I tried not to gawk, really. But the first time I encountered this quintessential suburban mom sighting—with a decidedly ‘modern-day’ twist—it seemed too surreal not to stare.
Here’s the scenario. A mom climbs out from behind the steering wheel of her minivan in the parking lot of a community swimming pool, slides open the mammoth side door of the car and reaches in to unfasten her children from their car seats. Pretty typical stuff, right?
It wasn’t until she hoisted her youngest child up on her hip and started making her way to the pool entrance that I noticed it, clear as day: An elaborate, colorful collage of tattoos from the top of her shoulder to her bent elbow. That, my first exposure to a young tattooed middle-class mom, was a couple of months ago. Now, inked-up moms seem to be popping up everywhere I turn.
I guess it should come as no surprise that all those hip Millennials who’ve been flocking to tattoo parlors over the last several years would eventually settle down and start raising kids. An estimated 40 percent of Millennials, ages 18 and 31, sports body art, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. Even though tattoos have become mainstream fashion statements among that generation, tattooed suburban moms still strike me as surprising. I suppose it has something to do with the image of tattoo-wearing folks that I formulated as a kid growing up in the seventies and eighties.
Back then, tattoos were synonymous with rebels, period. They completed the look of motorcycle-riding, bandana-wearing bad asses. So now, even as I’ve grown accustomed to glimpsing heavily inked body parts on the prettiest of young women, it still comes as somewhat of a shock to see these same gals carting around kids. But that’s exactly what’s happening.
There’s really no turning back with tattoos, save for painful and expensive removal procedures. But no matter; most of the inked-up mammas I encounter seem to embrace the look. As for whether or not their kids will think it’s cool, that’s up for debate.
Danielle Hampton, a heavily-tattooed English teacher turned stay-at-home Arizona mom, ponders that question in her blog. Here’s an excerpt:
“My husband and I have laughed about the fact that Henry will either think we’re super cool or super lame. And that’s okay. I couldn’t imagine having a Mom that had her arms, chest, legs, etc. tattooed but this is all Henry will know. And because he’s surrounded by our tattooed friends and families most of the time, seeing beautiful colors and pictures on people’s skin is completely normal and probably more commonplace to him than seeing skin without it.”
So, if little Henry grows up thinking that tattoos are, as his mother puts it, ‘normal’, I wonder what his parents will consider ‘off-limits’ if he ever decides to get creative with body decorating? Certainly not a second ear piercing, a mild sign of rebellion when I was a teenager. A chicken bone pierced through the nose, maybe? It’s anyone’s guess, I suppose. Whatever it is, I vow to try my hardest not to gawk when I see it.