'Baby-name remorse': Would you change your child's name if you had a change of heart?
The plethora of baby names to choose from is causing a vast amount of indecisiveness, and in some cases, regret
On top of all of the stresses that come with being pregnant, the pressure to name your child is huge.
Between pregnancy and, in the case of Irish residents, the first three months of their life, you have to come up with the primary part of your child's identity.
The naming rat-race
Parents arrive at their chosen name for all sorts of reasons – a tribute to a family member or a friend, countless hours spent trawling through baby name books or websites, admiration of a fictional character or historical figure, cultural influences, inspiration from a celebrity baby name, or, most simply, what name the baby "looks" like upon meeting them.
Where it was once the standard Western practice to give your child a name that didn't stand out – in eighteenth-century England, around a quarter of babies were named John or Mary – now, more and more parents are opting for unique names.
This has only added to the pressure of naming a baby. Today, parents don't want a name that's too common. But they also don't want a name that's too out-there or difficult to pronounce, should teasing ensue in the classroom or playground. Trying to find the right balance is causing many parents to overthink the naming process – sometimes long after the baby is born and registered.
'Baby-name remorse' is an increasing syndrome that comes with the ever-expanding pool of names we have to choose from. More choices are leading to more indecisiveness, 'what if's and regret.
But is a name really for life? That answer depends on the parent – or ultimately, the adult who hates their name and no longer needs parental consent to change it.
Adults legally change their forenames all the time for a variety of reasons. For some, the change comes with a fresh start out of an abusive childhood or marriage. Plenty of transgender or non-binary people choose a new name that better suits their identity. Others simply change their name because a nickname is all they're known by and sorting the legalities makes life easier (like Miley Cyrus, whose birth name was Destiny Hope Cyrus).
But what about when it comes to legally changing the name you've given to somebody else?
If you're experiencing namer's remorse, don't ignore it. The longer you do, the longer it'll stick around. Instead, try to identify why you're regretting the name you've given your child. Is it the spelling, the pronunciation or the opinions of others, or does it just not suit the baby or kid you've gotten to know since first thinking of the name?
Once you know the root of your uneasiness, it'll be easier to decide what to do about it. For some people, it's just a case of getting used to it. Mothers in particular have all sorts of anxieties and feelings of self-doubt following the birth of a baby (especially when it's their first). Your baby-name remorse might just be another symptom of new mother's panic.
If it's deeper than that to the point where you cringe hearing people say your child's name, or you struggle to say it yourself, you should seriously consider changing it. Chances are if you don't like it, your kid will grow up not liking it either.
The fear factor
Feeling ashamed or embarrassed at the idea of having to inform others puts some parents off changing a name they're not happy with. But it's better to deal with your embarrassment now than have your child's embarrassment follow you throughout their life.
Amy Schumer was praised last year for legally changing her then 11-month-old son's name after realising a pronunciation mishap. "Do you guys know that Gene, our baby’s name, is officially changed? It’s now Gene David Fischer," she shared on her podcast 3 Girls, 1 Keith. "It was Gene Attell Fischer, but we realised that we, by accident, named our son ‘genital.'"
The move no doubt saved her son a lifetime of teasing.
Even if there's no particular difficulties or faux-pas surrounding the pronunciation of your child's name, it might still sound wrong to you. Sometimes it's not even about a dislike of the name itself – but rather, a dislike of that name specifically for your child. And no amount of pushing through your discomfort for the sake of saving face in front others is going to change that.
Journalist Lena Corner changed her baby boy's name from Ralph to Huxley when she realised that around six months after his birth, she never called him anything but "the baby." While she found it "remarkably" easy to legally change his name before the age of one, telling other people was a different ball game.
"Although my mum just laughed and my sisters encouraged me, there were mutterings about me and the future identity crisis I was creating," she wrote in the Guardian. "I log on to mumsnet.com to see what the women there think of our decision to change our son's name and discover a mixed reaction. Some of the mums thought it highly irregular and another told me that choosing a name like Huxley was far more damaging than the actual name change itself.
"Interestingly though, about 50% of mums who responded said they had wanted to change their child's name but didn't, usually because they couldn't face the reaction from others. I can understand why."
Change and age
The longer you leave a name change while worrying about what others think though, the more awkward it becomes. More and more people will have associated your child's identity with their birth name, and people are generally resistant to change. So if you're really not happy with your first pick, change it sooner rather than later before everyone gets too used to it.
Interior designer Caitlin Wilson changed her daughter's name from Sienna to Lucy just before her first birthday. "Seems funny, but it was not easy naming a third girl and now it seems like she was always my Lucy," she wrote on Instagram.
While getting the name change in during the early years is best if it's quite different from the birth name, if you're just officialising the nickname your child is already known and loved by, it really doesn't matter what age the legal change comes at.
Tara McCallan of the Happy Soul Project blog changed her daughter's legal name to the nickname she had been going by for the prior eight years of her life. "I use to wonder why in the world parents would change their own child's name after the fact," she wrote, informing her Instagram followers of the change. "But, yet, here I am absolutely delighted with a name change certificate in my hand.
"...She's Pip. Period. And now it's official. We gave her that nickname when she was just a few weeks old. She was so itsy bitsy we called her Pipsqueak. And it stuck hard.
"She knows no other name. My sons only know her as this. We've only ever called her it. To me, my own daughter is truly only Pip. Reid seems so foreign when it comes outta anyone's mouth."
Bottom line is, if a name doesn't feel right, it isn't meant to be. Regardless of what others think or say, do what suits you and your child best. They're lucky to have a parent who loves them enough to put so much thought into their name.