Monday, April 23, 2012

On Being a Mom and Having Tattoos

This is one of the many pieces I'll be re-sharing here over the next year. This originally published on Hello Giggles, but since I am not writing for them anymore, it's important to me to have all of my writing in one place. If this is the second time you've seen this, I hope you don't mind too much! Enjoy.   beach family

If you would have shown my 15-year-old self a photo of me now, I wouldn’t have believed that the girl pictured could really be me. It would have been hard to even imagine; I grew up in an open-minded yet somewhat conservative family and knew hardly anyone with a tattoo. Outside of the one biker friend of my Dad’s who had a rose tattooed on his skull, it was all foreign to me and admittedly, a little scary, too. In high school, I dated a few boys who had artwork on their bodies – one with his last name across his back and another with some sort of tribal etching on his bicep. But that was it. I don’t actually even remember ever seeing a heavily tattooed person in my life before I was 18 or 19. On our senior trip to Mexico the summer after graduating high school, I recall getting truly upset at two of my girl friends for going off and getting tattoos in a random shop on a back street in Puerto Vallarta. Not only was I mad that they could have contracted some sort of disease from the unsanitary conditions but I was appalled that they would do “that” to their bodies.

Well. Since then, I’ve done a lot of “that” to my body and now, at 29, I am what some would call heavily tattooed.

I’ve written about this topic in my own blog before and likened being heavily tattooed to wearing a dress that you just can’t take off. You went to the store, loved the dress, bought the dress and guess what? You will wear that dress for the rest of your life. Others will stop and comment on your dress – maybe they love it, maybe they hate it. But because it’s colorful, different from the norm and so out there, they feel that they have the right to discuss it with you, maybe show you their own and sometimes even touch yours. And you still can’t take it off. Ever. And that’s what it’s like to be heavily tattooed. It’s a part of you wherever you go, a conversation piece and what many people see before they really see you.

And now that I’m a Mom, I’ve gotten so many more questions from my friends, family and even complete strangers about my tattoos. What will you do if Henry wants to get one at a young age? Do other Moms judge you? What happens if your son is embarrassed of them?

It’s funny because these are all things I’ve thought about myself. My husband and I have laughed about the fact that Henry will either think we’re super cool or super lame. And that’s okay. I couldn’t imagine having a Mom that had her arms, chest, legs, etc. tattooed but this is all Henry will know. And because he’s surrounded by our tattooed friends and family most of the time, seeing beautiful colors and pictures on peoples’ skin is completely normal and probably more commonplace to him than seeing skin without it.

And because of this, I do wonder how it will affect our son. I hope if my tattoos do affect him at all, they teach him to be accepting of different kinds of people and to never base his opinion on someone’s looks alone. I wish more kids had that lesson growing up – we’d have a lot less adults who are quick to judge solely based on appearance and stereotypes.

Before I was a Mom, I was a high school English teacher in our small, conservative town. Every day I’d cover up my tattoos with work appropriate clothing and most of my colleagues never knew I had them unless they saw me outside of school. I taught there for almost six years and surprisingly, there were some people I never had the chance to see beyond our classroom walls. Then just the other day I actually ended up running into a group of them while out to eat with my family. Some of the women were shocked when my husband, son and I walked up; I was wearing a strapless dress and my chest piece and sleeve were completely visible. Many of them were in disbelief – “You always seemed so sweet! I never would have guessed you had so many tattoos!” and “I had you pegged all wrong- this is truly a surprise! You always seemed like such a sweet girl.” Because I had always seemed so nice (‘sweet’ seemed to be the adjective of choice), it seemed preposterous to them that underneath my pencil skirts, blouses and cardigans lie this seemingly wild and crazy heathen who must be intent on covering every inch of her skin with ink.

I’m used to people giving me weird looks – sometimes they’re just curious, but sometimes I get some pretty awful glares – and it was very interesting to me to see how these women reacted. They had already known me for years. They knew that I was a hard worker, friendly and a great teacher. They had based their opinion off what they saw everyday but I was suddenly tossing a wrench into their wheel of impressions. I was throwing them off.

We talked a bit more and as I walked away, I realized that I had done something pretty neat back there at that table. I had broken a stereotype and hopefully taught these women that whatever crazy idea they had in their heads of what a tattooed person is supposed to be like was wrong. Hopefully. To be honest, I’m sure when I left the table most of them didn’t give it a second thought, but I’d like to think that maybe just one of them questioned why they had been so shocked in the first place and realized I was still the same person they’d always known, even though I may be a little bit out of the box they had originally placed me in.

And that’s what I hope for my son. I hope he grows up and sees that not everyone can fit into a neat box. That diversity, uniqueness and thinking outside of the norm are all good things. I want to teach him acceptance and tolerance. Compassion and kindness. As time goes by, tattoos will become more common but I know that in the world we live in, there will always be someone quick to judge or make an assumption based on appearance. And that’s okay. So when people ask me what it’s like to be a heavily tattooed Mom or how I think my tattoos will affect my son when he’s older, I still can’t say I know. All I can do is teach him to have an open mind and kind heart, and hope that the foundation his father and I have built for him will allow him to grow up to be a person who embraces differences. Or, at the very least, allow him to accept his two crazy, tattooed parents in all of their colorful glory!

45 comments:

  1. One of my favorite posts ever! Thank you so much for posting it again! :) <3

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  2. I love your tattoos and have really enjoyed your Tattoo Tuesday feature each week. I have 4 tattoos, but they are on my back and my feet and very easy to cover. If I was honest with myself I know that I want more ink and should get more... but because of the work I do, the part of the country I live in and the people I'm around, I just can't. I would love a chest piece more than anything. It would have Hello Kitty and Mimi, flowers and cupcakes. Your dress analogy is absolutely perfect! I don't know if I am confident in my self enough to 'put on a dress that I couldn't take off.' I'll be 32 next month and I feel like time is against me, too. What if my skin gets wrinkley or stretched out. Would it be a mistake? For these reasons I'm waiting. I know I'll get more tattoos. I just don't know if I'll have the guts to get them where I really want them.
    http://www.lovelylifeofleah.blogspot.com

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    1. It's never too late, Leah!I had my first tat to celebrate my 65th birthday, and put a "stamp' on the new me. Since then I have had two more and this summer i will get another. These brautiful pictures are a constant reminder of who I am and what I have to be thankful for. I say, just go for it!

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    2. Thanks so much for the support! I have a 5 yr old and he calls tattoos 'stamps.' He loves going up to heavily tattooed people we see and asking about them. It's awesome! At least I know I have his support too :)

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  3. Thank you for writing this! One of my biggest concerns is having tattoos when I'm a mother and reactions from other parents on the playground! But I guess I'll just have to see what happens

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  4. I loved this post on HG and I love reading it again. I too am a tattooed mama (with another on the way) and have received similar questions. My OB asked me a few weeks ago what Lilly thought of my tattoos and I told her that Lilly hadn't noticed them yet. Lilly finally did notice them there other day and said "Mama, what's that?" I told her they were tattoos. She repeated, "tattoos" and when I asked her what she thought of them she said "They're good."

    Thanks for the great article!

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  5. First time reading this and it is a very well thought out and written explanation. Loved it. Thank you!

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  6. I love this post. You said it all so beautifully!

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  7. Your tattoos are absolutely gorgeous, and I too have heard all the same things directed at me. I do not have as many as you but enough to warrant the odd comments. Over time people will get over the preconceived notion that only prisoners and lowlifes get tattoos. They are art. We just happen to carry our art around with us. It doesn't make us any less of a person, or even any different.

    - Angela Marie @ http://sunkissedivory.blogspot.com

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  8. GREAT post and you are beautiful! You are right...we don't have to fit in a box! Self expression is a beautiful thing.
    www.cathykhayes.blogspot.com

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  9. I loved reading this - I'm still learning how to feel comfortable in my own skin which currently has one prominent tattoo. I plan on getting more but sometimes I catch myself wondering what other people will think, the moms at my boys pre-school, people in church, even my friends. So just reading this wonderful perspective of yours is awesome!

    xo
    cortnie

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  10. Beautiful post V_V
    I wish to read more about this topic, you are a great inspiration dear
    I want my first tattoo, and my mom is not happy with the idea, but she told me that is my body and I am not a kid anymore, with this story I can show her there are many good persons
    who love ink.

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  11. Times are different - depending on where you live. There are TONS of moms and dads in San Diego with Tattoos. They grow up fast so Time to Enjoy. And yes, there is an App for that.

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  12. i loved this article when i first read it on hello giggles, and i read every word again this morning and still love it. i think that of all the things you post on your blog, these personal stories are my favorite. you are a wonderful writer!

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  13. I love this piece, thank you for sharing. It's funny, people would always give me that " well, what about when you're old and wrinkly?" line. Well, a month ago I was in a bike accident and I now have a bunch of scars on my torso and hips - right where my tattoos are. Despite the ugly scars I feel confident and happy with my body, in some part because I love my tattoos. Who cares if I'm scarred? I've got beautiful ink for life.

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  14. I too love this post, I have two boys, under 4 & we talk about mine & their Dads tattoos a lot! I have a few...wrists/shoulder & back. I also found it quite sweet when my oldest Fred came out of pre-school to share his new tattoo with me....he'd proudly written his name on his leg....not sure if I was more proud of the tattoo, or that he'd spelt his name right!!!! Your morals & ethics for bringing ur Son up is the same as ours....my Mum told us "never judge a book by its cover"......if only there where more people like that in this world. Keep up ur great work...I love reading ur posts.....Thank you....Haley (london uk)

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  15. I love all your tattoos and its nice to see someone who is a mom and proud of them. I wanted a full sleeve on my left arm, and most of my back tattooed, and my friends and family ask how will I explain that to my kids and Co workers. I'll simply tell them that my body is a blank canvas, and tattoos are art, so why should I paint it? And if my kids want tattoos, I'll be open minded to them, because I mean, look at there mom.
    xoxo
    -Darianne
    www.jaellexo.com/

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  16. this is such a beautiful post. i only have one small tattoo but even that made me realize how easily people judge others because of a little bit of ink. on the upside, realizing that has made me more conscious of how i view others. thank you for the inspiring piece! i look forward to reading more! :)

    allie

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  17. Great post! I have yet to have any other moms mention my tattoos in public. I think we are all too busy bonding on the OMG our kids are being crazy aspect than the personal appearance part. I was nervous though!

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  18. There was an editorial in the Chicago Tribune where the author said one of his greatest accomplishments was that none of his children had tattoos. It struck me as such an odd thing to say; shouldn't you be more proud of raising honest, happy, driven, and compassionate children? So thanks for this post. It's nice to see people who have their priorities straight!

    -another tattooed mama

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  19. I really like you're story. And I love you're tattoo's. I'm a tattood mother too and we have a very openminded daughter. She will never judge anybody by colour or anything else. I think that's very important in raising children. Greetings with heart&soul from Sil.

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  20. I really did enjoy this post it hit home in so many ways! I have six tattoo's and tomorrow I'll be starting my back piece. I'm a mum and a good one! I'm proud of my kids and my tatoo's

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  21. one of my favorite posts... im so glad you are moving all your hello giggles stuff to your blog, in case I missed some, which I know I did!

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  22. this was one of the first things I ever read that you wrote and it's what really made me a sometimessweet addict :) so nice to read it again.

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  23. I am so glad you re posted this! A friend sent my the link to this on Hello Giggles last year! It was the first thing I ever read of yours, I love that you have given you views on this!
    Amy xo

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  24. Oh friend, I am so sorry the way your previous coworkers acted towards you. You are sweet! You never changed! You are who you because of your beautiful heart, the beauty of your heart and the sweetness of your character has nothing to do with your tattoos. You are Dani!

    I know Henry is going to accept people and love them more than most people. I grew up in a family where my entire family is heavily tattooed and pierced. I am actually the only person in my family who doesn't have a tattoo (yet). But I didn't grow up thinking it was gross, or that my family members are lame for it or that their is something wrong with them I actually thought they were beautiful. I love the way you wrote how its like you find that perfect dress and you never want to take it off. You explained it perfectly.

    I think in your case (and in my sisters, step mother and some other people I know) your tattoos enhance your beauty. Its part of your identity. I think Henry will see that and I think he will be less judgmental when he grows up because he is around so many diverse people who are loving on him at such a young and impressionable age. I don't think he is going to think your lame ;-)
    xoxo

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  25. Great post! I don't have any tattoos but am totally fascinated by them. And I'm glad you're re-posting your Hello Giggles stuff, because I missed most of it (didn't click over). I agree that it'll be nice for you to have all of your stuff in one place. :)

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  26. Great post darling. An article I have never seen anything like before - which always delights me. Great work. x

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  27. Wonderful. I feel the exact way. Live for yourself and what you believe in (whether it's having tattoos or not). Like the quotes goes "what you think of me is none of my business" ;)

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  28. i loved this on hello giggles, and am happy to read it again here. tattooed moms rule, but i only say that because i am one with them too.

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  29. I LOVE this post so I really don't mind reading this for the nth time. You inspired me a lot the first time I read this in Hello Giggles :)

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  30. I just don't understand why tattoos aren't accepted these days. After all, it's just another way to express yourself. I don't understand why they wouldn't think a person isn't 'sweet' if they have tattoos. Tattoos don't change a person, other than their appearence, and it surely doesn't mean they can't do a certain job or aren't smart.

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  31. Great post! Its interesting how a picture can totally change someone's opinion of you when its on your skin and not on your lounge room wall. I'm always surprised how having a tattoo can change some people's view of you and your place in society, but it certainly won't stop me from getting more ink done!

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  32. I love this post! It's really inspiring and so great to read about these subjects. I love your tattoos and I know (even though I don't know you in real life) that you are such a sweet person and I'm always very surprised when people react the way your coworkers did. Some of my friends have tattoos and I got my first one (on my wrist) about a year ago. Even though mine is very simple and not that big, there are still a lot of people looking at it and asking questions. It's kinda weird that people think you'll change as a person when getting tattooed. Who ever made that up...
    I think this post (and the Tattoo Tuesday ones!) is a great inspiration for a lot of people. Thank you so much :)

    Love, Sari

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  33. i remember reading this post over on hello giggles, but i'm happy you reposted it here. it's so wonderful. i think if i hadn't found your blog, i would still be sitting here with two tiny [and really shitty] tattoos and holding myself back from getting more.

    i can tell that people here disapprove of mine already and i'm no where near done with the list of ones i want. i think it especially irks them that i let paisley cover her forearm in temporary tattoos. like "what are you teaching your child?!" but paisley loves them because they're colorful and "beautyyyy-ful!" she definitely doesn't judge me or steven for ours. [but that can definitely change with her starting at a private catholic school this fall. i'm sure most of her friend's families are going to be really conservative. i just hope that they don't hold it against her that her parents are tattooed.] when i went this past weekend to get tattooed, she was begging me to get a heart on my wrist opposite of my bow. and she was saying that she wants tattoos when she's grown up.

    i think your permanent dress analogy is a perfect way to look at them. i truly enjoy reading your thoughts on things.

    <3kaite

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    1. ha... i like that i didn't spell my name correctly.

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  34. I loved reading this on Hello Giggles and I was happy to re-read it again!

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  35. I loved this post! I also already experienced similar situations, because I look so "sweet and innocent" until I take my shirt off (at department stores or at the doctor...) and show my back piece. Society expects tattooed people to fit their "thug" category and are just shocked when they realize the world sometimes escapes their control.

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  36. This is fantastic. I can't fully relate, as my husband and I are still working to start a family, but these are points that have crossed my mind when thinking about our future.

    I'm tattooed, with a half sleeve and a few smaller miscellaneous tattoos but my husband isn't. I plan on getting more, but my husband plans on never getting any. This won't ever be a conflict. I think it will be beneficial for our children to help them be accepting of those with and without tattoos and will help them make their own decisions regarding body art when they are of appropriate age. Seeing that Mom has tattoos, and that's okay, then seeing that Dad doesn't have tattoos, and that's okay too.

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  37. thank you for this. I have 10 tattoos and my friend told me the other day that i was too "sweet" to do that. i have a full time job and NO-ONE would gues i had them. Your dress Analogy is perfect. Thank you. it makes me feel better to know others are out there. ive been struggling a lot lately with the nice weather and skin showing. I don't have many supportive friends or family.. so it's hard. I admire that you can walk around proudly. Henry is lucky to have you! :) he'll brag to his friend when he gets older about his awesome parents.

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  38. thank you for this post!!!! i loved it and totally relate. i don't have kids, but i'm a professional. i'm an ob/gyn doctor. i have tattoos and will get more tattoos. i have a few small one's that show (wrists), but my larger pieces are unseen at work.

    even with the small one's it's funny what people will say. most patients are very accepting (and find it a relief that they have a "normal person" doctor!). my colleagues .... a little more synical.

    the funniest thing is that i really am a quiet, goody-two-shoes, nerd. and, most people know that. then, they see my ink and say something about "my rebellious" time or i must have some crazy stories to share. nope. no rebellions. no crazy stories.

    my favorite explanation to colleagues or the occasional patient is that they are comparing me to the wrong crowd. if i was with my brother's, sister, husband, friends .... not only would i blend in, but they'd see that i'm still "the conservative one", "the responsible big sister" .... it's all about perspective. and i'm with you ...... let's be part of the crowd to help people see a new perspective about life!!!! :D

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  39. LOVED this post!

    Even though my friends and I are far away from possibly having kids, we do think about what would people say when we become mothers and our tattoos stay with us, so thank you so much for sharing this!

    Funny thing is that I got hired at Mekanism BECAUSE OF my tattoos! They thought I seemed really shy and quiet (oh how wrong they were) but they thought I "must be cool" due to my ink! Sometimes tattoos work to our advantage instead of disadvantage, no? :D

    <3

    Chin

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  40. I wish that I could re post this to my facebook. I am an English teacher with tattoos as well as a mom in a small conservative town and I can relate to this article so much. Thanks for writing it down. It means a lot to so many people.

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  41. Love that! My parents both have tattoos and I remember that I thought they were really interesting when I was a child. I liked them a lot. My dad wasn't happy with his oldest tattoos because they haven't been done properly so he always taught me i should think a lot about it before i get one myself. howewer i have two tattoos by now and i like that my parents like them as well. my brother, however, never liked the tattoos as much as i did and never got one himself. but he always accepts them on others... i'd like to hear what henry thinks about them once he understands ;-)

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