Almost five years ago I was with a married man. I ended up pregnant and, when I gave him the news, he told me to get an abortion….

When my son was born, I notified the man and sent him a photo telling him that, because of being the father, I would give my son his surname. Two years later the man told me he wanted to meet his son, and two years after that he added that he hoped I hadn’t changed his surname, but he didn’t show up either time.

I have brought up my son by myself, and have never asked the man for absolutely anything. Would I be a bad mother if I changed my son’s surname to be the same as mine? He is almost five years old, and so far hasn’t asked about his father. I’ve never mentioned anything either. After all, what could I say when he will likely never meet his biological father because the man never shows up after saying he wants to meet him?

Dear Friend,

We are sad to hear that your son is growing up without a father. Are there other male relatives, like your brothers or your father, who can spend time with your son? Boys need male role models who can understand the challenges that young men face as they grow up.

You ask whether changing your son’s surname will make you a bad mother. The answer to your question cannot be found in the Bible. Surnames, which can also be called family names, exist as a cultural construct that are not good or bad, but are rather determined by the traditions of that time in that area of the world. So no matter what you choose to do about your son’s name, it will not be a bad decision and it will not make you a bad mother.

The people of some cultures give a child both his father’s surname and his mother’s surname. In other places, hyphenated or combination surnames are becoming common, and parents may even decide to give their child a brand-new surname that doesn’t come from either of them. The legal system in each country has regulations that specify the limitations within which the surname must fit.

You say that you have never asked the man for any financial help, and it sounds like you don’t have plans to pursue a legal judgment that would force him to pay child support. This is significant because, unless he is forced to contribute financially, he will likely avoid your son completely. Furthermore, he may not want to impact his other children’s lives or his future children’s lives.

If the man is never going to have a relationship with your son, then it would probably be less complicated for your son to have your surname. However, we encourage you to always tell the truth when your son begins to ask questions, and to reveal the man’s name when your son becomes an adult.

We also encourage you to teach your son that he has a Heavenly Father who will never abandon him. God loves you and your son very much, and He has a wonderful plan for each of your lives.

We wish you well,