Exciting news! You’re pregnant! That means a little bundle of joy is on the way, and you have the weighty task of not only making sure you have researched baby products and chosen a great care provider for yourself, but also finding the perfect name for your new baby. But, what exactly does “perfect” mean? Perhaps you’ve had a name chosen since childhood—I personally adored the names Chrysanthemum and Leslie during my elementary days, inspired by my favorite book characters. Or maybe you and your spouse agreed during the excited planning part of your early relationship what your first son or daughter would be called. This is the boat my sister is in with her husband, although they have yet to share what those perfect names are. (Come on, sister. I need to start my embroidery project!) If unique is the goal, I bet you’re considering a wide variety of special names, whether it be the name itself, the spelling, or the pronunciation. But maybe, just maybe, you’re at a loss, and either can’t agree with your spouse or can’t seem to get the right feeling about any particular moniker. If that’s you, don’t fret. Choosing a name is an important decision, but it definitely isn’t the end of the world.
Generally speaking, it seems that parents are on the lookout for special names for their children. They want something that stands out and speaks to the amazing individual they are now and will become. I know quite a few moms and dads who use the social security registry as their guide for gauging uniqueness. If a name they are considering is part of the top 100, count it out! When California mom Reina Tahai was pregnant, she used two guiding principles when choosing a baby name—uniqueness and tradition. She says, “I have a pretty unique name and so does my son, Maziar. I think it has helped me. I stand out and I think my son will stand out too!” Speaking of tradition, Reina shares, “My husband is Persian [and his] name is Nima. So we are a family of unique names and wanted to continue the tradition…Reina, Nima, and Maziar.” Every parent goes through their own deductive reasoning process to arrive at the name they choose for their child. Whether this is your first, second, or beyond, as you meander through the countless options, take great care in choosing that sweet little one’s name. You’ll say it out loud multiple times a day, they’ll take ownership of it (for good or ill!), and in the end, it’s something they’ll come to cherish or resent. Keep reading and soon you will see that everyone benefits when a parent puts extra thought into their baby’s name.
How will you explain naming your child North West?
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have chosen unusual names for both of their children. Not necessarily in spelling or pronunciation, but in the fact that both North, their first daughter, and Saint, North’s little brother, don’t even come close to being considered traditional names.
No one really knows why Kim and Kanye chose to bless (or curse?) their children with such uncommon names, but it’s true that North and Saint won’t quickly be forgotten. Both sister and brother have names that stand out. But are celebrities really the best example to follow when naming a child? And when North and Saint someday question their different names, how will their parents respond? For years, celebrities have rocked the traditional boat when naming their children. In 2004, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple but then chose a more traditional name, Moses, for their son two years later. Why? Perhaps they were tired of explaining over and over (and over and over!) where the name Apple came from.
Bottom line, if you go the less-than-traditional route by choosing a cardinal direction, object, or something else off the beaten path as your child’s name, be sure to have a story up your sleeve to validate your child and explain the name to others. They’re going to wonder and others will too. This goes for spelling and pronunciation as well. My oldest child is named Jemma—pronounced like the British name Gemma. We chose a J because we preferred its phonetic simplicity and because my husband announced during my pregnancy that he didn’t like G names, but still liked the sound of Jemma. Interesting considering he married a Gretchen! He has since retracted his disdain for the letter G.
The playground is a battlefield.
Parents can love a name to death, but send that child into the real world and love might not be what the child experiences. The playground is a battlefield, and from the start, peers may identify a child as different if they have trouble connecting with a more unusual name. “Our names are the first piece of our identity,” says Emily McMason, a parenting coach with an MEd from Harvard University and certification from the Parent Coaching Institute at Seattle Pacific University. She goes on to say that our names are “the first way in which people begin to know us. As we get older, it is the way we know and define ourselves.” That means the name you choose is really, really important. It can mold a child’s personality and behavior. Trista Mason recalls a rough patch in her childhood when trying to fully grasp and love her name, “In second grade I wanted to change my name to Trisha. Whenever I introduced myself as Trista, even now, there is ALWAYS a pause and a confused look (the look of I didn’t quite get that?!?!) I have to spell it multiple times to anyone on the phone too.” At least her parents put some thought into Trista’s name. She shares this: “My parents wanted a unique T name so my initials would be TLC … which I did love growing up. What I don’t love though? My name means ‘woman of much sadness.’ My parents didn’t bother to look it up. That is something I would highly recommend. Check the meaning!”
Does a Rebecca act the same as Reign?
No one can truly predict how a child will respond to a less common name throughout their life. Some love it from day one, embracing the flair it gives them in new situations. Others immediately shy away from the attention. When choosing your child’s name, be aware that others they encounter throughout life might make assumptions about them based on their personal bias and past experiences. It’s not necessarily something we can control, but it is something to consider. For example, over her years as an elementary school teacher, Leah Workman has seen somewhat of a correlation between a child’s name and their behavior. “Although not truly scientific, in my experience some names seem to belong to kids with similar traits,” she said. “The Zachs in my classes are usually busy and athletic while Sophias tend to be little socialites. Bens are down to earth and enjoyable to be around.” Perhaps most notable, Workman mentioned that, “When a child knows they are named after someone special (like a grandparent or other loved one) they have a sense of importance. They are honored and act as if they have a legacy to uphold.”
So, if you’re considering naming your child after someone, take into account that a sense of honor could guide them for years to come.
Names carry a lot of weight on resumes, in interviews, and around workplaces.
Obviously names stretch far beyond our baby days and school years. Our names travel with us into adult life. That means it is important to consider how a name will be perceived in the workplace. When it comes to navigating life in the adult world, there are a variety of opinions on whether an unusual name aids or hinders a person’s potential success. Zachary Painter, career advisor and hiring manager at Resume Genius, shared that two studies—one published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and the other put out by the National Bureau of Economic Research—have guided his thinking about names in hiring processes and workplaces. “In reality, unique names have a greater chance of hindering your chances of being hired. Although, as certain industries grow more diverse and progressive, unique names will hopefully be more acceptable, and hiring managers more willing to give these candidates the chance they deserve.” On the flip side, Beth McRae, president of the McRae Agency, a public relations firm based in Arizona, countered Painter’s insight, saying, “I have reviewed hundreds of applications and hired numerous people since my agency started in 1995. I think a unique name helps the candidate stand out in a sea of similar-sounding names. Sometimes a name might indicate an ethnicity, but I always look for the substance in the resume more than the name itself. The one thing that stood out to me most was one young woman who sent me flowers after I interviewed her.” There you go! A name is only one piece of the puzzle. The presentation, behavior, and aura of a person can balance and complement a unique name when a child is brought up in a healthy and supportive environment.
Workman concurred with McRae, stating, “A parent’s engagement and support fair outweighs a name—no matter how odd, unique, or what is perceived as ‘normal.'” So, although naming your child is something to get serious about, never-ending hours of parental involvement will be the most crucial element in their future success.
A name is a gift.
Consider this: Your child’s name is the first gift you have the opportunity to give them. Whether their name is uncommon or common, it will follow them throughout life. It’s the gift that gives day in and day out!
McMason agrees, “The gift of a name—the moniker they are going to go by through infancy, tween years, their twenties, and beyond—is an important and emotional one. Parents use names as a way to show our interests, or our heritage, or our connection to friends that we value and want to honor with a name.” Sometimes a child might perceive their name as a blessing; others consider it a curse. Of the 100+ people I spoke with about their name and what it means to them, the common thread was that everyone has a season of questioning whether they like their name or not. It seems to be a rite of passage for us all to complain about how boring, weird, different, creative, or generic our name is. But, in the end, if parents have put thought and reason into choosing their brand new child’s name, individuals tend to grow to appreciate and embrace the name and all it means. And, as my own mother always says, “When you have children of your own, you can name them whatever you want.” So, if your child balks at the perfect name you selected, remind them that their day will come.