Inked: The Unexpected Story of a Tattooed Mom

Photo by Ali Goodwin

These days, you can find me covered in any manner of mess: paint, sparkles, sequins, clay, dust, dirt, flower petals, cookie dough, tie dye. Recently, someone made a comment about how I’m also covered in ink, but we weren’t talking about crafty ink — we were talking about my tattoos. While I’m not anywhere near to being covered, I do have a number of visible tattoos that often attract attention, comments and questions. This attention of strangers is so familiar that when I was pregnant with our daughter, strangers’ hands making their way onto my belly (which is oddly inevitable for a pregnant lady) wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable and disconcerting as it would have been, were it not for my tattoos.

For years, I had one teeeeeeeeny tiny tattoo that wasn’t visible unless you saw me in a bathing suit. (I can’t even talk about what it was — so cliche and embarrassing. It was the quintessential “I’m 18, let’s get tattoos!” kind of tattoo. It’s buried under something much more beautiful now.) Mostly, I was afraid to have anything visible that could make a “bad impression” on anyone. I grew up with one parent who was a suit-and-tie conservative, and one parent who was much more liberal but still said unequivocally, “No tattoos.”

I also grew up thinking I would work in some sort of office, and tattoos weren’t welcome in (most) white collar environments. For a few years out of college, I followed a meandering path through some terrible and unfulfilling “office” jobs before realizing that I was not cut out for that life. For example, I commuted three hours a day for six months to work at a large multinational company in Boston that required professional dress: skirts, heels, button-downs. Every single day, I had to cover the two (totally inoffensive) tattoos on my feet with bandages. I recognized very quickly that I am not that person, that I could not alter who I am fundamentally and literally. I’m a creative, through and through, and cubicle land is not a place where I thrive. Plus, any company that doesn’t allow tattoos is probably not the right company for me. I’m much happier now, bouncing around in my light-filled studio, making DIY messes and wearing whatever pleases me on any given day. The money isn’t nearly as good as that office job I had, but the satisfaction is through the roof. And at 33 years old, I know I’d rather be poor and happy than rich and miserable.

So, back to my tattoos. What/where are they, and why did I get them? Every tattoo has a story, no matter who it’s on. Let me give you a little tour of my ink …

Inked: The Unexpected Story of a Tattooed Mom

Photo by Ali Goodwin

I would consider these two tattoos the beginning of the life I lead now. On my left foot, I had a great tattoo artist in Atlanta sketch “Never Settle” and then make it permanent. At that point, I needed to remind myself on a daily basis that accepting less — be it mediocrity, unhappiness, an unfulfilling life — is not OK. Making the commitment to have that sentiment applied permanently to my body made it much easier to live up to it, and I haven’t “settled” since. The star on my right foot is the symbol of the friendship between myself and my three best friends. I adore each of them, and though we’re scattered across the country now, I love that I have a reminder of them every day.

Inked: The Unexpected Story of a Tattooed Mom

A G-rated peek at the tattoo on my lower back.

Let’s talk for a second about that tiny tattoo I got when I was 18. It was terrible, and in a most unfortunate location, in retrospect. Yes, I had a small tattoo on my lower back. Years later, I chose to cover it with a larger, more beautiful piece done by a renowned tattoo artist who travels the world tattooing. I waited six months for a session with this gentleman and months in advance, gave him a manilla folder of images I loved for inspiration. When the big day came, I arrived to find he’d lost the folder and had nothing ready, BUT he was “totally going to sketch something up on the fly” for me. Being young and (very) intimidated by this guy, I shakily laughed and said OK. The sketch was beautiful. I looked at it for about 35 seconds before he asked if we were good to go. And, to the chagrin of my older self, I shrugged and said, “Why not?” It’s not that it’s not good work — it is. It’s just that it’s not ME. And I should never have let myself get rushed into something permanent.

Oh, the life lessons I’ve learned from tattoos …

Inked: The Unexpected Story of a Tattooed Mom

Photo by Ali Goodwin

Moving on to more positive ink … You can tell that words are a thing with me, as are reminders. I wanted to make a statement to myself and everyone around me about how I choose to live my life: with courage, faith, serenity and joy. I do best when I’m living bravely, calmly, joyfully, and in the knowledge that, eventually, everything will work out.

Inked: The Unexpected Story of a Tattooed MomSaving the best for last: my minnow. You probably know that my company is called Minnow + Co. But what you may not know is that my company is named after my daughter’s nickname. More than we call her by her given name, we call her Minnow. Literally since birth. When I started my company, she was a year old, and I realized my life was always going to be about putting her first, then everything else afterwards, hence Minnow + Co. A couple months back, I was on a business trip — it was the longest I’d ever been away from her, and I was missing her something fierce. I was with my two pals (two of the star tattoo group) and we decided, on a lark, to go get tattoos. I’d been thinking of getting something Minnow-related for a while, but the opportunity to get it so that I could surprise her when I returned home was too good to pass up. And she loves it. She asks to see “her minnow” every day, and whenever we snuggle, she rubs her thumb over it like a lucky penny. It’s a super simple tattoo, but the meaning runs deep.

So, there you have it. The tattoos of your run-of-the-mill 33-year-old wife + mom + blogger + business owner. I get my fair share. What about you? Do you have visible tattoos? What about hidden ones? What’s your ink story?

15 Responses

  1. Tawny says:

    Well, I was one of those gals that would never, ever permanently mark my body in any way, until about a year ago. During a mini vacation with a couple we've been friends with for about 30 years, we ALL decided, on a whim, to get tattooed. Me, at the ripe old age of 53! It was fun and I still don't regret it one bit! I got a gorgeous Fleur-di-lys on the inside of my ankle. And it is not exactly a tiny little thing either! I'm unable to look at it and not recall our wonderful time spent with our friends. If it's possible at all it only made me feel even closer to our friends and I'm really glad I did it! Our grown children were a little shocked but at the same time thought it was pretty cool, as did our grandchildren! Now if I could figure out a way to get more that would cover up some wrinkles….lol!

  2. AuntDott says:

    I'm not there yet. But, so what – I still like to hand write letters. Perhaps one day.

  3. [...] So, back to the title of this little ditty. Let’s talk about tattoos first. My editor at DIY Network asked me to write a post about my tattoos, which went live yesterday. I feel like I’m not a very good poster child for tattoos, being neither hip nor heavily tattooed. But each piece has a story. If you want to read about mine, take a peek: \ Inked: The Unexpected Story of a Tattooed Mom  [...]

  4. Jill says:

    I also love this post! As a mom and corporate employee with two visible tattoos on either arm, I sometimes get looks and questions. It has never bothered me, I will never cover them, and I plan to get more. Luckily, it has never been a problem working for a great place like DIY Network/HGTV.

    • kellysmtrimble says:

      You're so right, Jill. We're lucky to work somewhere that's both corporate and open to and accepting of individual creativity. That's what DIY Network and HGTV are all about!

  5. Kayla@HGTV says:

    I really love this post!


About Ellen Foord 


A tight budget has never stopped Ellen Foord from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every day as one of life's smaller celebrations. A freelance writer and ...

More About Ellen Foord