On being a heavily-tattooed parent in the “white picket fence” suburbs

Guest post by Caffeine&Fairydust
Photo by Nadia Coetzee Photography, Tattoo by Tamar Thorn from The Body Architects Tattoo Studio
Photo by Nadia Coetzee Photography, Tattoo by Tamar Thorn from The Body Architects Tattoo Studio

My husband and I both have careers, we live in the suburbs, we live in a house, we each have a car, we are not substance abusers, we support charities, we love animals and are both tattooed.

Tattooing has been around for thousands of years. It is one of the oldest forms of art, laden with as many different meanings as there are global cultures. And they’re all fun and games when you are young and carefree — society is more likely to accept your tattoos and move on with their lives.

But I have found that the rules change when you become parents.

I grew up in a very small town called Upington, situated in the Northern Cape between nothing and nowhere. My family is open-minded-yet-somewhat-conservative and I knew hardly anyone with a tattoo. I was always different, I liked bright coloured hair, I listened to all genres of music you can think of, I loved rock ‘n’ roll, I was fascinated by the extreme sports culture, I was intrigued by goths, I wanted to marry a surfer, and I couldn’t wait to move to the big city.

When I was 17 we had the annual Upington Expo, and walking through the stalls I came across this tattoo artist from Cape Town. I got my 21-year-old friend to pretend she was my mom and sign a permission slip, and I got my first tattoo in a truck container… and it looks like shit, but I love it. I was hooked.

I collected a number of tattoos over the years, and I love every single one of them. I will probably carry on getting them until I run out of space.

My career never suffered because of my tattoos. People stared, asked questions, but no one was ever rude. But I will never forget the first day that my appearance attracted a negative comment — accompanied by a snarl of utter disgust. I was a couple of months pregnant, sitting in the waiting room at my gynecologist’s office when the woman opposite me said to her husband, “Why can someone like her have kids and I can’t, it’s not fair, her child has no chance in life.” I knew she was saying it out of hurt and anger of her own personal situation, but it cut like a knife. This woman didn’t know me, how could she possibly judge someone like that?

My pregnancy with Mikayla was very difficult and we had a lot of complications. We went from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist, gynea to gynea, and the first thing each and every one of them would ask was “Will you be keeping the baby?” or “Are you happy about the pregnancy?” I am not sure if this is something they have to ask, but I took it very personally.

I eventually got fed up with all of them and decided to give my doctor back in Upington a call. We drove 830 kms to have my baby delivered by my family doctor. Funny how in a small, conservative town, you end up receiving the least amount of judgement and the most amount of love.

I often get asked about how I think my tattoos will affect Mikayla — I always wonder that myself. I hope they do. I hope they teach her to be accepting of different kinds of people and to never base her opinion on someone’s looks alone. If more kids had that lesson growing up we’d have a lot fewer adults who are quick to judge solely based on appearance and stereotypes.

I would also just like to add that we are now pregnant with baby #2. This experience has been completely different and very positive. I am not sure if it is because we are older or if society has just become more accepting of tattoos. Either way, this is how it should be.

Are you a parent with tattoos? Or are you someone with tattoos who plans on having kids one day? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments on On being a heavily-tattooed parent in the “white picket fence” suburbs

  1. I really hate these stereotypes. There ARE people who have tattoos and probably shouldn’t have kids but they’re farther in between the people who have tattoos and are wonderful parents with well adjusted kids. My sister has multiple kids and multiple tattoos. The tattoos have nothing to do with her parenting style or capability. My brother has tattoos everywhere and he is fantastic with kids and I expect him to be a wonderful father when he finds someone to settle down with like he plans to. Again his tattoos have nothing to do with being a future father. I personally have no tattoos and probably never will but this doesn’t suddenly make me a better parent! People are NOT their appearances.

  2. I’m a mom, heavily tattooed and I also have 2 masters degrees and a doctorate , which ppl will argue with me about bc I can’t possibly have education if I’m tattooed ( face plant) I find it funny that ppl often have a hard time categorizing me. Why do I need a category. My son loves my tattoos , I love my tattoos. People judge you no matter “what you are”. Who cares, carry on be a good parent, be happy nothing else matters

  3. My husband and I are both visibly tattooed and haven’t had too many issues. We are professionals (I actually work as a compensation analyst which is a notoriously conservative profession), own a nice house, and have two children. We definitely live in Suburbia where most parents aren’t that heavily tattooed, but luckily we live right outside of Denver, which is (getting to be) a big and progressive city. Occasionally we get looks at tumbling class (and my husband says he gets a lot of side eye when he takes the kids to the park alone), but overall it hasn’t been that bad for us. And it definitely makes for open-minded children – our daughter knows that people come in all shapes and sizes and doesn’t blink an eye about anyone’s appearance.

    Besides, given how people feel entitled to dispense parenting advice, if it’s not tattoos, it would be your diet, or your political views, or how you hover too much/don’t hover enough. If a person wants to judge, they will find something about you to judge.

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