Tattooing has been around for thousands of years. It is one of the oldest forms of art, laden with as many different meanings as there are global cultures.
My husband and I are both tattooed, we both have careers, we live in the suburbs, we live in a house, we each have a car, neither of us has ever been to prison, we are not substance abusers, we support charities, we love animals and we do not beat or abduct little children.
It’s all fun and games when you are young and carefree – society is more likely to accept your tattoos and move on with their lives, but I have found that the rules change a little when you become parents.
I grew up in a very small town called Upington, situated in the Northern Cape between nothing and nowhere. My family is open-minded yet somewhat conservative and I knew hardly anyone with a tattoo. I was always different, I liked bright coloured hair, I listened to all genres of music you can think of, I loved rock n roll, I was fascinated by the extreme sports culture, I was intrigued by Goths, I wanted to marry a surfer and I couldn’t wait to move to the big city. When I was 17 we had the annual Upington Expo, I had just broken up with the biggest loser of a boyfriend and lost a lot of weight – I was so proud of myself! Walking through the stalls I came across this tattoo artist from Cape Town. I got my 21-year old friend to pretend she was my mom and sign a permission slip, and I got my first tattoo in a truck container…and it looks like shit, but I love it. I was hooked.
I collected a number of tattoos over the years, and I love every single one of them. I will probably carry on getting them until I run out of space.
My career never suffered because of my tattoos, people stared, asked questions, but no-one was ever rude. I will never forget the first day that my appearance attracted a negative comment- accompanied by a snarl and a look of utter disgust. I was a couple of months pregnant with Mikayla, you could just start to see my baby bump. I was sitting in the waiting room at my gynaecologists’ office when the woman opposite me said to her husband “Why can someone like her have kids and I can’t, it’s not fair – her child has no chance in life.” I knew she was saying it out of hurt and anger of her own personal situation, but it cut like a knife. This woman didn’t know me, how could you possibly judge someone like that? Does she not know that I can hear her??
My pregnancy with Mikayla was very difficult and we had a lot of complications, we went from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist, gynea to gynea, the first thing each and every one of them would ask was “will you be keeping the baby?” or “are you happy about the pregnancy?” I am not sure if this is something they have to ask, but I took it very personally and it offended me every single time.
I eventually got fed up with all of them and decided to give my doctor back in Upington a call. We drove 830km’s to have my baby delivered by my family doctor – someone I trusted with my life and who saved the lives of so many of my loved ones and family. I was booked into Upington Medi-Clinic and couldn’t help but burst out laughing when the nurse asked me whether I would like to see a priest. It wasn’t at all directed at my tattoos/age/etc., that’s just what they do in a small town. I politely declined and was taken to my room. This was the best decision I could have made. The nurses were angels, my doctor was still my hero and everyone just wanted to help and make everything as easy as possible for us. Funny how in a small, conservative town you end up receiving the least amount of judgement and the most amount of love.
After her birth things kind of went back to normal. I got a couple of more stares than usual, but I think that is just because I had the most gorgeous child in the world! I mean seriously, look at that face.
Little did I know what we were in for when Mikayla started school. We placed her in a little daycare in the Southern Suburbs – It broke my heart that people could be so horrible. None of the other parents would talk to us or greet us, we were judged for our non-religious beliefs, I was looked at like a cat dragged me out of a trash can. Unfortunately, Mikayla got the worst of it. She was treated unfairly because of our lifestyle choices. I know every mother thinks her child is perfect and doesn’t want to hear anything bad about them – but she was made out to be a mean-spirited bully when nothing could be farther from the truth. Apparently she would walk up to kids and kick/hit them for no reason at all. We received a phone call daily about Mikayla’s misdemeanors and were told this must be something she is learning at home *insert judgemental, accusing tone*. They however neglected to phone us when Mikayla came home with a gash on her cheek from being hit with a spade by a boy during break-time. When asked about it the response was “Oh, he was just playing”.
Alright, lost cause…move on.
We decided to move Mikayla to a private school. I guess people are less inclined to judge you or care about your appearance when you are paying a small fortune in school fees. All of a sudden all Mikayla’s “behavioural problems” disappeared, the feedback was that Mikayla was a very calm, friendly child with a beautiful nature who loved making friends and painting. It’s been a year and there has been no incidents whatsoever. Unfortunately we will be moving schools again next semester, but that’s a story for a different post.
I often get asked about how I think my tattoos will affect Mikayla – I always wonder that myself. I hope they do. I hope they teach her to be accepting of different kinds of people and to never base her opinion on someone’s looks alone. If more kids had that lesson growing up – we’d have a lot less adults who are quick to judge solely based on appearance and stereotypes.
I would also just like to add that 3,5 years later, we are now pregnant with baby #2 – and I found a wonderful gynecologist at Kingsbury Hospital in Cape Town. The experience has been completely different and very positive. I am not sure if it is because we are older or if society has just become more accepting of tattoo’s. Either way, this is how it should be.
This blog post was inspired by an interview I did with 3 Kids, 2 Dogs, 1 Old House – you can read it here. Check out the rest of the blog while you are at it, it’s pretty awesome.
Are you a Mom with tattoos? Or are you someone with tattoos who plans on having kids one day? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! If you have an interesting story to tell – please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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* UPDATE* Our beautiful son, Knox Vader Hunter Haliday was born a month early on 5 December 2014, We recieved excellent care at Kingsbury and it was a deeply special experience.