All Woman

Women refusing to give children 'wutliss puppa' last names

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE All Woman writer husseyd@jamaicaobsever.com

Monday, January 07, 2013    

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Anger, resentment and disappointment are just some of the reasons women opt not to give their babies their fathers' surnames after they have severed ties — some of them during the pregnancy and others soon after the birth.

Whatever the reason, these women have instead resorted to giving the children their own surnames.

Rose Phipps is one such mother. She told All Woman that while her child's father was there during her pregnancy, since the birth of the baby six months ago, he had bought diapers for the child twice after declaring that he will not be giving his money to any woman.

Then two weeks ago, she found out that he had five other children, and not just the two he had originally told her about. One was conceived during the three-year period they were together.

"He has seen his child three times since she [was] born. During Hurricane Sandy (October) he never even as much as picked up the phone and find out if she was OK. He doesn't have a relationship with her, and she really does not know him," Phipps said.

"I am the one doing everything for her. The couple times he gave her anything, I had to be in his skin for weeks running him down just to get two [diapers]. So why should he get the satisfaction of having her carry his name? Which law says you have to do that? Why should I give my child her wutliss puppa name?" she said before hissing her teeth.

Margarette Macaulay, an attorney-at-law and women's and children's rights advocate, has urged women like Phipps to give the matter careful thought.

"You must do that which will be in your child's best interest. This should be the only reason for your decision; no other reason will suffice," said Macaulay, who is also a Supreme Court mediator and notary public.

If the situation is unavoidable, she said the child can be given the mother's last name and the father's name added later.

"After the birth of your child, you can give the child your last name if you wish, or the dad's. Later, if you desire, the father's particulars can be added to the child's birth record," Macaulay explained.

"You may do as you wish to do regarding names, or if the dad signs the record at the time of registration and you also want to add your surname, that can be done. However, the surname added to the child's record would be seen as a middle name, or a hyphen can be placed to show a double-barrelled name," she said further.

However, Macaulay cautioned that if the mother is seeking child maintenance through the court later, a DNA test would have to be done to prove paternity.

Clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell said once the mother knows that this is the birth father, they should give the child his name.

"Not giving the child the father's name — irrespective of his lack of support — is a choice the mother makes, but not the child," Bell said.

"The mother made that choice to say worthless man, the child didn't. So when that child grows up, it is a normal, natural human condition for that child to want to know that he/she has a father, and if the child recognises that the name that he/she has is not the name of their biological father, regardless of the circumstances, it could create psychological problems for the child," Bell added.

Those psychological problems, she said, include feelings of alienation, rejection, a sense of not belonging, feelings of being unwanted, and anger against the mother.

"Children are not looking at the circumstances. The mother is looking at it from the perspective of a husband or a boyfriend; the child does not understand that perspective. That's not the role that they are playing; the role that they are playing is that they want a father," she said.

So the mother is denying them that father because she is having a husband/boyfriend relationship issue. But the child is not going to understand that husband/boyfriend relationship issue, the child is going to understand that they are being denied their father and the heritage of the name that they should have had," she added.

The result, Bell said, is oftentimes that mothers become the object of their children's anger.

Still, Bell said there might be circumstances under which the mother may be right in not giving the child his/her biological father's name.

"[One circumstance is] if somebody rapes you. This is somebody who invaded your space and took away your sense of self, took away something from you. And if you know the person, giving that name to the child is a no-no, because the child would understand that somebody raped my mom and my mom refused to give me the name and may be happy that they didn't get the name of the person," she said.

At the same time, the psychologist noted that a father's dying while the mother is pregnant is not a good enough reason to deny the child his surname.

"That would be denying the child can be told about the person and appreciate that they had a father. Everybody wants to know that they have parents. You would be surprised to know how that can affect someone psychologically," she said.

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