On Being a Mom and Having Tattoos

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!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mnicolassanchez Mireia Nicolas Sánchez

    I have a tattoo across my back and I plan on getting more, and I plan on having kids! I don’t think it will be a problem because so many people my age (I’m 22) are heavily tattooed out future kids will see a tattooed parent as normal.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mnicolassanchez Mireia Nicolas Sánchez

      our future kids* sorry!

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      I totally agree! I definitely think it will be more normal as time goes on!

  • http://www.facebook.com/katieaustin Katie Austin

    I have tattoos, most of them on my arms, and it can be quite a pain in the butt sometimes! I wouldn’t trade them for the world and I definitely wouldn’t be me without them, but I’m so tired of the looks and questions. It’s like no stranger can think of anything else to converse with me about. Some day I would like to be a mom and I would hope to raise my kids to be accepting and not quick to judge others. I want to break the mold of ‘tattoos are bad’. I often am judged too quickly and I’d like the next generation to sort of break that stereotype. Thanks for the article!

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      I am so with you on getting tired of it always being the topic of convo- I also wouldn’t trade them for the world but it totally gets old! Hopefully as time goes by it won’t be as shocking, although I feel like in my small town it always will be! xoxo

  • http://www.facebook.com/gea.marin Geanna Marín

    I only have one tattoo, for now. It’s a red hibiscus on my back, I think it’s pretty awesome! I got tattoed when I turned 18, so it was this year -May, actually. I’m planning on getting more tattoos, not all over my body but I do want some more pretty drawings covering my body. I’m an artist myself and love painting and I’m pretty sure that my skin is the best canvas ever!!

    And yay! of course I want to have kids in a future!! I’ll be a tattoed mom, and I hope that my child will like them :)

    -Don’t forget to be happy!

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Your red hibiscus sounds beautiful! Yay for future tattooed mamas! 😉

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=689165490 Mariah Rockwell

    I am a mom with lots of tattoos and I also am a Special Ed teacher. I hide my tattoos everyday and while it is a pain, I love my tattoos and I love my job and I will do what’s necessary to have both. I hope someday tattoos won’t be such an issue that I won’t have to hide them at times, but it’s also not going to stop me from getting more. My tattoos are my story. I am sometimes judged, sometimes admired for them, but they are part of who I am. I hope my kids understand that and don’t judge others for their looks or abilities and know that it’s okay to have tattoos or not have tattoos.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Exactly! You know what is kind of crazy/interesting? My school told me I COULD show them…but I just didn’t want to deal with it so I covered them for the most part. It was just easier when dealing with such distractable teenagers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cristinamoreno Cristina Moreno

    Not a mom, but I plan on being one…someday. Not anytime soon. I have two tattoos (one on my wrist, one on my spine–both text) and my parents hate them. There have been a lot of “But what will you do when you’re 90?,” conversations and I feel: 1) It’s a little presumptuous to think I’m going to be alive that long and 2) If I do make it to 90, there will be a whole generation of 90 year olds with tattoos. Tattoos are art. Tattoos are a cultural thing. They’re beautiful and meaningful, and that’s what a lot of people don’t seem to understand. It took me a very long time to decide to make the commitment and I don’t regret it at all. The words on my skin might not always mean the same thing to me that they do now, but they will remind me of a specific time in my life.

    I’ll admit that if I ever have a child and he or she comes to me and says they want to get a tattoo, my gut reaction will probably be to say no. And then I’ll come to my senses and have an in depth discussion about design and meaning. For me, that’s always been the key. I don’t understand why people would just walk into a shop and point out some random image in a book to get tattooed on their skin. I think it should be more personal than that. I spent about a year thinking about my first one and maybe six months thinking about my second. If anyone ever asks about them, I have a story to go along with them.

    I’m a teacher as well and I did worry about having to cover them up for work, but so far they haven’t been a problem. I’m currently working as a preschool teacher in NYC and a lot of my coworkers have tattoos. Maybe if I go back to teaching middle/high school, it would be an issue, but I think people are more open about body art, which is a great thing. My students are always curious about my skin. “Why is it like that? It never comes off?,” but they’ve learned that this is my body and that yes, it’s a little different than theirs, and that’s okay.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      ahh thanks for such a thoughtful comment! I loved reading it, and agree with you in all of it. I think when and if Henry asked me to get a tattoo I’d feel the same way- and I’d definitely want to have a super long talk about why and what. It’s crazy to think about, but I’m sure it will come up.

      And that’s so awesome that you can show them at the preschool- I bet you are doing a lot of good for those kiddos!

  • http://www.facebook.com/carlagiovanna Carla Carpio

    It’s funny to read this post today because just a few days ago I wrote a status update about how two separate old ladies had given my tattoos the stink eye and asked me if I was going to regret them later (this was while at work). I always handle those kinds of comments the same way, which is by smiling sweetly and telling them that I’d never regret them because they all mean something special to me.

    Anyway, yes, I am a mother of a 2 year old boy and while It definitely crossed my mind here and there, “oh hey, my son is going to have a mama with lots of tattoos!” I never really considered it any kind of detriment or worried about him feeling embarrassed. I guess because I have always had lots of friends with tattoos and surround myself with like minded individuals as much as possible.

    That is not to say it will never happen. Perhaps my son will rebel against my open minded ways and become a conservative Alex P. Keaton type (Goddess forbid). Maybe there will be a moment when he comes to me and says “hey, all your tattoos embarrass me!”. I hope that day never comes and I also feel in my gut that it never will but who can really say for sure?

    After I complained about my incident with the two old ladies, I started thinking about all the wonderful comments and questions I get about my tattoos. I mean, most days I wish they weren’t a topic of conversation at all but once you get heavily tattooed you have to deal with the fact people are going to be curious about them forever! As an introvert that isn’t always feeling the most social, that has been hard to deal with. But all in all, people are mostly just interested in them and not necessarily judgemental. I have lived in extremely open minded places and smaller, slightly more conservative places (like now) and I am used to dealing with both.

    I guess ultimately, what I am trying to say is that my son will find his own way of dealing with “beingbthe boy with the tattooed mama.” Maybe he’ll make friends with kids of other tattooed parents, maybe he’ll want to get them himself as he grows older, or maybe he will simply dismiss them all together! I am prepared for whatever is thrown my way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      “That is not to say it will never happen. Perhaps my son will rebel against my open minded ways and become a conservative Alex P. Keaton type (Goddess forbid).”

      Okay I love you. Let’s be bff please. I adored everything you wrote up there and I am so on the same page as you. Thank you, thank you for sharing this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=525890600 Layne Harvey

    as a semi-heavily tattooed father of two little girls (5 and 2), i don’t really think about it too much. we live in a conservative town, and have our whole lives, so i have gotten the looks and friendly/unfriendly comments about all sorts of stuff growing up (long, multi-colored hair, piercings, plaid pants, whatever), so i have become immune to it in a sense. i don’t even notice if people are looking strangely at me anymore, and i don’t really care. my wife and i will always teach our children to be accepting of all people, and just to be good people in general. that’s all you can ask really. kids will grow up and make their own choices, and i fully support that. as for whether my kids will think i’m a cool dad or a dork, most definitely the latter, and i totally agree with them. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Hell yes for dorky parents! 😉

      Small town living can be difficult but I’m glad to know I’m not alone! Thank you for this comment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KatChechet Katarina Chechet

    I’m not even close to being a mom, but this article was amazing! I have 6 tattoos, varrying sizes, words, pictures, and thoughts. All are so important to me. I am judged by quit a bit (I’m a Catholic) at church (mostly negative) gas stations, airports, but I don’t act like a mean person, I smile and talk with people. I use my tattoos not only as a way to commemorate: those I’ve lost, my faith, my family, fun times, and hard time. I use them as a buffer. People who can’t see past my beautiful (if not just a tiny bit expensive), artwork….well they aren’t worth my time. I smile and move on to the next. Thanks again for writting this, it is truly beautiful. 😀

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      I love your outlook- those people definitely don’t matter and I like to think of tattoos as a buffer between those mean judgmental people and myself. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/coreywithane Corey White

      a buffer for sure! my mom told me one day that guys, even heavily tattooed ones, don’t really like girls that have a lot of tattoos. I told her that if my tattoos were an issue to a guy then he wasn’t the one for me anyway. My future partner doesn’t have to LIKE all of them but they all have meaning to me and if he likes me (which he’ll have to in order to be my partner) he’ll probably like them a lot.

  • Filleosophy

    I love this post.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      and this post loves YOU!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1237074184 Erica Smith

    I have a partial sleeve and my whole back done and I’m the mother of 3. I’ve never gotten anything but compliments. My kids are infatuated with them. I have to tell them that the tattoos aren’t that cool and that they should wait a VERY long time before getting them. I’d be horrified if they ever came home with a tweety bird on their leg!

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      a Tweety Bird?! Ahhh! That would make me cry. haha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thuvngo Thu Ngo

    I’m a tattooed mom, AND a high school English teacher! :) My daughter is still too young to really know what they are (she’s two), but my students seem to love them. I like to think that I’m breaking stereotypes too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      We’re fated to be friends! I love fellow English teachers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/macy.madison Macy Madison

    I just turned thirty and have an insane desire to get tattooed. Awesome post.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Just do it Macy! And thank you :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=626708532 Hannah Jones

    I am tattooed (and pierced) mommy of two! I make most of my clothes and it’s a rarity to see me without a big, ridiculous bow on my head or some clompy stompy boots on my feet. Sure, I am not be the essence of fashion or coolness, but I like me, and I want to teach my children to be who they are, love who they are and accept everyone else. I might be tattooed and “weird,” but I am also the treasure for the PTA at my daughters school, and I teach Sunday School at our church. I relish breaking through stereotypes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Gosh I so agree- nothing is better than killing stereotypes like that. You go girl!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mrsalakk Melissa Timko

    Yay for Mom’s with Tattoos! I have one and my husband has a couple. Our 2 year old son thinks they’re awesome and likes to say “tattoo” and point them out. I’m also described as “a sweet girl” a lot so I know exactly the surprise you are talking about when people in my office see my tattoo peek out from under my sleeve! “Wow, when’d you get that, when you were in college?” Nope, actually when I was 26 and finally knew exactly what I wanted tattooed on me! .

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      haha! Right?! Like the tattoos make us any less sweet. Silly people. And yay for tattooed mamas indeed! <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/amolina8 Amanda Maria Molina

    I have tattoos and I definitely plan on having kids someday (just not anytime soon…) but my mom who is 49 just got a chest piece done last year. She gets so many compliments on it and I am so proud of her for getting it done. I was talking with friends once about how my mother and I have two matching tattoos and then it hit me- she has seven and I only have four! I need to up my tattoo game! We are both taking about getting floral sleeves or something like that done, especially since mine are all black ink and I want some color. I guess what I am trying to say is rock on with your bad self, and seriously, people who are closeminded can just stay that way. They are probably too chickenshit to get tattooed. I am in higher ed, finishing my masters and teaching right now, and this article just makes me want to go get more ink. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Your Mom sounds amazing and I LOVE that you two are able to get matching tattoos! So, so rad. And thanks for the kind word- you’re the sweetest! xo!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jenna.swihart Jenna Swihart

    This is an interesting post because I often find myself torn on the topic of tattoos. I grew up in a family that had no tattoos and were pretty judgmental of anybody who did. My father has this rule that “As long as you’re in my house, and living off my pay check, you will have no tattoos!” I was never really into tattoos myself so that rule never applied to me even though I sort of wish I had the motivation to break it (I’m 23, unemployed, and living with my parents) What I’m trying to get at though is when I left home for college, I had a very close-minded and judgmental opinion on tattoos. My freshman year of school, I lived with a girl who could be considered “heavily tattooed” and honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a bigger sweetheart to share my living space with. Now that I’m out of school, a lot of my friends from high school have got many tattoos and they are still the same cool person I knew back then.

    Personally, I don’t like tattoos. They’re just not for me. But what I had to do is reshape my thinking from “Ugh, why would that person do that?” to “Eh, whatever works for them.” Tattoos don’t make people a bad person and we have no right to even connect the two to make a snap judgment. Thanks for your post. I really enjoyed it!

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Thank you so much for sharing your insight. I think it fascinating to hear your point of view, and I appreciate you taking the time to get it out there. I was kind of in the same place as you and over the years I kind of just decided to go for it. When my Dad first saw my back tattoo he said that I wasn’t pretty anymore! Ah! Horrible, huh? Later he apologized profusely but it had always been the same thing- “live under my roof, no tattoos!”

      Thanks again Jenna!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=512291989 Emily J. Lowther

    This was an excellent read. When I got my first tattoo 2 years ago my father almost had a coronary, and my mother began a “selective-sight” thing which seems to working really well for her… Both of them came up with all the arguments I think every tattooed person has been bombarded with; will you regret it? How will it age? What will it look like when you are playing with your grandkids? (And the one I always cringe at: so what does it mean???)
    First of all, I am lightyears away from having kids, let alone grandies… But I do work as a nanny. The parents all know it’s there, the kids have all seen it (for the sake of context, it’s an antique hot air ballon on my calf) and know what it is. And when the 7 year old suddenly asserts that she is getting tattoos too when she is older? Tell her exactly how tattoos are made, it’s a needle stabbing you over and over (graphic detail is key!). It’s something you decide to do when you are old enough, and you feel it’s important to do.
    The rest? Well, I fail to see how me potentially looking a bit silly when I’m 65+ is any of their concern. If it smudges and looks as though I lost a fight with some food-dye, then c’est la vie. I’ll let my imaginary future kids/grandkids get out the markers and play connect-the-dots. Because in all honesty, it’s seriously important not to take yourself too seriously :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Emily! Such an amazing comment and I loved reading it. Your positive attitude is SO inspiring. I love what you said about letting your grandkids play connect the dots. ha. But really, it’s all so true. Love it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609509477 Kaddie Avery Maissen

    I’ve been reading Sometimes Sweet pretty “religiously” for over a year now, and it seems like after every entry and every article here, Danielle becomes more and more of an inspiration. I’m pretty decently modified {piercings, tattoos, & scarification}, and I plan on getting pretty extensive work done; I also plan on being a loving, kind, and giving mother to my future children. I’m nowhere near being a mom, but from the bottom of my heart I know that it’s something I can’t {but can} wait to be.
    On her personal blog, Danielle approaches life, motherhood, and being a wife with honesty and well placed words of wisdom. I know this and it are only fractions of who she actually is as a person, but I have to tell ya she seems like a very genuine person.
    I haven’t experienced much negativity from my modifications, but I do think about from time to time what it will be like being a heavily modified mama {with probably a very heavily modified papa}. I’m not terribly concerned that my kids will be put off or embarrassed by us because of our appearance, my thoughts on that matter pretty much mirror what Danielle wrote above. However I am concerned with how he/she will be affected by our appearance in relation to other parents and kids. Hopefully we will be raising them in a more socially liberal locale where tattoos and the like are accepted, hey maybe even somewhat of a “norm”!
    Regardless, bottom line is that all I truly will care about is the overall health, happiness, & well being of my kids and little family.
    Thank you Danielle for being such an inspiration!
    {whew, ok, I’m done with my gushing admiration! haha}

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Kaddie, you totally made my whole day. Thanks for all of your kind words. I really appreciate you reading both my blog and these articles over here! It’s also amazing to read your thoughts about being a mama one day – I wish there were more awesome, non-judgmental people out there like you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=719606883 Patty Housel

    I am always more shocked when people give the whole “I thought you were a whole different person” speech when they find out I have tattoos. Why is it not “I always loved you and respected you and now maybe I shouldn’t judge others because they have body art”. I am the same person I have always been. I am 46 and have had some of my tattoos for over 20 years. I will never understand peoples need to judge others based on how they look.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danihampton Danielle Hampton

      Hi Patty!
      I feel the same – I still feel totally surprised and shocked when that happens! It’s always surprising to me to see how close-minded people really are.
      But on a positive note – keep on keepin’ on girlfriend! I love that you’ve been tattooed for 20yrs +.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1068310325 Nota Avgerinou

    to post a comment

Need more Giggles?
Like us on Facebook!

Want more Giggles?
Sign up for our newsletter!