Angelina’s inked up, Heidi Klum sports a few, Kelly Ripa’s got a tat on her ankle. Pretty Woman Julia Roberts has a ‘tramp stamp’ on her lower back with her three children’s names. And yes, believe it or not, Octomom even managed some time away from her brood of fourteen to get a tattoo.
Gone are the days when a tattoo signifies biker girl, punk chick, or Goth babe. No longer is a tattoo the stigma of a trashy woman. Women everywhere are getting tattoos and some even later in life. The reasons for marking up their bodies are as diverse as the women who get inked, from a victory over breast cancer, to surviving a divorce, to having children, or to commemorate an occasion.
Summer Martin used to think guys with tattoos were rebellious and bad, and she had no intention of ever getting a tattoo. The daughter of a preacher, and raised as a missionary kid, she married a man with five tattoos and discovered that tattoos do not define the person. After having a difficult time getting pregnant, she gave birth to a daughter, and subsequently got a tattoo of a butterfly (one of her daughter’s first words). She loves the tattoo because it’s symbolic of her daughter. “I would always have my daughter with me,” said Martin, “even when I had to go on business trips.”
It’s not uncommon for moms with tattoos to have gotten one to honor their children. Lizz B., thirty-four, got her first tattoo on her thirtieth birthday. “At that time, I had two kids … I wanted something meaningful, something that would always be meaningful.” Lizz knew she would always and forever be a mother. “No famine, no poorhouse, no nuclear bomb, no gray hair or wrinkles would ever change the fact that I was a mom.” So to commemorate that fact, Lizz opted for the Kanji symbol for ‘mother’ on the top of her foot.
What about the stigma that comes along with a tattoo in the work world? Since Martin has a corporate job, she had her tattoo inked on her shoulder, where it can be covered up in business situations out of respect. Other than in a work environment, Martin never worried much about having a tattoo. “I’m the type of person who is confident enough in myself that what others think won’t bring me down or change my mind.”
Lisa Stamatelos thought that tattoos were big no-nos in the corporate world until her oldest daughter pointed out that they are not as taboo as they once were. She has had mixed reactions from friends. “Some think it’s great and others have told me point blank that it’s tacky and skanky.” But shows like Miami Ink and LA Ink, and celebrities themselves have helped to change the way some people once viewed tattoos. Tattoos can be a creative expression of the person who owns it, and also beautiful displays of art. “Shows on TV have demonstrated the art of tattoos and some celebs have demonstrated the sentimental value of tattoos,” said Wendy Thomas, mother of six and owner of one very inspirational tattoo. “Angelina Jolie’s tattoos with her kids’ places of birth come to mind as sentimental tattoos,” said Thomas.
Thomas, who got her first tattoo at forty-seven, has always wanted to be a writer. Her symbolic tattoo, a black :! on her right wrist, is a reminder to work toward her dream. “I got the tattoo for personal inspiration and as a milestone of my life. I don’t care what others think about it.” Nor does Thomas have a problem with any of her children getting tattoos when they are the legal age of eighteen, provided they discuss it with her first and give consideration as to what type of tattoo they get. “Something to commemorate an event (a birth, a passing, a dream) is far more acceptable than getting a werewolf’s head on your calf because you loved the Twilight series!” she jokes.
Ann Fry wasn’t worried about influencing her son when she decided to get a tattoo to celebrate her liberation from divorce. In fact, her son, a lead singer of a rock band, took her to the tattoo parlor on Mother’s Day! “It was my present … and he held my hand during the whole event.” Ann said the experience was awesome and thinks back to it as a time when she was reinventing herself.
Hope, inspiration, reinvention, optimism, and celebration are all words that come to mind as some of the reasons why moms get tattoos. Holly Carson was in such need of optimism after her husband had died, leaving her with a young son. She realized she had been holding off on some things she should be doing in the now. She decided to start by getting a tattoo that appeared hopeful and optimistic so she had a tattoo artist design an elaborate sun in black ink for her. “Getting my tattoo has since led to other things—vacationing by myself, buying my own jewelry, selling our home in a quiet neighborhood and buying a great condo,” said Carson. She has joined a social club, entered a dance contest, and keeps looking to the future. “I stopped looking for the reasons for why I couldn’t do things, and started to figure out how to accomplish my goals.” She also wants to show her three-year-old son, Jack, that women can be strong and independent.
While Stamatelos admits to being a bit skeptical about people’s reactions to her tattoo, that didn’t stop her, her mother, and her two daughters from braving the buzz of the needle and getting matching tattoos. In her family, all the girls receive a special necklace on their sixteenth birthday, a symbolic pansy charm, which is a tradition
originated by her grandmother. After the passing of her grandmother, the tradition continued, but the ladies took it one step further. Stamatelos, her mother, and her two daughters (who are twenty-three and twenty) decided to honor their late matriarch by all getting pansy tattoos on their feet. Stamatelos admits she is glad her daughters were in their twenties when they got tattoos and that it wasn’t something they had done on a whim. She knows because of the symbolism of the pansy in their family, it will never be a regret for the women.
And yes, I have a tattoo as well. I got my first and only tattoo at the age of thirty-five, when my aunt was visiting. I picked her up from the airport and asked, “What do you want to do while you’re here?” She laughed and said, “Let’s get tattoos!” Well, I called her bluff and we went that day, with my three kids in tow (who were then only two, five, and six) and we got tattoos. I called my husband and said, “This is a courtesy call; I’m not calling to ask permission, but I’m at the tattoo parlor and am getting a tattoo.” I got a beautiful Irish Claddagh on the inside of my ankle. It’s part of who I am, it’s my heritage, and even though I never thought I’d get a tattoo, it was a great experience for me.
If you’re considering getting a tattoo, do your research and make sure you are certain of your choices! Whether you’re considering honoring a family member, celebrating a milestone or a rite of passage, make sure you go to a well-respected business and that you know exactly what you want to have inked onto your body. Remember, while the experience might not last long, your tattoo is permanent, so make it meaningful to you!