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Friday, February 4, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Someone Else in the Family is Considering Using the Same Name You're Considering

Mary writes:
I am due March 11th with a baby girl. I have a 2-year-old son named Jack and our last name starts with an H and ends with an N and is two syllables. My husband and I had no problem agreeing on Jack as a name for our son. We have also had no issue picking a name for our baby girl. Before we knew that our first child was a boy we agreed on the name Clare and still love the name. Perfect right? No! The problem is that this name has caused some family drama.

I have a very large and close family and when I was pregnant with my son Jack everyone knew that Jack and Clare were the names that my husband and I had agreed upon. When my cousin got pregnant last year she announced that her girl’s name was also Clare. I was shocked and upset but she had a baby boy in the end. Now that I am having a girl she has made comments that she still loves the name Clare and that we can just have two in our family. But I do not know if I am O.K. with that. We are open to other suggestions but just can’t seem to give Clare completely up. We tend to like Irish names that are classic and are not fans of trendy names. So should I pick another name or just hope that she will not go through with naming a future daughter Clare as well?

Other names that we have considered are:

Bridget (my husband and I both like this name too)

Mary Clare (which would differentiate the two kids if she ever did use the name)

Agnes (I like this name but my husband does not)

Mabel (we both liked this name but have had some negative reactions from family members and friends which has moved us away from the name)

We plan to use Marie or Margaret as a middle name after one of my grandmothers (although these are not set in stone either).

We would love some advice and/or other name suggestions.

I see this as a balance scale. One one side: How you would feel if you gave up the name Clare and then your cousin didn't use it after all. On the other side: How you would feel if you used the name Clare and your cousin used it too.

You describe yourself as "shocked and upset" that your cousin also loves the name and wants to use it. The word "shocked," along with the point you make about everyone knowing you liked the name during your first pregnancy, makes me wonder if you may be thinking that by mentioning it back then, you had claimed dibs on the name. So I first want to say that mentioning a name (especially in a pregnancy where you didn't end up using the name) is not staking a permanent and exclusive claim to it. Think of it more as a heads-up than a claim: you're letting people know that it's your intention to use it, and maybe you're going on record as being the one who mentioned it first, but you're not saying that the name is YOURS and no one else can use it.

This is, in fact, the same thing your cousin is doing: she's been giving heads up, but without saying no one else can use it. And since you both want to use the name, it's good she mentioned that she doesn't mind two Clares: this gives you important information for making your own decision. Even if your cousin plans to use the name later, nothing at all is being taken away from you: not only do you still have every right to use the name, but also you get to use it FIRST. And of course it is possible your cousin will have only boys, or discover another name she likes better---which is why you need to consider how you'd feel in that situation, if you had given up the name based on a future possibility.

I would really like to urge you not to abandon your favorite name just because the child's second cousin might have the same name. In a family where second cousins see each other all the time, there are plenty of ways to tell two Clares apart that are not only easy but also fun: nicknames, first-and-middles, initials, family-significant names that evolve over time. It may also forge a special bond between the two girls, who, as long as their mothers aren't telling them otherwise, may think of it as a wonderful and special thing to share a name.

If you decide the negative feelings you'd have about both children having the name outweigh the negative feelings you'd have about giving the name up, I think both Bridget Marie and Mary Clare are wonderful, beautiful names.


Anonymous said...

Have you considered using Clara?

Patricia said...

I would use Clare for all the reasons Swistle gave. Too, it may be that once there *is* a Clare in the family, rather than a hypothetical Clare, your cousin will no longer want to use that name. Either way, I don't see any reason not to name your daughter Clare and have your Jack and Clare - names that are excellent together.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Patricia--you should just use it because I think she'll be less likely to once you do. She'll start to associate that name with your child, not her own. And she might get pressure from the rest of the family not to reuse the name. I don't mean to create an issue around a name you really like, but you might want to think about the similarity of Mary Claire to the magazine titled Marie Claire. This might not make any difference to you, I just thought I'd point it out, just in case.

Carolyn said...

I found this post so interesting because I too have had Clare (spelled just that way) in my head for years and would be really devastated if one of my cousins took it. However, I'd be more heartbroken if I didn't get to use it. Maybe your cousin will spell it differently, or upon seeing that you've already had a Clare decide that she might want to choose Mary Clare or Clara.

e said...

USE IT!!!! i think you'll regret it if you don't! Clare Marie is beautiful.

caroline said...

Speaking on the part of your possible future daughters, I don't think they will mind sharing the same name at all. In fact, like Swistle suggested, they will likely find a special bond from sharing a name. I have a second cousin named Caroline and although we rarely see one another, I will say that she is the only second cousin whose name I can regularly remember. On those chance occasions that we do get together for family gatherings, we tend to gravitate toward one another and find a certain comfort in sharing a name and a family. I also have a stepsister whose middle name is Caroline. This is a different situation entirely, but as children we always loved that we had that shared name. It was made even more special by the fact that we were stepsisters and it made us more like "real" sisters. We are both in our twenties now, but we still like to refer to our "Caroline Club." Although this may cause some amount of tension between you and your cousin, I think that you will find that two girls named Clare will be perfectly happy to share that bit of familiarity with one another.

Clare Margaret is a beautiful name!

StephLove said...

I say use the name you love. But if you can't bring yourself to do it, Mary Clare is a nice compromise. Bridget Clare sounds nice, too.

kanah said...

I do think that Mary Clare and Clara and precious, solid names. However, I too think you will regret not using Clare. If you just can't bear to follow through with it, then one of the afformentioned names would still work, but a hypothetical child or your cousin shouldn't sway you from a name you've loved for years. I agree with the above comments that your cousin will probably change her mind anyways. It sounds like it could be years before she has another baby, who could end up being a boy anyhow! If, alas, she uses Clare after you used it, I think the girls would enjoy sharing the name growing up. It will give them a cool bond, and there any much worse things than that! Just my 2 cents :) Best of luck!

KM said...

I don't want you to think that I'm a horrible person. In fact, I am usually non-confrontational. That said, if your family is as close as it is, you should tell your cousin (in no uncertain terms) that you're naming your daughter Clare and you're not comfortable having her use the name for her future daughter. If you've already done that, then I agree with the other posters that the other names are lovely.

The Wonder Worrier said...

I agree with everyone else... name your daughter Clare! You have no way of knowing what will happen in the future, but if you've found the name of Your Baby, then go for it!

Your Clare and your cousin's hypothetical Clare might share enough differences in looks and personality, that the name will feel "unique" in relation to them anyway... I'm a 1985 Stephanie, and yet my very best friend being named Stephanie too isn't a big deal... when I say Steph and mean her, it's a completely unique feeling, because of who she is.

Don't even worry about it, just go for the name you've loved forever!

kimma said...

A similar thing happened in my family. My cousin and her sister-in-law were both pregnant together. One wanted to name a girl Gabriella and the other wanted to name a boy Gabriel. It caused some angst, but in the end Gabriella came out first and my cousin went with her favourite name. Her sister-in-law still wanted to use Gabriel, but the husband refused to go along and he got a different name.

Long story short ... you're due first so you get to use the name. I'd be fairly positive either the cousin, her husband or both will not want to use a me-too name if they do ever have a daughter.

kimma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs S said...

Use Clare. This will feel like a big deal now...but once you get to hold your lovely, sweet Clare in your arms this will be the last thing on your mind. And there is a good chance your cousin will not want the same name for her own. I'm not sure why she would...Good Luck :)

Joanne said...

Personally, I wouldn't give a hoot if someone in my family had the same name. In my family, we have a lot of Eileens and Bridgets and some of them even have the same last name but it hasn't been a big deal. But I do think Mary Clare is lovely and it's not uncommon (especially in Irish/Catholic families) to name a first girl Mary _____ and they can go by the middle name.

Anonymous said...

I am going to try to be diplomatic. I thoroughly agree with Swistle's gentle recommendation that it is appropriate to give a heads up, but not to claim dibs. Your cousin may not ever have a daughter, maybe she'll only have sons. Making a stink about this will only make you look stinky. I know this because something very similar happened in my family with 2 cousins being named a very common boys name. Also, how often will your children be together with your cousin's children? Even if they do hang out together, children won't know this is an issue unless their parent tell them that it is. And lastly, "worst case scenario" is that in a few years you have 2 healthy girls, Clare and Clare playing together.
-MA in PA

Jenny said...

I agree with most of the posters above; you should use Clare. If your cousin does have a future daughter and decides to name her Clare, too, then you will know that your cousin's love of the name is real, because she'll have the extra hurdle of adding a second Clare to the family. But you don't have that worry! Just use it.

Mary Clare makes me think of the magazine Marie Claire. That might not bother you, but consider it.

Also, I wanted to add a shout-out for Mabel. I think it's the kind of name people might have an initial negative reaction to, because it seems old-fashioned. But once it is used, they realize just how cool and unique and plain brilliant a naming choice it is. We have friends with a daughter named Mabel. I don't know what I would have thought about it if they had mentioned it before she was born, but I've been smitten with it ever since - and consider them to be naming geniuses. I still think you should use Clare since it's the name you love, but if you can't get past the cousin thing, then disregard other people's reactions to Mabel. It's fabulous & innovative!