As a child, I was one of those unfortunate children with a unique enough name that I was never able to find cups, keychains, jewelry, and other items with my name on them. Although I do not currently long for a pencil case or novelty license plate imprinted with “Audrey,” I do still recognize the appeal of something personalized and specifically made for my name. Names, after all, are an essential part of our personal identity, and part of what sets us apart from others.
Now, as an adult, who has responsibility for her own home to furnish and decorate, I find myself in a similar version of this predicament. Catalogs, Pinterest, decorating magazines, craft stores, and others have popularized personalized home décor. One can go to Etsy, among others, and order everything from doormats, wall hangings, coffee mugs, hand towels, and anything else imaginable with a monogram or family’s last name. A co-worker of mine has made quite a side business from creating serving trays, plaques, coasters, and a variety of other beautiful products to fill the demand of this craze!
I find myself longing for a beautiful sign for my door or other such pretty items for my house; but, unlike when I was a child and couldn’t find my name anywhere, I don’t have to rely on what’s available in a souvenir shop to satisfy this desire. I could get what I want just about anywhere or even make it myself, but I don’t. I should say that I can’t, at least I feel that I can’t because of the unique dynamics of my stepfamily.
As a remarried stepmom, members of my household bear two different last names. My children go by the last name of my ex-husband. I can’t help it. I love my children with all my heart, but their last name is an unwelcome reminder of a man and a time in my life that I wish I could forget. That last name is their last name. I will never disparage it in any way in front of them; but, I just don’t care for it and don’t wish to see it decoratively displayed around my home.
Now that I am remarried, I go by the last name of my new husband, which also matches the last name of his four children. I love my new name and am proud to be part of his family; but, I am always very conscious of the fact that my children are now outnumbered in our home, as the other six residents of their home go by “Cade.”
I want everyone to feel as though our home is their home and they are welcome there. No one is an outcast or should feel like an outsider inside our four walls. For this reason, I am always very careful to not refer to our home as the “Cade” home or us as the “Cade” family. At times, we refer to ourselves or have been referred to by a hyphenated last name. This is okay with me if it serves a purpose to help identify us and respect the nature of our relationship and the existence of other parents. Again, I still prefer not to see that last name emblazoned on my wall.
When my children are grown, perhaps I will splurge on a “Cade” item in honor of my husband and I; however, I just won’t let myself do it yet if it means that anyone feels that they’re not a part of our family.
About a month ago, my aforementioned creative co-worker made a sign for me that brought tears to my eyes in all the best ways! I explained to her that I really wanted something personal that physically demonstrated our commitment as a family without making the differences in our last name an issue. I proudly display this plaque in my dining room now, and my heart was warmed to see the reaction of the kids when they first saw it.
Instead of a hyphenated last name or something that might make some of the children feel left out, she combined all our first names into a circle with a heart and the words “party of eight.” It’s so us, and a solution to a problem that many stepfamilies face that I will treasure forever!
Last names, after divorce or when becoming part of a step or blended family, can be a touchy subject. My last name used to belong to my stepchildren’s mother. She used to be Mrs Cade, just as I used to be married to my ex and share his last name. No matter what decisions and changes parents go through, the children will almost always continue to carry the monikers of their original family, and those combined letters are an important part of their heritage and identity.
Each family will have to address this situation in a way that feels the most respectful and inclusive to its own members. I have seen other families display décor with hyphenated last names, and that feels comfortable and an accurate representation of their family to them. Others, like myself, feel that last names have the power to simultaneously include and exclude. We all do what is right for us and our homes; and, often, stepfamilies demonstrate creativity in solving our problems, including what to call ourselves.
Audrey Cade, author of Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision,ivorceForce, Worthy Living and has been published in The Divorce Magazine, The Good Men Project, StepMo is a matriarch of a stepfamily of six children and an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, stepparenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage. She is a featured blogger for DivorcedMoms, contributor for Dm Magazine, and others. Her professional experience is a case manager social worker for developmentally-disabled children, and she holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology. Follow Audrey on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Listen each Wednesday to her weekly Divorce Warrior Dialog podcast on her website.