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Friday, January 7, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: One Parent Loves the Name, the Other is Just Fine With It

Michelle writes:
My husband and I are discussing names, and this is what has happened:

I LOVE a name. He is "meh" on it or slightly ok with it, but seeing how much I LOVE the name (for the record, it's Joel, and he knew a kid in 5th grade that was a jerk with that name - who cares, right?) he says "ok, fine, we can use it."

I feel BAD about this because hello! It's our childs name! I want us to both LOVE the name equally! But at the same time, I also want to use it!

So when does one spouse win over the other, and when is it ok to go alright, I love this name and we can't find another that we love, so let's use it and let it grow on us when the adorable baby comes along and we forget about stupid 5th graders from 25 years ago.

(Also for the record, we both agreed upon and LOVED our daughters name.)

Thanks for your help and any advice!!!!

This is so hard. I don't know, really, how two people EVER find a name they both love, even though it happens time and time again, including in my very own family.

Here's what I've noticed: some people feel more strongly about names than other people. There are people like my in-laws, who never glanced at a baby name book: one of them just said, "What about Paul? We need a boy's name, and that's a boy's name," and the other one said "Sure." Then there are people like me, making lists on the inside covers of baby name books years before a pregnancy was on the horizon.

Paul is somewhere in the middle: he's more opinionated than his parents, but he's not anywhere NEAR as invested/interested as I am. He'd rather take my list and make a checkmark next to any name that would be fine with him. This can be frustrating for me, because I want him to LOVVVVVVVVVVVVE a name and be all EXCITED about it, but I think sometimes he DOES really like a name but doesn't have my same SQUEEE feeling about it---just as I might appreciate a new computer in the house but don't get all EXCITED about it like he does. So, just as I let him have more say in computer decisions because he's the one who cares more, I try to let it be okay that he lets me have more say in baby name decisions---even though I'd prefer him to be more excited. (And it would be worse if he WERE excited about names, but about DIFFERENT names than I liked!) But it's especially difficult in this situation for you, because your husband DID love a name the first time around.

Have you heard that Voltaire quote? I've seen it translated a number of ways ("Better is the enemy of Good," "Perfection is the enemy of Good Enough," "The downfall of Good is Better," etc.), but the gist of it is that insisting on perfection can really screw things up. I think of that quote whenever parents write to me agitating because they've found lots of great names but none of them have been "The One": the obvious PERFECT candidate standing apart from all the rest, different than all the others, with both parents LOVING the name with ALL THEIR HEARTS. In this case, Joel is the Good. It would be ideal if the name were one that both you and your husband feel like you'll DIE if you can't use it (especially if that happened with your daughter's name), but that's not a goal you have to try to achieve: finding a name that one of you loves and the other one likes well enough to use it is already a big win. Changing to a name you both feel equally meh about wouldn't be an improvement.

But I am always in favor of continuing to quest: name-questing is fun! And because this quest has a natural expiration date, you don't have to worry that it will go on forever with no resolution. So if I were you I'd continue to look for a name you DO both love (you could still use Joel as the middle name), just to see if such a name exists---and have the plan be to name the baby Joel if you DON'T find such a name. Paul and I have had two babies where we had a name we were planning to use (a "one of us loves it, the other one is fine/willing" name), and then late in the pregnancy we found another name we both liked better. Not a magical name with The Star of Bethlehem hanging over it, but an improvement for both of us.

Ooo, in fact, that's a good way to think of it: as each name having a score from each parent, and the goal being to find a balance that maximizes both the individual parental scores AND the name's total score---WITHOUT insisting on a Perfect Ten. Just trying to improve the score as much as it can be improved for the particular situation. (Two of my favorite things: baby names and MATH!) With our daughter, Paul's first choice was Elizabeth, so he would have given it 10 points; his second choice was Genevieve, which he would have given 8 points. Of those two, I would have given Genevieve 8 points and Elizabeth 5 points. I liked Emily and Liana each 9 points; Paul liked each of them 3 points. So for us, the right name of those four would have been Genevieve: it gave us the best possible pair of individual scores (i.e., each of us could have gotten a higher score with a different name, but only at the significant expense of the other parent), and that's what we almost certainly would have used except this was one of the situations where late in the pregnancy we then found a name we both liked better.

I have been totally hogging the floor, and this is a subject that's opinion-variation-rich and PERFECT for discussion. Michelle and I would like to hear what the rest of you think, and how the rest of you deal with it if you and the other parent have trouble finding a name you both love.

Name update! Michelle writes:
Joel Michael was born 4/28/11, 8lbs 20 inches, and is PERFECT - we love the name and there are definitely no lingering feelings of one of us having "won."


Clare said...

So now I'm wondering what Elizabeth's name is... :)

My husband and I were like this with our second son. Our first son has a name we both loved as soon as we saw it in a book, and that was that. Second boy has a name I loved the first time I saw it, which husband was reluctant about because it's really unusual but not unheard of (Ezekiel, fwiw). We had a list of names going in to the delivery room, but none of which I liked as much.

Honestly, it came down to my love of the name and the fact that I delivered a 10 lb baby in 2 hours with no anesthesia that trumped my husband's thinking that maybe possibly we should consider a more mainstream name like Joseph.

Jenny Grace said...

In naming Gabriel, it was a matter of finding names that neither one of us hated. His dad and I have VERY DIFFERENT name styles, but I am also VERY MUCH MORE INVESTED in MY name style (established REAL names that are not The Most Popular, with a bent towards biblical).
It is much worse to try to find names when you both have strong opinions and they are about different styles of names.
It was not my most favorite name in the world, but I liked it Well Enough, and I could get his dad to agree with it, and now it's MY Gabriel's name, and I can't imagine him being named anything else, and I love it.

Devan said...

My husband the rocket scientist likes to have equations for everything. He came up with a system similar to yours, Swistle, and we used it for children 2 & 3. (1 and 4 were instantly agreed upon)

Unfortunately, his rational way left me feeling mad because I really just wanted my favorite name.
Him = rational
Me = emotional

For what it's worth, we used his formula for #2 and used the name the formula "came up with." However, for #3, we used the formula and used the name I insisted on after saying, "Screw the formula." haha

Basically, I think that the person who cares the most should win as long as it doesn't place TOO unfair a burden on their partner.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I have not had to name any children, so have nothing REAL to contribute... But I do think Swistle's point about not holding out for The One is a good one. I think The One (whether it's a spouse or a wedding dress or a job or a name) is a fairy tale type of thing that everyone thinks they should hold out for... Or that we are taught to believe we should hold out for... And then we end up feeling disappointed with Good Enough. Yes, I know some people find The One. But I think it happens less often than "they" would have us believe.

So I am voting for trying to find Good Enough and then being pleasantly surprised if you stumble on The One.

Michelle said...

Thank you for posting my question! Swistle, you nailed it when you compared it to the computer thing - I think when he says he's ok with something he really is, but I want SQUEE! And YAY! And THAT'S PERFECT! But it's just not gonna happen.

The good news is, we both agreed that the name is a good one, and we're going to use it! The middle name had been picked already (to honor my late father), and as a compromise we chose his first choice name to use as the Hebrew name, since he loved it and it had familial significance (but is too popular for my tastes as a first name.)

So, Joel it is, and now if someone can give me a good comeback for the inevitable "oh, after Billy Joel??" (since I am a known fan, though not as fanatic these days), we'll consider this case closed!

Swistle said...

Michelle- My comeback when I get that sort of question is: "*pause* *puzzled look* ...No."

Swistle said...

Michelle- Oh, wait, I thought of a better one: "No--after a kid my husband knew in 5th grade." HA HA HA!

StephLove said...

Swistle's system sounds a lot like how my partner and I chose sperm donors for the kids. Names were easier for us. Both our kids were named years before they were conceived and in both cases with the very first name we considered, because it was so obviously THE ONE. I think that's why I like trying to name other people's kids, because I never really got to play around with naming my own and I do love names.

No advice needed since it's already settled, but Joel's a great name.

beyond said...

"Who is Billy Joel?" with a perplexed look...
Glad you solved it.
Good luck!

Michelle said...

PS - just had to add, I am a KNOWN Billy Joel fan. We honestly didn't pick it because of that, but it's gonna get asked. I think what I'll do is look really excited and say "We sure did! He's the real father you know!" :)

Karen L said...

Ahhh. I'm the name lover, DH is fine with any good enough name. With number one, DH actually suggested the name, not that he LOVED it, just that it was a good name. And it stuck. It really grew on both of us.

But with number two, it didn't go as well. Can you bear a long story? If not, long-story-short: we went with the name he adored, I loved and not with the name that was THE ONE for me and was just okay for him. Now, baby name regret.

Through both pregnancies, the girl name was set from a 6+ generation sacred family name (SFN) that suited our style well enough and that happened to work with our very hard-to-work with surname. It was THE ONE and I had lived with that girl name for about three years. Then around 8 months, I'm like, "where's the fun, let choose a middle name (even though we hadn't planned on one and number one doesn't have one." This was merely an exercise for my name-choosing amusement, especially since we were really really expecting a boy. So we hastily chose a middle name from my short-list of three for a hypothetical girl.

Then in the hospital, I say, "Sacredfamilyname is a big name for a little baby, let's think about a nickname." DH agrees and suddenly gives the impression that he's meh about SFN anyway. He, meanwhile has fallen in love with the hastily-chosen MN. Which sways me, a lot. So we started calling her by her middle name and always have.

18+ months later, I still have baby name regret! Not because I don't love her name, I do. Not because we didn't put it in first place (using the middle name is very common in my family and no one has ever regretted/disliked it.) I have baby-naming regret because we are not using THE ONE, more importantly THE SACRED FAMILY NAME and no one else ever will (my one brother's a totally confirmed bachelor and my cousins and partners have other naming traditions/obligations.)

In case you're still reading:
If #3, due in July, is a girl, can I at least give her the SFN as a middle name, in hopes of entrenching it as SFN that my kids will carry on? Or do I just need to let it go?

Karen L said...

After all that long ramble, I really didn't make my point, which I think is this: Like in Michelle's case, if there is no name that is THE ONE, it's great to accept that there is no name that is the one and choose a name that both parents thinks is good. Even using a point system or whatever.

But I think that it is different if there is a name that is THE ONE for either parent. And it messes up the point system, too.

In my case, if there were no SFN, the MN would get an 8 or 9 from both of us (excellent). But because I did have one that was the one, it gets ten and nothing else can even crack 6 but you can't play the point game that way in good faith, really. At which point, like Devan said, screw the formula.

Frazzled Mom said...

I would love it if my husband was ok with my favorite names! That would be all it would take for me to take the opportunity to use them. Because I am the one who is more into names.

However, I have a worse problem, my husband hates most of my favorite names.

My husband doesn't seem to care about names until it comes time to name a child and then he seems to veto everything. Because of that, I don't kill myself trying to find a name he will love - it's not gonna happen. Finding a name he is ok with is fine by me.

Frazzled Mom said...

BTW - My parents sound like Swistle's in-laws: My Mom never looked at a single baby name book. The conversation probably went something like: "Alan will be our boy name because that is Dad's middle name. We need a girl name. I guess we will pick another A name. Amy, Amanda, and Angela begin with A. Amy is too short with our last name. Mom hates Amanda. Angela it is."