5 Routes to Baby Name Happiness

In our best fantasies, here’s how we name our babies:

MOM-TO-BE — Darling, I just love the names Susannah and Henry, don’t you?

DAD-TO-BE — Oh, yes, dear.  And I might also suggest Jane, after your mother, and John, after my dad.

MOM — What excellent ideas, sweetheart.  So if it’s a girl, we’ll name her Susannah Jane, and a boy will be Henry John.

DAD — Perfect.  Now why don’t you let me rub your feet?

In reality, discussions go more like this:

MOM — How about Susannah or Henry?

DAD — Blech.  I hate those kind of frilly names; if we have a girl, I think we should name her something cool, like Harley or Parker.  And if we have a boy, my mother says we have to name him after my father.

MOM — Your mother’s not naming our baby.  And your taste in names sucks.

Usually, after nine months or possibly ten, the parents manage to arrive at a name they both can live with.  Why does baby-naming inspire such deep feelings and strong arguments in a couple who may have an easy time getting along in so many other ways?

For one thing, choosing a name can tap into deep, previously-unexplored issues about family, tradition, gender, image, one’s very identity.  It may be the first important test of control and compromise.  And the problems around choosing a name can feel all the more disturbing because you think it’s supposed to be so easy and fun.

Lately, it seems I’ve encountered several parents who found unconventional routes to arriving at the right name.  If your name discussions with your partner more closely resemble the second example above than the idealized first, you might want to try one of these avenues:

TAKE TURNS — Assuming you plan to have more than one child, you can agree to take turns choosing names.  How much power you give the other person to weigh in or veto your name ideas may vary, ranging from a kind of president-vice president arrangement to one of you wielding complete baby name power.  Think of it this way: At least one of you will thoroughly love the name.

DIVIDE BY GENDER — In some families, she names the boys and he names the girls or vice versa.  This can work especially well if one or both of you have strong feelings about names for one gender but not the other.

HAVE ONE PARTNER NARROW, THE OTHER ONE CHOOSE — Here’s how it works: You make a list of ten names you like.  Your partner gets to pick one, whichever one he or she chooses.  If your partner can’t pick one from your list, then he makes a list of ten, and you pick.  Alternate until you find a name you both can live with, or until you give up and move to one of the other strategies.

LIMIT THE CHOICES TO FAMILY NAMES — Rather than choosing from the enormous and ever-expanding universe of possible names, some couples agree they’re only going to pick names from their families. These might include first, middle, and last names, which can give you enough choices while keeping the discussions manageable.

LET SOMEONE ELSE DO IT — I met a woman recently, the mom of twins, who let her parents and in-laws each name one baby.  It gave the grandparents an important and exciting way to be involved, and lightened the psychic load for her and her husband.  While this runs counter to all conventional baby-naming wisdom, it might make sense if you trust your parents’ taste and you don’t have any clear preferences.

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8 Responses to “5 Routes to Baby Name Happiness”

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Nook of Names Says:

December 15th, 2011 at 4:55 am

We actually did the ‘divide by gender’ thing; we agreed that husband-thing would get his choice if a girl, and I would name a boy. However, we had given the green light to each other’s choice first, which I think is an important caveat to add. I wouldn’t advise to agreeing to the equivalent of a name blank-cheque! Who knows what a man might come up with! 😉

BritishAmerican Says:

December 15th, 2011 at 8:54 am

Our second child was pretty much named by ‘HAVE ONE PARTNER NARROW, THE OTHER ONE CHOOSE’. My husband picked between my top two boy choices once our son was born.

We also did ‘Take Turns’ by #3. Our first two children had my favourite picks, so my husband named our 3rd child. Thankfully his top girl choice and top boy choice went well with our first two. His girl choice was even my Nanna’s name.

Totally would not let someone else name the baby! We did have family throw out suggestions for our 2nd child, 1st boy. That actually made me less likely to pick the names – as I wanted to choose, rather than just pick something they suggested.

klcalder2 Says:

December 15th, 2011 at 11:18 am

With both kids, I made my list of names I loved and then he chose the names he liked most and we both chose from those two or three. It’s worked out really well for having a partner who has no ability to suggest names whatsoever 🙂

lorencs3 Says:

December 15th, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Wow, I would NEVER let my mother-in-law name my baby. Or even my own mom. My husband and I are basically using the narrow/choose method, but like klcalder, I have a partner with no ability to suggest names whatsoever. He vetoes my choices and I get frustrated when he can’t articulate what he doesn’t like about them. I am still hoping he’ll give in completely and give me free reign, since I care so much more than he does.

OddCreature Says:

December 15th, 2011 at 7:22 pm

lorencs3 – my man is exactly the same! Vetos all my suggestions, but doesn’t explain why, then has no other suggestions to offer.

Well that’s not entirely true – he does have one boys name he’s 100% set on. Too bad I don’t like it!

I’m keeping the NARROW/CHOOSE method under my belt, just in case….

Mishada17 Says:

December 15th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

No children yet for me, but when/if it happens I think combining the narrow/choose with the divide by gender would be the way to go. Like I’d narrow for girls and he’d narrow for boys. Then switch for next child. I’m surprised splitting the name so one parent picks the first name and other parent picks the middle name isn’t listed.

Saracita00 Says:

February 13th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

That idealized scenario was completely hilarious! Great variety of suggestions for solving the name negotiation problem.

nativoyoung Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 10:57 pm

You forgot the most important naming strategy: s/he who cares most, wins. With dd#2 hubby hated Clementine more than I wanted it so he picked Emeline. With dd#3 I loved Harriet more than he hated it, so I won.

For the first two kids we went with the method of my making a list and hubby picking his two favorites. Worked for me because he picked my two favorites. Yay! (That was Miriam and Cowen).

The only weird one was baby #4 when hubs had picked out the name when we were engaged, he finally got to use it, and then he changed his mind in the hospital and named the baby Eli instead. Worked for me because I love Eli a whole lot more than I liked Brigham.

As for baby #6–we’ve got to the “don’t talk about it because it will just cause a fight” stage. I gave him a list of 20 boy names and he said no to all of them. I think it is time to stop having children. 🙂

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