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5 Unexpected Side-Effects of Tattoos When You're a Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

I wasn't always a mom with tattoos. I got my first one when my son was a few months old. I wanted to commemorate gaining the courage to end my abusive relationship. After that, I became addicted. Now, I have tattoos everywhere: my arms, my hands, my ribcage and even some very "special" places. I still remember coming home with four purple hearts bruising my knuckles. My son toddled over to them and pointed, peering up at me with a questioning smile.

That was years ago, but I'm mom to toddlers again—two girls, just a year and some months apart. One thing that hasn't changed during all my time as a mother is how people react to my tattoos, especially once they find out I've got kids. Judging moms is nothing new, but there are other side-effects of being a mom with tattoos that you might want to consider if you're thinking about visible body art for yourself.

1. Get ready to wash a lot of marker off of skin

If you have toddlers and visible tattoos, you are going to be constantly playing catch-up with your child's skin-doodles. Kids love to draw on themselves anyway, but apparently they love giving themselves (and each other) tattoos even more. There comes a point when there's so much of it, you just have to give up until bath time. I have definitely made more than one trip to the park with my girls covered in washable marker—including with face "tattoos." (I do not know where that is coming from because my face is one part of my body that is still, and always will be, ink-free.)

The plus side? At least they're not drawing on the walls! Well, most of the time.

2. You (and your kids) will be super popular at the playground

I can't speak about school-age kids, especially when they reach that age when hanging out with parents is supremely uncool, but when your kids are still young enough to hang around you at the playground, there will always be other kids around. And kids? They really love tattoos. Or at least find them weird. And when kids find something weird, they stare. Openly. Then they ask questions. Those filterless darlings will literally follow you around the playground, pointing at your tattoos, asking what each one is and why you have it.

Once you have satisfied their curiosity, which is no small feat, they will move on to your kids, the nearest extension of your weird, interesting self, I guess. But don't worry. In my observations, those interactions are just normal awkward kid interactions. My kids don't get treated differently because their mama has tattoos. They just have a lot more friends.

3. You will be popular in other ways too

I don't mind the attention from kids, even when they stare in that blatant, socially oblivious way for which kids are infamous. But my tattoos attract another, less welcome, kind of attention.

I'm talking about men.

It happened when I was single, and it happens now that I'm married (the ring seems to have little effect). There's a certain type of guy who totally fetishizes tattoos, and these guys are apparently unable to control themselves from "complimenting" mine.

Being hit on by random guys is no new thing. Women have been dealing with male entitlement since time immemorial. And, sadly, even the playground isn't off-limits, especially when you have tattoos. Some guys believe that tattoos mean promiscuity and not just, uh, a stylistic choice.

I think some of these moms are genuinely surprised when they discover I have the ability to string more than three words together into a coherent sentence.

And this is not behavior exclusive to the occasional prison-tatted leery guy. A lot of them have been straight-laced "nice guy" types. Even nerds. It's odd. And super annoying.

4. Other moms will have strong opinions of you

Other moms are a whole special conundrum. The majority of my interactions with other moms fall into one of two categories: moms who think I'm super cool and moms who think I'm a criminal.

The first group talks to me like I am a freewheeling, totally unstressed expert on all things cool, like I am the walking embodiment of coolness and have all the answers on how to parent kids who will grow up liking me, how to balance momming with personal fulfillment, how to keep my sex life alive and fun (there's that weird sexy stereotype again) and all the secret cool spots around town.

It's not the worst assumption which could be made about me. I mean, who doesn't want to be cool? But it's entirely untrue.

Like just about every other mom on the planet, I struggle to balance love, friendliness and discipline into my parenting technique. I can never find enough time for my personal pursuits, and when I do, I feel guilty for robbing my kids of their "mom time." My husband and I are exhausted, undersexed toddler parents, just like all the rest of us. And I don't know any of the cool spots around town. I'm kind of a disappointment to these moms, if I'm being honest.

I was actually able to use the images on my tattoos as a learning tool to build my neurotypical kids' vocabularies.

The other group's opinions tend to lean toward thinking I'm "thisclose" to prison, a junkie or just plain uneducated. In fact, I have no criminal history. I did combat addiction when I was younger, but that's very much in my past. And I have a master's degree.

I think some of these moms are genuinely surprised when they discover I have the ability to string more than three words together into a coherent sentence. And then they just about faint when my kids run over and give me sweet random hugs and declare they love me. What right do the kids of a tattooed mother have to feel happy and well adjusted?!

Newsflash: Tattoo ink doesn't make me run home and beat my children.

Seriously. Those are legitimate revelations to some mothers.

5. Your kids will have a very eclectic vocabulary

Remember how I mentioned that kids love to ask questions about tattoos? Well, that doesn't only apply to other people's kids. Your own kids are going to ask questions too.

By age 2, both of my girls knew how to say "ferret," "turtle," "tattoo," "vulture" and "Shakespeare." (You heard me: the Bard. I have a tattoo with a quote from "A Midsummer Night's Dream.") I was actually able to use the images on my tattoos as a learning tool to build my neurotypical kids' vocabularies. My son, who is a non-verbal autistic kiddo, also indicates curiosity about my tattoos. Even though he doesn't repeat the words, he recognizes them and gets to be educated on some pretty eclectic topics thanks to my ever-present tattoos.

In the end, people either love tattoos or they hate them. Clearly, I love them. I don't regret my tats one bit, and I can't wait to get more.