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Musings From a Tattooed Mom

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Musings From a Tattooed Mom

“Why?” – That’s the most common question I get by those who aren’t afraid to ask. Not surprisingly, it’s also the question that most of my son’s friends ask me when they first meet me: “Why do you have all of those tattoos?”

… It means showing my son that there is nothing wrong with being an individual, with making daring decisions in life, with attacking life with vigor and pursuing happiness with a sense of unbridled veracity.

I’m a pretty normal mom as moms go. I get my fourth grader up every morning for school, help him with homework in the evenings, take him to baseball practices and games, and relish the time we have together where he still wants me around. He’s 9, and I know that pretty soon he might be too cool to want his mom coming to eat lunch with him and his classmates every Wednesday (a ritual that he strongly upholds, making sure to remind me every week). I don’t feel differently than any other mom, but I know that at least initially, I’m often perceived differently because I have lots of visible tattoos.

Thanks to the onslaught of reality shows about tattooing, tattooed people today are far less prone to be viewed with the same sense of taboo as before. Certainly younger people on the whole, shrug their shoulders at the sight of a tattooed person, and things are certainly changing (in my opinion) for the better.


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Still, negative perceptions exist, and I’ve heard them all: Once at a political conference, a lady informed me that she would be ashamed if I were her daughter because of my appearance. Similarly, a man once told me after a discussion about current events and financial policy that he was shocked I was able to carry on a conversation of that ilk. Ironically, he himself had tattoos. And then there are the things that go unsaid – the furrowing of brows, grimaces, and prolonged looks do not go unnoticed.

A couple of years ago, I brought my son to a college football game. As we were finding our seats, I noticed an older couple, maybe in their sixties, glaring at us. The feeling resounded that my mere presence, along with the fact that I had produced offspring, was offensive. Their eyes darted from me to Liam, both perturbed, and concerned for my son. How in the world could someone like me be a good mom?

I started getting heavily tattooed after I became a tattoo artist in 2008. My son was three at the time. The decision to permanently change the way others perceived me was one I didn’t take lightly. I knew it was a decision that would change my life, and possibly my son’s. Would others’ perceptions of me change the way he was treated?

Just another day at work.
Just another day at work.
I started to take precautions:  I began to cover up my tattoos when meeting doctors and teachers for the first time.  (I was asked by a doctor one time how I had tattoos while also being smart. Apparently the two were mutually exclusive in his mind). I made sure I smiled a lot and initiated conversation with other parents, lest my appearance scared them off. I learned that while my appearance may initially evoke assumptions by some, I could work to counteract it, and for the most part, I was, and still am, successful.

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With all of these additional things I have to consider, I guess the question remains: Why did I get all of these tattoos? Undoubtedly, my life as a parent would be easier if my skin was tattoo-free. Why go through the trouble of having to work harder than others to make sure my child and myself are viewed with the same respect as others? Is it not irresponsible? The conclusion I’ve come to may be surprising for some:  I would not be as good of a parent without the decisions I’ve made to follow my quest for individuality.

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Making sushi with my son.
I believe part of being a parent means setting an example for your children. For me, it means showing my son that there is nothing wrong with being an individual, with making daring decisions in life, with attacking life with vigor and pursuing happiness with a sense of unbridled veracity. I got tattooed most simply because I like how they look, but more deeply because they gave me a stronger sense of self, a roadmap of my adventures, and a fearlessness that I have used to pursue my interests.

Tattoos may not be the way my son finds these things, but if by observing my example, he will never wonder whether it’s OK to be his own person, or questions any desire to boldly find his own way in this world, whatever that may be, I feel that I will have done my job as his mother. And that is worth all of the looks and stares in the world.

Leah Author Pic.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leah Farrow is a tattoo artist at Arcadia Tattoo in Huntsville at Campus 805. In her spare time she paints, spends time with her family, travels, and reads. She loves Red Sox baseball, Auburn football, spending time with her preteen and 1 year-old, and thinks you can never underestimate the power of a good bowl of mac and cheese.

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View Comments (8)
  • LOVE this article! Love the writer and have seen in person that she is, in fact, a GREAT MOM! She is also an amazing artist. I also have a lot of tattoos and have been critiqued about it by a lot of people – even close family members. “Why do you do this to yourself?” I love body art. I think it is a gorgeous way of self-expression. Every piece I have means something special to me, and I have plans for many, many more pieces and I continue to work on a right arm sleeve and have plans for the left arm and my legs. I have 7YO twins. They don’t think twice about my tattoos. They don’t think twice about other’s tattoos. I understand the stigmas, and I have gotten a few strange looks as well. I know what kind of mother and career woman I am and so do my kids and husband , and that is what counts. My favorite tattoos are the two my children drew that are a part of my sleeve! I get something every year for my kids (and sometimes a little something extra for me)! At the end of the day, there just isn’t enough skin or ink if you ask me!

  • LOVE this article! This sentence is powerful: “I would not be as good of a parent without the decisions I’ve made to follow my quest for individuality.”

  • Great article, Leah! Kudos to you for setting such an incredible example for your son. This post made me check myself for any pre-conceived notions I might have about moms with visible tattoos. (Mine is hidden.)The older I get (and hopefully, wiser, especially in the parenting department), the more I value freedom. And I’m not just talking about that which we associate with our political rights. I’m talking about true liberation- the ability and the courage to live without restraint. Any time I come across it in its purest form, I am humbled. And I can tell from the discernment with which this is written… you got it in spades, girl. 🙂

  • Thank you a million times for this article! As a mom of 4 with visible tattoos and pink hair I get my fair share of comments and stares. I’ve had moms hurriedly usher their children around me in public like I’m infectious- if individuality is an infection then maybe their kids could use a case of it. I refuse to change who I am and give into preconceived notions about me when people are rude. I’ve learned to just smile and move on because I know that no matter how much I try to explain my choices (which I shouldn’t even have to), most likely the people interrogating me would never understand. Funnily enough I’ve gotten the intelligence/tattoo correlation comments before. I mean I have to be pretty smart to have picked out all my awesome, well done, non-jailhouse looking tattoos 😉

  • True story, Leah – I’ve been wanting a new piece to signify my three boys, but I’ve been struggling over where to put it.. I’ve run out of easily hidden places! But not only have you inspired me to just take the plunge, I’m gonna pay you a visit to help me design it!!

    • You should go for it! Leah just did a piece for me that was boy-inspired and I love it. She’s on maternity leave now though, but should be back soon.

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