Sometimes, we all feel like we’ve got 'bad mum' tattooed on our foreheads, but what is it like to parent in Singapore if you're literally covered in tattoos? Is society now more accepting of a heavily tattooed parent? Here's what this mum has to say...
It feels like every few years, an article comes out about how ‘accepted’ tattoos are becoming. But are they really? Sure, a couple of fine line tattoos scattered around the body do go unnoticed nowadays and could even pass off as ‘classy’. However, full-body tattoos? Neck tattoos? Face tattoos? Those are still head-turners – especially on a mum. To see if that’s the case, I spoke to (tattooed) mum-of-three Jana to get the lowdown…
Interview with Jana Yar: Being a tattooed mum in Singapore – is it accepted?
First up, when did you decide you were going to get your whole body tattooed?
I was 17 when I first read a tattoo magazine. I never had tattooed friends at that age, so it had nothing to do with peer pressure –I just liked what I read and really wanted to get some tattoos. Later on, when I started travelling, I started collecting ethnic tattoos from different cultures; it grew from there.
What was the reaction like when you were a first-time mother with tattoos at a gynae appointment? Did you receive judgement?
Not at all, I have an amazing gynaecologist, and I always went with my husband, who is fully tattooed too. He’s a tattoo artist with Of Gods and Monsters. Fun fact – despite being mostly covered in tattoos, I’m scared of needles, so every time I go to the doctor in general, and they need to give me an injection, I’ll feel like throwing up. The nurses crack up laughing, so at least someone is getting a kick out of it!
When did your children realise you had tattoos and that it was different?
Very early. They have always been exposed to tattooing. We bring them to their dad’s tattoo studio, and sometimes I get tattooed at home, so they’re often in the thick of it. We always have conversations about the kinds of tattoos we like. Our kids love tattoos and always have a say in what I get. I’ll ask what colour they want on which tattoo, and now that they are older, they keep asking for me to get their favourite animals tattooed on me. Unfortunately, and quite luckily, I’ve run out of space, so we decided on their names on my fingers instead.
What do they think of your tattoos?
They love them and often draw on themselves; it is adorable. I wish I had space to put their little drawings somewhere. It would be amazing! Honestly, because my husband and I are so heavily tattooed, and we often hang out with other tattooed parents, it’s become such a norm to them. I wouldn’t be surprised if my kids turned out to be in a straight lace job with zero tattoos themselves. I think soon the world will shift again, and it would be weird not to have tattoos.
Do you feel there is a stereotype of being a parent with tattoos? Has a stranger ever said anything rude to you because of it?
I haven’t had any negative comments in Singapore. People stare, but I never know what they think – is it because I have tattoos or is it because I’m white and have a Chinese husband? Or is it because I have too many kids?! You just never know. Tattooed people often don’t realise others are staring because we ourselves forget we have tattoos!
I get a lot of compliments from strangers and especially older people here or staff in hospitals or at the doctors. Tattoos are so common now no one really cares anymore. I belong to many parenting groups on Facebook and WhatsApp, and other parents realise that we, tattooed and pierced people, have exactly the same mum problems and sentiments as them.
What was enrolling your son in school like seeing the other parents?
My husband and I both volunteered 40 hours to get our kid into the school we wanted. It is also a Christian school, so I felt extra strange to be there. I covered my tattoos when I volunteered– no one asked me to; I just did it out of some sort of respect. When I went to see my child on his first recess, and I was snapping photos while looking sad just like every other parent, we were all just aww-ing and being emotional together.
Our WhatsApp group can get pretty fun too. A parent was explaining to their child why my husband and I had so many ‘drawings on our skin’. The parents explained, “It’s because they’re artists,” which I thought was a good explanation. Her child replied, “well, don’t they have paper at home?”.
Do you think you get treated differently by the teachers?
I really don’t know? I’m a self-proclaimed helicopter parent. I can be very particular about how I’d like things done, so the teachers should be more worried about that than my tattoos.
What about your kids’ friends – do they ever say anything?
I need to ask them, but they never come home with any comments. I think they would tell us straight up if there were any remarks made.
Do you think your daughter will be affected differently than your son because you’re a tattooed mum?
My daughter is way more fierce than my boys, so I’m not worried about her at all!
Thanks for chatting with us, Jana!
The bottom line: Though I’m sure Jana’s experience doesn’t speak for all tattooed parents, it’s great to hear that she hasn’t experienced much, if any, negativity towards her tattoos. Underneath it all, parents are all experiencing more or less the same thing, and just because one may look like an alternative liberal mum, doesn’t mean she is not just as much of a tiger mum as the rest of us.
Do you have tattoos? Have you ever had issues being a tattooed mum in Singapore? Let us know via DM!