I’m a 4th Grade homeroom mom. I organize thousands of goody bags. (OK, it’s just 25.) I obsess over teacher gifts. On Saturday mornings, you can find me at the soccer field cheering on my son’s team and handing out organic juice boxes. I make spreadsheets for things that most people make Post-Its notes for. Even when planning my nine-year old’s birthday party, I made a spreadsheet. For a birthday party.
I am That Mom. Oh, you know her. Maybe you are her.
You feel compelled to put that one extra spider ring or piece of candy in the Halloween goody bag. You say “Sure!! I’ll help!!!” so often that you almost drown in exclamation points. You worry that playing too much Minecraft or only wanting to read Captain Underpants over and over or eating four Swiss Cake Rolls for breakfast is going to ruin your child’s life. I am That Mom who overachieves and overextends and overthinks. But, recently I made a decision that I didn’t overthink. Not for one second and not with one ounce of doubt. It was a decision I made solely for me. And, Mamas, that decision has made all the difference.
This middle-aged homeroom mom got her first tattoo.
Maybe I didn’t overthink it but I definitely over-researched it. Google now fully believes that all of my searches are about tattoos when really I just want to know how long to cook this turkey and if there are any direct flights from Chattanooga to tropical places. Eventually, I found a hip, well-respected, local tattoo parlor (Main Line Ink) that seemed like a perfect fit. I chose one of their artists and waited for her book to open. In tattoo lingo, an artist’s “book” is kind of like your Outlook calendar or day planner or family whiteboard that tells you when everyone gets their teeth cleaned. Only cooler. When they announce that a book is open, you have to inquire. Then, you have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire which felt strangely like filling out a college or job application. Then, you wait. After about two weeks, I got the email that I was accepted. When my appointment day finally arrived, I was confident and ready. But as it always does, doubt reared its ugly, tattoo-free head just as I walked into the parlor.
Do I look cool enough to be here with my ponytail, elastic waist pants, and highly unflattering sweatshirt? I just inherently think of people with tattoos as being considerably cooler – and younger – than I am. What in the world was I thinking dressing like this? I felt like my whole look screamed “I have a half-eaten sucker, a kids’ menu I’m not allowed to throw away because he hasn’t finished the maze yet, and who knows how many Legos in my handbag.” But as soon as I stepped inside, one of the artists gave me a blinding smile and said she loved my “old school retro” sneakers. Believe me, they’re not retro on purpose. But, I’ll take the compliment. First doubt conquered.
Can I trust someone to create and permanently apply something onto my body? I mean, this isn’t a Sharpie or a club stamp. This is ink needled into my skin forever and ever amen. At least that’s how my mother once described it to properly ensure that I would never get one. When my artist Julia revealed her sketch of what she envisioned for my tattoo, I practically teared up with relief and joy, (1) because she had so perfectly captured everything I had described on my college/job/tattoo application and (2) because I knew I was in excellent artistic hands. Did I instantly trust her? Absolutely. Second doubt conquered.
Finally, the pain. Could I stand it? (See my mother’s description above.) In my life, I have had three broken bones plus four major surgeries and have given birth to a large baby with linebacker shoulders. But, I won’t lie. I was secretly nervous about how painful this whole thing would be. Then, Julia said these magical words. “I don’t ever worry about the moms. Moms can always handle it.” YES. Yes, we can. Third doubt conquered.
In the end, my tattoo is perfect. It’s not perfect for everyone but it’s perfect for me. And, I immediately felt that.
Want to know what else I felt walking out of there? It wasn’t the doubt I felt walking in. No. I felt empowered. I felt free and strong. I felt like me.
When I look at the beautiful art that now decorates my body for the rest of its days, I am reminded that if I ever question myself again, all I have to do is look at my arm and know. Being empowered isn’t new. It’s who I’ve always been. It just took me 175 soccer games, 3,000 goody bags, and one tattoo to remember it.