'My husband and kids took my surname. Here's why'

Meet the family breaking away from old-fashioned tradition.

Heather Taylor Johnson was about 10 years old when she first began thinking about the patriarchy, and questioning the often automatic choice to take a man’s surname upon marriage.

“My mother worked full-time for as long as I could remember, so she seemed independent to me, financially and in spirit,” says Ms Taylor Johnson.

“But then I noticed that she was the parent who did the cooking and the cleaning, did pick-up and drop-offs for my brother and I, and that she took my father’s name.

It just didn't seem fair

“We, as mothers, carry the babies, we even grow a new organ in our bodies and share it with them so that they can live so of course it makes sense that our children are more a part of us than they are of their fathers – why take the father’s name?”

For Ms Taylor Johnson though, the decision needn’t be gender-based at all, but rather whatever suits an individual family.

The Taylor Johnsons. Image: Supplied

The Taylor Johnsons. Image: Supplied

“If the father’s surname sounds better than the mother’s then all bets are off as far as I’m concerned.

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“But his was boring, too, so I figured I might as well keep mine. I’d given up my home country to be with him, why give up any more of my history?”

When Ms Taylor Johnson’s firstborn came along, the pair made the rare and controversial decision to combine both names.

“Our firstborn became a Taylor Johnson, which sounded so nice I decided to start using it as a pen name.

"So we made it official"

“When I was pregnant with our second child I realised I wanted to be the same as my children legally, so I officially changed my name and presented the certificate to my husband on his 40th birthday.”

Ms Taylor Johnson says while her husband did assume the children would take his name alone, the decision was an easy one.

“I think it was mutually understood that our kids taking one of our names wasn’t balanced, for them or for us or for our family as a whole.”

It wasn't your typical naming dilemma. Image: iStock

It wasn't your typical naming dilemma. Image: iStock

It soon became a household joke that Ms Taylor Johnson’s husband was the odd one out, and he made the decision to change his name to match - as soon as his wife had her first novel published.

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“When I got my first novel published, I held him accountable to his words in the acknowledgement pages, and we all laughed, and he changed his name.

“It feels good and proper that our kids have both of our names, like we’ve wrapped them securely in the knowledge that two people, with two histories, belong to them and will always belong to them.

“And I love that we share their name, rather than them sharing ours. It’s great referring to the five of us as the Taylor Johnsons because we’re absolutely our own entity.”

But the Taylor Johnson’s remain in the extreme minority

“Men usually feel uncomfortable if asked to change or hyphen their name, they prefer to keep their family name and have their wife either change her name or hyphen to include his,” says phycologist Dr Karen Phillip.

It doesn't look like things are going to change any time soon. Image: iStock

It doesn't look like things are going to change any time soon. Image: iStock

“A study conducted in 2018, revealed that men whose wife retained her surname was rated as less instrumental, more expressive, and as holding less power in the relationship.”

Thandie Newton (mom of two girls Ripley and Nico): “I’ve learned the value of absorbing the moment. I remember the first time Ripley saw her shadow. My God, it was like shadows had just been invented. It was the most exquisite moment.”

Dr Phillip says while combining names may seem like a worthy compromise for couples, it’s rare for men to jump on board.

Many men find it 'emasculating'

“We see most men disregard this request and choose to remain who they are and have always been.”

When it comes to children, the stats tell a similar story, and Dr Phillip doesn’t expect to see any changes in the near future.

“I believe children will predominantly be given their father’s name due to such long standing tradition.

“I wonder how beneficial it may be for children to retain the name of their mother, so all children born to the mother have a common name and identity instead of a family with multiple different names due to what is occurring, the father’s provisional position.”