What’s in a name? Well, if you’re a millennial parent, quite a bit.
The complaints against millennials are vast. If you are one (as I am), you might not understand why people are so upset with our generation. But it essentially comes down to one thing: Why aren’t they doing it the way it used to be done?
Nowhere is this more apparent than with baby names. Whether it’s the choice of name, or the general secretiveness before the baby is born, many of our parents and grandparents struggle to understand why we can’t just tell them the name before we deliver.
So, in the service of education, I’ve collected a group of millennial moms to get to the bottom of this common impulse to zip the lip when it comes to the baby name.
Surprisingly, the most common reason I found had nothing to do with naming a kid Xerxes or Perpetua.
The most common reason was: Parents wanted to meet their kid first before deciding on a permanent name. “We didn’t want to name him before meeting him,” said one mom.
Another described a similar feeling after the birth: “We had three names for our son chosen and the other two just weren’t him, which we couldn’t have known until he was born.”
The feeling that the kid gets a say, as much as possible, was distinct from previous generations.
Further, with the publicization of private life, many moms expressed a concern that it would be socially awkward if they met the baby and then (gasp!) changed their minds, as several of their older friends had.
That said, the choice of names was a factor for many moms. Overwhelmingly, the majority of women interviewed chose an old-fashioned family name for their child. While the impulse is to label this inclination as “hipster,” it would be more accurate to ascribe this cultural trend to “nostalgia.”
As the Boston Globe reported last year, “Distance and nostalgia offer safety and refuge from the double burden of trying to decide who to be, while being obliged to be completely public about it in real time.”
Not that all millennials keep it a secret, of course. For some, choosing a name ahead of time humanizes the baby. For others, clarifying a unique name ahead of time does some of the older generations a favor.
As one mom of a 20-week-old boy put it, “I never regretted telling people in advance and I loved talking to him in my mind saying, ‘I can’t wait to meet you, Henry.’”
Another mom chose the name Saoirse ahead of time, and put it on the baby shower invitation with a pronunciation guide to help avoid any awkward comments or situations.
But the love of old-fashioned family names can backfire, depending on family dynamics. Sometimes keeping the name a secret is a matter of necessity. For one woman who wanted to name her son after her father, she felt it necessary to keep the name under wraps. She didn’t want to upset her mom, who had divorced her father several years ago.
Lastly, though certainly not least, the more modern awareness of all the things that can go awry during a pregnancy have resulted in many millennials feeling wary about a public name announcement before the birth.
Many moms’ comments started or ended with the sentiment, “God forbid something went wrong.” There was something about the name being out there and talked about publicly that heightened that fear.
In short, the reasons for keeping baby’s name under wraps have much more to do with different values than disruption. Millennials aren’t being disrespectful when they won’t share the name with family ahead of time. They’re simply expressing a desire for a slightly less Instagrammed and out of control life, even if little Juno is named after a filter.