My Surname Doesn't Make Me His Mother

When my son was born, and he was handed back to me, once I’d been tended to, all wrapped up, I noticed the little tag around his ankle.

William Taylor.

To match mine.

And I remember panicking – I was young and didn’t understand at the time – because I thought that meant he might not have his father’s surname as we’d planned.

Back then, I assumed we’d all be Darrochs one day. I wanted my son to carry on his father’s name, and I was quite happy to give that name to my son. In any case, it certainly sounded a lot better to me and it felt right.

Since I split from my son’s father, that decision sometimes comes back to haunt me.

As fate would have it, or maybe just coincidence, I have met a man with the same surname as me. And I fell in love with him. To most, particularly in paperwork, we’re husband and wife. And we don’t mind that. We just smile and go along with it, because explaining our story of how we met and how many strange coincidences we have, is just too long. So, our house is full of Taylors. Even the cats.

Aside from one.

And that’s so strange to me. My closest family member of all and, on paper, it’s almost like he’s part of a different family.

And then there’s the little things Like – I can’t buy signs that say daft things like “Christmas with the Taylors”. Because it’s not. And at the same time, it would be weird to celebrate another name, a name whose family I don’t belong to.

Then there’s the nursery invoice that I pay every term. And still, every time, I get confused when I see  that surname pop up.

Then there’s imagining a future sibling and worrying that there would be an odd-one-out.

They are all such little things, I remind myself, because that doesn’t make a family. Day-to-day, we’re just Mama, Marky (or sometimes Marky Sharky if Bill has his way) and Bill (or William when he’s being naughty).

Over the weekend, we queued up with our passports, ready to board a ship. We were chattering away excitedly and Mark was making Bill laugh with his toys, making them tickle him, and I remember handing over the paperwork absentmindedly, expecting to be on our way.

The first one she picked up was William’s. And she processed it, ticked his name off the list, and stamped his set-sail pass.

I remember thinking how much quicker it was, more relaxed, than when we went on holiday last year, and flew on a plane.

And then she picked up mine. She opened it. And paused.

She picked up Mark’s. And she opened it. And paused.

And then she looked up and asked me what relation I was to my son.

And I remember my face dropping.

I felt it. My cheeks just lost their smile. I couldn’t get them to go back up. I tried to explain. I ended up panicking and feeling nervous and sometimes, when that happens, I babble. I tried to be honest and explain the long story of me and Mark, and then I had to, in turn, tell her our family makeup.

And she and two other colleagues just stared back at me.

She took Bill’s passport and boarding details away to discuss with her boss, and we waited.

At that moment I tried really hard not to cry.

I kept trying to swallow. And blink. And breathe.

I just wanted to enjoy our little break with my family. Just five minutes ago we were a normal family. We were excited. And carefree.

She came back and told me that, on this occasion, as it was organised and a press trip, it’s fine, but next time I should bring some proof to say I’m his mother.

At that moment, I have to be honest, I hated her. I know that she was just following protocol, and that it was her job, but I felt rage and shame bubble up in my chest.

I wanted to show her the stretch marks he gave me. I wanted her to know I breastfed him for 18 months. I wanted her to see the letters I wrote him every week for the first year of his life. I wanted her to see the tears I’d cried for him, pool at her feet. I wanted to remove my makeup and show her the dark circles that never leave. I wanted to show her the bills I paid on my own, as I struggled as a single parent. I wanted her to know how unfazed I am when he misses the toilet, or the potty. I wanted her to hear the range of voices I can use when I read a bedtime story. I want her to see the pile of washing I’d left at home, how many tiny tops I’d folded, and tiny socks I’d paired. I wanted her to look, just for a moment, very hard, and see how, actually his face, may as well be mine, how, while he certainly resembles his dad in many ways, he’s my double. And I wanted her to look deeper, right into my heart, right into the very core of me and feel how much I loved him.

I walked away and wiped a tear from each cheek. It’s all I would allow.

I’ve had moments where I’ve felt like a guilty mother, a part-time mother, a defensive mother, a frustrated mother, but I’ve always been a mother.

Except in that moment, I felt so desperate for her to believe me. For her to just know, as for me, it’s so obvious. My love for my son is so raw and open. Like a cut that won’t heal.

I felt a genuine sense of panic and I had to work really hard to push it from my mind for the rest of the weekend.

And it worked. Until this evening, when I checked my emails and saw a nursery invoice with that surname.

And I was reminded.

And so I wanted to write. Not because it will make any difference. Not because protocol will change. Or it will make it better.

But because it needed to be said.

I am his mother.

No one else.

For him, it doesn’t matter what name I was given, because there’s only one I will answer to when he calls.


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose; by any other name would smell as sweet.” 

– William Shakespeare.

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  • Reply
    Bright Town Girl
    24th April 2015 at 7:00 am

    I want to give you a big hug! That must of been horrible, I think I would of wanted to do the same. you did well to hold back the tears. xx

  • Reply
    24th April 2015 at 7:43 am

    I can't believe that they'd take a surname as proof!

    We are in the exact same situation. I could have written this myself. Logan is a Buckley and we're all Magoverns. Feels weird on all those occasions you mention above – he's aware of it and understands he has his dad's name but I hope he knows it doesn't mean we love him any less.

  • Reply
    24th April 2015 at 8:10 am

    This broke my heart a little bit! Such a sad story.

    Would you and Bill's dad ever consider perhaps doing a double barrelled surname? Darroch-Taylor? Drastic I know, and maybe not the solution you want.

    Life and family convention has changed so much in the past 20 years and everyone's story is so different – but that doesn't mean people shouldn't be accommodating or not listen to something that is wrongly perceived as not being the norm.

  • Reply
    24th April 2015 at 8:26 am

    I can relate to so much of what you write. The split, the single mum-stage and the amazing men that don't just accept our children but embrace them. The name thing is something I struggle with. Doctors appointment, pre-school forms, nursery invoices…it's all a constant reminder. I worry about the future – potential siblings and my name changing. Him feeling like the odd one out.

    I guess we try to tell ourselves that it's just a name but in situations like this one, it can become really tricky. But families are more complicated these days. It might be messy and complicated and require explanations that we don't really want to give sometimes, but it's worth it for the happiness I think?

    I'm going on holiday in June and all three of us will have different names so this has given me a bit of prior warning. I hope it didn't put too much of a dampener on your amazing weekend. x

  • Reply
    Oh so amelia
    24th April 2015 at 8:45 am

    Oh Charlotte! That must have been horrible 🙁 I actually hadn't even thought about this as my kids and I will never have the same name either – makes me sad and now I worry about passports, holidays etc too. But you're right you'll always be his mama! xx

  • Reply
    Merry Ferry
    24th April 2015 at 9:56 am

    We're hoping to start a family in the near future and it is this very thing that is making me think seriously about marriage. We considered double barrelling future childrens names but for us the names do not work together at all (although Darroch – Taylor sounds really good!!) I don't want to have to explain myself and us a million times over. I read last year about a Mum who was stopped from taking her children abroad due to this and told she would need a letter with the fathers permission, I don't think in this story he was on the scene at all but yet even though he had nothing to do with his children she would need his permission. It makes me sad that people are full of suspicion and families come in so many dynamics these days! I used to go abroad every year with my maternal grandparents as a child who had a different surname. They were not questioned once. It is no different and given that my partners parents live in N. Ireland frequent flights and ferry trips are necessary.

  • Reply
    24th April 2015 at 11:43 am

    This was such a lovely post, in the sense that while I was reading it..I felt the raw emotion that went into it. I'm not sure if you would want to but you can get your sons last name changed – I'm not sure how you go about it but I want you to know that it is an option. xx

  • Reply
    Percy and Grace
    24th April 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Aah this made me cry a little. I have a different name to Grace and James and I know that will change when we get married but even now I hate having to fill in any forms and have a different name to her. I can only imagine the hurt and pain you must have felt to feel like you being his mama was in question and you felt the need to prove it. I know as you say they have to do these security checks but it doesn't mean it won't upset you. Big hugs.

    Rebecca x x

  • Reply
    Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely
    24th April 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Ah, you poor, poor thing. I can't imagine what it must have been like to have to defend your 'title' as mother to sweet, little Bill. I was that child when I was younger. The one with a different surname to the rest of my family. It never bothered me at all. To a child, a name is just a name. It doesn't hint at a relationship. In the end though, I think my mother became a little fed up of explaining our family make up so at around the age of 10, I had was awarded an extra surname and a hyphen. Might be something to consider for the future depending on how you feel x

  • Reply
    Rachael C
    24th April 2015 at 5:02 pm

    What a horrible experience! You're Bill's mama and you don't need to justify that to anybody! xx

  • Reply
    Debbie Johnson
    24th April 2015 at 8:11 pm

    I am so sorry you were questioned, it seems absolutely bizarre. My children have blue eyes and blonde hair and I often feel like defending myself (oddly at parents evening the teacher didn't equate me with being the mother of my daughter on this basis). But, yes, every inch of what you write is what matters. I hope you find your way through this one, and find some way forward, and hope you are never in the same position again. xx

  • Reply
    24th April 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Oh hunny, what a crappy thing to happen on your lovely trip. I hope it did not put too much of a dampener on it. And you are right, no matter what his name you are what's most important – his mamma

  • Reply
    Faded Seaside Mama
    24th April 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Gosh how mean of her to make you feel like that, even if she is just doing her job. I double- barrelled my surname with my wife's when we got married, and then the girls got given the same name but now I've gone back to just my surname, but hopefully leaving the girls' names as they are will prevent issues like this.
    I'm so sorry you went through this. Give Bill an extra big hug cos you're the best mama that boy will ever have xx

  • Reply
    25th April 2015 at 4:40 am

    Oh my lovely, reading this made me cry as the exact same thing happened to me on the way home from a fab holiday last year. Thankfully my partner and I are still together and he had only nipped in front to go get the bags and was able to return to verify that our daughter was in fact OURS! But I felt the same emotions as you wrote so articulately. The customs lady suggested that if I ever travel alone with my daughter to have a copy of her birth certificate with me….yeah twist the knife a little deeper why don't you.
    Almost 12 months on and it still hurts when I think about it so I try to balance it by remembering that it could save the fate of someone's most precious treasure being removed from the country without their permission…….it helps…..a little xx

  • Reply
    FromFun ToMum
    25th April 2015 at 6:01 am

    In Italy nobody changes their name when they get married so all kids have a different surname to their mothers hence the kids passport States the name of both parents. Simples! Why this is not done in the UK baffles me. I can travel on my own with my kids Italian passport no problem, but one I was on my own with G and I had her British passport and it was a huge issue as they did not have anything to say that I was her mother. Why can't the British government get on with this? Sorry to hear about your troubles. Xx

  • Reply
    Christina Crouch
    25th April 2015 at 10:48 am

    This could be easily solved by putting a copy of the mothers and fathers passport number in the child's passport for cross reference. Maybe include photo of parents.

    Come on Goverment stop being 30 years behind the rest of the world.

  • Reply
    Amy Treasure
    1st May 2015 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Charlotte, beautiful post and I can totally relate. I actually have a very similar story to you; I gave my first two children their father's surname and lived to regret it. He always refused to allow me to change it to mine but when I met my now husband I told everyone official, the school, the doctor, that they were to be known as my married surname and they were. Eventually it will stick if you change it now even if it's unofficial, I've never had to explain it other than when I applied for school places I applied in their real name and told the school they were to be known as my married name. The only official document is their passports which can't be changed. I know some people won't agree as their father refused but he didn't want anything to do with them and so in my eyes gave up his right to have a say. I'm not sure how the situation between you and your ex is though but just thought I'd let you know as can totally understand 🙂 xxx

  • Reply
    newcastle familylife
    2nd May 2015 at 2:01 pm

    what an awful thing to happen. My oldest has my surname but youngest two have there fathers surname, i find it so strange when i see things with there surname on as it is different to my own. x

  • Reply
    8th May 2015 at 8:50 pm

    I've only just come across your blog but I've fallen in love with it, especially after reading this post. It sounds like it can be difficult at times but your son will never see you any differently other than mummy. I'm really looking forward to reading future posts and thank you for sharing this experience with us.

    Much love, Eilidh x

  • Reply
    9th May 2015 at 4:31 pm

    my eldest has my second name, my youngest has her dads name, if something in the future happens and I marry someone other than my OH then both my kids will have different surnames to me and eachother. This story terrifies me though :-/ Id hate to have to explain it all to anyone, they are MY girls, no matter what their names are.

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