On Being a Mom and Having Tattoos Danielle Hampton

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 he doesn’t think I’m too lame once he’s all grown up.

With all of that said, I’m so curious to hear from you – are you a Mom with tattoos? Or are you someone with tattoos who plans on having kids one day? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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  1. I agree with everything you said! I have a 9 year old, 2 and a half year old and a 11 month old. When I go to pick up my 9 year old from school I feel the stares. I sometimes ask Articia (my daughter) if she gets and comments about me or if she notices that people are looking at me and she’s always wondering why I’m asking, she doesn’t see anything abnormal about me or others that look like me. Tattooed or not, we all look the same to her…..just wish that some adults could have the same mentality as her!

  2. I worked as an aide at my alma mater after college. Students commented on never seeing a teacher with tattoos and a lip piercing. I like to think my adornments allow them to open up and trust me, perhaps in a way they hadn’t trusted teachers before. Seeing someone like you in a learning environment is refreshing, soothing, and reassuring. I hope you consider teaching while showing some of your tattoos.

  3. I became the girl with the Jesus tattoo. I have a half sleeve of Jesus and the sacred heart. My absolute favorite (a lot of sarcasm) is the need for total strangers to tell me exactly what comes to the ole thinker without any filter, I mean its not like I tell you that you need some makeup your bags are showing how do you think that makes the rest of us feel. They tell me, Jesus hates tattoos. Well I guess I’m gonna burn. What really shocked me was that I get the most grief from these claimed “christians” I guess they missed the judge not part. I like the “what do you think thats gonna look like twenty years from now” I reply, “probably as gross as your flabby arm.” I will admit it may not have been a good idea to put a face of a piece of flesh that expands a lot. I always know when I’m putting on a little too much weight when Jesus starts looking chubby :) I have a four year old son and I live in suburban south where most things are not accepted. I get a lot of stares, a lot of comments, a lot of grief. I tell every youngster I come across who cannot wait to get their sleeve to be ready for that. Be ready for the stereotype and most of all be ready to be the tattoo. Another thing about moms with tattoos, why do the other park moms feel so superior and how does it feel up there on your pedestal? I think there will always be people who fear everything outside of their social norm and there will always be the deviant. I hope to teach my son to be aware of both and to decide how he feels based on his values and not what society wants. While tattoos will become more and more popular and we will enter new generations with the deviants becoming the norm, there will be a new
    taboo and I hope to raise an open minded citizen with a strong kind heart.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more! Nothing much else to say…it was all said there and that is exactly how I feel…I think the same things when it gets brough up. I have been told that it’s “trashy”, it’s “not lady-like”, and the most common “how will that look when you are old”…and to the “trashy” comment I just won’t address it, I mean really? The lady part…yeah I don’t care! I am who I am and my husband and kids know exactly who “I” truely am. And the old part…again, who cares! We are ALLLLL gonna look like ass when we are old…Only those of us with Tattoos will have some bad ass story to tell our grandkids!

  4. I have four kids . I am a single mother . I have five tattoos . at first I only wanted one. my most recent tattoo has all my kids names on it. my kids tell me my tattoos are beAutiful . I’m glad they view art as beauty . I think children should be introduced to culture to learn alll about it . different tattoos come from different cultures. tattoos are a great way to introduce them .

  5. I have two tattoos. One on my rib, the other on my hip. So people dont ever see them but when summer rolls around and I put on a bathing suit they aren’t hidden anymore. Or when people bring up tattoos Ill speak up and mention I have two. At first people are like oh sure, and then I show them and they can’t believe how huge they are or that they didn’t think I was the type of person to get tattoos. Why does it matter? i didn’t know you had to be a certain type of person to have tattoos. So many people find them degrading, and it appalls me. People should be able to express themselves however they want, and many people do that through art on their bodies. So cheers to you girl! I think your son is going to think it’s awesome his mom is so expressive and artistic. So I may not have kids but I still get judged. But instead of people thinking they are offensive or crude they don’t think i’m “badass” or “cool” enough. but its like you said in your other blog about growing up, who cares what people think. just be yourself, and enjoy it. life is better that way :)

  6. I’m not a Mom and I’m not even heavily tattooed (yet) but, even I get stares. One of my best friends is heavily tattooed, a mother, a wife, and a writer and food blogger in Chicago (where we live) this story reminded me of her and that there are other people that have become something great regardless of what society thinks of them. Thank you for a great piece. I loved it and it made my day..

  7. This was great to read! I am a mom with tattoos and piercings and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that feels this way. I wish that people would be more open to women/moms and tattoos. While not everyone has to like them or want one, just to be more open to those of us that choose to have them. I was not raised around people that had them, however I remember drawing on myself and when I would see someone with a/many tats I always loved them. I just turned 32yrs old and until about 6 mo ago, my tats have always been “under-cover”. I had thought about getting another tat and I wanted it to be more…well, meaningful, that the others. So I gave it a lot of thought and talked with my husband and our kids. Finally I decided on this 1/2 sleeve that is still being worked on. I love it…and I know it will be even more amazing when it’s finally finished. I noticed something right after my girl started Kindergarten…they bring home a million different papers for us as parents to look over. One of the “rules” was discussing Tattoos/Piercings….basically stating that because the kids are not allowed to have them, that we should set “examples” and not display ours. This is regular public school system…I don’t understand…what happened to “FREEDOM” or has that all gone by the way side? I notice the looks here and there and I don’t care…Like I was taught “if they are picking on you, they are leaving someone else alone”. But to say that I’m not setting an example because I have tats is wrong. How is that teaching our children to accept others or how teaching them to be themselves no matter what? My daughter & step-daughter love my arm piece! They know that it is part of who I am, as well as symbols of them and something to show them that no matter what, they will always be with me. I have to go to my first school function at the end of the month and I’m wondering how that will go. I was polite and coved my tat when speaking with the principle the other day…but I won’t wear long sleeves just to pick my child up from school. I have decided to become a memeber of a type of Coucil at her school and this will be the meeting I go to on the 28th…and I’m wondering…Do I cover my Tattoos?…Or be myself? If I’m just myself will I be ignored…asked to leave? If so…can I keep my mouth shut!? It’s sad really…that this is 2011, almost 2012, and people are STILL so closed-minded. Whatever the outcome, our kids will grow up knowing that they should be proud of who they are no matter what!! Thanks everyone for sharing…this is great to read!

  8. I have 6 tattoos right now, all are pretty large and I have a 6 year old. I liked what you said about the dress you can’t take off. People do sometimes touch my tats, usually the one on my chest/breast or the one on my left arm. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll regret the tattoos someday, but I really can’t imagine it. My tattoos all mean something to me, even the butterfly tramp stamp that seems rather blah… They tell a story. The one on my left arm covers up my scars from years of cutting. It says Authentically Beautiful. I have 6 or 7 more tats right now in the works. And some of my tats are purely art to me. I have no idea what I’ll look like when I’m 40 or when I’ll say enough is enough. My daughter is actually planning out a tattoo with me. She says she’ll wait til she’s 18. I waited until i was 21 to start gettting tats. I hope I can help foster Tattoo and Piercing acceptance in younger generations so we can have more workplace tolerance of body modifications. I absolutely love piercings and tattoos. I’m the most tatted/most pierced in my social circle and sometimes I have to deal with stereotypes associated with being a confident woman going against the grain. But that attitude is what I want to foster in my daughter. Confidence and personal freedom.

  9. So I’ve got to comment. This was just a topic of conversation at my house over the weekend. My mom just found out about my beautiful back tat. Its not done yet, its still only the outline. Its the Alphonse Mucha painting “Musical mistress”, http://ss.textcube.com/blog/2/22957/attach/XHhiMU2tlD.jpg.

    Anyway my mother and aunts bring this up as a topic of conversation every time they can. They love to tell me that I’m going to regret my decision when I have old wrinkley skin. They go on and on about how un-sanitary it is, and that I’m probably going to catch a disease or something.

    My response is this: To get this tattoo, I wated for a year and a half to get into the Tattoo Artist. I got pregnant, had a baby and she was 6 months old by the time I got the tattoo. I had PLENTY of time to back out and re-think it. I had already waited over 2 years before that to actaully make the appointment, to get the tattoo. So I love my tattoo, it has never bothered me that it shows through shirts or tank tops. You only see it if your looking for a it. So when I’m old and she’s old too, we will be old together. And I will have a friend there that “has my back” and I have a story about her. So no I will never regret having my tattoo. She’s beautiful, and meaningful. And if my daughter wants to get a tattoo when she’s older this is what I will tell her. Take your time, and make it count. It will be with you until there is no you anymore. Don’t just get one because your best friend is, take your time this is about you.

    :)

  10. Wow! You really hit the nail on the head with this one. Our stories are quite similar; I could sign my name at the bottom and my friends would totally think I wrote it. Well, almost. I was a high school science teacher, now I am a stay at home mom with my son. I’ve had that same reaction from parents/students/fellow teachers. Reactions from students was always the funniest, because I went from being a lame, boring teacher to being “cool.” But it was weird because some thought since I had tattoos they could swear around me and not do their homework. It’s encouraging to know there are other moms out their on the same path. I’ll go ahead and forward this link to my mom just to show her I’m not the only one.

  11. Wow, wow, wow! This hit home, dear! I’m a first time mom (27) to an AWESOME Noah! I have a right sleeve and a partial back of ink. I thought about the tattoos and what it would be like when I was a mom before I had gotten them… BUT, you really don’t know how you’ll feel UNTIL you’re actually a mom (at least for me). I too have received glares (real or perceived, I’m not sure…) but questions as well from friends/family/strangers. My story is quite similar to yours and it’s quite refreshing to hear your take. I love your perspective and insight. I hope to raise an open-minded child who accepts and respects all kinds of individuals. I’m encouraged by your post! Thanks :)

  12. I am a school teacher (actually won 2011 Special Education teacher for the year in my state – proudly wore a dress that neither hid nor showed off my tattoos. I have 4 children and my 18 year old daughter has already gotten her first tattoo and it was I who sat with her for the grueling 3 1/2 hours it took to outline the beautiful creation. A tattoo does not make a person bad or good, cool or lame – it is an outward expression of a person’s “style” for lack of a better word. I love all of mine…and now I love my daughter’s too. I am proud of anyone who makes a decision to get one…and who makes a decision not too….

    Anonymous | 9/25/2011 09:09 pm
  13. While not a mom yet, someday I will be. I have a few tats and I pretty much look at them in awe every day because I am that in love with them. For me, tattoos are about stories, feelings, and creativity. I say, as long as you love your tattoos (hopefully more people do this than don’t) and what they mean for you and you can transfer that love of them to your child and others, then life is good. :o)

  14. I may still be VERY young (I’m seventeen XD) but I want to have kids one day, at the same time that I want to have a black cross tattooed on my upper back and a rooster with an orchid in my leg. I also want to have piercings, yet I hadn’t thought of how my (VERY) future kids will think of me as their mother and as a woman with a cross and a nose piercing. Yes, maybe people will stereotype me, maybe my children will be embarassed…or maybe not. I think as long as you’re happy with yourself and respect yourself, your kids will see it and they’ll be proud of you because you’re an unique mom that has taught them about diversity and respect and pride for your own body. So I have to say: Great post and thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts!

    Anonymous | 9/17/2011 08:09 pm
  15. What a great post. I wouldn’t say I’m heavily tattooed “yet” :) but I do have matching shoulder caps that will eventually turn into a back piece. My husband is heavily tattooed though and has both sleeves done and a chest piece. I often wonder what my daughter will think of it, whether she will like them or not or want one for herself. I do like that it is the norm to her and she won’t take a second glance when she sees someone with ink. I hope it also makes her more accepting of others differences. I work in a corporate environment and have to cover up mine everyday, at least in the summer and spring. They go far enough down that t-shirts don’t cover and I have to at least wear 3/4 sleeves. It’s a pain and I hate that I have to do it, but I understand. When people o/s work see me in regular clothing they are shocked. They say the same thing “I thought you were a sweet girl” “I never would have thought” etc. I don’t know what sweet has to do with it. Apparently tattoos make you a badass lol I thought pushing a kid out of my vagina made me a badass but I’ll take both. ;)

  16. Thank you for this! As a tattooed teacher (13 and counting) in a conservative school with conservative parents, your post really spoke to me. I have often wondered how it would be when my husband and I have kids (he is heavily tattooed). I am really glad to see someone with such a positive attitude and I plan to share this with some friends and family who have judged me as your former coworkers judged you.

  17. I wouldn’t consider myself heavily tattooed at all. I only have 2. I think tattoos are a beautiful work of art. I don’t think people should be judged by them, but of course, we know, sadly, there will always be something to judge on. I am thrilled to see more tattooed parents raising kids to be open minded. Like you said Dani, a child should learn to never base an opinion JUST on what they SEE. If more kids learned this, the world would be SO much better.

  18. I only have a tiny tattoo on my wrist. It’s amazing how something so small can stop someone from being the world’s proudest grandmother & make them into the world’s most disappointed. I know it has a lot to do with a “drastic” cultural difference, but c’mon, really? Not accepting people for who they are, & how they express themselves should not be a part of any culture. And if it was at some point, that behavior should be tossed in the trash. It’s interesting to look back throughout history & see who was discriminated against & why. The why was always illogical & always seemed to stem from traditional views. One day, expressing yourself & showing your creative, beautiful nature won’t be frowned upon, but until then I just say eff ‘em.

  19. I’m really glad I found this article (and your blog!) because I too am “heavily tattooed”. I don’t have kids yet, but it’s definitely something I plan for the future. I have a half sleeve on each arm, and several elsewhere. I know exactly how you feel about the crazy looks and the people being surprised when they find out what’s hiding under those long sleeves! I get that a lot too. I live in Austin though and there are a LOT of young tattooed women here and it makes me so happy to know there are others out there going through the same things. I hope that by the time we’re all parents tattoos on moms will be such a big that our kids WILL grow up to be more open-minded about free expression like that.

  20. I am a 30 year old mother of 2 boys. I love this whole discussion and I am proudly tattooed. My left arm is a sleeve of Dr.Seuss and it means something to me. People ask me why would I want cartoon characters on my skin for life. It’s fun to explain what all of my tattoos mean, and to share that inner part of myself. When people give me dirty looks, I just ignore them..I don’t really care what they think. This is who I am, and no one should be judging me. Everything u have said is inspiring and I couldn’t agree more. My boys love my tattoos, if they think I’m a lame-oh when they get older..hey, it’s to be expected! Haha most kids are embarrassed by their parents at some point in their lives..I’ll get over it. ;) as for when I’m sixty..I tell people Hey I’ll be the cool quirky grandma on the block..who could ask for more?

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