6 mom-tested ways to choose a baby name you won’t regret
You can’t choose your baby’s eye color or personality. But you do get to control the name on the birth certificate.
No pressure but…one in five mothers say they got it wrong.
Two percent even changed the name later, according to a survey by the British parenting site Mumsnet.
That’s why it’s worth looking at the reasons behind “baby namer’s remorse.”
Sometimes fate just does a number on you. You can’t control current events, for example. A few years back, more than one girl was named for Egyptian goddess Isis… only for the name to become a household word as the acronym for a terrorist group (and, slightly less problematically, the dog on Downton Abbey).
You can, however, learn these lessons from the surveyed mums:
Go ahead and scan those lists of popular-baby-name, but…
One-fourth of the name regretters in the survey of 1,300 parents felt their choice was just too commonly used. If you love it, you love it. But it can be helpful to know if your fave is trending.
What that can mean five years from now: Your little Olivia and Ezra (most popular U.S. names for 2016 by mid-year) might be known in kindergarten—and for grades after—as Olivia K. and Ezra D. to distinguish them from like-named classmates. (In the U.K., current chart-toppers are Amelia and Oliver. In Canada, Emma and Liam.)
Maybe pay attention to celeb gossip and hit TV shows as well as those name-popularity lists. Once a superstar or a royal has grabbed onto one, it almost always spikes among us common folk.
Many of us hope that a slight spelling tweak or the flourish of an extra syllable might spare, say, our Ilsa from a Frozen landscape of Elsas and Islas. Just know this might mean you have to repeat it a lot to confused relatives or record-keepers and teachers. (“No, it’s Geff with a G, not a J…”) You may also be inadvertently dooming your child to a life of patiently correcting those who hear or spell it wrong. (That’s no-big-deal for some kids, mortifying for others.)
More than 1 in 10 of the surveyed moms liked their child’s name less because it caused the child problems with pronunciation or spelling.
That can even happen with “common” names. Quick: How many ways can you spell Caitlyn? (Kaitlyn? Katelynn? Katelyn?)
Say it out loud too. Ask a few people to read it aloud: Does it come out like you’re imagining? Do they stumble around too much?
Test out the nicknames.
You might love the name Thomas and intend to always call your baby Thomas. You may even be able to resist and override all the relatives and friends who keep asking how little Tom or Tommy is doing, because you hate the names Tom and Tommy and refuse to use them. Just know that young Thomas—or his friends—might one day decide otherwise.
If you’re not okay with that, maybe look for a more nickname-proof name. Or a name that has a variation you can live with.
Listen for a name that makes you happy.
There are soooo many names out there, it’s almost a shame not to start with a little enthusiasm for your pick. Some 6 percent of the moms said they regretted their choice because “I never liked it—I don’t know why we chose it.”
Feeling a little enthusiasm for your choice is a pretty low bar to hurdle. Think about the names of relatives or famous people you admire. Or your favorite place names. Characters in books or movies you loved. Or just aimlessly run through random lists (in baby name books, old telephone directories at the library, film credits in foreign movies) to find something that sparks a little joy.
The surveyed moms didn’t tell their name choices along with their regrets, but a small fraction worried their child wouldn’t “be taken seriously” due to the choice.
So maybe don’t get your happiness inspiration from, say, Niagara Falls, Copenhagen, or Comedy Central.
Seriously: Many moms forewarn that hormones temporarily made them take leave of their senses—a dangerous combo along with insomnia and too-easy access to name-finder tools.
Beware! Committing your baby’s name to a birth certificate happens when you might just be more vulnerable than usual to arm-twisting. Your hormones are whacked out and you can’t think straight during pregnancy or after labor and delivery. Labor nurses tell of moms who finally give up in the delivery room after fencing with their partners for nine months. Or your mom or MIL lobby hard or make snarky comments about your favorites. Or your rich Uncle Snorkley promises you the moon if you’ll just pick Snorkley….
Not fair. But it happens. About 2 in 10 of the name regretters in the Mumsnet survey said they’d been pressured into using a name they didn’t like.
Better: If you just aren’t sure, leave it blank. Give it time. Not every state or country requires that you immediately fill in a name on the birth certificate. Table the discussion ’til you feel stronger and more sure of yourself.
And if you and your partner like it but you’re getting hassle from other corners? You’re the parents. It’s your baby.
Groupthink might be a great way to come up with baby advice. But for baby names? Not so much.
—Content chief Paula Spencer Scott is a mom of 4 and step-mom of 2—and the author or co-author of more than a dozen books about parenting, health, and eldercare, including Bright From the Start; The Happiest Toddler on the Block; Like Mother, Like Daughter; and Surviving Alzheimer’s.