I live in New York City, home of the hipster, the punk, the thug. We’re all tatted-up, pierced-out freaks — even the mommies. I’ve never taken count, but I bet on any given day in New York — and in any other major city, really — you’re likely to see more people with tattoos than without. Tattoos have — ironically — become ubiquitous symbols of individuality for men and women of child-bearing age.
Though I’ve always felt like the type of girl who is kick-ass and vibrant enough to rock a colorful sleeve, the reality is I’m more hippie than hardcore. I’ve got two tattoos, done thirteen years apart, both inked as a rite of passage during times of great change in my life. Neither piece is uber-obvious; one is on the inside of my left forearm and the other is in-between my shoulder blades, which is maybe why I never get sideways glances about having them. Or as a friend said to me today, “You have tattoos? I never noticed.”
Also, I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a neighborhood filled with city-dwellers who’ve moved out here (to the “country”) to raise children after years of partying in Manhattan. I know three other mothers in the immediate vicinity who have many more tattoos than I do, and another who when I asked, “Ever get any weird looks for being a tatted up mom?,” replied, “Not in Park Slope.” Investment banker dads hide biceps emblazoned with the Yankees’ emblem under their button-down shirts, and even the most normal-seeming stay-at-home-moms cover “tramp stamps” they got years ago with flowing tunics.
Having one or two tattoos is commonplace for women nowadays, even in small Midwest towns (or so I imagine). But being covered in tattoos is still seen by some as intimidating or grotesque. My friend Erin Carpenter, who just moved from Long Island to small-town Pennsylvania, says, “I have a sleeve, and my entire back done… and I’m six months pregnant. I was in Gymboree buying myself cute baby clothes, and the cashier who was about 60 asked me how I’ll feel when my daughter ruins her skin too. I said, ‘Well, your skin was ruined by time, but you’re clearly handling that with as much grace as I’m about to handle this.’ Then I smiled.”
Paula Pickreign, who lives in Syracuse, NY, told me she gets judgmental looks from people all the time because of her many tattoos. “I get looked at like I either stole the child from some wholesome mother or that I am obviously a horrible mother who lets my children stay up all night, drink beer, eat nothing but candy, and draw on the walls,” she says. “I don’t get it, but I guess that’s upstate New York.” Carpenter adds, “People in New York City are much more open minded. In Pennsylvania I’m pretty sure everyone thinks my kid will be the Antichrist.”
I never really gave any thought to being a tattooed mom or worried about how my tattoos might affect my daughter — until the other day when she drew all over her body with blue pen. “This is never gonna come off!,” I complained silently to myself. Then I realized that’s exactly how my mother felt when I came home with my first tattoo… and my second. I can’t wait to get my third!
How do you feel about mothers with tattoos? Are you one? Has anyone ever been rude to you because of your ink?
Do other moms with tattoos regret their decisions now that they’re parents? Click here to find out!