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Baby Name Turf Wars: On Dibs and Due Dates

Baby Name Turf Wars: On Dibs and Due Dates

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I read your advice to someone else on this subject – what if you had your heart set on a name, but a family member who is due before you announces it’s THEIR baby name before you do?

Well, in this case, we are due first and we weren’t sharing our baby name plans because we know that couples often change their minds when they meet the baby. BUT, my SIL emailed me and said, “we’re planning on calling our daughter [due three months after my daughter] X” and when I told my husband, he freaked right out! He actually CRIED when we first said this name out loud (which of course made ME cry). For him, it is the name of our daughter. It is perfect for us, it links up with our middle name choice, with my heritage. It checks all the name requirement boxes off.

A part of me thinks it’s ok for them to call dibs on a name this far in advance if they feel strongly about it, but my husband was pissed that they didn’t wait until they found out what we’re naming our daughter. That seems a little unreasonable to me, the world does not revolve around our daughter!

But, I’ve always said that I wouldn’t let other people’s baby naming plans affect my naming plans, because my mom was going to call me “A” and then her friend called her baby “A” and so my mom called me a shitty 80s name instead! And yet, that friend moved her family away a month later and they have never been in touch since. So what would have been the big deal with naming me “A” in the end? For that reason, my attitude is, if I feel strongly about the name, it’s ok if someone else in my life gives their kid the same name.

In this case, it’s trickier of course, because this child will be family. But here’s the other thing: we will see this child (who is the daughter of my husband’s brother and his wife) maaaaaybe annually (we live in separate countries, and we don’t often visit home at the same time). Our kids and their kids will never have the same sibling-like relationships that I always had with my cousins growing up. It’s not like these kids will see each other regularly, it’s not like this is going to cause huge in-person confusion on a regular basis. In fact, I can not overemphasize how not close we are with my husband’s brother and his wife. We are extremely different and distant (my husband and his brother have never been close, never will be) and the best relationship we could ever hope for is vaguely-friendly-but-mostly-awkward.

For that reason, I’m kind of ok with naming my daughter the same name as my husband’s niece BUT, since we already aren’t close, I don’t want to start a fight by saying “yeah, so, that was our name, too, so uhhh, let’s just both have babies with that name.” I don’t care, but she might really care. I just have no idea.

What do you think? (If it helps, this isn’t the kind of name that gets shortened differently, like Elizabeth can be Liz, and Beth, and Eliza, this name is stand-alone, not the shortening type).

Help me oh wise Amalah!

Oh CRAP, Baby Name Wars!

Ugh, this whole idea of calling “DIBS!” on a baby name. I hate it. Names are important and meaningful and personal and all that, but I AM SORRY, you do not get to claim a name as yours and yours alone, hissing and spitting at anyone who dares trespass on your wonderfully unique preshus snowflake letter jumble.

THAT SAID, I also sympathize with baby name turf wars within families — while most of us are prepared for the inevitable eventuality that we will encounter someone else with our child’s same preshus snowflake letter jumble, it can get understandably weird to realize that the name you chose is ALREADY getting double-duty use within your immediate family, and within just a few months of time. Cousins born within a few months of each other, both girls, both with the same name. Yeeah, I can see how that might raise a few eyebrows and cause some confusion, and possibly a little weirdness that both girls will basically be born with the requirement of including a last initial or middle name to keep them straight whenever family members talk about them. (That’s something that some parents go overly berserk trying to avoid all together, after all.)

(Which: SHRUG, says this late-70s-born Amy Beth, who was not only ALWAYS one of multiple Amys in her class growing up, but often one of multiple Amy Beths. The rest were all Amy Elizabeths.)

(SPOILER ALERT: We all survived and grew up confident in our inherent unique preshus snowflake-ness regardless.)

You have the ultimate advantage here, obviously: You will give birth first. Your in-laws cannot stop you from proceeding with your chosen name. Nor should they. Sure, they probably shared their name choice in hopes of shooing you away from it in case it was on your “list,” but unfortunately for them, it WAS on your list. Whoops. It sucks, but there it is.

So you have every freaking right in the world to name your daughter the name you picked, but your SIL’s email does mean you’re going to have to talk about your plan. With her. Be honest. Admit that this is awkward, but yeah…that’s also the name you and your husband picked out. You’ve had it picked for awhile and it’s the only name that you ever considered (and I don’t know, you use the name out loud already and have already ordered monogrammed crib blankets or something). Let her know that 1) you aren’t going to change your plans, sorry, but 2) you are 100% completely okay and cool with her using the name as well, and would be happy to laugh and tell the story about how you both came up with this “perfect” name independently. (In other words, to clear her name as a potential copy-cat down the line.) I don’t think it’s really THAT unusual — think families where there’s an emphasis on using family names to honor parents, grandparents, etc. It’s common to see multiple cousins with the same beloved name or versions of the same name. No biggie, unless the neurotic parents-to-be make it a biggie. 

At that point, the ball is in her court. Yeah, she might get super bent out of shape or upset. But she’ll need to get over it, frankly. One email does not equal DIBS, nobody’s “stealing” anything here, it’s just a coincidence, etc. If she’d kept her mouth shut about her name choice she just would have been in for an unpleasant surprise when your daughter was born; now she has to decide if it bothers her if your girls have the same name or not. Props to you for NOT being bothered by it, by the way, but of course we can’t order other people to feel how we feel about this sort of thing. Even if those other people have identical taste in baby names.

Just promise me you won’t hide from the potential conflict and spring this on her in a few months after your daughter’s birth, at which point she’ll probably flip COMPLETELY out and assume you “stole” the name. Deal with this now, even though you aren’t close. By NOT talking about it you’ll likely guarantee that you will NEVER be close. And two little girl cousins, who will be so close in age and could possibly grow up to be wonderful friends, will be the biggest losers in that scenario. NO NAME, not even one that caused spontaneous husband-weeping, is worth that, in my opinion.


Published June 3, 2013. Last updated March 27, 2018.
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.

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