Sporting body ink and being a good mom and wife aren't mutually exclusive.
I'd like to think that I'm a loving mom and wife. I treat my husband with the same admiration and respect that I expect from him. Some of the things that make me a responsible mom include putting my daughter's needs first and making sure she is properly fed, dressed and loved.
Yet, my tattoos make strangers think otherwise. Which is total bullsh*t.
I'm "responsibly tattooed" because I didn't get my first piece of body art until I was 24, the subject matter of my tattoos (there are now five) is not offensive or vulgar, and I was completely sober during the application of each one.
I got my first tattoo on my 24th birthday while in Las Vegas with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. He already had one. We eventually married, and during our six years together, along with a home, two dogs and a baby, we've racked up a combined total of 12 tattoos. My husband's love for ink has definitely inspired me to keep going back under the needle.
But let's get one thing straight. I don't get them for him, but I probably wouldn't have any if he didn't like them. After all, he has to look at this bod until death do us part.
So while I've been a wife for three years and tattooed for five, I've been a mother for just twelve weeks. And after three months of being a tattooed mom, I have felt judgemental eyes on my large tattoos that are on my tricep and back of my neck.
In a typical scene, the person judging me—who is generally someone a few generations ahead of me—just spent a few moments cooing at my daughter and asking the usual questions or doling out polite compliments.
How old is she? What's her name? Look at all that hair! So precious.
Then as I walk away, they stare. And while no one has said anything to me just yet, I know what's on their mind. It's the same thing my 53-year-old father says each time I come home with a new piece.
Something along the lines of "disgusting".
In all likelihood, any opinion they initially formed about me morphed into something else after viewing my ink. Which just makes me want to tattoo the following down my arm:
I'm a breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, cloth-diapering mom. I'm married. I own a home and a late model car. I have never had a speeding ticket, let alone been convicted of a crime.
Fourteen percent of Americans have a tattoo and a 2006 Pew Research Center survey found that 40 percent of people born between the years 1966 and 1980 have at least one tattoo. So why do I feel the way I do? When Granny sees me in all my inked-up mommy glory, is she thinking of how much she wants a tree tattoo just like mine? Is it all in my head?
I don't think so. Having one, well-concealed butterfly tattoo on your ankle, circa your college days, is a lot different than having five. My own mother has a set of hearts on her foot, but she is not pleased that my body is covered in so much ink.
Even people with tattoos judge people who have more tattoos. At the same time, having five well-placed tattoos is different than having a large chest piece or an entire sleeve.
So at what point does the judgement begin? At more than one tattoo? Is it the size that matters? Or does the older generation simply associate tattoos with the lower class?
In my experience, size matters. I've received many compliments on my smaller pieces from older people. They've been called "pretty" or "cute." But the large tree on the back of my neck and a framed dress form running down my arm do not receive too much positive feedback from baby boomers and the like.
It seems they cross the line into the realm of "too much tattoo."
When I really stop to think about how people might judge me based on my body art, I have to admit that I get upset. When I was just a tattooed woman, it didn't bother me nearly as much.
But to think that people might see me as an unfit mother because of what I have decided to put on my body really gets to me. Luckily after a few moments, I'm over it.
I love my tattoos. I'm an excellent mother, I adore my daughter and just as I expected, it's an immensely satisfying role. My husband and I, while covered in ink, are responsible citizens, kind individuals and loving new parents.
So judge away, ye olde folk. Behind all this ink, there lies some pretty thick skin.