The other day, as we were making plans for a friend’s upcoming nuptials, another friend asked me what I think of the name change after marriage.
I told her that it was not that big of a deal. That it’s a woman’s decision to make, depending on her individual circumstances. She was surprised.
“You’ve grown,” she remarked.
Looking back at the past few years, I agree with her.
If you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have told you that changing my name to take up another because I got married would be betraying feminism and everything I believe in. “Why can’t the man change his name?” I probably would have wondered.
A lot of my life views were single minded and about defiance of patriarchy.
I can now see the bigger picture. I now know that taking up a different last name isn’t dissolving my identity. It isn’t a betrayal of feminism or the fight for equality.
I know that a name change will not change who you are, your opinions or the values you hold dear. If you think it is unfair that your female colleague is the only one that got fired when she was caught having a romp with a male colleague in the basement parking, that she left and he got to stay on as if nothing happened, this will not change just because your surname is now hyphenated.
And honestly, the people around you, the ones you are holding on to that name for, care so much less than you think.
I now know that the Kenyan woman has bigger problems.
The name change debate is not amongst the hurdles that society has served her for being female. In the grand scheme of things, this one is just a small battle. And I like to choose my battles.
The other lesson I have learnt these past years after trying and failing miserably is that a woman can’t have it all – have an enviable, flourishing career, be a hands-on present mother, have an active social life, be a supportive wife and immaculate homemaker and look good while at it.
That balance that all women are seeking? It doesn’t exist. The structures around us can’t support this balance. You can’t have it all, not at the same time anyway.
And not if you try to do it all yourself. If you are a working mother for instance, you will not be able to climb the ladder fast enough or spend as much time as you would like with your tots.
There are times you will be wracked with guilt that you can’t be home with your five-month-old.
The other takeaway, and perhaps the most important, is that it is alright to not be able to have it all. It is alright to delegate. In fact, to grow, it is necessary to delegate.
Relinquish some of the control. If you need to pay someone to do the washing so that you can spend your time away from work with your children, do it. And don’t feel guilty about.