“Yes, I would get a tattoo of my kids’ names”
Liz Ikiriko, Mother of two
To date, I have nine tattoos. Regrets? Not a one. Tattoos are personal, creative representations of how you want to be seen. My tattoos display what I hold dear: the names of my grandparents and my children. My daughter’s name is tattooed on the inside of my right wrist, and my son’s name is on my left.
The playground at my kids’ downtown Toronto school is a cross-section of moms and dads—doctors, chefs, artists, stay-at-home parents, new immigrants. These days, there’s no way to tell which parents are tattooed. It’s not about who’s cool or not. Your kid’s super-sweet best friend may have punk-rock parents, or he may have Bay Street-trader parents. And they’re both just as likely to be inked.
In my experience, few of us survived the ’90s without a lower-back butterfly tattoo or a suspect tribal armband. I got my first tattoo when I was 18, in 1995. And yes, it was a tiny, Asian-influenced symbol that I designed (inspired by Prince) to reference myself, in true Gen X form. When I look at it now, I have fond flashbacks of being 18, leaving my hometown in Saskatchewan to travel the world, and getting tattooed in Edinburgh, Scotland, by a dreadlocked warrior woman named Morag. For these unique memories, I treasure that tattoo.
This is also why I don’t regret permanently etching my kids’ names onto my body. They will always be a part of me, even after they’re grown. Calling attention to the fact that I’m a mother doesn’t mean I’m only a mother. I hope it goes without saying that I’m so much more.
How we dress, how we style our hair and the tattoos we display are ways to define ourselves, but they don’t represent us entirely. I can’t be responsible for how the world chooses to judge me—I am only responsible for presenting myself in whatever manner makes me happy. Which reminds me of my favourite life tip: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Your kid wants to dye his hair green? Your daughter wants to get a nose piercing? Your mom friend is covered in tattoos? Hmm… Are they caring people? Do they respect those around them? Is generosity important to the way they live? Well then, don’t sweat it.
“No, I would not get a tattoo of my kids’ names”
Aparita Bhandari, Mother of two
A few years ago, I was shocked to learn that Hollywood sweetheart Julia Roberts, known as a down-to-earth mother of three, has what is sometimes called a “tramp stamp.” I was watching TMZ as I was washing the dishes, and paused as the editorial team pored over the photos. A heated discussion ensued. If a starlet with a megawatt smile inks the names of her three kids (Phinnaeus, Hazel and Henry) on her lower back, does that make the tattoo any less, well, trampy? The general consensus was yes.
Read more: Talking to your children about tattoos>
Since then, I’ve noticed that moms with tats of their tots’ names now blend seamlessly into the yummy mummy club, with nary an eyebrow raised. Before the celebrity set started the trend, I thought tattoos were for rock stars and troublemakers, not suburban mothers. Apparently, if the tattoo is of your kids’ names, this cancels out any negative connotations.
I do admire some of my friends’ decisions to memorialize their maternal love, including one who had her son’s name tattooed in the curlicue letters of Telugu, her mother tongue, on the nape of her neck. It’s a gorgeous piece of artwork, and I can imagine how full her heart will be when her son is old enough to trace the curves of his name with his chubby little finger. Nevertheless, this is one trend I’m going to pass on. I would never have my son or daughter’s name inscribed anywhere on my person. I considered getting a small, discreet tattoo in my teenage years, when I constantly sought ways to exhibit non-conformity. But the prospect of buyer’s remorse and horror stories of tattoos stretching beyond recognition kept me away from the needle.
I’m also conflicted because motherhood is just one aspect of my identity. I’m a wife, daughter, sister, friend, writer, half-decent baker and a lover of the arts. I relish the time I have apart from my kids. Unless asked about them, or because I’m itching to share a particularly hilarious anecdote, I prefer to steer the conversation toward other topics.
But no matter how many times my kids try my patience, my love for them is unquestionable. Our relationship is so much more than skin-deep, and I don’t need a tattoo to demonstrate that our family is as permanent as indelible ink.
A version of this article appeared in our February 2014 issue with the headline “Would you get a tattoo of your kids’ names,” p. 90.