Prev Next
Baby Name Turf Wars

More Baby Name Turf Wars

By Amalah


I have a little question, and I have no one that I can ask without it getting back to my SIL, so I’m coming to you.

I guess a little back story is required here. My SIL is ridiculously competitive with my husband and me.

It seems like every step of the way my DH and I are asked to quell our happiness because it upsets her if she hasn’t reached the same milestone. My IL’s asked my DH and I to not talk about any of the following things around her because they would upset her… our engagement, our wedding, buying a house, our pregnancy, and the birth of our son. This has been going on for years; each time we accomplish something (those are just the biggies), we are told to keep our mouths shut because it’s not fair to her. (Although why it’s any of her business I’m not sure).

Each time we accomplish something, she rushes to do the same (going so far as to meet and marry a guy in 8 months because she said she couldn’t stand it if she at least didn’t get married the same year that we did). Before we became pregnant, my DH and I had already discussed baby names. We decided that we wanted to do traditional Celtic names since he’s Welsh and I’m Irish. We picked out a boy and a girls name that were both very old Celtic names. When his sister found out, she told us and her parents that she loved the names so much she was going to get pregnant first so she could steal them. (And she didn’t say this jokingly).

Fast-forward a couple of years and my DH and I found out we were expecting a little boy, so, we named him Seamus as we had planned.

He is now 4 months old and we had SIL and her husband over for dinner the other night and she started talking about baby names. She became very serious and said “well, I’ll tell you mine, but you can’t steal them”. I laughed and said okay. She then said that she had decided not to take our baby names (gee thanks) but that she really liked that we had decided to use traditional Celtic names, so she was going to do the same thing…

Now, I know I can’t call dibs on an entire genre of names, but this still really irks me. My DH and I chose that because it’s very near and dear to us (we hold our heritage very close to our hearts.)

We love the names that we have chosen, and chose them because we wanted something unique; it’s not really very unique if she names her kids the same way.

I guess the reason this bothers me so much is because this isn’t the first time we have done something out of the box to stay true to ourselves, just to have her come along behind us and take our ideas. (We also did some out of the box things at our wedding just to go to hers and see everything that we had come up with being done there). After finding out that I used to be a nanny and was now finishing up my degree to become an elementary school teacher, she suddenly felt that it was her “calling” to work with children also, and has just switched careers so she could be a nanny. When she goes shopping I get picture text’s of clothes asking “is this something you would wear?”

I know that imitation is the best form of flattery, but at some point it just becomes annoying.

Everything else I can over-look. I have ignored her taking our wedding ideas, deciding to follow in my steps career-wise, and everything else, but the baby names is the last straw.

My husband is just as irritated as I am, but we don’t want to cause a rift in the family by complaining about it to anyone but ourselves.

Do you have any advice? Even if it’s just to tell me to try to continue to ignore it, I had to get this off of my chest.

Thank you in advance!

Yeah…on the scale of 1 to 10 on the Baby Name Stealie McStealerson scale, I have to admit that this is one ranks squarely in the “let it go” end. Your history with your sister-in-law as a serial competitive copycat is (understandably) clouding the situation, but from over here in Neutral Third Partyville, I’d say that this is probably not the hill to die on. Or do anything but add it to her long list of sad, eye-roll-worthy moves to demonstrate her massive insecurities.

She’s not stealing your particular chosen names, either for your already-born child or your held-in-reserve-for-a-potential-future-girl child. That happens a fair amount, and even in that situation, there’s not much for parents to do but  ignore it and not cause unnecessary drama. Baby names rarely are worth the turf wars and hurt feelings they manage to inspire. Because most likely, one day, you will be at a playground or scanning a class list and see a child — or multiple children! perhaps even one of the opposite sex! wtf! — with your carefully chosen, unique and totally personal name. And then the same thing will happen to the annoying dirty thief who stole your name.

In this case, she’s picking from the same “kind” of name. And the Celtic/Gaelic/Irish name pool has been pretty definitively popular for a few years now, if I’m not mistaken. The Aiden/Brayden Juggernauts are both Irish names, and my kids have gone to school with Bridgets and Connors and Gales and Kegans and yes, even a Seamus. Plus, since she is an in-law (she’s your husband’s sister, I take it?) she also has a personal tie to the Welsh heritage. Even if it’s “just” through marriage or she’s only suddenly started to “care” about that heritage since hearing your naming idea…well, you cannot and do not own this particular naming convention and complaining about it publicly will only result in defensive hurt feelings and unnecessary drama. BELIEVE ME.

I really don’t see how you could possibly come out and say, “SIL, I’ve kept quiet about *insert long litany of complaints* but naming your baby one of the thousands of Celtic-inspired names freely available to anyone with a book or Internet connection because we called dibs is the LAST. STRAW.” without sounding petty. Instead, try thanking her for the nice tribute to Seamus and the cousin’s shared heritage. HIGH ROAD. IN YOUR FACE, SIL.

Her baby name choice does not affect you, really. It doesn’t diminish the specialness of your son’s name or rob him of any uniqueness, because his uniqueness is inherently HIS, who he is, not what his name or nickname is. If anything, her baby name choice is just more evidence that she’s kind of an uncreative and insecure type who probably idolizes and envies you guys in varying amounts and has a really awkward way of showing it. Roll your eyes, enjoy what you have (because it’s obviously what she wants), and let go of the cataloging of offenses and bitterness over wedding ideas.

For the record, I’ve yet to attend a wedding where the couple DIDN’T draw inspiration from other weddings they attended or read about online…and if her imitation was as obvious as you suggest than anyone who attended yours first probably noted it. And anyone who didn’t attend yours probably still guessed that she’d gotten the “out-of-the-box” ideas from someone else. And even if they didn’t and complimented her on her “totally unique” wedding…eh. It STILL doesn’t invalidate your wedding or make it less awesome than it was. Just like the baby name shadowing she’s doing now. It doesn’t matter. It says nothing about you and everything about her, so let it go and stop allowing her weirdness to get under your skin so much.

As for your in-laws asking you to not talk about things…well, that’s also weird. Sad, even. And also says so, so much more about her than anything. Even her parents view her as a fragile, delicate little thing who is so unhappy with her own life that she can’t possibly muster up happiness for anyone else…even her brother and his wife and new nephew. Yuck. But again: those are her issues. You have what she wants, and no amount of copying/shadowing/imitating is going to fill whatever is so desperately empty inside.

Let’s hope that — perhaps — having a baby will in fact, complete her in some way and give her the confidence to be her own mom and her own person. Or just that you won’t be writing back in three years complaining that she’s now Single White Female-ing her way up your chosen preschool’s waitlist.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


  • Tara

    July 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I tend to agree with Amy’s advice as far as rolling your eyes (again) and letting it go rather than making it a big thing, but I just wanted to chime in to validate: based on the stuff in your letter, your SIL would seriously drive me crazy (and I have a PITA SIL of my own). To blatantly copy you guys every step of the way – the marrying the same year thing is NUTSO – and even acknowledge it is kind of… wow. Sorry you have to deal with such an annoying situation! And hopefully venting a bit helps to make you feel at least a little better!

  • Jimmy

    July 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Agree with Amy’s advice.  I would also add that while it really isn’t worth turning this into the last-straw, etc, I would have no problem ignoring family member’s attempts at coddling and condoning your SIL’s craziness (and let’s be honest – this is some craziness) and talking about whatever you want in front of her, even if it might make her jealous.  I think it is completely reasonable to get excited about your major life events, and I’d hope your family(IL) would be more happy for you than they are coddling of her to enjoy your moments with you instead of stifling your excitement.  At some point, one would hope that this person would grow up enough to be able to just be happy for you.  In the meantime, it’s time for the family to stop enabling it.  

    • Hannah

      July 3, 2012 at 11:52 am

      Yes. All of this. Agree with Amy wholeheartedly but I wouldn’t be not discussing huge milestones in the presence of SIL because that’s just… idiotic.

      • Mona

        July 12, 2012 at 1:31 am

        Truly.  And not being asked to quell and hush your happiness on other life issues would no doubt take much of the annoyance that has been building over the whole bigger dynamic here right away.
        So sorry for the obnoxious IL’s, I feel ya!

  • Olivia

    July 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Yeah, I’m with Amy on this one. Like you said, imitation is the sincerest form. I’d just tell sis-in-law, “Gee, it’s so nice you like our idea,” and move one.

    Also, naming your children Celtic names is not unique since actual Celts have been giving those names to children for hundreds of years. The names may not be very common in the U.S., but unique they are not.

  • L

    July 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    I’m with Amy, too–and I can speak from a very similar experience as that of the original poster.  My SIL is very competitive (though not as insecure as Irritated’s SIL sounds): when I asked her what names she planned to use for a baby due two weeks prior to my own, she innocently suggested the two names that I had told her a couple months previous were at the top of our list.  I was outraged and absolutely ready to make it my hill to die on, but I knew I wasn’t going to throw a wrench into an otherwise harmonious family dynamic (especially over something that I knew sounded so trivial to third parties).  So I raged, then let it go and started to consider other names.  When I was able to really just roll my eyes at her total lack of creativity, I asked her point blank her top names and told her I wanted to avoid duplication since the last time we talked, her top names were the same ones I mentioned to her.  This let me say what I needed to say (“you totally stole those names from me”) in a pretty low-key way and kind of jokey way (“just want to know if you are really planning to steal them”). The point is–let a little time go by to give you a longer perspective of the issue: you may find that the more eye-rolling you allow yourself to indulge in, the less intense you will feel.  Good luck!

  • Hillary

    July 3, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Just wanted to weigh in that as annoying as SIL is now, she’ll be the parent of your son’s future cousin. Hopefully your child will have awesome relationships with his cousin(s), and all them having name connections is kind of neat. My husband and I were the first in either of our families to have kids, and I was excited and flattered when my sister used my daughter’s middle name for my niece. They’ll always be connected that way, just like they are connected as cousins. We’re planning to name our son with the same middle name as my BIL’s son, too, just to make the connection on the other side of the family.

  • J

    July 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

    This is happening to my cousin but with her wedding and one of her bridesmaids who is also getting married.  Just about every other idea she had her friend stole, so it got to the point my cousin started lying about what she’s doing, and sure enough her friend swiped the idea. It might not be the most mature thing to do, but maybe that’s what you should start doing. Also, I don’t believe you should have to squelch any of your own excitement. I’d go right ahead and talk about the things going on in your life, upcoming events, etc. because once it’s out there you can’t take it back and SIL will just have to learn to deal with it.  

  • Kim

    July 3, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Holy heck, she sounds annoying, and so do your inlaws. I mean, seriously? How long has the family’s top priority been not upsetting the precious princess?

    But the Celtic thing- not so much. I know multiples Tadhgs at this point! (No Daffyds, though. Just sayin’)

  • susan

    July 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Yes, your sil sounds annoying as hell and it sounds like you’ve done a great job so far of just ignoring it all. Keep it up. I agree with Amy that this isn’t the hill to die on. Think about 10 years from now when your kids are older and hopefully playing happily with their cousins. Will you still care?

  • Tracy

    July 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Yes, she does sound very immature and annoying. But there’s no way to say “how dare you use the SAME TYPE OF NAME” without sounding like an entitled brat. Go with “how awesome that our choices inspired you” and don’t discuss anything in front of her if you don’t want her to copy it.

  • VG

    July 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Your SIL is a PITA for sure!

    How about keeping your names a secret from everyone and reveal them once your future child is born? This way you can make a list of names you absolutely love, and if SIL has a baby of the same gender and names her child one of the names you have on the list, then check it off and go with the others.
    Also bonus is that it’s you and your hubby’s little surprise for everyone and you SIL will probably go nuts not knowing what name your planning on using. Yes, I am that evil… 🙂

  • Amy

    July 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Wow she’s super annoying. But prepare yourself for some serious competimommy action to come, that’s where the big eye-rolling and tongue biting will take place.

  • Annie

    July 3, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    WOW. Your SIL sounds like a massive pain. It would make the evil side of me want to say “I’m signing up for prenatal harpsichord lessons because I read it’s good for the baby!” just to mess with her. But seriously, how unfortunate that your in-laws have chosen to bend over backward to smooth things over for her instead of suggesting that MAYBE she should talk to someone about being so competitive. I hope one day she does; how awful to live like that. In the mean time, try not to get sucked into her Crazy.

    And as far as naming goes, I’m Irish/Scottish and my husband is Welsh. Five years ago when we were picking original! heritage-inspired! names Seamus was at the top of our list. We went with our other choice…which is now a girls’ name rising rapidly in popularity. (THANKS CELEBRITY COUPLE.)  In the US lots of us have that same heritage, and those names are popular! 

  • andrea

    July 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Have you considered throwing her a curve ball?  You could always tell her that you are suddenly into something fictional to get her to stop copying you. See how she reacts.

    • PigPennies

      July 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm

      This! I would so do this 🙂

      I can tell by your in law’s involvement in protecting your SIL from other people’s happiness and your own husband’s annoyance that she really is bad even if the handful of examples given here doesn’t exactly scream shocking.

      Unfortunately, this is not the issue to come out fighting on. It’s just not reasonable for you to say please don’t name your baby a Celtic name. And even more unfortunately, none of the things she’s done thus far are bad enough to fight her on. You can’t be a teacher? You can’t incorporate {insert whatever} into your wedding? You just can’t go there. Suck it up, spend less time with her (I would stop responding to annoying clothing texts) and don’t blow up until you find her in your closet trying on your lingerie.

  • Autumn

    July 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Honestly, this one is probably a let is slide situation.  I get that it’s annoying as all get out to you, but I’m pretty sure you can realize how sad/pathetic/insecure her situation is.  As for the in-laws enabling, well, my MIL came up to me 2 days after my BIL’s wedding *both BIL and new SIL were thrilled about the baby and I wasn’t stealing any thunder* and announced “now I’m ready to talk about the baby” when I was 7 months pregnant.  Good thing for her was her next words were an offer to buy us the britax car seat we wanted.  She still ignores me an the baby, but moans about how she never gets to see her first grand baby.  

    Sorry for the aside, but if you want to have fun with SIL, start making stuff up and see what she does.  A little passive aggressive, but after all of this, you deserve a bit of fun:)

  • Mom of 3

    July 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Wow, I feel annoyed just reading about your situation. How annoying it must be to live it. But, I agree with Amy’s advice whole heartedly. People rarely feel regretful when they take the high road. No way you can control how she behaves, so just aim for the high road every time (and you can secretly pity her a little. 🙂

  • AmyRenee

    July 6, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I wonder if the inlaws ask you not to talk about your major life events not so much to spare SILs feelings as to spare their sanity, since a 1 evening conversation over dinner with you could mean weeks of phone conversations with them about how life is unfair from SIL. Not saying it’s right, just suggesting that it might be self preservation on their part vs sparing SILs feelings.
    And I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestions of feeding her less-than-true info. Are there any names that fall on your “dont hate but wouldn’t use” list? Suggest those to her. Or ones that you might like but don’t work as well with your last name. Just don’t tell her your real favorites. So sorry you have to deal with this crazy, but as others said, just wait until she’s signing up her kiddo for every swim lesson, gymnastics class and preschool that you sign up for, the fun is only just beginning.

  • Leslie

    July 7, 2012 at 12:06 am

    A little encouragement…  You have described, almost to a tee, the relationship I had with my sister-in-law before we both had babies, particularly on the wedding copying (same dress style, same earrings, same bridesmaids dress style and color…it was ridiculous) and the “don’t talk about anything my hubby and I have done lest it make her feel insecure” bit.  When I found out she was expecting a baby four months after me–and then when we found out we were both having boys–I was just sure that the competition issues would skyrocket.  But Amy ended her advice by saying, “Let’s hope that — perhaps — having a baby will in fact, complete her in some way and give her the confidence to be her own mom and her own person.”  And wouldn’t you know that was EXACTLY what happened in our situation!  Having a baby mellowed her out a bit and gave us something in common rather than a source of competition.  No guarantees that it will happen that way for you, but it is possible!  We’ll never be BFF, but things are way better than they were.  Here’s hoping!

  • Diane

    July 14, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    You have the best weapon here by holding your head high and feeding some harmless misinformation.  Being half Welsh myself, I think you could have a little bit of fun with it.  Have you seen the spellings of some of those names? I would not know what to do with them (Gs, Ds and Ys all over the place!).  No I am not dissing my heritage, but how they are spelt and pronounced can be two completely different things if you are a native English speaker! This is another language after all.

    Just try, for example, Creuddylad, Addfwyn,  Goleudydd, or Tegfedd for girls, or Crwys, Cynddelw, Dwyryd or Fflamddwyn for boys! If Y were not considered a ‘sometimes’ vowel in English, we’d be lost!

    Good luck!

  • Anon

    October 11, 2014 at 1:29 am

    Wow that’s annoying.

    I have a friend who has just used my daughters name. My daughter was born in Jan 2012 but have had this name in the cards since 2008. This friend (back in the day) dated a guy that I liked, tried to break me up with my boyfriend and also dated my ex.

    I’m not that cool, I can’t imagine she is trying to be like me! I’m so hurt and maybe I have no right to be annoyed, I do not have naming right after all, but I’m not happy.