I have a confession to make. I wish I never talked my friend out of naming her son her chosen moniker. You see, at seven months pregnant, she confided her gender-neutral baby name to me. I surely didn’t want the poor chap to be bullied in school, so I persuaded her to please not saddle her boy with that name. Of course, little did I know that unisex baby names would become so popular. And so it seems my friend was just ahead of the curve.
Indeed, fast forward seven years, and his name doesn’t sound out of place in any nursery or schoolyard, leaving my friend to suffer from baby name regret.
So, it’s a thing, baby name regret, and it happens more than you think. A quick nosy around parenting forums reveals plenty of baby name mistakes. Take Amy, a British mum who listened to her mother and backed down on her own choice. Now she feels that her Max would have made a better Rufus.
In fact, a survey done by channelmum.com reveals she’s not alone. Just imagine that more than a quarter of parents admit that they made a mistake.
While even more startingly, 28% of parents had told their child they regret saddling with her name.
How to avoid baby name regret?
And with baby-naming trends changing all the time, how can you avoid making a mistake? Well, let’s have a look at one of the most significant growing categories: unisex baby names for newborns. You see, the trend for gender-neutral names has risen in popularity over the last few years. And it has come about from parents choosing non-traditional names. “Parents are inventing names and using words or last names as first names that have no traditional gender,” says Baby Name Wizard Laura Wattenberg..
What is a gender-neutral name?
Thus truly unisex baby names are names that can be used for babies of both sexes. The website Nameberry.com defines unisex names as ‘those given to at least 10 percent of the minority sex’. Over the last few years, they have gained popularity in the US, with other countries quickly catching up. They can be surnames adapted as first names (Cruz), invented names or spellings, nature names, place-names (Brooklyn), or even numbers (Harper Seven). See what I did there?
Why choose unisex baby names?
Wondering why parents would choose androgynous names? Well, parents of girls want their daughters to have the same advantages as boys as they grow up.
And evidence suggests that women with a masculine-sounding moniker have the edge over women with a more feminine sounding name in the workplace. Whereas, boy parents choose non-binary names mainly because they like the sound of them.
What is the downside of gender-neutral baby names?
Choosing a unisex name can be risky. A name that is androgynous sounding today can tilt either male or female, depending on how other parents use it. Take Harper. It started out as 100% male in 1881 in the US and has now changed direction to 95% female in 2012. So beware, your child might not thank you for his name when he’s older. But if you are ok with this, then go for it.
Truly gender-neutral- most evenly split unisex baby names
Although if you want to make sure your chosen name is truly androgynous, you could do no worse than having a look at Motherly.com.
As they have analyzed 50 unisex names from the latest US Social Security statistics. Their list displays the most popular choices with at least a 40-60 split tilting either way.
Ten most popular truly unisex baby names in the US: (split by gender)
1. Charlie, 50-50 girls-boys
2. Finley, 58-42 girls-boys
3. Skyler, 54-46 girls-boys
4. Justice, 52-48 girls-boys
5. Royal, 42-58 girls-boys
6. Lennon, 50-41 girls-boys
7. Oakley, 52-48 girls-boys
8. Armani, 46-54 girls-boys
9. Azariah, 55-45 girls-boys
10. Landry, 53-47 girls-boys
Three more reasons for baby name regret
Indeed, while a unisex name tilting the opposite direction of your child’s gender might cause you to sharpish revert to the child’s middle name. There are plenty of reasons for baby name regret. The channelmum.com study reveals some more:
1. The baby name became too popular.
Admittedly, we all have experience with this. As a matter of fact, it’s the name version of ‘I bought a new car and now everywhere I look I see the same Silver Toyota’ syndrome. While kids are usually happy to have a popular name, if there are five Emma’s in her class, you might feel her name doesn’t set her apart from the rest of her peers.
How can you prevent this from happening to you?
If you happen to like an overly used name, you can always change the spelling, to add a bit of uniqueness to it. Just don’t go overboard. Think about it. Do you really want to condemn your Olliver to a lifetime of correcting other people’s spelling?
Still on the fence? Then check out the US Social Security website. Because they show an option where you can check your chosen name for popularity ranking from the year 2000-2018. That should surely give you an indication.
Or if you live on the other side of the pond, perhaps have a look here. The UK Office for National Statistics has provided an overview of the change in popularity of baby names over the last 10 years.
Then again, you can go to local playgrounds and listen to the names being called out. And if you hear of 3 Charlies being called to go home now, you might rapidly go off that name.
What to do though if it’s too late and you fear that your once-original name is climbing the charts every year? Take heart in this little nugget. Research conducted by Shippensburg University found a correlation between popular first names and lower rates of juvenile criminal behavior.
Also, Gregory Clark (a well-known economist) studied surnames & first names of first-year students at Oxford. And based on his study, it certainly seems you’re more likely to go there if you’re an Anna rather than a Shannon.
2. I was pressured into choosing a name by my partner/ a relative
Just like Amy in our example; beware of sharing your baby names with others except your partner.
How can you prevent this from happening to you?
Just trust your instincts and keep shtum until after birth. If your relatives don’t like your choice, they may try to persuade you to change it to something they feel is more acceptable.
But how should you proceed if your partner actively dislikes your choice? Certainly, if you stick to the rule of never naming your baby after an ex, everything else should be up for debate. And if you really cannot agree on a name, look up their meanings. Indeed, that might persuade your partner to go your way.
If it doesn’t, though, why not make a list, and both of you can veto 3 names max? Just make sure you have settled on a name that you both like before the baby is born.
Giving birth is a painful experience. Don’t make it harder by arguing over the name at the eleventh hour.
Just make sure you have settled on a name that you both like before the baby is born. (For inspiration, take a look at our 15 Irish names for boys, you’ll love so much you wish you were Irish and 15 Irish girl names fit for your little warrior.)
3. It’s too unusual
Take the following situation: you like an unusual name but worry it might be, well, too unusual? It used to be just celebrities who picked some frankly bizarre names (Exton, Bear Blaze, Destry), but now it seems the whole world is at it. For one thing, the current trend for using fewer common names stems from society placing a larger emphasis on the individual.
New research, by study researcher Jean Twenge, of San Diego State University, shows that parents are less likely to choose popular names than they used to. For example, in 1945, a quarter of all newborn girls would be named a top 10 name. In 2007, only 10% of the parents opted for the same.
As with many trends, social media has a lot to answer for. “Parents are trying to be original, almost branding their kids in an era where names are viewed on the same level as Twitter handles or a website URL,” writer Sabrina Rogers-Anderson said.
Sabrina is the author of “The Little Book of Bogan Baby Names,”; a collection of more than 200 unique Australian baby names. The term Bogans is used for the Australian lower socio-economic classes who tend to misspell their babies’ names. Jakxsen anyone?
While the book may make an entertaining read, Sabrina warns prospective parents to think through their choice for an unusual name. Because research shows that prospective employers tend to hire people with more common names.
Kind of curious about these Bogan names? Have a look here:
How can you prevent this from happening to you?
Still want to go ahead with your special moniker, but you’re not totally convinced? Do the Starbucks test. Go to one of their coffee shops and order a coffee in the name of your future child. If the name incurs sniggering and eye rolling, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Alternatively, imagine you child being called into a boardroom for an important interview. How would the interview panel react if she introduces herself as Armani?
Even so, if that vision doesn’t deter you to go ahead with your choice, then you’d better make sure you have a good reason for saddling your child with an unusual name. Because while you might be a huge Bowie fan, your Ziggy surely might have preferred it if you didn’t extend your hero worship to his name.
Finally, if you’re wondering what happened to my friend? Well, while she has baby name regret, her James will always be thankful to me that the name Ellis passed him by. In fact, he is so relieved; he made his mother confide baby name number three to me, just in case.