Reader Q&A: How To Cope With Unusual Name Regret

How To Cope With Unusual Name Regret

Conflicting expectations.


The conventional wisdom is that parents are more likely to regret picking a name that is too common. At least that is the conclusion made in an ABC news segment from 2011.

ABC’s claim is that only a few parents regret giving their kid an unusual name, but that has not always been my experience when talking to parents about baby names. ABC’s claim may be true, but I have also heard stories of regret from parents who discarded a beloved name in favor of a less common one.

One of these parents happens to be a UBN reader who agreed to share her story behind why she regrets not naming her daughter Mia (a top 10 name in the US) five years ago.

The chosen name, Cheyla, comes across as contrived according to reader, Maddie. But that’s not Maddie’s only concern. The family has started using both names (Cheyla and Mia) for the girl and she answers to both. Maddie is afraid of creating an identity crisis for her daughter.

This story also illustrates other top concerns among UBN readers besides avoiding a popular name and regretting it. And that is why I asked Maddie if she would share her story.

Hear more about her story in the latest Reader Q&A video:

FYI: The video is about 15 minutes and I really hope you take a look at it, but if you are pressed for time, you can download a PDF of the presentation here.

Thank you so much Maddie for sharing your story.

Readers: Have you ever regretting discarding a name for being too common? How would you address Maddie’s dilemma?

If you enjoyed this article, and would like to share your biggest baby name challenges, enter your name and email address to get free updates including stuff I don’t share on the blog:



  1. Maddie says:

    Hi again. Thanks for sharing! I appreciate the help and I’d like to address some of the points you raised.

    At school, it can be a little confusing, but most of her classmates roll with it. Some call her Cheyla and some call her Mia. She answers to both. RARELY is she called Cheyla Mia (combining both names as a “name”).

    Her teacher has a daughter called Cheyla (different spelling) and so she is biased towards the name and rarely calls her Mia. I’m afraid this will unduly influence the use of Cheyla at school.

    It can get frustrating when I am trying to let Mim develop her own preference.

    She can and does write both names, and uses Mim too.

    My daughter changes her mind frequently on what she prefers to be called, and therefore changes what she uses to introduce herself as. She more of often than not goes by her nickname, Mimi or Mim. Her siblings call her Mim or Mia. It is really only her Dad and his family who call her Chey or Cheyla. My family and our friends call her Mim.

    • Hi Maddie!

      Thanks so much for chiming in. Whew! Your daughter does wear many hats. It doesn’t sound like it is bothering her right now.

      Mim is also really cute. Mia and Mim are sort of similar and I can see how she could easily use them interchangeably sort of like I use Angie and Angela interchangeably. I am Angie in my personal life and Angela in my professional life.

      Cheyla and Mia, on the other hand, are very different and I can see how using those names interchangeably might be confusing. However, I know of people who used nicknames that were very different from their given names, usually some variation on their last name. For example, I knew a guy with the last name Gusik who was called Goose (like in Top Gun) in high school. His parents and teachers called him by his given name, but his friends called him Goose. Perhaps she will always be Chey or Cheyla to her Dad and his family but Mia (or Mim) to everyone else.

      As she gets older I’m sure she will develop her own preferences. It sounds like she might be trying out the different names. Maybe she is afraid of hurting people’s feelings because she knows her family/friends seem to be biased towards one name over the other. Kids can be very perceptive.

      But Mim seems to have come about organically and from what you said, might be the name that sticks.

  2. The conflicting expectations graphic is spot on. I wanted a name that was very went well with my last name, didn’t have nicknames and wasn’t too common. It also, and that was very important to me, had to be very easy to spell and pronounce in both English and German and preferably sounded EXACTLY the same.

    I named my son Elvis of all things and the usual reaction is “WHY?”. I don’t think it’s a big deal in a world where children name their kids Khaleesi or Katniss, or that he’ll be bullied any more than any of them (there are no bully proof names anyway. None). If I had another son, I seriously have not even the slightest idea what his name would be. Not just because no other name could possibly meet my expectations but also because it would have to go with Elvis as well and nothing goes with Elvis. I would have named a little girl Mabel and cannot think of anything else either. Other people have lists of ten million names and I just don’t like…well, anything.

    I grew up constantly having my name (Janine) mispronounced and misspelled in both the US and in Germany. No one could ever misspell or mispronounce Elvis. Sure, there’s Presley but if I had named with something else uncommon you never know if the main character in a future Twilight type franchise would end up having that name and thus forever be associated with it. At least with Elvis I know that nothing *worse* will ever overshadow the Presley. Can’t say that he regret it because he is a total Elvis.

    And I think that Mim is the most adorable nickname ever. Not just because I was Nin as a little girl ;).

  3. Although I wouldn’t recommend that option in this particular case, I’d like to point out some facts you touched in the video about legally changing a name. In many states you can get your birth certificate amended* to reflect a (not related to marriage of course) name change. (In some cases they just attach a sheet while leaving the old name on there, in others they’ll visibly cross out the old name and put in the new name, while in others they’ll completely amend it like they would for an adoption-related name change.) If any degree of amendment can be done that will largely negate having to carry both documents like you suggested.

    *The following link may be of some help – it’s geared for those seeking an amendment due to a gender change, but it may be of some help for other cases too (a few states are more generous in removing the old info in transgender cases since having that out there can induce discrimination and even violence with them unlike those who make the change for simply disliking the old name).

    Back to the subject of the post: I think the best option, unless your daughter expresses in an interest in going another way is to use either Cheyla alone, or Cheyla-Mia together like you’ve been doing.

  4. Hettie says:

    Angela’s presentation pretty much covered it all, but I’m going to chime in and say that sometime having multiple name-options is a good thing. As a child, I always wished I could pick a different name whenever I felt like it. My name was impossible to squeeze a nickname out of (Hettie isn’t my real name). As a type-A sort myself, I can totally see wanting to have one name set in stone, but since your daughter is living with her multiple names without any apparent difficulty I think I might embrace that fact that you gave her the choice to be whoever she feels like! I would have given anything to be Mim one day, Cheyla another. And chances are she will settle on her favourite over time. Or maybe not. She may always relish the variety.
    One of my family members started life as Michael Tobias, called exclusively Tobias by one parent and Toby by another, even though the parent who called him Toby had insisted throughout the pregnancy that he be Michael!! Toby hit about seventh or eighth grade and decided that he hated both Toby and Tobias and wanted to be a Mike. At that point…it was his call. And to this day he’s Mike exclusively. These things really do work themselves out in time. Good luck making peace with the situation, it really will be ok no matter what.

  5. Oh and I don’t think Cheyla Mia is being set up for an identify crisis because she goes by both names. Growing up my mother mostly called me Janine and occasionally Nin, my German grandma called me Nin or Nini, my friends called me Janine or Nin or J-nine, my dad called me JD and my American family called me that too though some called me by my middle name Michelle. I did not consistently introduce myself by one name either, not as much as I remember anyway. Angela was spot on with “the kid owns the name”.

    I introduce myself as JD now, unless we are taking about a professional setting in which case it’ll be Janine. I tried to switch to Michelle but that didn’t work out.

    Even my son, whom I always wanted to called Elvis exclusively has tons of nicknames and I don’t think it’ll do him any harm to be known as Elvis, EJ, E, Eli, Elvi and Jake depending on who he is dealing with. He’s only a toddler and he will listen to all of them. If you love Mia the most, call her Mia exclusively herself but let those that call her Cheyla call her Chelya as long as she herself doesn’t object. I’m not a fan of my name at all, but my mother always calls me Janine now and I’ll probably always call my boy Elvis too.

  6. Hi Mattie, Sorry for your regret. I know firsthand the struggle with it. I have been regretting my daughter’s name for 11 yrs. now. It’s something that keeps me up at night. The problem with name regret is that unless you change it when they are babies there is nothing you can do about it. I named my daughter Atalie because I thought it was pretty and unique. But it turned out it was a little too unique. Most people can’t say it or understand it. I always hear other names and think I like those better. I wanted to go with simple Emma but my husband thought it was too common and he liked Atalie. It is a real name. I didn’t create it from Natalie but most people think I did. Anyway it’s been tough. I been thinking of seeing a therapist.

  7. Is the problem more people intentionally picking names to avoid the popular ones, do you think? I have a son with a name never in the top thousand, often misheard, and I love it so much I’ve never regretted it. But we picked it because we loved it and it was our first choice, not to avoid something else. His twin had a name that’s been in the top fifty most years, same thing.

  8. Simple and romantic names


  1. […] Yet that wasn’t the experience of UBN reader, Maddie, who had a case of unusual name regret. […]

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