Tattoos are fantastic. They’re a beautiful and unique way to express yourself or commemorate a special person or event. Loved ones use ink as artistic therapy, as a timeless reward, and as a way to stand out from the crowd. I got a tattoo when I turned 18 but now I’m a mom, and I’m ready to get some skin art to honor my son. But wait a minute: how do you go about that?! Here’s a real simple guide to getting tattoos… when you have kids.

This is an intimate, unique experience for me that’s been a long time coming! I’m honored that you are reading and sharing my journey with me. Be sure to check out the quick video at the end and learn about my badass tattoo artist.

Also, thanks to my sister for being photographer, videographer, and cheerleader throughout the process. These tattoos were her Christmas present to me, and they’re incredible. I’m very glad we did this together!

So you’re thinking about getting some ink? If you’re new to tattoos – or if you’re new to getting tattoos since becoming a parent – then this article is for you! I will take you step-by-step through the entire process from planning to healing. Photos and video to follow!

Getting Tattoos When You Have Kids - Real Simple Mama

I know, I know, this article seems way too niche even for me. But I got some new ink recently and really wanted to educate and clarify what the experience was like; after all, one of the new tattoos was for my son and the other was for my mother. So what’s it like, getting tattoos after having kids?

And you may be thinking “Hell, lady, getting tattoos and raising kids are each painful enough. Why do both?!” But I love being a mom, and tattoos are addicting. So here we are.

The Design

Deciding to get a tattoo – and what you want it to represent – can take minutes or years. It truly depends on the person and their situation. I knew that I wanted a tattoo for my son from when I was pregnant, but I didn’t have a solid idea of what I wanted done for four years. And that’s ok.

You need to decide what you want to get tattooed, and where you want it.

While you can get some initial inspiration anywhere from nature to Pinterest, keep in mind that your artist will be limited to the physics of tattooing: they can’t do a ton of detail on a small piece, for example. So have some ideas but realize that you may not be able to get exactly what you designed. The same goes for picking a “font” if your tattoo has any words.

And consider if you want color, including white ink and/or watercolor styles.

Getting Tattoos When You Have Kids - Real Simple Mama

I knew that I wanted a doodle and love note from my Mom on my right foot, so that I would always be reminded of her whenever I’m going forward or uncertain of which way to turn. I love looking down and seeing her little cricket drawing and her handwriting encouraging me!

And I chose to get a second small tattoo done at the same session, of the beginning of the recitation that my son and I say every night, almost like a prayer: “I love you more than the sun and the moon, more than the sea and the sky; more than all the plants, all the animals, all the people, and all the things on this earth.” I chose a while back to have it on my inner left wrist so that it’s a very visible tribute to my oldest child. The color and sun/moon combination art was E’s original creation!

Like parenting, designing a tattoo is a combination of persistence and flexibility.

You’ll also need to think about where you want the tattoo: how visible should it be? How easy to cover up? Will it stretch and sag over time? Places like the top of the foot may be partially covered by shoes, does that bother you?

Your artist will surely want to add in their opinion and their own little interpretation of your idea, too. So it’s one to show up and say “I know I want something like this, but you take my design and run with it.” That’s how I got the gorgeous blue throughout this tattoo, and the unusual color outlines throughout. It was all E’s idea!

Getting Tattoos When You Have Kids - Real Simple Mama

The Research and Planning

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Ok so now you have an idea of what you want to get done, and where you want it. You could just wander into any old tattoo shop (or hell, in an alley somewhere) but I won’t let you do that!

Find a reputable shop. Read reviews and especially look for cleanliness and “touch up” warranty. Go walk in and look around at the artists’ work on the shop’s website, and get an idea of the cost of tattoos there.

Look up Witch Doctor Tattoo on YouTube so you can see an artist discuss their trade. (This is also the video channel that I showed my kids to teach them about the tattoo process, since they couldn’t go with me to the studio.)

When to get ink? I personally like to get tattooed in the winter. Your tattoo can’t be submerged in water like a hot tub or pool during healing, and they also have to stay out of the sun. While it sucked to have to remain sockless in an abnormally cold Texas winter, I’m glad I wasn’t missing beach time!

What’s the healing process? You’re going to need a good two weeks minimum to let your skin scab, heal, and be ready to resume all normal activity. Your artist should have information on their website about tattoo after-care, or if not you can read about it here. You’ll want to have some Aquaphor for the first few days, and unscented lotion (instead of Aquaphor) once the scabs form and the tattoo starts to peel; and antibacterial soap for the duration of the healing process.

Getting Tattoos When You Have Kids - Real Simple Mama

I will say that the pain of getting a tattoo has always completely disappeared for me as soon as the needle leaves my skin, which is a blessing. The swelling of the skin goes down within a few hours, and the itching during the healing process has always been tolerable. What was annoying this time around was that my foot tattoo took forever to heal, which meant no running shoes (and thus no running) for almost a month!

The Day of the Appointment

Woo hoo! It’s go time! This is so exciting. I took photos of my “blank” skin one more time just as a silly memory.

I recommend dressing comfortably and bringing snacks, water, headphones, and your phone/tablet to watch or listen to something.

When you arrive and check in, ask any questions that you may have and watch your artist set up. They’ll go through the design plan with you and put the purple stencil (from their special printer) onto your skin to double check placement.

Making It Through the Pain

So, yeah. Getting a tattoo hurts. I hope that doesn’t come as a surprise, because it’s certainly true! You’re getting ink forced into the layers of your skin with the intent to be there the rest of your life (did I mention that tattoos are permanent?).

Getting Tattoos When You Have Kids - Real Simple Mama

Just like childbirth, you need to have a plan to get through the pain. You can read my article about how I dealt with pain through two drug-free childbirths, but a lot of the strategies are quite similar. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy the experience.

  • Remember that this is productive pain. That means that this pain is going to do something to benefit your life. It’s not pointless, it has a purpose. It’s a means to an end, a door you must walk through to get what you want: a beautiful tattoo! And the pain won’t last, and it’ll be over soon. You can do this.
  • Meditation and deliberate breathing are powerhouses for helping you stay calm. In a way your body will want to run away to get the pain to stop, but obviously that’s not a good idea. This is largely a mental game. I proudly have used the Calm app (there’s a free version) for years whenever I need it. Even just listening to the various ambient sounds or music is helpful. There’s no need for your body to go into “fight or flight” mode, and no need to panic. Slow your breathing, and remain calm and relaxed. This will help the pain seem less, too. The Calm app also has a section where you can breathe with a visualization, with the intent to slow your breathing and relax.
  • It may sound silly, but if you have a mantra – a short phrase or even just a word that you can focus on and repeat, almost like hypnosis – it can be immensely helpful. My word for pain management is “Disconnect.” It is like I’m cutting off the nerves that go from the area of pain to my brain. I just say it in my mind and it really lessons my pain experience. That’s a big point in my article about managing childbirth pain.
  • And since this article is specifically for getting tattoos when you have kids, I’ll admit that I looked through photos of my oldest son when he was born. I actually cried tears of emotion and gratitude (not pain) while I was getting my ink! You can’t ask for a better mental distraction than looking at the ones who inspired the tattoo.

I hope that this has been a useful, informative, honest look at getting tattoos when you’re a parent. From start to finish, the process is pretty damn amazing!

As promised, here’s a quick video of my latest tattoo session with Enkayia of Inception Tattoos. He’s an artistic genius and I already have plans to get more ink! (Told you they were addicting…) You can see him on his personal Facebook page here, his artist Facebook page here, or on instagram here.