Friday, October 05, 2007

Mom Ink

When I was pregnant with G, I signed up on the Parent Center website thanks to the advice of a helpful co-worker. As my pregnancy progressed, they sent me helpful articles, and updates on my baby's development. Even after G was born they sent me great updates on important milestones G should be reaching, and helpful articles and tricky parenting situations.

Now that G and K are older, I still receive the occasional email from Parent Center, notifying me of new articles, trends, and parenting advice. These days I usually glance at the title and the delete the emails without much thought. Then, a few weeks ago they sent me a link to an article which actually peeked my interest, "Trend watch: Mommy Tattoos"

Being a mom, and being tattooed is something I've struggled with for a while now. Ink became an addiction for with my first home done tattoo at 17, progressing to an artful passion as my taste and maturity developed. For me,tattoos have always been a way for me to capture an aspect of physical beauty that genetics left me lacking in. The pieces of art etched into my skin could always inspire the admiration and appreciation that my naked flesh never could.

I was always very proud of my ink, despite the admonishments of my parents, and the looks and comments from strangers. My tattoos were a part of who I was, they let the world see what I thought was beautiful, and the things I held close to my heart. With those who were kind enough to ask about my ink, I'd tell them all about the artist who did it, what the image meant to me, and why I wanted it on my body for life. To those people who never took the time to care, who could only shoot nasty looks and mutter offhand comments, well, to hell with them. I didn't let it bother me.

When I became a mother, my relationship with my tattoos changed. Because I was so young when I had G, I worked very hard to be viewed as a mature and responsible parent. This was made even harder by the fact that I was single, on top of being young. As I put myself through college after having G, I was careful to hide my ink, to make the good grades, and be a serious student. I joined a group of other single parents who attended the same college, and received support to be the best parent I could be. I don't think any of them ever realized I had any tattoos.

When K arrived, halfway through my college career, I had become more in touch with myself, no longer afraid to be outspoken, opinionated, and different. I matured as a parent, and as a person. However, my tattoos were still covered when picking up the kids at daycare, when shopping at the local grocery store in my teeny home town, or doing anything else that connected me to the world as a mother.

It wasn't until quite some time later that I broke broke with my mental stigma of tattoos= bad parent to the rest of the world. I had put myself through college, gotten a good job, and was raising two wonderful, bright, happy children. I was a good parent damn it, and I had done it all with tattoos. After I embraced that, I was ready to own my love for tattoos and show them to the world once more. A dragon took shape on my foot, winding gracefully around my ankle. A raven adorned each of my upper arms in a half-sleeve, celebrating my Nordic heritage and my pride in my guiding animal. While I could still hide my ink easily, I chose not to more often than not.

According to the Parent Center article, tattooed moms are becoming more and more commonplace. Celebrity parents proudly sport ink, and parents make up approximately 25% of the clients at the famous Hart & Huntington tattoo studio, featured on the show Inked. If you ever watch any of the other popular tattoo reality shows such as Miami Ink or L.A. Ink, you will inevitably see at least one or two parents get tattooed with an image commemorative of their children. Tattoos are becoming an more widely accepted form of expressing your love and devotion to your children. After all, they are a much more attractive body modification to show off than stretch marks. lol.

I've always known that my next tattoo would be one to represent my children. It's taken me a long time to come up with the right image, the right placement- something that would still be me, but represent my children at the same time. Finally, I formalized an image in my mind. For G, I decided on the image of an archangel, strong, just and loving. For K, a pink pixie, with a suitably naughty expression.

This past weekend, our good friend, and phenomenal tattoo artist, Jake Noury, came up to stay with us and do some tattoo work for people we knew in the area. After watching others get tattooed for several days, I was ready to take the plunge once again. Jake spent hours consulting with me on what I wanted, finally sketching a completely original design, encompassing all of the elements of G and K that it was most important for me to represent.

When I sat down in the chair, I had no idea what I was in for. The piece covered nearly half my back, my largest piece so far, and a lot of it went over my spine. I sat, I whimpered, and tried not to twitch. I nearly passed out for the first time ever while getting a tattoo. During one particularly painful part, I asked if Jake was working on G. When he said yes, I chuckled and said it figured.

The pain of the work healing has been intense. Sitting in a chair has been a torturous experience. I couldn't wear a bra for three days (true torture). Now it's itching so bad I want to rub up against a tree like a cranky bear. But it's all been worth it. The work is stunning, and I couldn't be prouder to carry my children on my back. The pain and suffering it's taken to bring to work to completion is just another cycle of birth, to bring something forth that will will be with me, and that I will love, for the rest of my life. I'll post photo's of my work as soon at soon as it's done healing.

So, the next time you see a mom with a tattoo, be kind, be considerate. Ask about it, appreciate it's story. Or, if you truly hate tattoos, please have the courtesy to keep it to yourself- that's someone else's art, someone else's body. And please remember, that mom may be a mom like me. A Strong Mom. A Smart Mom. A Professional Mom. A Tattooed Mom.


Nuitaran said...

The new piece is HAWT! You should post pictures of my new half (3/4?) sleeve as well to promot the cause of tattoo'd dads! yay!

Christine said...

I'm too much of a wuss and have too many commitment issues to get a tattoo, at least so far. As for people who are judgmental, forget them...they are stupid (teehee, irony intended). But really, I do try to not care; because it's totally possible they are thinking something to the effect of, "Wow, I'll bet she thinks I am boring and straight-laced." We are often our own worst critics.

Jen M. said...

Seriously? You have made me open my mind over the whole tattoo thing. I love that you put yourself through college AFTER having your baby - and what a beautiful, permanent, tribute to your kids.

I would consider doing it, except that I have had too many kids. I would surely die of ink poisoning.

Julie Pippert said...

I think how one accessorizes and decorates one's self is an indication of style, not parenting ability.

My kids ADORE tattoos and we do the temp (and not so temp, LOL!!!) ones all the time.

Someone said to me, "Aren't you afraid you'll teach them it's okay to get tattoos?"

And I had no answer because the question (erroneously IMO) presupposed that tattoos were bad!

I don't have any tattoos personally but I think art is beautiful, and understand doing it on one's body.

Piercings, that's harder for me LOL, but it's a personal problem LOL.

This is such a great post. I loved how you explained your mental and emotional evolution.

And congrats on the new tattoo! Hope it settles in soon. :)

mmrw said...

What a cool post. I love how you have connected your tattoos to your journey as a mother.