Dear Prudence

Help! My Ex Is Insisting on an Embarrassing Name for Our Child Out of “Tradition.”

I don’t want to start her life off with a family feud, but this is awful!

A pregnant woman holds her belly.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

I am pregnant and 30. My ex is 36. It was a long-term but causal relationship. My ex and I agreed to be civil and co-parent, but have been stuck on this one issue. We are having a girl, and it is a family tradition on his side to name the baby after the grandmother.

The problem is I was planning to give my daughter my last name. The combination of the two is stupidly cutesy: think Rose Garden or Mary Merryton or Julia Gulia. I have offered to use his grandmother’s as the middle or a deviation (Marie, Mariah, Lia, etc.) even though I don’t like it. My ex refused and said the only “fair” way was for him to have the first name or last. He gets a say about his daughter.

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I am struggling here. I didn’t want to push him away during my pregnancy, but we broke up for a reason. He doesn’t come to my doctor visits and will not be in the delivery room. My sister will. His own parents have been really kind over everything and sent me several baby gifts. They are very sensitive about this family tradition. I don’t want to start off my daughter’s life with a family feud, but I am the one growing a human being inside me here! I have gotten mixed responses from friends and family with it all divided right down the middle. (Also, I am financially fine and I have no doubt my ex will support our daughter or be a good dad. He is very good with his sons and very few problems with his ex.) Am I being unfair here?

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— What’s in a Name?

Dear What’s in a Name,

I mean, it’s a family tradition on his side to name the baby after the grandmother, but I’m sure it’s also a family tradition to be married when your children are born and support your wife through the pregnancy. All I’m saying is, tradition is out the window at this point. It sounds like you’re not on the best terms with him (otherwise he’d be coming to appointments and be in the delivery room) and that—along with the fact that you’re going to be the primary caretaker—has consequences. I also give a lot of weight to your “we broke up for a reason” statement. You’re carrying and giving birth to this baby all on your own, and you should name her whatever you want. If that’s enough to damage the way her dad and his relatives see and treat her, that tells you a lot about how deep their commitment to her is. Also, they’re free to call her by whatever nickname they want.

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Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have become the new social hub for family events since our home is large, conveniently located, and we adore entertaining. My in-laws are wonderful. My sisters and their families are delightful. My problem is that my older step-sisters have turned into bitchy teenagers while being in their forties.

Our parents got married while they were in high school and my sisters and I are in the middle. We lived under the same roof every other weekend for two years maybe and never had much contact since. No acknowledgment of milestones beyond what our parents shared: no gifts, no visits, no invites, no Christmas cards. Maybe some shared social media at best. My husband and I have interacted with them and their families in the last decade maybe five times.

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My stepfather has trouble traveling now, and my mother has night blindness so she can’t drive after dark. They retired to a 55-plus retirement community near my husband and me. Now everyone is vaccinated, so it isn’t any problem to pick them up and bring them over for visits. My husband and I didn’t think to offer our home to my stepsisters and their kids so they didn’t need to get a hotel room. So they go and slander us high and low on social media. My older step-sister sent me an email asking if they could stay with us for a visit. I told her it wouldn’t be possible and sent her a link to a local AirBnB. This was apparently proof of a long simmering family rejection.

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We aren’t family. It isn’t a rejection, it is a statement of fact. This is just bizarre. Our parents are married. We aren’t sisters. This is either an emotional bomb that requires therapy or just emotional manipulation. I made things worse by wondering why she is free to be in my home when she doesn’t even invite me to her wedding. She screamed at me what do I know about having a wedding on a budget? No one has told our parents yet. They still use flip phones. Just how do you weather this?

— Ground Zero

Dear Ground Zero,

Your stepsisters are rude and out of control for insisting on spending the night at your home. And you’re completely right for telling them no. The only thing I’d tell you to do differently is to stop talking after that. Don’t give explanations, don’t bring up what happened at weddings in the past, and don’t even send links to AirBnBs. “No, that won’t work for us” is enough. You also don’t have to tell your parents. If your stepsisters want to bring this unnecessary drama to them, that’s their (bad) decision.

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Dear Prudence,

I am 21 and in my last year of school. My roommate left, and I have been looking for someone else to share my two-bedroom apartment. My cousin, Del, has graduated from their community college program and is looking to transfer to my college. The problem is that Del has severe social anxiety to the point of not being able to function. Del can’t talk to a cashier properly and will eat the wrong meal rather than spend it back in the kitchen.

Del has had zero friends outside of the family circle since high school (which hasn’t been too bad since there are a lot of us). Del quit therapy at 18 and got an emotional support animal instead. It is a small, yappy dog with no training. I like dogs, but Del’s dog drives me nuts. It will nip anyone unlucky enough to have bare feet and is extremely vocal all the time.

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My family wants Del to move in with me. It would drive me batty in a week between the emotional support dog and having to be Del’s emotional support human. I work full-time and have a huge class load. I don’t have the time and energy to deal with my cousin having a breakdown over a wrong coffee order. I also don’t want to hurt my cousin, but the college is far enough away I would be the only support system Del has. I know my limits. My family is putting a huge amount of pressure on me. I told my mom it wouldn’t be a good idea and half my relatives called me telling me I have to do this for Del. Help.

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— Cousin in a Bind

Dear Cousin in a Bind,

I’m sorry you’re under so much pressure. Your family is right that Del needs support, but they’re wrong that it should come from you. It sounds like Del needs the help of a professional, who may suggest medication. Explain it to your relatives like this: Having your cousin live with you would be a short-term fix that would make their lives easier because they wouldn’t worry about Del as much, but it would do Del a disservice long-term. You all have the same goals when it comes to wanting Del to be happy and able to function in the world, and that’s not going to happen as a result of living with you. Plus, remind them that you’re a person with needs and sensitivities too, and having a roommate who relies on you for all of their social contact would be extremely draining. And what would happen if you wanted to study abroad, or live alone with a significant other? Encourage them to think long-term instead of putting a Band-Aid on this situation and offer to help out by researching resources to offer to Del. Deliver this message once, nice and clear, and then don’t respond to any more phone calls about the issue.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

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