I know that you have been asked questions about middle names before, however, I am at a loss about this one. My husband and I are expecting baby #2. We have agreed upon a first name, Layla and even a middle name, which is my middle name as well as my mom’s middle name. My mom is a beautiful, loving person who takes care of our first child during the week, so naming our child after her was never an issue at all. My husband’s mother however, just asked him to name our daughter’s second middle name after her, which he agreed to without asking me! Let’s put aside the fact that 2 middle names seems a bit much. This woman is not a nice woman by any stretch of the imagination. She has always been verbally abusive to my husband and never agreed about our marriage for no other reason than the fact that my husband had a bad first marriage experience. She has never met me, never spoken to me and never even called me to congratulate me on our first child. My husband is a forgiving man and chalks it up to this is how she is and has let it go and moved on and since this will make her happy, why not?
I, on the other hand, find it hard to accept. I consider myself a very spiritual person and do believe in positive energies, and although it may sound odd, I do not want to associate such a negative person to our innocent child. I want a beautiful clean slate for her and not have her name associated with someone who has been chronically negative all her life.
I explained this to my husband, and he said if he can let the past go, why can’t I? And if this is going to make her happy, why not do it and that I am being selfish especially since our son’s middle name is my father’s middle name, which he wasn’t a big fan of. I explained, that my father is a loving man who has embraced him and our family and of course watches over our son with my mom during the week as well. There is no comparison! He said that if she was here, she would help as well. She is not the type of person who I would even want influencing our children.
Is it wrong to say no?
I told him I would tell his mom, no, if he doesn’t want to tell her. Which means our first conversation would be me explaining why I don’t want our child to be named after her. But I feel that I rather do that, then subject my daughter to a horrible name!
Am I being close minded???
There is an enormous and immediate problem here, and it is all your husband’s fault. Let’s see if we can find a way to make that clear to him.
Here are the things that do matter, but are not the primary issue:
1. That your mother-in-law is a piece of work.
2. That her name would have a very negative association for you.
3. That you’d prefer not to use two middle names.
4. That your husband has forgiven his mother.
5. That he thinks his mother WOULD help with the kids if she were nearby.
6. That you would not want her to do so.
7. That the middle name he agreed to for the first child is your father’s middle name.
8. That your parents are good choices for honor names.
Here is what hugely matters:
1. That your husband made a decision about your baby’s name, with someone other than you, and without your agreement or consent.
That is such a violation, it makes me a little dizzy. Step one, and this must be done, is for him to call or write or email his mother and say, in whatever words work for him and for his relationship with her: “Mom, I made a terrible mistake. When you asked the other day if we’d give our daughter your name, I was an idiot and said yes without even thinking about it, or consulting my wife. Obviously I should have said that I would talk it over with her. And the thing is, Mom, we’ve already agreed on this baby’s name; it’s already settled. So we won’t be using your name for this baby.”
That last sentence is to save face and soften the blow: she can be left with the idea that it might very well happen with a future baby. He may say this ONLY if he can pull it off WITHOUT saying her name WILL be used for a future baby. He must FULLY UNDERSTAND this BEFORE having the conversation, or I believe he WILL end up promising. If he is talking with her in real-time, he needs a script that prepares him for what she is likely to say/ask, and he should practice. Something like, if she says “Well, the NEXT baby then for sure,” he can say lightly, “Ha ha! We’re just taking it one baby at a time, Mom!” Or if she says, “It’s not fair, the first two babies BOTH have HER parents’ names!,” he can say, “And they both have our family’s last name, Mom,” or “Well, really we just liked the names,” or “Well, Layla’s middle name is actually J.’s middle name—it just happens to also be her mom’s middle name,” or WHATEVER he can say that does NOT involve making ANY promises or making YOU look bad again in the future.
Your husband’s behavior has, unfortunately, put you in a terrible position. When he says yes to his mother, and then comes back and says no, the absolutely clear conclusion drawn by all parties will be that YOU said no. He looks like the good guy; you look like the bad guy. This is why this must never, never, never happen again. It is an enormous violation of the marital bond, and he needs to realize it: if he continues to fail to understand that point, I might go so far as to recommend professional counseling to help him understand it. He must never, ever, ever again make you look bad in order to make his mother happy. Never. He clearly has a tricky relationship with her, and he may have reasons for finding it hard to say no to her, but he must understand that he can’t use his marriage or your reputation as currency to buy approval from his mother, and he can’t make you into the bad guy when he does the wrong thing. It worries me that he would rather call you selfish and imply that you have a hard time letting go of the past, than take responsibility for his major error in judgment.
I am reminded of my first husband. We agreed that we wanted our first Christmas together to be just the two of us. We let both families know, way ahead of time. Then, several days before Christmas, my husband’s dad called. I listened in increasing horror as my husband first said, “No, we’re having our first Christmas just the two of us,” then after a little while said that HE wanted to go home for Christmas but I was the one who wanted it just the two of us, and then, finally, fatefully, agreed that we would indeed go spend Christmas with his parents. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made that marriage end, but when I think back on it, that moment, and his failure to understand how serious a violation his behavior was (“But my dad said my mom was REALLY UPSET we weren’t coming”), was certainly a serious, serious crack.
You will have to take the fall for your husband’s mistake, I’m sorry to say. There is no getting away from it, which is why this can only happen once. His mother WILL end up thinking that her son wanted to name his daughter after her, but that his wife refused. I suggest breathing slowly in through the nose, out through the mouth. The situation at this time is the equivalent of your husband saying that HE wants to go home for Christmas, but YOU don’t. He has been a colossal idiot, but your daughter has not yet in fact been given his mother’s name, and so there is time to at least save that—and that is well worth saving.
I suggest, when you discuss this with your husband, staying on track. When he tries to divert the discussion to whether or not his mother would help with the children if she were nearby, to whether or not his mother was a good person, to whether or not he or you should forgive her, to whether or not it makes you selfish to not want to use his mother’s name, to what the two of you agreed to name your first child, you may need to again and again bring it back to this point: he is not allowed to make a decision on THIS child’s name without YOUR agreement.
The two of you AGREED to use your father’s middle name as your first child’s middle name; the two of you have NOT agreed to use his mother’s first name as this child’s middle name. The two of you may also agree that it’s best to let go of the past and for him to forgive his mother; that does not mean the two of you agreed to use his mother’s name as this child’s middle name. The two of you might or might not agree that his mother would/should help with the children if she were nearby; that does not mean the two of you agreed to use his mother’s name as this child’s middle name. The two of you may even at some point agree to use his mother’s name as a child’s middle name; that does not mean he can make that decision without you.
You and your husband are treating this as if it is an argument about the pros and cons of using his mother’s name. But it is not: it is an argument about whether he may or may not name the baby without your consent. He and his mother are not in charge of naming this baby; you and he are in charge of naming this baby. You and he together decided on Layla as her first name, and on your middle name as her middle name. He absolutely may say that he wants to revisit that decision; he absolutely may not make a new decision without you.