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Tattoo nanny

tattooMy nanny (lets call her Allie) wants a tattoo. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with tattoos. I have plenty of friends who have them. But I was a bit taken aback at the news. Allie’s a smart, independent thinker. She’s a good student, politically active, overall a good choice maker. Plus she’s 21 and can do whatever she wants. Now she’s not considering something tawdry or garish, just a simple quote from Corinthians and a small heart.

“Uh huh…” I say, trying to avoid sounding either judgmental or approving. “How’s your mom with it?” I ask ultra casually so as not to show my hand.

“Well, she’d rather I not do it,” she said, “But I think she’s okay with it. I wanted to do it a few years ago and she was really against it. So I waited. Now I’m 21. I’m ready to do it.”

“Wow,” I blurt out, “That’s so cool that you cared about your mom’s feelings so much.” I wondered if, in a span of 10 years, my boys would ever put my feelings before their own needs and wants.

“Well, yeah…She’s my mom.” She answered with a lilt of obviousness as if all teenagers took their parents’ desires into account so acutely.

I thought about what to say next. Allie is like a daughter to me. She’s part of our family. But I’m really just her employer. Does that give me the right to butt into her personal life? I shake off my self-doubt and plunge ahead brashly.

“I wonder what Levi will say?” I lob a gentle soft ball her way.

“It’ll be pretty small,” she looked nervous. “I doubt he’ll even notice.”

“Levi doesn’t miss much,” I counter. “Maybe…don’t make too big a deal of it. I’m not sure I want him thinking a tattoo is an option right now.”

“Well…if you really don’t want me to get it, I can wait,” her uber-responsible self piped up.

“No. Oh, gosh…” I quickly retorted. “You’re a grown woman. You do whatever you want. My kids are gonna see people with tattoos and piercings and bad haircuts. I can’t shield them from everything. Don’t be silly.”

Then I thought about it again. Maybe I should tell her I do think it’s a bad idea. I’m not exactly sure why though. I suddenly flash forward 10 years to an 18 year old Levi, dressed in baggy, torn jeans, his underwear hanging out, a ragged Led Zeppelin T-shirt, shaved head and arms completely covered in tattooed splendor.

I owe it to her mom to say something, I determine. It’s one of those “Mommy Union” requirements. If one mom has the chance to protect another mom’s offspring from making a poor decision, she is categorically required to do so.

“The funny thing about tattoos,” I lightheartedly add, “Is how differently people feel about them as they get older. I know so many women who would give anything for a tattoo ‘mulligan,’ a ‘do-over,’ if you will. It’s hard to even imagine that you might feel differently when you’re older, when you become a mom yourself. I’m actually shocked by how much more conservative I’ve become since having children. You also have to realize that getting a tattoo will pretty much give your kids license to do it also. It falls into that ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ category. Those arguments are hard to win as kids get older.”

I stopped to assess her demeanor. Had I gone too far? Overstepped my boundaries?

“I’m really sure about this,” she smiled warmly as if to tell me my concern was touching but unnecessary.

“Oh, of course you are,” I agreed, slightly embarrassed by my prudishness. “Well, good luck with it,” I smiled and headed back to my office.

Now I realize there’s nothing inherently wrong with getting a tattoo. If it wasn’t expressly prohibited in my religion, I might even consider a rose-colored American Beauty right atop my left ankle. But it just doesn’t feel like something I want for my kids. It’s like I want to say to them, “Look, this tattoo thing, it’s okay for other people. It’s just not for us.”

Having someone so close to us, whose values we share, make the tattoo plunge, raises some challenges. Maybe it scares me because while I seem to be able to control my little ones right now, it’s a clear indicator that soon they’ll be old enough to make their own decisions. And those decisions might not always be the ones I’d like them to make. As they get older, they’ll be making bigger, life-altering choices, with little regard for my feelings and beliefs, this freaks me out a bit.

I guess this is one of those “bigger kids, bigger problems” issues that every now and again faces off with parents of young children and reminds them to appreciate what little control they do have over their offspring while they’re young.

So, Allie, go for it. Do what makes you happy. But do you think it would be okay to tell the boys you painted it on, just for fun?

About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Oklahoma City with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

12 responses to “Tattoo nanny

  1. Haley ⋅

    For a minute I thought this might be about me. But then I remembered I got my Corinthians tattoo when I lived in Tucson, after I worked with Levi. I think that there are many things far worse than getting a tattoo that Allie could expose the boys to. From what I know of Levi, he will not do something that he thinks will upset anyone. His heart really couldn’t take it, I think. I don’t really think you need to be so concerned. Sheltering the boys too much could make them turn into your worst nightmare. Expose them to different things and let them question the people close to you and their choices. With you and Mark as influences, I think they are going to grow into amazing, responsible men.


  2. jojom28 ⋅

    Excuse me, but how is it any of your business if someone else wants to get a tattoo? And why do you judge people who have tattoos? Do you have your ears pierced? OMG, what a scandalous act! Grow up and get off your high horse!


  3. Erin ⋅

    How can you let such a despicable person care for you children. What are tattoos, except defiling of the body. If this person has no respect for her own body, do you really think she’ll respect you kids?

    As her employer, you have every right to demand certain standard are enforced. You don’t allow raunchy rap music, do you? How about the kids watching R-rated movies?


  4. obxphx ⋅

    To quote Jimmy Buffett, tattoos are a “permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”

    It is her choice, of course…and I personally don’t think it will have much of an effect on the kids, but…

    Make sure she watches the SNL skit, Turlington’s Lower Back Tatoo Remover, just one more time, just to be sure…before she gets inked!


  5. TattooedNanny ⋅

    I have two small tattoos and I am an extremely well educated, smart, hard-working, professional and independent girl. I nannied for many years throughout college and graduate school.
    My choices for my body have absolutely nothing to do with how I care for a child, nor would I (or anyone) appreciate someone butting into my personal decisions. None of my tattoos are visible and I’ve had them for years and still don’t regret them.
    This totally crosses a line, especially for you to have those thoughts about someone who unconditionally cares for and loves your children. A little ink doesn’t change that.


    • Natalie ⋅

      Thank God someone said it. I know I’m chiming in years after the fact but my goodness, the judgement by some of these people. It’s not their body. Nannies get paid to care and love children and have a good model character for a child. We want children to express themselves through art, religion etc. but just because someone else expressed themself through a tattoo does not mean your child will choose do the same. I think it’s worse to shelter children and teach them to be judgemental, disrespectful people which is how this mother comes off in my opinion based on what I read. This tattoo isn’t even something obscene or disrespectful. It’s something well thought out that’s meaningful to someone. People need to worry about themselves. There’s so many worse things someone could do.


  6. TheOldGuard ⋅

    Im going to be the other end of the spectrum on this article, so no one take it asa hostile blowback at any of you. Im well educated, smart and have a masters degree in Anthropology. Iam an ex-Army Ranger Corporal and served in the Iraq. I also am a tattoo artist and have been for several years.
    I have a question to ask all of you, whats the first thing that comes to mind when you think of tattoos? I bet its grungy biker or some other nefarious looking character. Thats the stereotype that many many americans believe to be true. Tattoos are worn by bad people is what alot of you think judging by your posts. You could not be more wrong. Tattoos are art worn on the body, much like clothing. The whole “its permanent!” argument is ridiculous because thanks to modern technology they have a cream that painlessly destroys a tattoo in about a month and its cheap to do. Tattoos, when done by a liscensed professional artist turn into beautiful pieces of artwork. So knock of this “Holier than thou” attitude when you talk about tattoos. If you dont want one, then dont get one, if you dont like them, then you dont like them but to call someones character into question because they want to adorn their body with artwork is absurd. Once again im not lashing out at anyone, but next time you have some spare time, browse the internet and look at some of the beautiful artwork that has been produced by tattoo artists and you will see how much of american artwork draws inspiration from it.


  7. Benjamin ⋅

    Tattoos are an expression of self! How would you like it if I forced my opinions on you? Not to much I would think. Its their body, their feelings, and their life. Let em do what they want to.


  8. Kim ⋅

    I found this article disturbing on several fronts. First, who are you to say Allie will regret her tattoo? It is a personal choice, and in no way reflects on her character. Second, do you really think you can raise your child in a bubble? He will see tattoos and other forms of self expression; if he chooses one of them, then that is HIS choice. Bringing a child into the world does not give you the right to control them when they are adults.
    I am a mother of three, strong, intelligent, kind human beings, and if they choose body art, then it is their choice.
    I do have a tattoo, which I did not get until my children were adults, and it memorializes their father who passed away 17 years before I got it. Your views about body art, and the assumptions you make about people who choose it, disturb me. I am more worried about how your son will grow to be a well rounded and open minded person with this type of example than I am with him having a nanny with a small tattoo.


  9. As a fellow Nanny, allow me to approach this differently. Based on what you said “Allie” was going to mark on her body, it was going to be a verse from the Bible. Correct? You will be surprised as to what the Catholic faith alone has to say about the concerns of Tattooing.

    For starters, the context of her desired tattoo is in regards to her faith as a Christian (or whatever her Christian faith may be). It can pertain to what she felt the moment she read it and how it became relevant in her past life or in her present life.

    I did a whol day’s research on this topic as well, especially on Catholic forums. According to Catholic doctrines, it is not a sin, for as long it is not a reflection on Satanic beliefs/movements. There is a verse in the Bible in Leviticus that says you shouldn’t mark yourself… It’s unfortunate that people do not do research on the History of it. That verse was in reference to Pagan rituals that had to do with marking a person’s body once they are deceased.

    Further along the verse it talks about not eating red meat, eating cheese (it’s true), not shaving the temples of your face, etc. All of this is bound to whom it was being referred to – Israelites/Jews. Christians are not bound by the Laws of the Old Testament because our faith is in reference to Jesus dying on the Cross for us. Which is on the New Testament. If we were bound by those Laws as stated in Leviticus, we then would have to change the way we eat, not wear two fabrics of clothing, and not be allowed to get hair cuts nor even shave.

    Surely, I understand that children are able to understand what the context of tattoos are at a certain age… and that time will come. But to prejudge someone and to reject them based on the appearance and not having first hand knowledge of what it represents, what does that teach our children? It teaches them to judge as well, does it not? Your children don’t have to be influenced to get one. Who’s to say that they will?

    All that a parent can say is that, “It is another form of art, sweety. There is a time and age where a person can get one, and I would rather you not get one. But it doesn’t mean that the person who gets them is bad. We have to respect everyone.” When a parent panics and becomes irrational (“It’s bad. Because I said so!!”) doesn’t that send a poor message on our children should look at them?

    I am a Nanny as well. I have tattoos and my tattoos represent my faith as a Catholic, and a
    time where my Grandma had a stroke.
    A line of respect should be paid forward by the employer as well.

    I hope that answers some of your concerns. I’m only basing it on the context of the tattoo, and the fact that she’s already your employee. She had a responsibility as the employee to respect you, but you also have a responsibility as the employer and the Mother of her charge to continue to show whatever respect you have of her. And how to tell your son her reasons and your beliefs in a RATIONAL tone.

    You said it yourself, he does not understand yet. So be rational and brief and nonjudgemental.


  10. Annabelle T ⋅

    This is one of the silliest things I have ever read. Firstly, I will say that I am a full time nanny and have worked with many families who all loved me, and kids who would cry when I left at night to go home. I have been working as a babysitter / nanny since I was probably around 13 years old. Also, I will note, that I have a full sleeve of tattoos: flowers, a pineapple, waves, mandala shapes, etc… all are artistic expressions of different pieces of my life and they all mean a lot to me, and I love them and will always love them until I’m wrinkly and they have faded away to blobs of color! But honestly, that is beside the point. I am college educated, I am responsible and mature, I am positive and kind, warmhearted, and (I am going to toot my own horn here…. but it’s all part of proving my point, okay?) I am a really great role model for the children I work with and have been told by every family that I work / have worked with that this is true. The fact that I have tattoos does not change anything about my character and should not affect how people see me (although it does). Judging me based on my tattoos would be a mistake by anyone, because nothing about me fits the judgement and stereotype that goes along with tattoos. “Oh the times they are ‘a-changing” and it seems like EVERYONE is getting some ink these days… so why are we still judging everyone who gets one to be anything like this stereotype? I think it is ridiculous. I love my tattoos because I love art, and I love the design, and I think that it is just another personal expression.. no different from the shirt I am wearing or the nail polish on my toes.
    It sounds like your nanny was so dedicated to her religion that she got a quote on herself from the bible, and honestly, if you too are religious, or even if not (I am not a christian, but I feel this way), you should respect her the same, if not more because of that. Your son is not going to see her with a tattoo and suddenly want one. That is a ridiculous conclusion to jump to, I don’t think I even need to go into why that is. If your son DID get a tattoo (heaven forbid) would you think any less of him? Do you think that the actual tattoo would change him as a person? If you answered “yes” or “but he wouldn’t” to those questions then I suppose I have wasted my time here. If not, then how dare you judge your nanny, someone ELSES child, for doing so?


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