Moms with Tattoos: Trendy or Trashy?

Okay, we’ll own it. Sometimes we can be a little bossy and opinionated. No surprise there. But just in case you haven’t had the chance to rabidly disagree with our point of view yet, we wanted to give you another opportunity.

The other day we were having one of our regular “staff meetings” where we put our heads together and shoot the breeze about story ideas, our families, comments and questions we’ve received from our readers and basically anything else that crosses our minds. This is a pretty comfortable ritual for us because we’ve been at it in one form or another for decades now.

So when the topic of moms and body art came up we weren’t exactly shy about spouting off our opinions to each other and since they ended up being a point-counterpoint discussion we decided to let you listen in to what we had to say.

What we’re really curious about is what you think of tattoos and body art? For or against? Let us know!!

RACHEL: I started thinking about tattoos for moms about the time I noticed that almost every 20 to 30-something young woman I know has one. Some of them are outrageous — butterflies, flowers, hearts, endearments, religious symbols, skull-and-crossbones, cartoon characters, abstract patterns — you name it and it’s been carved into someone’s dermis. Permanently. Forever.

I just don’t get it. Is there something I’m missing here? Do young moms really want their innocent little babes staring up at AC/DC Rocks! etched on a boob while they’re nursing?

ELLEN: Yeah I know, but what’s the big deal, really? I mean it’s true. When we were that age only serious bikers (and Cher) had tattoos but it’s not like that anymore. Not my thing, but I don’t really see it as an issue. I see it as more of a fashion statement.

RACHEL: I get that, and I feel like I’m channeling my grandmother when I go off about it, but it’s just how I feel. There’s no fashion statement that says “forever” to me. Small, impressionable kiddos are watching, and what about when you get saggy and flabby and that coiled snake starts looking flaccid and wrinkled? YUCK!

ELLEN: That might be gross. But unless the picture is similar to the F-bomb “finger art” that Lindsey Lohan added to her middle fingernail before she headed into court, what’s so bad about it? What do you think the negative impact on a young child would be? And be honest!

RACHEL: I just don’t like the message we’re sending our kids when we adorn ourselves with trashy images that will inevitably become dated while they fade and blur over time. It’s not that different from letting your 3-year-old tattoo Dora the Explorer on her butt cheek. Chances are she won’t still love that little cutie-pie several years down the road.

ELLEN: On the other hand, I had a landscaper here the other day helping me plant a couple of trees and he had a lot of ink! His twenty-something son was helping him out and I noticed right away that he, too, had spent a little time and money at the tattoo parlor. The dad has done work for us for years so his tattoos were nothing new to me. But when I saw the ones his son had, it got me thinking that maybe tattooing was a part of their own unique family culture. Maybe the son had looked forward to being old enough to get inked like his dad and that it meant something about his becoming a man. By the way, these are lovely people and the art cool and totally not offensive.

RACHEL: Maybe, but I can’t help wondering how they’ll feel about it years later when Dad’s a grandpa. Is it really any different than cosmetic surgery — like adding D cups or removing that unsightly ethnic bump on your nose? And while we’re on the subject, let’s not forget the health risks associated with tattoos … and they’re real. Allergic reactions, skin infections, granulomas, bloodborne diseases, all of these can and do happen. Did I forget to mention that it also hurts like hell when you try to remove them with laser treatments?

ELLEN: I can’t imagine! But to me, it’s a personal choice. If they want to do it and they choose a tat that’s not offensive, then I don’t care. They may regret it later but that’s their problem. Having said that though, I think we both agree that a parent shouldn’t let a kid get a tattoo until they are an adult for just the reasons you bring up. They may regret it later and it’s not easy, cheap, or painless to have it taken off. So that’s where I would draw the line. No tattoos on kids.

RACHEL: I’ll give you that — live and let live. If you want to cover your body with ink once you’re an adult, go for it. But no tattoos on kids. I’m getting down off my soapbox now; it’s exhausting up here.

POSTSCRIPT: Both of us have twenty-somethings who rattled our cages and got their OWN tattoos in spite of our well-reasoned objections. Maybe one day we’ll get to say, “Told you so!” On the other hand, by then we may have tats of our own…

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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2 responses to “Moms with Tattoos: Trendy or Trashy?”

  1. Ann

    For two people I usually find so open minded, I was surprised by this post. Hearts, butterflies, and religious symbols are outrageous? Nursing babies all of a sudden know how to read? Speaking as someone in their late 20’s and still tattoo free, I fail to see how a tattoo or two can permanently affect the psyche of a child. Certainly parenting consists of more than body art or lack thereof. An adult deciding to get a tattoo is VERY different than letting your three year old choose Dora as their permanent “statement.” I know that you know the difference, and it seems as if you’re purposefully being hyperbolic to elicit a dramatic response.

    I agree that in later years the same tattoos may become unsightly, but in truth how many adult children are exposed to those parts of their elderly parents’ bodies? And by that point, they will be adults, not children.

    I have many friends with 1-2 tattoos that I firmly believe will raise happy, productive, and well-rounded members of society. Are they tattoos I would have chosen for myself? No, but I don’t believe they will influence the quality of their parenting in any meaningful way, and frankly, I’m surprised that you seem to.

  2. Rachel Zahn

    Ann, I’m embarrassed to say you’re right (and we certainly didn’t mean to imply that moms with tattoos couldn’t raise healthy, happy kids). That’s why you’re 20 something and we’re hmmm hmmm something. And I still think it looks trashy … just sayin’ …

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