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Divorced Mom Slowly Embraces New Name, New Identity

As a divorced mom, I now have a new last name. Making the decision to return to my maiden name after my divorce wasn’t easy as I described in my January 5, 2011 post.

Deciding to legally change my name was the easy part.  Unlike a newly married young woman, I wasn’t eager to tell everyone or rush to change my ID.

In some ways that time following my divorce was a liminal period, the term sometimes used for the middle stage of a rite of passage (from the Latin limen or threshold). I had left my role as a married woman behind, but I was not yet fully comfortable in my new role as a divorced mom (and an independent adult woman).

The name I used was a part of my identity.

For 20 years I had used my married name. That’s how everyone knew me. My IDs and credit cards were in my married name. I felt funny about following through on my name change decision, and wondered who that woman was when I occasionally used my maiden name.

I decided not to force the issue. I had help on that front from my financial advisor who advised me to keep my married name until after I had filed my taxes for the year to avoid confusion. (There were bigger issues than the name on the tax forms, but that’s for another post!)

I had more “help.” After three trips to the Social Security Office failed to provide a new Social Security card, I put the official name change efforts aside for a while.

Over the next six months, I began using my “new” name socially from time to time. Sometimes I’d forget which last name I had used with whom. It felt somewhat unsettling, like I wasn’t entirely sure who I was.

One time I signed the first page of some school papers in my old married name and the second page with my post-divorce maiden name. My son thought it was funny and loved the idea of confusing the teacher. Still, it was evidence of my “in between-ness.”

I had little incentive or motivation to make the change, so I continued in my liminal state for about a year. Then incentive came in the form of the TSA.

One a business trip last fall, a TSA agent informed me I needed my ticket and identification to match or I would no longer be able to fly. I was carrying my old and new drivers’ licenses “just in case.” It was time to let go of my old identity and adopt the new.

Trip #4 to the Social Security Office resulted in a new Social Security card, so I was able to make the name change with my bank, my credit card companies, service providers, etc.  Although it was a bit of a hassle, with each company requiring something different in the way of forms and proof, the time must have been right because everything fell into place within less than two months. All my identification once again lines up, this time in my new name.

This liminal period has drawn to a close. I’ve taken on my new identity as a divorced breadwinner mom. Of course, there’s more to me than that, but those are key elements of my post-divorce life, which I’m learning to embrace.

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