husbands. How come they couldn’t go to school too? I asked a newly married friend of mine once, and she said, “This is how I’m helping him get through school. Once he’s finished it will be my turn, unless I have a baby. Then I don’t know.” I quickly learned that this was a common mentality that I did not share with many of the girls I’d gone to school with.
Flash forward six years to April 2015 when my then-boyfriend popped the question when we were at the opera. At the age of 25, I had a pretty good sense of who I was; I was a young professional halfway through graduate school and catering to my creative interests in my free time. I’m such a different person now than I was at 19; it’s hard to believe I even wanted to get married that young! Still, after waiting for what seemed like forever and getting over some pretty nasty breakups, I felt ready. I said yes and we were married three months later.
I love being married — my husband was definitely worth the wait — but being engaged brought up a whole list of issues and obstacles that I hadn’t anticipated.
For example, changing my name! Was I legally required to change my name once I was married? If my husband had no opinion on the matter (he’s a scientist, and it isn’t uncommon in his field for women to keep their maiden names for publishing reasons), was it necessary? I asked my mother, who paused and said, “I guess not. But don’t you want to change your name?” Not really. As much as I love my husband, I really like my name. Something about the alliteration makes it memorable and catchy.
Curious about this matter, I did what anyone from my age group would do: consult the internet. I read several articles from women across the board (newlyweds, divorcees young and older, and housewives and professionals who’d been married for over 20 years) and came to the conclusion that it was my personal choice. I got plenty of opinions from my brother and my best guy friend (who was also getting married), but in the end I decided that I wanted to keep my name.
Another issue I encountered was about having kids. Suddenly my OB/GYN wanted to know what my family plans were. “Um, maybe after graduation?” I answered. But really, when did we want to start our family? Did I want to be nine months pregnant and defending my thesis or holding a baby in my arms next spring when it was time to walk across the stage and receive my MA?
I shared these thoughts with my husband, who in turn promised me that no matter what we ended up deciding, we would make sure I walked at graduation. I absolutely love kids, especially babies, and my husband can tell I can’t wait to be a mom. We sat next to a new mom on the plane ride back from our honeymoon, where I waved and smiled at her six-month old the whole time; he told me I could have my own in nine months if I wanted. I teasingly replied, “But then you’d have to share me.” Suddenly his smiley face grew concerned, “Well, I guess we’ll have to wait.”
Personally, I think we are allowed to take some time and make our own decisions. If we want to get pregnant or put it off, it’s up to us. Right now I’m thinking two kids would make me happy. He’s thinking three. Despite the opinions of the people around us, ultimately it is our decision because hey, it’s our life!
Finally, the obstacle in the form of home-ownership. We have a great little apartment in the heart of Sugar House, the best part being that it’s walking distance to nearly everything we frequent and close to both our jobs. But there are drawbacks, such as a lack of central air and a lack of off-street parking, and we talk more and more about what our dream house will be like. While we agree on much of what we want, the one thing we haven’t is where this dream house is. To stay in the area where we are now would mean a lot of money for a very small, very old house. I know we’ll figure it out at some point, but right now we just aren’t there yet.
Of course, I worried about all of these things while I continued to work 40-hrs a week, take a full-course load for school, and plan our wedding. It was a rough summer filled with countless nights of me complaining, sometimes crying myself to sleep because it was all so overwhelming, but I learned a lot.
the realization of just how much of my life is mine
I become someone other than who I want to be.
It was okay to keep my name.
It is okay to wait to have kids.
It’s okay to put school first right now.
It’s okay to consult with friends who feel differently about each obstacle. They might have some really good insight.
It’s okay to not have everything planned out.
Bottom line — it’s okay.
Lindsey Larsen has a B.S. in Mass Communication and Theatre Studies from the University of Utah and is currently in graduate school at Westminster College. Now halfway through the Masters in Community Leadership program, she is trying to figure out her next steps in how to make a difference for children attended school in low-income areas. She is currently developing her capstone project and is set to graduate May 2016. You can find her at http://blondeblusters.blogspot.com