Question #166: My mom is being a jerk about what I name my baby.

Dear Captain Awkward;

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I made a deal: he picks first name, I pick middle name, and then should we have a 2nd kid, it would be vice-versa. We decided at the time to name our daughter after his (late) maternal grandmother and my maternal grandmother.

I heard no end of grief from my mother about the chosen first name for literally months. Every day, my mother would tell me how much she hated the name, how her friends hated it too, etc. Each time I calmly explained that the name was chosen and that was that, and to please stop criticizing it. This happened over and over again daily for months until I finally lost it and there was a huge blowout. Thank God that seemed to end it, and I named my daughter as planned with no further drama.

Well, it’s two years later and I’m pregnant with my second child (another girl). This time I get to pick the first name, and I’ve always wanted to name a child after my late maternal grandfather, so I have chosen a name that is a female version of his. My husband, not having known any of his other grandparents, has chosen his mother’s name for the middle name.

Two years ago, just after my first child was born, my mom asked, hypothetically, what I would name another girl if we had one. I said I had no idea, it wasn’t something I’d thought about (being in the throes of new mom exhaustion) and who knows, maybe after her and husband’s mom? Well, that hypothetical answer about a hypothetical baby who was two years from conception was apparently a promise, and now I’m getting the freeze-out from Mom.

So my mother is causing drama again, this time by way of frosty behavior and silence. Right at the end of our Christmas visit, after being genial the whole day, she ninja-ambushed me with it: she felt she was the “only grandmother left out” and it is “disrespectful” of us to not name the baby after her. I explained that it had nothing to do with disrespect, that everyone knew I’d always wanted to name one of my children after Grandpa and since I wasn’t having a boy, this was it, and further, that it’s just how the math worked out; husband doesn’t have any other grandparents so his Mom’s name was the next best pick. She just kept saying how “hurtful” it was. She also told me to “ask around, everyone will tell you it’s disrespectful”, and when I said I had, and no one did, she said, “Well, they weren’t grandmothers, then.” When I became angry, she said she “didn’t want any drama”, to which I responded “then you shouldn’t have brought it up.”

I’d love to know what it’s like to name your own child whatever you want without drama, but I’m not planning on having any other kids, so there goes that. I’ve seriously considered giving this new baby the name we intended PLUS my mother’s name as a second middle name, but the longer this goes on, the less I feel like rewarding bad behaviour. And I’d only be doing this to mollify her; I really feel like my mother is exhibiting the most ridiculous, selfish and presumptuous attitude and I can’t even begin to understand how to handle it. Further, I suspect Mom would just snort derisively at having her name come third instead of first.

Now, I could add a lot more backstory into my relationship with my parents, but I don’t want to make this TL;DR so I’m hoping you get the gist.

Please, help me understand how to handle this. I can’t take it.


Exhausted and Very Pregnant

I have a lot of Very Pregnant Friends right now (Yaaaaaaaay!) so I am answering this in honor of them.

Mom, you had the chance to choose any baby names you wanted….when you had kids. I’m sorry that you are upset about this, and believe me that we did not set out to hurt your feelings when Husband and I chose the names, but the way you are pressuring me about this is making me seriously angry and exhausted with you. This is a closed discussion. You can be hurt, but you’re going to need to do it elsewhere/not at me, because I really don’t want to hear it again.”

She may bitch and rail for a bit. Give her about 5 minutes, and then cut her off. “Okay, Mom, you’ve made your feelings really clear, and guess what: We’re still going with the names Husband and I chose. We’re going to change the subject now. If you’re still angry, you should to talk to your friends/rabbi/priest/Scoutmaster/therapist about it, because I cannot have this discussion again.”

And then you enforce the boundary. If she brings it up, you say “New topic, Mom, + a question” and if she can’t switch to a new topic, you exit the conversation. If it happens on the phone, for instance, hang up and then turn your phone off. Do not take her calls for 24 hours. The next time you talk to her, let her save face – be nice and pleasant and treat it like it never happened, but if she brings up the name thing again, you know what to do.

This comes up in all sorts of contexts – dating, inappropriate touching, constantly harping on weight or when you will get married or when that dissertation will be finished – if you say “no” and the other person keeps trying to convince you or browbeat you,  you rapidly go from owing them a normal basic level of politeness and deference to owing them zero of those things. Saying “no” over and over again means you are continuing to engage with them, so they keep thinking they have a shot at convincing you and/or putting all of their negative emotions onto you and trying to make them your responsibility. Unfortunately sometimes you have to be willing to get really, really rude in defending your boundaries before some people will get the message.

People like your mom (from what you’ve described here) like to throw around the threat that they will give you the silent treatment or have a lot of negative emotions at you to get what they want. What you figure out as you get older is that they are going to find a way to do that about something no matter what you do, so you might as well do what you want and ride it out.

My mom does a thing that I find kind of funny and endearing now because I’ve realized she is deeply introverted and that parties give her social anxiety, but believe me, there were many years where I DID NOT find it so. Any time the family is getting ready to go somewhere, like a wedding or holidays with family, she will do a last-minute critique of everyone’s outfit, and the question she’d usually ask me was “Is that all you have to wear?” Frequently the answer to that is “Yup,” because a) I’m traveling home for the event and have only what I brought with me and b) usually what I was wearing was some version of a black sweater and pants or a black dress of some kind, and also I am an adult woman who dresses fine, so WTF?  She will also frequently bring up that she hates my glasses, which, I mean, strangers come up to me and ask me where I got my glasses (Answer: Eye Spy Optical), so I’m not exactly insecure about them or looking to Worcester County (where many, many people still have big bangs) for fashion inspiration.

I realize now that she was channeling some anxiety or other onto all of us, but what stopped it finally was a few rounds of me saying “Hey, when you tell me stuff like that it doesn’t make me want to change my outfit (even if I could), it just makes me feel sad and weird and mad at you, and like I want to avoid you for the rest of the night. Is that what you’re going for?”  Once, in a conversation about glasses, I literally said “Hey, that doesn’t make me want to get new glasses, it just makes me think you are being a jerk, so howabout keeping opinions like that to yourself from now on?”  I got a little bit of “But I’m your mother” harrumphing and then she backed off and has been downright pleasant in later years. She’ll still do the “Is that what you are wearing?” thing to my dad, which is hilarious because a) he is 66 years old and if he can’t dress himself by now…? and b) she picks out all of his clothes, but after 43 years of marriage they can do whatever works for them. She will still scan my outfit for a moment, and I can see her forming the words, but when they come out now they are “You look very nice.

So what I mean to say (again) is:

  • Hints don’t work, but telling people directly to step off sometimes does.
  • Internalizing someone else’s bad behavior and wondering what you could do to make them not have behaved like that doesn’t work, but telling them directly to step off (even risking another “blowup,”  like you had about your first daughter’s name) sometimes does.
  • Relationships can survive a little bit of conflict. What feels like the end of the world usually isn’t.
  • Your mom is the one who is way, way out of line here. She is forcing you into a position of having to defend your boundaries pretty seriously, and you’re not the one violating the social contract.
  • You can’t teach people how to be, but you can sometimes get them to moderate how they are around you.
  • Manners and boundaries are important in families – you don’t get a “But we’re related!” pass for being a jerk.

Name your daughter whatever the hell you want and don’t put up with any bullshit, is what I say.  Congratulations!


P.S. It’s Day 5 of Pledge Drive week, with 2 more days to go. Thank you so much for your generous support of the blog.

79 thoughts on “Question #166: My mom is being a jerk about what I name my baby.

  1. i’d like to suggest that you consider adding a dash of: “you’ve been a great grandmother to babyA, even though you didn’t like the name at first, so I’m sure that you’ll be an equally great grandmother to babyB” somewhere.

    oh, and as a frame of reference – my mil hated the fact that i didn’t take my husband’s name when we got married. we took his bachelor name and combined it with my maiden name for a whole new ¡shazzam! name. for SIX YEARS she refused to address letters or packages with our ¡shazzam! new last name. we had to have us some adorable progeny before she acquiesced. families are weird.

    1. Ooh, this is a great idea. “We all love each other and I am so looking forward to you getting to know and love the new addition to the family! You are an awesome Mom and Grandma! POSITIVITY! WHEE!” is definitely a good tactic here.

  2. Holy shit, I love those orange glasses. I am seriously tempted to get a pair.

    LW, sorry your mom’s being a jerk about this. I have zero experience being pregnant/a parent but I think CA’s advice is spot-on. Even if your mom continues to be (unreasonably) upset by your naming choice, I hope you can find a way to get her to stop harassing you about it.

    1. Thanks! I got them a few years ago as a “fight winter depression in self and others” campaign, and they work pretty well. Also little kids think I’m some kind of superhero/one of them.

  3. I have nothing to add to the above advice, but I want to give big kudos to the LW for not falling for her mother’s Appeal to Authority arguments about “everyone hates it”, or “all grandmothers would hate this”. You were all, “give me specifics”, and she was all, “BACK PEDDLE!” So I just want to say: well done.

    1. That “everyone I talked to hates your decision” thing is SO passive-aggressive and must be ruthlessly crushed.

      1. So true. The “everyone feels the exact way that I feel and so you must change your behaviour” line is a) usually false, and b) totally irrelevant. You do not need to appease the majority (or what your mom thinks is the majority) with the name of your child.

        I completely agree with all of this advice, and also want to very much second the “relationships can survive a little bit of conflict” part. They really usually can.

    2. “Everyone thinks” is, depending on the circumstances, borderline abuse or abuse. “Everyone hates you” is something abusers use frequently to control their victims, along with “no one will love you but me”. This is obviously not this serious as situation, but since it’s the same *kind* of tactic—if not to the same degree—giant red flag.

      1. ‘Everyone” thinks, says, feels _ about you is a very Darth Vaderish thing my ex did to me for 2 years .. and its been 3 years since and I am still dealing with all the damage that gaslighting did to me 😦

  4. LW, you have done admirably thus far, and I’m sure will carry on brilliantly.

    I just wanted to take a minute to acknowledge that the Holmeses were terrible babynamers. Sherlock? Is that even a name? Was there even a single Mycroft in existence before Sir Doyle wrote his books?

    1. I think those names are unique and unforgettable. Plus, they work for boys, girls, and everyone in between.

      1. Oh, they’re awesome NOW, I’ll completely grant you that. But clearly the product of a warped mind.

        Also: WTF, Fillmores? See also, his associate Thurlow Weed. I begin to suspect that Dickens never pulled a weirdo name out of his own head. He just went to the “what to name your baby” book of the day.

        1. Best Dickens name, from Oliver Twist?

          Master Bates. “Oh Master Bates! Master Bates!”

          #Iama12yearoldboyinside #thatcan’thavebeenaccidental

          1. That was also the name of Gulliver’s tutor in Gulliver’s Travels, which went over in my senior English class about like you can imagine.

        2. As a distant relative of that branch of the Fillmores, I gotta say, there are some RIDICULOUS names in that branch of the family tree. I was seriously considering naming my soon-to-be-born son after one of our strangely named distant ancestors, but decided that I didn’t want him to be beaten up too much in elementary school. (Instead he’s going to be jointly named after my grandfather and Fredrick Douglass.)

    2. Holmes is an Irish name, as are Sherlock & Mycroft. I went to a lecture once that claimed the implication that Holmes is Irish helps characterize him as an outsider from conventional English society. So in conclusion, WHY DO YOU HATE THE IRISH?

      1. I’M SELF-HATING, OKAY? Well, just a quarter self-hating.

        My not-at-all dubious and terribly thorough google search just now tells me that Holmes is a typical surname in middle to northern Britain, not Ireland. Also, that “Sherlock” was probably derived from Middle English for “short haired,” though really who the hell knows?

        IT’S A FAMILY NAME is my favorite excuse for ridiculous naming. Wasn’t that the case with Almanzo Wilder? I seem to remember Laura asking him “Almanzo?” and him mumbling something to the effect of “Family name, Crusades maybe? Unclear! MOVING ON.”

        1. I’m gonna be so crestfallen if Sherlock Holmes isn’t really an Irish name. That guy who gave that lecture that one time LIED to me!

    3. Sherlock and Mycroft were obscure but Conan Doyle didn’t just make them up – they’re both from old English, but haven’t endured as well as some other old English names (Edward, Alfred etc) did.

      (Apparently he considered calling the younger Holmes Sherringford, which would be more realistic but, I think we can assume, way less cool. Later fanfic writers have assigned this name to the hypothesised third, eldest Holmes brother)

  5. Someone wrote into Prudie a few months ago that her daughter and son-in-law had had a baby and she hated the name. Someone else wrote in that she too didn’t much care for her granddaughter’s name, so she calls her by a nickname (I think it was “Sweetpea”), and it had ended up being a special bonding thing between the two of them.

    Possibly that would be something to suggest to your mom? If she really hates the name, they can have special names they use together (I mean, she already has a special name just for the kids to use in “Grandma”), and then she gets to have her princess moment of choosing a name for your kid and hopefully, it will help her bond with that kid and be good for both of them.

    1. I’m doing that with my sister’s new baby. He was named after his dad and grandfather, and while it is a perfectly good name, I’m not a big fan of it. So, knowing that is just my personal thought on the subject, I didn’t tell her and just call him my ‘lil heffalump. She totally loves it and it is nice to have that special bond with him.

    2. I think that *can* be a really nice idea, but I worry about it becoming a club by Grandma with which to constantly remind LW “that she hates the name”. I have seen a few “I hate that name so I won’t use it I’m calling her X” tantrums where it’s still about asserting power and not about a special relationship or compromise.
      Just my 2 cents.

  6. Unless you are naming your baby something like Puppykicker, who the heck cares? LW, good luck with the rest of the pregancy and the birth!

    1. Wrt: Puppykicker

      TRUE STORY. About a year ago, Bro and SiL were kicking around baby names for youngest nephew and Mom got it in her head that Edward Jacob would be TEH AWESOME.

      Mom: Edward Jacob! It would be lovely!
      Us: O___o
      Mom: Jacob Edward?
      Us: o___O
      Mom: What?
      Us: We were unaware that you were such a Twilight fan.
      Mom: What’s Twilight?


        1. We named the cat Esme about 5 years ago, and that’s the only question we EVER get when people hear her name. She’s named after Granny Weatherwax, not someone out of Twilight. (sigh)

          1. If I hadn’t named The Bead after Beadie from the Wire, I’D TOTALLY GO WEATHERWAX.

            Constant vigilance!

  7. I think one of the hardest things about being an adult is realising that your parents are sometimes complete douche canoes, and that mostly you love them anyway. I think you’ve handled this admirably and should get a small medal for how patient you’ve been so far.

    1. This is a totally super late comment (I am trawling through the archives and catching up on ALL THE THINGS) but I just had to say — this is a) so true, and b) something I am struggling with. I never quite managed to shake the childhood belief that My Parents Know Everything And Always Make The Best Choices, despite evidence to the contrary.

  8. My mom informed me and my husband that she “would not be able to love” a grandchild with the baby name we had picked out, because she thought it was so hideous. We ended up not using the name because it was a name we had picked for a boy and we had a girl, but I am still appalled by my mother’s pettiness and superficiality on this issue. I commend you, LW, for standing up to your mother and sticking with the name you have picked out.

    1. Wow, what else can you say to that, but “I’m sorry you feel like that, but it’s totally up to you, as naming our baby is totally up to us?”

      Did she come around eventually?

      1. That’s basically what I told her, but since I ended up having a girl the issue never really came up again. I still wonder what she would have done if we had had a boy and gone with the name she hated…

    2. That’s astounding, between you and the LW it’s a good case for the argument that baby names shouldn’t be revealed until they’re already on the birth certificate. Hands down the only people that get to name the baby are the ones up and losing sleep for feedings/changings/comforting.
      The Captain is right, you have to be strong like you have been doing and put your foot down. If you need some more moral support, there’s a blog at with commentators that feel *VERY* strongly about choosing the name you want and to hell with anyone else, parents included.

      Also, way cute glasses, both pairs.

  9. Hey, I’m the letter writer.

    It’s not that my Mom dislikes the name (she hasn’t actually given an opinion on the name we chose), it’s that she insists it is disrespectful and hurtful of me to NOT name the kid after HER.

    For the record, my mom has a lovely name, but I only get to choose one and I really love the name I’ve picked (and it’s my Mom’s late father’s name (femininized). It’s not, like, someone she hates.

    It’s also not her vs. my MIL, which she has kind of taken it as (“well I’m the only grandmother left out!”). It’s just… This is the name I chose. Not out of lack of thought or care or respect– none of that even comes into it. I got to pick ONE name, and I like this one. And I feel really weird about ANYONE just assuming it’s “their right” to have a kid named after them.

    1. You’re totally in the right. Hell, in some cultures it’s considered rude to name kids after living relatives which makes your mom wrong on at least two counts.

    2. I’ve just got to say it seems kind of… ironic? That she clings to the idea that it’s disrespectful of you not to name the baby after her when, using that logic, isn’t it disrespectful of her to argue against HER parent’s name being used?

      That said, I don’t recommend using that argument since it’d just pull you back into the debate spiral from which there is no escape, and it isn’t even the issue at hand (the issue being, you should get to name the kid what you like, even if it’s, idk, ‘Moonbeam’). I just found your the logic your mom’s using kind of… funny.

    3. I mean…you did say”maybe after her and husband’s mom”. And now you’re naming the baby after your husband’s mom, but not her. It’s natural that her feelings would be hurt.

      I agree that she’s been awful, particularly about criticizing your eldest daughter’s name. But you have options — you can return her insensitivity with something kinder.

      I liked your idea of adding her name to your child’s middle name, and I also like the idea of the special nickname. But most of all, I like the idea of telling her how much you love her and you never meant to leave her out.

      Then (and only after and in between your reassurances that you love her and want her to feel included) you can explain (for the umpteenth time) why you chose your grandparents’ names. I think the important thing to remember is that someone you love feels hurt and excluded, and that’s a painful place to be. It’s not about the name, it’s about making sure she knows that you and your husband love her.

      1. You make a good point, but she said “maybe after you and husband’s mom” under extreme pressure after a lot of “emotional blowups” and can’t really be held to it.

        If I say “Hey JMM, will you go out with me?” and you say no 100 times and say yes the 101st time to shut me up and then you cancel and I’m all “YOU PROMISED YOU’D GO OUT WITH ME” you’re not the one in the wrong there.

        A reminder that she’s loved and a great grandma absolutely can’t hurt, but I don’t know that there is anything the LW can do to really manage the mom’s feelings of being left out. She’s kind of decided that this is the hill she wants to die on and she wants to feel massively put out and hurt about it and not respect the boundary.

  10. This question piqued my interest, because I was the lucky grandchild who got named after drama grandma. I wasn’t the first granddaughter on that side of the family, but my twin sister and I were my mom’s first daughters. Mom and Dad had Names A and B picked out when we were born, but then we wound up with Names B and C instead. (My parents went on to have more daughters, including one with Name A, though spelled differently – at my other grandma’s request.)

    I don’t hate my name, Letter Writer, but it always weirded me out that a grown woman got her way by throwing a fit. Besides that, there are actually a lot of reasons my grandma was not someone I would choose to be named after. I’m not going to go out of my way to change my name, but if I decide to change my name when I get married, it will be my middle as well as my last. (I got a derivative of Grandma’s first name as my first name, and her middle name as my middle name. And she rarely ever called me by my name anyway – she would refer to me as her “namesake” instead.)

    1. This is a great point, and why it is much easier not to name new relatives after already living relatives.

    2. And she rarely ever called me by my name anyway – she would refer to me as her “namesake” instead.

      Oh wow, this is definitely the kind of thing some kids absolutely cannot stand! Damn.

  11. For all pregnant women (or their partners and friends) reading this blog, my advice is: at the first sign of baby-naming controversy, absolutely refuse to discuss the baby’s name with anyone but the other parent until the child is born. My husband and I went through that nonsense when we were naming our first child. As if it wasn’t hard enough getting the two of us to agree on a name, every time we reached tentative agreement someone would say, “Seriously? Ewww. I knew a ____ once. He/she was so _____. Blah blah blah.”

    My usually-pretty-normal dad actually mocked the name “Allison,” saying it all singsongy and hoity-toity. I was shocked — (“It’s a pretty normal name; so you don’t like it, but does it really deserve to be mocked?? “). But I knew if I named her that I would keep hearing that freaky moment in my head. So we stopped sharing. “We’re not discussing that anymore. We’re tired of people ruining every name we come up with, so you’ll just have to wait ’til the baby is born to find out.” Repeated it with my second child, from the start. People would ask, we’d just say “Nope. Not tellin’.”

    When they hear your baby IS named such-and-such, instead of that you’re thinking of naming your baby such-and-such, people mostly smile and nod and say “that’s a lovely name,” even if they think it’s hideous. After all, it’s a done deal. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they say “that’s certainly unusual,” or “where did you come up with THAT?” or “I was kind of hoping you’d name her after ME ME ME!!!” But then they mostly move on. ‘Cause like I said, it’s a done deal, what’s the point?

    Sorry this advice comes too late for the letter writer!

    1. Yes, this was the tip I was going to share as well. My sister is pregnant with her second child and doing the same thing that she did with her first: keeping the baby’s name a surprise until the birth. That way, she and my brother-in-law don’t have to deal with any push-back or people ‘helpfully’ suggesting other names. I think she did get a little flak for not revealing the name before the (first) birth, but by now, people know that’s just the way she does it.

    2. Your dad clearly never met my father’s mother. If your Allison turns out like my grandmother, she will be a wonderful person in herself, and be well and truly loved by others because of it.

      Sing-song hoity-toity my perfectly pedicured foot.

      (Also, my opinion on your child’s name means absolutely nothing in the scheme of the universe. That’s just a way of saying… where do people come up with this stuff? So strange.)

  12. I don’t plan on having kids anytime soon, but if I do have kids I KNOW my parents are not gona approve of any of the names I like. good advice!

  13. My sister named her son an incredibly pretentious name that was so lame my sisters and brothers-in-law banded together in an impromptu support group for Uncles/Aunts of Kids With Unfortunate Names.

    However, he’s not the first kid with a bad name and in the long run, nobody’s going to care.

    More relevant to the LW’s situation, my name is one my grandmother hated and by the time I was old enough to interact with her, it made no difference in our relationship.

    My nephew, however, will have to spend his life concealing his actual first name from classmates, roommates, and drinking buddies.

  14. Listen, I know this is totally unhelpful to the LW (I don’t have much to say about dealing with a narcissist mom except to say “I’m sorry your mom is a narcissist, that must be hard”) but there is a really clear, really important lesson here for anyone reading this who is pregnant of may become pregnant:

    Do Not Tell People What You Are Planning To Name Your Child.

    This is one of the few ironclad, all-important rules of parenthood. Absolutely NOTHING good can come of telling people what you plan to name your child. If you wait until the baby is born they will not feel nearly as free to give you an opinion.

    1. I’m gonna pry open your iron-clad rule, because one of my Extremely Pregnant Friends named their baby IMMEDIATELY. Like, the baby’s had a name since we knew there was a fetus a-brewin’.

      And it’s been awesome! That was THE NAME. No discussion. But the doors are wide open to come up with hilarious alternate names, which they will never use, but we also don’t have to worry about trespassing upon a name they’re considering, making fun, and having to pry feet out of mouths later.

      The name is in stone, so we don’t feel bad suggesting Chewbacca Cleopatra Smith.

      On the other end of the spectrum, a different EPF isn’t talking about names at all. And yet a THIRD EPF is having a conversation about it with everyone. (The Captain isn’t kidding. EVERYONE is frikkin’ pregnant around here.)

      1. My family names fetuses, but it’s very definitely a fetal name–“Pretzel” and “Peanut” were my first two nephews. If/when I ever get pregnant, I’m calling mine “Seamonkey”. One SIL has had her kids’ names picked out since she was twelve (and I had to pull my brother aside and say “STOP SUGGESTING ALTERNATE NAMES. IT’S STRESSING HER OUT AND YOU DON’T MEAN IT.”) while the other couple just said, “We’re waiting to meet him/her to find out what his/her name is.”

        1. Heh. My best friend called her fetus Bean and the name has stuck even though Bean (actual name: Connor) is now 1. And I hope it continues to stick.

        2. We were, in order:

          Little Bear
          Little Watermelon

          … Occasionally we still get called those things, but in an affectionately joking way. The youngest of us will be 30 in March.

  15. Sigh…

    While my Mom has stopped calling me, and sounds sullen whenever I call her, she has not actually discussed her unhappiness about the names openly with me except over Christmas.

    She has, however, apparently spoken about it with my 90-year-old grandmother, who then of course brought it up to me tonight on the phone. It’s not easy explaining logic and boundaries to a 90-year-old, sweet woman suffering from slight dementia.

    This happened two years ago as well, but then it was just about how mom didn’t like the name. Now it’s about “respect”.

    From what I can gather, the real issue here isn’t that baby’s first name is the feminine version of her great-grandpa’s, it’s that my MIL’s name is in there while my Mom’s isn’t. I’ve tried explaining that the middle name is my husband’s choice and he of course will be choosing a name HE is attached to, and that has nothing to do with grandmother competition, but like I said, Mom isn’t talking about it with ME, and my elderly grandma isn’t at fault here, so there it is.

    1. Your mom’s behavior is, as the Captain said, completely out of line, and you are very much within your rights to draw your lines clearly and without discussion. In fact, I think you absolutely must, because if your mom kicks up this kind of fuss now and you don’t confront it, or even reward it by giving in, you run the risk of her playing this game in the future about other perceived slights. This is your child and your family and you are calling the shots now. She is not, capslock NOT, allowed to use your child as a pawn or a representation of her issues. I mean, really? This is a whole new individual and person and she wants something as big as this person’s lifelong name dependent on petty score-settling?

      You mentioned there was a lot of other “backstory” and it sure sounds like it–as if your mom is taking the name issue as a symbol of her value, or a representation of family relationships, etc. etc. I.e., just to begin with, she must have some sort of prickliness in her relationship with your MIL that is being expressed in her attitude about needing “parity”. (I assume she understands your methodology–each of you picking one name.)

      To me that says that this will be a tough issue to address because you can’t “fix” those big problems and family dynamics that are playing out here. But I like the approaches presented here by Captain and commenters, of explicitly clear boundary-setting with a few dashes of setting positive expectations.

      (When we were expecting my first child, we didn’t discuss our potential first names–at first. Though we nominally took suggestions, basically we narrowed it down to a list of just a few and then planned to select one when we “met” him. But then, even when we had, we couldn’t decide. The paperwork deadline was approaching and he’d been nameless for several days, so finally we started asking people what they thought about candidates from our short list. That was a mistake: it didn’t matter so much that they liked the name as that we did; and if they didn’t like the name it became a problem if it was one that we did. As it was, my husband and I did come to a mutual decision, but we ended up picking my mom’s second favorite option and I still wonder if she associates it with a negative word she said it reminded her of back when we were dithering. Lesson learned… with my second, we also waited to meet her, but we kept the discussion to ourselves! So if anyone didn’t like it, we didn’t hear about it, which is as it should be.)

      Good luck, and stick to your guns!

    2. Yikes. Maybe a “Gramma, I know this has upset Mom and we’ve already discussed it. As far as I’m concerned the matter is closed. So [subject-changing question]?”

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this crap. 😦

  16. Well, you’ve handled it admirably so far (much better than I think I would have). Congrats on your pregnancy, and here’s hoping things cool off!

    I was the lady who would Not Discuss names when I was pregnant with our daughter. Gave my brothers an opening to make a page-long list of things like “Skeletor Armageddon” and other hilarious options!

    I hope everything settles for you soon. Happy New Year!

  17. The Askenazi Jewish custom of only naming children after deceased relatives (never living ones) makes so much sense right now.

  18. Yeah, we kept mum until after the Sprog was born, especially because of how much crap my sister got for naming her first child Angus.
    “But what will they actually call him?”
    “Um, Angus– because that’s his name.”

    My FIL joked for years: ” What’re they going to call the second one? Longhorn?! Hurr Hurr Hurr!” Long after they produced a second son, didn’t name him Longhorn, and started sending him to preschool.

    We had fun offering up fake names, and fetus names, because we have a last name that lends itself well to puns. But the real name only went out after Sprog was here– first, to make sure it suited him, second because, well, I had some woo-ish fears about saying the names ahead of time, and third, because, well, who needs their opinion, anyway?

    But to second L, I’d say stick to your guns, because having a baby is one long exercise in getting hounded with unwanted opinions and advice– better draw those boundaries sooner than later!

    1. A couple I know apparently got a lot of flak for the name choice of their first kid (a completely ordinary, not-mockworthy name), so for their second, they code-named the fetus “Angus” and wouldn’t tell anyone what the real name was.

      They became attached enough to “Angus” that they almost named him that for real.

      1. Heeheehee!
        Don’t get me wrong– it’s a lotta name if you live in the States. But they have Scottish ancestry, and they love their classic rock, so it makes sense. Not that my opinion matters.

        I like the code-name solution.

  19. One good reason to never announce the sex or name of the baby before the arrival, I hope the OP solves her problem

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