When Au Pairs Get Tattoos…

by cv harquail on June 18, 2010

Do their moms cry, or only their host moms?

Less than half of our au pairs have gotten tattoos, but each time, I’ve worried that I’ve let their moms (and dads) down. Most host parents are of my generation (more or less) so I use my own feelings about permanent body decor as a proxy for the feelings of their parents, and I feel bad, bad, bad.

My older daughter points out that I’m the pot calling the kettle black, given that I once had three earring holes in one ear. But that was many years ago — in the ’80s — when it was cool and I lived on the Lower East Side, not now when people just get that done at the mall. But whatever.

A201006180821.jpgside frrom the permanence and the regret associated with tattoos and maturity, there are other reasons why host moms & dads might not approve of their au pairs getting tattoos…. one can actually get sick from a tattoo done by a disreputable tattoo artiste.

And what young person comparison shops for tattoo artists and considers cleanliness? Like s/he’s going to do that on a Saturday night after 3 beers?

Then again, if we are pseudo in loco parentis, what is our responsibility to our au pairs when body art is being considered?

We have an AP (our 4th) who is awesome. We have 5 children ages 4-11 years (no twins!) and HM works part time from home, HD in an office. AP and mom tag team to manage everyone, schlep them to various activities, and generally divide and conquer.

She’s an all ‘round super au pair who recently got a large tattoo on her arm…. “from someplace in NYC” And I’m bothered by it – but NOT because of the aesthetic, rather because of the significant (in my view) health risks of getting a tattoo (or analogously a piercing, but more the tattoo because of the use of needles, which shouldn’t, but could be, re-used), especially at a random hole in the wall in the city. I’m concerned that she has exposed herself to HIV, Hepatitis or other diseases, and by extension, by doing so could bring them into our home and put our family at risk. This may sound extreme, but I am genuinely concerned about the health of our AP and my children.

We’ve never chosen or rejected our APs by tattoos or piercings – two have had small tattoos, but they had them prior to arrival. Of course, I acknowledge that an AP could have a whole bunch of diseases before they even arrive to our family, and that if I’m weighing health risks and the odds, far more risky to us is that they arrive to our house with drug resistant TB (risk of this is actually reasonably high given that all of our APs are from CEE/EE, and that already puts our kids in a special class at the pediatrician for getting TB tests at physicals as I’ve learned over the years (living with a (recent) immigrant from Central Europe (among other places) is the red flag trigger for this.)

So, I’m wondering if I could minimize (but not eliminate) the risk by putting something in our Household Handbook for the next au pair:

201006180822.jpg

You can’t get tattoos or piercings while you are with us” to avoid the stupid, impulsive, “I’m away from home and mom and dad and I’m going to make a non-researched and potentially very risky decision to get a tattoo while in the USA at a place that may not have the highest standard of universal precautions”

We generally treat our APs as adults and have always had positive relationships, based on mutual respect and consideration. In that vein, HD is concerned that such a handbook statement is too paternalistic, and rather we should say: “if you’re going to get tattoos, piercings, etc. while you’re here, please let us/LCC help you find a place that’s safe, so that you don’t contract some nasty diseases.” On the other hand, we’re paternalistic on many other fronts – we have a weeknight curfew, we don’t permit spending the night at a boyfriends (at least on nights before the AP is working the next day, and possibly not on other nights, although we’ve not confronted this yet); we don’t permit our APs to drive our car other than locally, we don’t permit them to drink if they are not 21, we don’t permit male friends upstairs or in AP’s room or in our house w/o our permission, we don’t permit smoking etc.

201006180820.jpgAlso, I’m wary of getting involved in advising about such decisions – if I’m honest, I don’t want the responsibility, don’t want to encourage or facilitate tattoos, and really don’t think any of the places are safe if it comes right down to it.

But on the other hand (I think I’m on three hands now!) there are other risky (riskier!) behaviors I don’t explicitly address in our handbook – such as unprotected sex or IV drug use…

I’d like to know if others have confronted this issue, how they’ve handled it, and what they think about prohibiting an AP from getting tattoos/piercings while living in our home.

“Not so keen on the tats HM”

  • Host Parents, what do you think? Would you go with the Host Mom’s tactic or the Host Dad’s?
  • Au Pairs, what would work best for you?

See Also:

In Loco Parentis? Your Parental Responsibilities when your APs behavior challenges your values?

Images: Girl with tat from ibm4381
Pretty girl with a Great Smile and…
Young girl with Darwin tattoo from
Colin Purrington

{ 64 comments }

StephinBoston June 18, 2010 at 9:02 am

This is a tough one, but I think I like the idea of mentioning it in your handbook and letting them know that you’ll be happy to find a clean place for them to do. Especially since it seems to be something your au pairs like to do, I’ve only had 1 get a tattoo while visiting, she asked me if I was OK with it and warned her parents. She put it on her foot and it was a pretty flower so I was absolutely fine with it. Current au pair has two tattoos and they don’t bother me one bit, but if she wanted more I think I’d try to help her find a good place to get it done. Clearly, you need to address it since it’s bothering you, better warn in advance than be in your current situation.

Tats June 18, 2010 at 9:44 am

The virology research on tattoos is all over the place. In some cases, the odds ratios of disease are high; in others, quite low. Where the tattoos are obtained is a critical determinant. The bottom line is that in a highly professional shop, the risk of disease is close to nil. If you’re genuinely concerned about this, I would suggest that the host parents require that the au pair and host parent jointly agree on the acceptability of the shop providing the tattoo. A reputable place will give you the ‘health and safety’ tour of the shop – showing you that the tools are properly autoclaved, surfaces thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, etc.

Calif Mom June 18, 2010 at 10:18 am

This is a tough one! I also like the standing offer, put in the guidebook, to find a reputable, clean tat parlor. That positions you as a resource for other potentially difficult situations that might pop up in the course of a year, and isn’t too judgmental-sounding. It shows you care a great deal about her health, but that you aren’t going to be her actual mother, either.

To the OP — the risk of your kids getting HIV from an infected caregiver is super small. Hepatitis (depending on which kind, A-E) is slightly riskier. You might want to keep an eye on your AP for symptoms of hep (serious fatigue that doesn’t improve, and yes, yellowing eyes and skin–but that’s a later symptom). A blood test a few weeks after a tat isn’t a bad idea. And she can’t use fear of needles as an excuse! ;-)

Another risk to people getting a tattoo is an allergic reaction to the metallic dyes. These can be severe and are really miserable to experience, but they aren’t often mentioned. There’s no reliable way to predict who will have an allergy. People who have already gotten tattoos may suddenly develop an allergy to the dye; or it can trigger other allergies to suddenly appear (especially hair dye or nuts).

And yes, TB is a reasonable risk for HPs to think about, because it’s transmitted by airborne droplets (coughing). We have required TB tests from previous nannies, even before that bozo with XDR TB flew around the world so he could get married. I believe the AP agencies require TB skin tests, no? I know it was in the health report for our most recent AP.

The OP June 18, 2010 at 10:49 am

Thanks for the thoughts. Reading the responses that suppory the idea of offering to help in the handbook has made me realize that perhaps I *DON’T* want to make an offer to help (is that selfish? HD might make the offer, but I’m not sure when it comes down to it that I see him doing the actual helping or vetting…most things AP related fall to me, and I willingly take them on.) — that I simply don’t want to facilitate tatoos. I don’t want to undertake the time, energy and due diligence to vet tatoo venues. I’m not generally an unhelpful HM – I help investigate all manner of other things for and with APs- doctors, shipping options for sending things home, train schedules, class/credit options, driving license req’s/procedures etc. But I suppose I see a tatoo as very much optional, and not my obligation to assist with. I have a lot on my plate with work, 5 young children, and general life management….inspecting tatoo parlors just doesn’t make the “have to do” cut… Could I forbid something so personal?

I agree that the HIV risk is small (but not impossible if one considers an injury scenario – AP cuts herself slicing apples in the kitchen etc.), but having lived in the former Soviet Union and the Caucasus at times and in places where no electricity, running and/or clean water, were issues, and as a result Hepatitis was more easily spread (i.e. from shared drinking glasses or coffee cups in my office where there wasn’t hot and/or clean water (and certainly not a dishwasher!) to disinfect or sterilize the cups (and using bleach water/relying on others to do so was an imperfect solution fraught with human fallibility), I do worry about my AP contracting Hep, and then sharing a water bottle with one of my children (I’ve asked that this not happen generally (and before the tatoo), but I am pretty sure it still does when they are out, the child is hot/thirsty, etc.)

Not sure re TB tests on the health report of the agencies – I will have to go back and look at all of our previous AP’s applications/health reports. I don’t believe the current one had a TB test result noted. And on that point, could a HF require or request that from an AP they matched with if it wasn’t de rigeur? And, by extension, could a HF require an HIV test? I’m not saying I necessarily would or would want to, but it is an interesting question…

And, at the end of the day, I do realize that the MOST LIKELY way an AP is going to get HIV or Hep (at least some varieties/letters) is from sex….and I can’t really put in my handbook “you can’t have sex” :) nor can I really “mandate” safe sex…even if I might like to (madate the safe part I mean, not celibacy)!

NewAPMama June 18, 2010 at 11:02 am

Well, reading what you just wrote, I don’t think you get to complain if your AP contracts some disease from getting a tattoo. You made it perfectly clear that you want her to get one safely, yet are unwilling to go with her to make sure everything is sterile and safe. So, I hope if your aupair does get one, she is able to understand that she needs to ask to see the needles, etc. And I’m sorry, but I guess I do find that a bit selfish. We are all busy, but our aupairs are supposed to be an extension of our family. They do make our lives easier (normally), and a helping hand is supposed to be a two way street. If it was my daughter in question, I would certainly hope one of her HP (to whom I have entrusted her safety to) would be willing to take the time to go with her.

The OP June 18, 2010 at 11:10 am

Perhaps I wasn’t clear – we did not address this in our handbook for our CURRENT AP (the one that got the tatoo), so I can’t really complain to HER about it. I never asked her not to, I never said anything about tatoos. I only realized how bothered I am after the fact. This, of course, isn’t her fault.

Rather, I am considering my options for FUTURE APs – namely, whether to put something in my handbook —
Option A: you may NOT get tatoos during your AP year while living with us (just like our AP may not do several other things while living with us – she may not drink alcohol if she is not 21yrs, she may not invite men into our house, she may not smoke etc.)
OR
Option B: ” If you decide to get get a tatoos or piercingwhile you’re here, please discuss with us and let us help you find a place that’s safe, so that you don’t contract some nasty diseases”.

Re the family member point, I might well forbid a family member (child, including teenaged child) from getting a tatoo while living in our home – haven’t confronted or fully considered that notion yet.

Perhaps you (and others) think Option A is selfish and unreasonable, but I did want to clarify the situation and the question I’m positing.

The OP June 18, 2010 at 11:22 am

One more thing, to add to the above – not only do I feel I “can’t” complain to my current AP, I also have not done so and don’t plan to do so. I think it would be unfair to take issue with something she did, when that something falls in the grey, personal choice zone, and about which I never made any rules, didn’t address in our handbook, didn’t mention when matching. As far as the current AP goes, I feel I must let it go and do not play to say anything to her. She is leaving soon. But given my personal, not shared, reaction to her getting a tatoo, I am considering if/how to include the issue in my handbook for future APs.

NewAPMama June 18, 2010 at 11:34 am

Unless your aupair is under the age of 18, her body is her buisness. She is an adult, and you cannot require her to not get a tattoo. You can require it be covered up, or to let you know so you can find a safe place for her to go to. But I feel like you are not her parent, and cannot dictate what she can or cannot do with her body in that regard.

Anonmommy June 18, 2010 at 11:42 am

I’m not sure HP cannot forbid an AP to do something to her body. We can forbid or require that an AP not smoke, including that she cannot in her free time and when not off duty, cannot even when not on the HP property etc. This is about her body and something she does to it… And smoking isn’t illegal…..Maybe some HP also forbid non-natural hair dye colors?

The OP June 18, 2010 at 11:56 am

Thanks for your comment NewAPMama; it is helpful to consider this viewpoint.

NewAPMama June 18, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I would really hope an aupair would never want to get a tattoo, period. Not just while she lived with us! But thank you for bringing this topic up. I am going to add it to my handbook. Because we are a very religious family, the thought of ever getting a tattoo has not even crossed my or my husband’s mind. I would never match with an aupair who had visible tattoos. But as long as they were covered up, I think I would be okay with it? I don’t know.

Anonmommy June 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Sorry, I made a typo above. I meant to say that the HPs can fobid an AP to smoke even when she is off duty and not working (like during her free time, when she is going out on weekends.) I think that HPs can make this rule. Do others think that this is not true and HPs can’t have this rule because it is about what the AP does to her body?

hOstCDmom June 18, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Wasn’t there a post about flu shots? And whether HPs can “make” their AP get a shot? I guess that is the other side of the “to her body” coin — preventing her from doing something with her body (tattoos) or making her do something to her body (get a flu vaccination shot)…? thoughts? Can employers legally require this?

JBLV June 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I’m requiring my future AP to have an H1N1 shot and a seasonal flu shot because they will be in a home with an infant (I’m due in the Fall) who cannot get the H1N1 shot or the seasonal flu shot untill s/he is 6-months-old. When the AP’s health has serious implications for my childrens’ health, I have no problem making these shots a requirement for “employment” in my home. As far as tattoos go, that’s the AP’s business. My husband is Jew-ish, and I am prud-ish, so we don’t like or enjoy tattoos. But que sera sera for the AP. We can warn her about the risks, but she is a free human being who deserves to make her own mistakes/bliss.

NewAPMama June 18, 2010 at 9:57 am

This is a hard one. While I do not want to restrict what someone does to their own body, I also have standards that I want upheld for my daughters. So, having said that, I think I would state that if they wanted to get a tattoo while they were here, it must be in a place that can be covered by clothing at all times. If they want to show it off during their off time, then so be it. But I do not want my daughters seeing their aupair and friend sporting a tattoo. And I would absolutley insist on seeing the tattoo parlor to check for cleanliness, etc.

Alma Schneider June 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

It’s not your fault!!!!

Anon June 18, 2010 at 10:51 am

??

Au Pair in CO June 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

I had a tattoo prior to arrival here, but it’s between my shoulders, so unless I’m wearing a bikini and have my hair up at the same time, nobody can see it. I’ve considered getting a second tattoo while here, simply because they’re so much cheaper here than in my home country, but I’d definitely search for a good place to get it done, same as I would at home. I’ve had a drawing of what I wanna get done for a couple of years already, so it’s definitely not an impulse thing either. (And getting a tattoo while drunk is just stupid, alcohol makes your blood thinner, so you’ll be bleeding a lot more than necessary.)

Before reading this post, I’d never thought about asking for my host parents’ permission, as I think getting a tattoo is something personal, but I’d still tell them about before I did it, as in “So I’ve booked an appointment for getting a tattoo next weekend, do you wanna see a drawing of what it will look like?”.

MommyMia June 18, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I like your attitude and maturity, Au Pair in CO. Our second AP a few years ago got a second tattoo on her ankle, and I only knew because she was reluctant to take one of our kids into the swimming pool, whereas usually she loved doing so. Turns out they had told her to avoid swimming for a period of time so that the tattoo wouldn’t fade (or possibly it was to avoid infection? – I know very little about this whole thing and don’t really care to!) You’re right about it being much cheaper than in many of their home countries.

Another of our APs didn’t disclose that she had a large, colorful tattoo on her back. Not sure if that would have dissuaded me from matching with her, but I felt that honesty would have been better, especially since there was a question on the app. that asked about tattoos/piercings and nearly everyone else had no problem listing theirs, some even volunteerting that they would remove the studs if it bothered the HF and keep tattoos covered when possible. What is bothersome to me is those APs who don’t understand why host families may not be comfortable with piercings/tattoos. It’s partially a generational thing, and I know it’s more and more common, but like it or not, there will be those with negative perceptions of individuals with tattoos and multiple piercings (excluding cv’s triple-ear piercings – I myself was only brave enough for doubles, and this was the era of home, semi-sterile at best no nifty piercing “guns”)

I feel that if an AP is over 18, it’s her decision, but also that host families have the absolute right to decline someone or consider re-match if a tattoo was added without any discussion during their contract time, although I would hope that a discussion would take place, and possibly the AP could be persuaded to wait until her 13th month.

Au Pair in CO June 18, 2010 at 6:43 pm

You’re not supposed to go swimming for a month, and to avoid direct sunlight on it for a week or two, to let it heal completely and avoid having the color fade. I’m guessing that a lot of the au pairs who get tattoos while here don’t think about how it can interfere with their work, like taking the kids to the pool or the park.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 18, 2010 at 10:50 am

Just this week I had a conversation with a colleague that started with, “When did it become acceptable for everyone to sport a tat?” (I recall I had one colleague that was embarassed about his 19 years ago, and it was daring for another colleague to get one 17 years ago, but now even my 60-year-old aunt has a tat — in honor of a son who died too early.)

Personally, I don’t worry about all the diseases my kids could catch from my APs as much as I worry about the diseases my APs catch from my kids (strep throat seems to be #1). I did have an AP who realized she had mono right after she returned home last year and emailed me about it, but The Camel had already had mono (from a cousin in day care – it put her into liver failure and into the hospital for several days). If I thought about every little thing my APs have done, it would drive me crazy. But quite honestly, it’s other kids who put my kids at risk (little germballs!).

Require the AP to get a blood test (ask your pediatrician or your own physician about how long after the tat it would take for HEP or something else to show up) at her own expense (since her risky behavior has you concerned), but I personally wouldn’t take it any further. If you’re concerned that your kids think getting tats is acceptable, then make it clear to them that you personally don’t like them, that you wouldn’t do it, and you would be very unhappy if they came home sporting a tattoo, but that the AP is an adult and not your child. (DH hates piercing and ritual scarification and would have plenty to say.)

My 2 cents June 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

I think too you may be using the health risks to kids and me argument as a pretext for forbidding tattoos because you don’t like and don’t want your kids to ever have one. There’s nothing wrong with that, if it will drive you crazy, then yes, in the future outlaw them. Everyone is entitled to screen for whatever likes and dislikes they have, and this is one you have. I would not bother with the statement that you will help them find a good, clean place to get one if they must have one. Just forbid them from getting one. Yes, they are adults, but you as the employer are permitted to forbid things that are offensive to you such as, for example, coming home with smoke smell on your clothes, etc.

By the way, in my experience, whether a person has a tattoo has little bearing on their maturity or intelligence or values. I also seriously question the notion that whether you allow caregivers with tattoos have any impact on what your own children will do. I mention this so it makes you feel better as to your current au pair who is awesome. Bear in mind her awesomeness as a person completely nullifies the tattoo and what it may or may not signify.

The OP June 18, 2010 at 11:17 am

Actually, on this point, I can say I truly don’t care about the aesthetic — I don’t want tatoos on my body as a personal choice, but don’t care what others look like. Pink hair, piercings, tatoos aren’t a visual issue for me with our caregivers — and we’ve had all three. We’ve had APs who came to us with (obvious, not covered by clothes) tatoos, I knew they had them, and we matched with them. The health risk IS a concern to me — and I might be neurotic or overly worried about it, but I genuinely am. I just realized how much I’m worried about this when our current AP came home with the new tatoo, and my first thought was “OMG, what if the needles weren’t clean” – not “I can’t believe she got a tatoo and my kids are seeing that she made that choice” or “she’s setting a bad example”.

I agree wholeheartedly with you that having tatoos has nothing to do with whether someone is a “good person”, AND I agree that whether our AP has tatoos has little or no bearing on whether our children would ever get one — in fact, it may raise the issue and give me an opportunity to address what I see as the risks, permanancy considerations etc. with my children.

But I do worry about “someplace in NYC” having clean needles…

Dorsi June 18, 2010 at 11:59 am

I think we need to clarify the health risks a little bit — there is HIV and Hep C and Hep B which could theoretically be acquired from a tattoo parlor. (And I think, even hole in the wall places are incredibly unlikely ways to acquire those viruses — if an AP can find the place, so can the health department and regulators. I have never met a person who has Hep C from a tattoo in the last 2 decades (and as a physician, I know a lot of people with Hep C.)

Hep A is not blood-borne, and is the Hep that people think of catching in the developing world. It is spread by casual contact, (fecal-oral transmission — much like any stomach bug). Your kids are likely vaccinated against this. There has been a vaccine around for about 15 years.

Your kids will not contract Hep B from the AP, because they are likely vaccinated against it. (Typically, the first shot is given in the hospital, immediately after birth) The vaccine has been available for about 15 years.

Hep C requires blood-blood transmission and is quite difficult to catch, unless you are sharing needles or homemade tattoo equipment. Sexual partners of Hep C carriers often go decades without contracting the disease (not true for HIV).

HIV is spread via contaminated secretions and blood-blood. (Y’all know this drill). American tattoo parlors are not a reservoir for the disease. Slimy American boyfriends are a much greater repository.

Your AP is much more likely to arrive with these viruses than contract them here. Many countries that send APs have much higher rates of these illness. I don’t ask for HIV testing prior to matching and expect my AP to have some sense about universal precautions.

Dorsi June 18, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Just looked at the statistics: no cases of HIV documented ever coming from a tattoo parlor, and 13 cases/yr of Hep coming from tattoos. Worry about your AP going to the dentist, cause there are higher rates of transmission in that setting.

Some plagarism:

The CDC summary data about tattooing and HIV is as brief as it is dramatic. In its HIV/AIDS Surveillance Reports, CDC has consistently noted that it has documented “no cases of HIV transmission through tattooing” anywhere in the country since it began tracking such data in 1985 [1]. By comparison, there have been at least 7 cases of HIV transmission associated with dentists and dental workers.

About hepatitis: Of the 13,387 annual cases of hepatitis detailed in the most recent CDC report, 12 are associated with tattoo studios. By comparison, 43 cases — or better than 300% more — are associated with dental offices [2].

[1] The HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report is published regularly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent, published in December, 1997, is entitled “Estimated incidence of AIDS and deaths of persons with AIDS, adjusted for delays in reporting, by quarter-year of diagnosis/death, United States, January 1985 through June 1997.”

[2] Hepatitis Surveillance, Report Number 56, April, 1996, Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

MommyMia June 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Thanks, Dorsi, for some very good information. Now I’m going to worry about my next dental appointment! I had no idea that hepatitis was a risk there. Although 43 cases annually is statistically very small, and I do trust that my dentist thoroughly disinfects all instruments and equipment.

The OP June 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Thanks Dorsi – this is really good information, and very helpful!

MilitaryHM June 18, 2010 at 5:08 pm

I’m not sure how current that HIV info is. I’m personally aware of a young Marine’s HIV being traced to a North Carolina tattoo parlor. It’s not just that the needles should be single use–some of the specialty inks are expensive and were reused between customers.

West Coast Mom June 18, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Hmm … this is a tough one. Our former (disaster) AP had a *ton* of tattoos, mostly on her back. Lied about having any in the application process, of course.

This problem never occurred to me until this post … I do screen applicants for visible tattoos and piercings, but never thought about someone arriving here without them, and then acquiring them while living with us. Eek. Another one for the “crazy rules” in the handbook, I guess.

For me, in all honesty (and with flame retardant suit on) … I just don’t like tattoos. It’s not a health thing. It’s because I find them ugly and distasteful and it is my ardent hope that my boys will reach adulthood with ink free bodies. I know there are nice people who have tattoos. I just don’t want them watching my kids.

MilitaryHM June 18, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I almost matched with an AP who warned me late in the process that her “appearance had significantly changed” from her posted photos due to numerous tattoos and piercings. After talking about it with my kids, my 9 yr old daughter said “Mom, I don’t want someone who looks like a freak waiting for me in front of my friends at school.” To be honest, I hadn’t actually thought she would have an opinion and the topic had never really come up before so she wasn’t repeating something she had heard me or HD ever say. Lesson learned for us was that it’s not only the parents who have to be comfortable.

Amelie ex-aupair June 20, 2010 at 8:58 am

Wow. What did you say to your daughter when she said that? “Someone who looks like a freak”?

I’d feel very bad if one of my kids were talking like this about anyone.

franzi June 18, 2010 at 12:58 pm

upfront, i am for version B if you want to put a paragraph in your handbook. i think it is not acceptable for host parents to mandate the ap not to get a tat/piercing. however, i absolutely agree that you mandate the ap to cover up/take out the piercings when she is on duty.

maybe you should put a paragraph in your handbook that covers the “catching a disease by risky behavior” issues. most of all you want your kids to be safe. and that includes having a healthy and happy au pair. you could include a sentence about stds, where to get assistance and information (planned parenthood, maybe a counselor you know), and also include the tats/piercings from unclean parlors sentence.
that way you don’t say “i’ll find a clean place with you” but tell her to take care of herself yet guide her towards safe resources.

Should be working June 18, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Good topic for consideration for the next handbook. I didn’t think I cared about tattoos before we got an AP this past fall (and our APs didn’t have any that I ever knew of), but now that I see how much my 8-yr-old WORSHIPS the AP, I would in the future not match with an AP with tattoos or piercings beyond ears and possibly a discreet nose stud.

And in light of this discussion I *will* add in my handbook that the AP cannot get tattoos while here with us unless kids would never know about it (unlikely, given the scanty swimsuits I’ve seen). i can see my daughter starry-eyed as an AP shows off her new tattoo, and I’d like to avoid my daughter getting that kind of incentive. I don’t like tattoos either, it’s just something I find unattractive and distasteful.

My bigger hope is that in the next ten years they go out of fashion. And nothing WORSE takes their place.

Jane June 21, 2010 at 9:53 am

Our au pair, who we have JUST sent home due to underage drinking with a fake ID, got a visible tattoo on her very first weekend trip to Miami after a month of living with us. She never told us she was going to get one, we had never thought to tell her not to–this never happened with our previous au pairs. I must say while it is her body and I felt no right in telling her not to get one, a head’s up that she was doing it would have been nice. Cause my three year olds were fascinated by it, and she would draw “tattoos” on their arms during the day so they could have one like her. We tried putting a stop to that ASAP, but I’d still come home and see the ink stains on them from time to time, and they would say–AP gave me a tattoo today. I’m seeing now I should have sent this au pair home well before now.

If there is a next time, I’m adding no tattoos that are visible to my handbook. They can always get one in their 13th month.

Carol Former AP July 16, 2010 at 1:19 am

I couldn’t agree more with you, Jane. It’s your house, your family, your rules. If you don’t like tattoos, choose an AP that doesn’t have any (at least visible) and make it clear during the process of screening that you expect the AP not to get one (or other ones) while living with you. As we’ve read in the comments above, getting a tattoo can influence children, can set a bad example (according to some more conservative families) and can affect her job (if she can’t go swimming for example). And as you’ve said, there’s always the 13th month.

I had never thought of the risk of the AP getting a disease and then spreading it to your family, this is pretty scary! I strongly believe that AP candidates should be screened for HIV/AIDS, Hep and TB as part of being accepted into the program. I’m going to Canada to work as a nanny and I’m having to get all these tests done, they should be required in the U.S as well.

aria June 18, 2010 at 3:46 pm

weeknight curfew, we don’t permit spending the night at a boyfriends (at least on nights before the AP is working the next day, and possibly not on other nights, although we’ve not confronted this yet); we don’t permit our APs to drive our car other than locally, we don’t permit them to drink if they are not 21, we don’t permit male friends upstairs or in AP’s room or in our house w/o our permission, we don’t permit smoking etc.

I think there’s a big difference between expressly forbidding an AP from getting a tattoo while she’s with you and: Weeknight curfew, Spending the night on nights before she works, Keeping the car local, Underage drinking, Smoking, and No male friends upstairs. All of that stuff is your business, and it directly affects how she is in your family and how she works with your kids. Drinking under 21 is illegal for goodness sake!

Getting a tattoo is none of your business, IMHO. You can also catch Hep A in a public toilet, but I seriously doubt you’d want to put “no public restrooms” in the handbook too. There comes a time when you just have to trust that your AP will know to either 1)hover or 2) cover the seat with toilet paper. The same goes with tattoos.

Also, if you did forbid tattoos in the handbook and then had an AP get one anyway, what would you actually do? Would you be prepared to rematch over a tattoo, even if she was a great au pair like the one you have now? That’s something I would think about, because unless you were actually ready to take action like that, the no tattoo rule seems a little ridiculous and controlling.

Aria June 18, 2010 at 3:49 pm

oops, didn’t mean to copy paste that first paragraph; it was my reference so I didn’t have to keep scrolling up and down! :) disregard!

E2 June 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm

we ask au pair candidates about piercings and tatoos during the interview process and will not take an au pair with certain visible piercings or tatoos. Our first au par had a nose piercing which we didn’t mind, but it became a huge topic for the kids to the point of them drawing piercings and tatoos on barbies and halloween pumpkins! We had to talk to our au pair about filtering her conversations with them and directing them to us if they wanted to talk about piercings. ( My five year old during this time had decided she wanted a piercing on her eyebrow). So basically, we just don’t want to deal with it again.

Pia Aupair June 18, 2010 at 5:26 pm

mhh this is really interesting.
when i got into the program i was discussing the tattoo/piercing topic on an aupair blog since i wasnt sure if i wanted to tell potential host families or not.
at that time i had a tongue and a belly button piercing (no tattoo)
(it was kinda the discussion we had here a couple of days ago about the atypical hostfamily.)
most aupairs said they wouldnt especially emphasize it since it doesnt make them wors caretakers but they wouldnt lie about it if asked.
i decided to not mention it in my hostfamily letter but tell them in the second phone conversation. since i wanted them to get to now me better before just being judgmental and ruling me out right away.
none of the 11families i interview would have had a problem with my piercings.
and my hostmum has 2 tattoos and two piercings herself so since i am here she took me to her studio to get two more.
i would have never assumed that hostfamilies would have health concerns rather then aesthetic once.
but either way i think as employer you are allowed to set those rules and even though i thinks it is not fair to discriminate people just cause the choose to have a tattoo.
would you guys have problems with acrylic fingernails or hair perms too? cause your kids might ask to get that too.
Even though i understand that your aupair has a special influence on you kids you cant keep your kids from the influence they might get in school or from their tattooed little gym teacher.

Au Pair in CO June 18, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Just gotta add this: My two boys, 4 & 8, loves my tattoo, but only because they think it’s awesome that it can’t be washed off – even with soap!:P

Au Pair in CO June 18, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Oops, meant that to be a general reply, not to a specific comment:P

E2 June 19, 2010 at 12:39 am

The teachers at my kid’s schools are asked to take out their piercings (such as tongue piercings) and cover tatoos at work. I think this is standard at many schools.

pia Aupair June 19, 2010 at 10:05 am

i was more referring to other students (beginning in middle school) or other parents at your kids school

HRHM June 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm

In the US, minors (people under the age of 18) can’t get ANY piercings or tattoos without a parent’s WRITTEN consent. So you will find it very rare to see any high school students with more than pierced ears unless they do it themselves.

ap June 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Perfect timing for this post!
I always wanted to have a tattoo. Since I was very young. But my parents and everybody told me to wait a few years, because I was too young. And of course, nobody in my family ever had a tattoo. I was the only person who ever had facial piercing, and even so, I had to hide it away from my parents and they had no idea about it. ( if you can imagine something like this :).
I’ve always been dreaming about the day when I’ll have a tattoo. I kept the thought in my mind for almost 3 years and maybe, one day, I’ll go for it.
I want to have it done where I am now. Here are so many good artists that it will be so foolish to have it done in my home country. I tried to see what is my HP opinion, hoping that they could give me some support,or to avoid weird situation ( if for example, i will have a huge infectation and have to go on emergency) but they are against….normal make up, so I don’t even bother telling them that I want a REAL tattoo. And yes, I do still wear make up. Because just if they don’t like it, it doesn’t mean that I should change my preferences over night, too. ( and no, I don’t wear heavy make up).
What I don’t understand is…why they should care? it won’t be in a visible place ( actually on my ankle, but I always wear socks). Its that type of tattoo, made just for me. It has a meaning, more like a strong personal motivational believe. And of course that I’m not that stupid to have it done after 3 beers, or in a cheep dirty place.
Reading your comments, I have simply dediced to just do it, without telling everybody, if it’s such a big fuss. My parents won’t ever have to know if they don’t want to know,it’s fine for me, I don’t want to brave with my tattoo, and my hostparents are the last persons who should know/care/give me permision about it. I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but they don’t have any right to tell me what to do with my body. Having said that, what if I want to have a plastic surgery while i’m here (nothing too nasty), and request a holiday, to have time to heal? (it’s something I have in my mind). As soon as this won’t interfere with my abilities to work in the house and take care of the children, I believe that ‘my employer’ doesn’t really have much to say.
Tattoes and pierces are a personal thing. Nobody should have the right to forbid something to anybody. Let’s not forget what means ‘tolerance’, ‘preconceived ideas and discrimination. Just because somebody comes from another country ( maybe one with not such a good economy) doesn’t necesarily mean that that person is stupid or is already having some deseases. Is it more possible for your AP to contact all the colds from your children, because she’s not used with the germs in your country. So you better protect her, then being so worried that she will contaminate your family.
I have to say, I’m a catch as an au pair. I already have a degree and I’m still studying for the moment, I also have relevant work experience in my background ( because I had to work since I was young to support myself). I’m nice, polite, I don’t do parties (or unreasonable parties).( don’t want to brag- i just want to make a point). Why is a tattoo mattering so much?Would that change me as a person? No. (or maybe yes- everytime i feel down and alone in the world, i will remember that I have a dream to fight for).Does it seem like a silly thing to do? Maybe. Is this an important decision?Yes, is a thing that I’ll have it forever on my body. And so my strechmarks, and I learnt how to live with them, too :).

If I would ever see written in a handbook that it is forbidden to have a tattoo, then I won’t consider going with that family. Maybe I will want to have one, maybe not. But just the idea that I won’t be ‘allowed’ to have it done, makes me feel frustrated.

PacificNW_mom June 19, 2010 at 12:46 am

I totally agree with you that it is your body, and you can do what you want. However, as an employer, I can decide who takes care of my kids. And if I don’t want piercings or tatoos, you may be fired or not hired in the first place.
We live in an area of the US where there is LOTS of body art. My kids can do the body art thing when they move out of my house (maybe when they are an au pair?). And hopefully before then, I’ll be teaching them to respect their bodies so that whatever they do do is at least tasteful.

pia Aupair June 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

maybe you should consider getting it close to you departure date. so in case you host family has an issue you will be leaving soon anyway.

Jane June 21, 2010 at 10:03 am

AP, the right family for you will understand and accept your decision to get a tattoo. Don’t get one without telling them because you think they are the last people whose permission you need. You might be surprised when they feel differently and it causes unneccessary conflict–you won’t be able to hide your ankle all the time if you swim. You need to have a good relationship with your family–don’t start on the wrong foot. Can you just wait until your travel month if you think the family will be upset about it?

Also, don’t be so sure that plastic surgery won’t affect your job. I had plastic surgery for medical reasons and could not lift the kids for 2 solid months. Also, there are sometimes complications that happen that could lead you to be in the hospital much longer than you plan. Again, maybe this is something to do during your travel month.

Melissa June 18, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I agree with West Coast Mom – I just don’t like them. I too think they’re distasteful and trashy looking (sorry folks with tatoos … just my opinion). I also know there are wonderful people out there with tattoos and just because someone has one doesn’t mean that they are trashy. My husband has two tattoos, actually, and I love him in spite of it (lol). Now that my daughter is getting to an age where she is becoming VERY aware of appearances and wanting to emulate our current AP (who has one fairly discreet tattoo and, much to my dismay, came home with a tongue piercing last month), it is an important issue to me. My five year old is overly fascinated with her tongue piercing, which I’d rather not have to deal with. I wouldn’t not match with an otherwise great applicant because they have a tattoo, but I definitely wouldn’t match with someone who has lots of visible ones.
I never thought about adding anything to our handbook about ‘no tattoos’, but I have to admit I like the idea. I don’t think I’d ‘forbid’ it (although I think it’s an acceptable rule for a HF to have, as long as they communicate it ahead of time), but I think I will tell our next AP that our preference is that she doesn’t get any tattoos, obvious body piercings, shave her head into a mohawk, etc, while she is living with us. Appearances shouldn’t matter, of course, but they do. Her appearance influences my daughters, could give others an easy opportunity to make a false judgment about her (again, not fair, but that’s life), and gives an impression about our family. I would share the ‘why’ behind my opinion also, instead of just saying ‘no tattoos.’ My guess is that if an AP can’t respect that enough to hold out for a year (after all, no one is telling the AP that she shouldn’t get a tattoo for the rest of her life… it’s just for one year), I would bet that there would be other issues that come up as well.
And if it’s a cost issue, where tattoos are much cheaper here than in her home country, she could get it the week or two before she leaves.

franzi June 19, 2010 at 10:15 am

my tongue piercing was a hot topic with my then 5yr host child as well. we discussed it together with the parents once and that was it. he knew that if he had questions on it, he can ask his parents. i would do the same (redirect his questions to his parents) but no one ever said “this is very very bad, we will not allow you to get it”. kids that age have no idea how much it hurts and with a sentence (or multiple ones) like that it’s likely that your kids will connect piercing/tat + parents = annoyed and angry parents (now wait until they are teens and want to annoy you!!!)

we managed to get the 5yr old off the topic of “how cool” this is when i told him that i can’t eat spaghetti anymore because they wrap around the piercing and that i can’t chew gum anymore. both is not true but in a little boy’s world, pasta and gum is a lot better than being cool, lol.

pia Aupair June 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm

a lot of the kids i babysat for where asking me about my tongue ring and why i put it there. i always just say that i like it there. and they usually ask if it hurts and i say yes – topic over.

Host Mommy Dearest June 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I like Melissa’s approach to the topic. I do think it is within a HF’s right to have a rule against it, and many APs likely have no intention of getting a tat and wouldn’t care, but the result of the rule might be that an AP (like ap above) decides to go forward without consulting you.

I have nothing in my handbook about it now, but if I were concerned about it would consider adding to my hb that we prefer she not get tattoos or piercings during her stay with us, but should she consider doing so please consult with us beforehand to discuss potential childcare related and health related impacts to our family. I sort of agree with the OP that I would not want to find the best tattoo place for her, but if she talked to me about it ahead of time I would certainly ask if she is certain the place does not reuse needles or do anything else sketchy.

Ap June 19, 2010 at 4:03 pm

It’s not like I don’t respect my host family if I suddenly decide to have a tattoo. Maybe if they said from the beginning, I wouldn’t even want to go to their place ( like you have the right not to choose somebody with too many visible tattooes). Otherwise, yes, it’s lack of respect and responsability and you break the rule, if they have such a code against tattooes and body piercing.
But, what if I have a sudden dream and I want to have it done as I wake up? I honestly don’t see why I should go and ask my HP about it. Maybe I’ll inform them, but not by any chance ask for their permision. They won’t have the right to say ‘no, you can’t have it’ because this wasn’t mentioned in our contract. And what’s a ‘handbook’? Is it signed by the agency? or by a lawyer? Or are just some rules, invented by you, to have control and power about somebody else? If Au pair means ‘egual to’ and if the AP is ‘part of the family’, why is the only person who needs to have rules? I am sure you and your husband don’t have ‘a handbook’. I somehow understand why is necesarily to have one when you deal with young and restless girls/boys. But, on the other side, why bother to take teenagers au pairs who can’t even take care of themselves, not to mention your children? And…are you asking for your AP’s permision when you decide to do something with your image? (since we are all ‘eguals’.)
I understand the OP’s concerns. But just a safe chat with your APs would be enough.

Deb Schwarz June 19, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Truth be told, I’m fairly conservative (brought up in the Amish country) and 9 years ago, I was horrified that young girls were getting tattoos. (in my day, only bikers got them). Then we started having au pairs, and I became an LCC – and now (gasp) I almost think that it you don’t have a tat, you must be a nerd. (well, almost). It is sooooooo very commonplace now. As NewAP Momma points out – it’s their body. I also believe (and encourage) host families that I oversee to treat au pairs as adults and not as children. For instance, I don’t believe or encourage in curfews (unless the au pair is consistently rolling in at 4am in the morning). As a result, I strongly encourage families in my group to look for au pairs who have lived away from home (or are mature) so that they don’t have that first “away from home, let’s party all night” thing that most of us have been through. But tats, well – they are pretty much the norm now, so I would never discourage my au pair (or anyone else’s) to get one.

Deb Schwarz June 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Truth be told, I’m fairly conservative (brought up in the Amish country) and 9 years ago, I was horrified that young girls were getting tattoos. (in my day, only bikers got them). Then we started having au pairs, and I became an LCC – and now (gasp) I almost think that if anyone under the age of 30 doesn’t have a tat, they must be a nerd. (well, almost). It is sooooooo very commonplace now. As NewAP Momma points out – it’s their body. I also believe (and encourage) host families that I oversee to treat au pairs as adults and not as children. For instance, I don’t believe or encourage in curfews (unless the au pair is consistently rolling in at 4am in the morning). As a result, I strongly encourage families in my group to look for au pairs who have lived away from home (or are mature) so that they don’t have that first “away from home, let’s party all night” thing that most of us have been through. But tats, well – they are pretty much the norm now, so I would never discourage my au pair (or anyone else’s) to get one.

tracy cota June 19, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Our last au pair got her nose pierced the day after Christmas. It was her birthday. Thankfully, her dad was in town visiting. I am both an LCC and a host mom for Cultural Care, and when she walked in the house, sheepishly, and I noticed, I kind of teased her and said, “Hey, that wasn’t on your application.” She had apparently been nervous about what we would think, and offered to take it off off duty. We were actually perfectly fine with it, but I was glad her dad was in town visiting at the time. He was not OK with it… but that was between them, as he had been at the mall with her when she got it for her 26th birthday! Our current au pair has two indiscreet tattoos, and a nose piercing as well. I don’t know if my kids have really ever noticed.

Sota Gal June 20, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I can honestly say that I had never really thought about this before… We have had au pairs that have arrived with tats and piercings; some we knew about because that AP’s had told us, others not. I am always impressed with the girls that are up front about it in the interview, it seems like a good way for them to eliminate an overly conservative family for them. We have had an AP get another tat while she was with us and I helped her find a clean place with great artists. I also made sure she told her mom first – I didn’t want that one hanging over my head even though she already had one.

One of our AP’s that we found in rematch had just had one done the weekend before she came to us and I wasn’t real happy to find out about it only because it was SO BIG. She loved it and it was very symbolic for her – she’s an artist and she designed it – but in the end I ended up asking her to cover it during work unless we were at the pool. It started in the middle of her lower back, wrapped around her hip and ran down her inner thigh. It was beautiful yet it bothered me because our kids were all fascinated with it and I didn’t like them constantly touching her leg where the tattoo was. In the end we both agreed that it would be best if she wore some longer shorts for work and I took her shopping my treat since it was my “crazy rule”. Personally, I wish she had had a better relationship with her previous host mom because I don’t think she put it in the best place on her body – I don’t think that she gave her child bearing years any thought and I’m not so sure that her tat will look the same post babies.

NVMom June 20, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I have read everyone’s thoughts here with interest. I agree with some and totally disagree with others. I am sorry but I don’t feel like it’s my (or anyone other’s) right to tell their AP that they can or can’t get a tattoo/piercings. However, as the HM I can tell them what they can and can’t show my kids. So if I had a problem with the tat/piercing I can have them 1) cover it up or 2) take it out. As for getting “something” when you get a tattoo, I am sorry but you can get more from unprotected sex. What are you going to tell them they can’t have sex, again, none of my/anyone’s business (unless it’s in my house and then uh NO!!). I am a mom, who has tattoo’s and piercing . . (ankle and nose) so I don’t have a problem with them but it would depend on the girl and the situation . . . would I put it in my handbook, no because you may miss out on the world’s best au pair because of it . . . just a thought . .

KiwiHM June 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I’m a huge fan of this blog, and have had many useful tips, thank you to everyone that contributes. I have been a HM now for 3 years and our 4th au pair is leaving in a couple of weeks. I have never felt the need to comment before today, but I am kind of upset about this issue. Thanks NVMom, for your comments, I agree thoroughly – Why? I have tattoos and a couple of piercings. GASP I hear you all say. I am almost 40 years old, a professional full time working mum with an accountancy degree. Yes, I cover them in work time, but in my own time I don’t. I have three children aged 5,6 and 12. I have been married to my DH for 15 years, and I’m not trashy, or tarty. I consider myself to be intelligent, and have high moral standards for my family. I have tattoos as a form of self expression (I mean who wants to look the same as everyone else?) Our first au pair had a lip piercing, (From Germany) and she was a very good au pair. Please don’t assume that because an au pair has tattoos and piercings that they have a defunct personality or are reckless or irresponsible. It means that they are creative, and just want to be a little different to the rest of the human race, a person not a number. I appreciate everyone has their own opinion, but discriminating people with tattoos and piercings is like saying “I don’t like fat people because must be lazy and without self discipline”. Everyone is an individual and should be respected as thus. Sorry if this upsets some of you, but I thought a balanced view would be good and I’m just throwing my hat into the ring here. So no, it’s not going into my handbook, sorry

Calif Mom June 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Thanks for this thoughtful post.

Early in my career I worked with people who ran a clinic that specialized in removing tattoos from people in their late 20’s and 30’s who decided that they no longer fit their identity (many were former gang members, some were the first in their families to go to college and wanted to fit in at work better and felt the tattoos hindered their career advancement). Removing a tattoo is a painful, lengthy, expensive experience and it leaves big scars.

[of course you can catch bad things from unprotected sex! But that doesn’t mean that you can’t catch bad things from a tattoo. You can. You can also have allergic reactions as I stated before. It can trigger other allergic reactions. None of the dyes are regulated by FDA. It’s kind of the wild west as far as I’m concerned. As someone who can no longer color my premature gray, believe me, you may care a great deal one day if you suddenly develop a hair color allergy, and not just because of having to carry around an epi-pen! :-))

So these experiences certainly color my opinion. I also have a 40-ish year old friend who just got one, and absolutely loves it. I would NOT rule out an AP because she has a few tattoos or piercings (though if I saw a lot of facial piercings or stretched out ear lobes from those donut things I probably would pass — it just grosses me out. Sorry. There are degrees of tats and piercings, right?)

I do think I would want to be mom-like and make sure an AP has adequate, accurate information about the decision she is making. That’s a good thing. I’m not adding it to my handbook, but if it comes up, I want to be a resource for our au pairs about all kinds of things like this.

again, thanks for this perspective. Very useful!

Soontobeaupair March 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm

A few years ago I got a tattoo on my wrists, it says “live the life you love” and “love the life you live” I am moving to Paris in five months and I feel that I need to tell my HM about it before I go, because I feel that honesty is the best policy and I don’t want there to be any surprises. I am very nervous to do so because I dont want her to think that I am irresponsible, or reckless, because I am far from both. I was thinking of telling her and saying that if she prefers i can make sure to cover them up when I am around her children. Am I doing the right thing? She seems very nice so I hope it won’t be a problem.

aupairtobe June 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I want to get a tattoo on my right back shoulder I was just wondering to a lot of host families look for people without tattoos? Would it be best to wait till after I have au paired to get one?

Anonamomma June 10, 2011 at 9:24 am

Honestly I would wait – some host families (not mine) are dead set against tattoos and the perception that goes along with them.

And if you feel that you can leave it until after your au pair year – then honestly – why bother at all.

Tattooing if done right is body art and the mixed perceptions that people carry are out there because some people get a tattoo “just because” and then regret it years later and pay a fortune to get them removed.

Unless you have a real love of tattoos you should not get one at all.

But honestly for au pairing it is easier if you don’t have one.

Calif Mom June 10, 2011 at 11:40 am

Agree with anonnamomma. I’m about as liberal as they come, but tattoos are (still) a problem for me. Not because I think tats are trashy, but because it’s difficult for me because I don’t want my girls getting them. I agree that they are art, but they are art that comes with potential health risk, and a potential career-limiting risk, too, if they are visible in street clothes. And that’s where I have a problem with them.

The career risk is obvious — there are very conservative employers out there. You don’t know what kind of jobs you will hold in your life, so why limit yourself now with a tat in an obvious place?

The health issues are most troubling for me: there is increasing evidence that the metals in the dyes–especially the new, vibrant colors–can migrate from the tattoo to other body parts (your organs) and cause health issues later in life. Tattoos can affect whether you can get an MRI scan, again, because of the metals in the dyes. I just don’t trust manufacturers and retailers of the tattoo products and tattoo parlors to keep you safe and healthy from infectious diseases. Hepatitis and HIV are no joke. Beyond that, my family has a lot of allergies, so my girls are also likely to have a lot of allergies, and it’s a risk that just isn’t worth it to me.

So for me it’s not a moralistic thing — I really enjoy the artistry of others’ tattoos — but a big tat, or several of them in obvious places, is going to make it harder for me to pick you compared to another au pair who doesn’t have tats. A small tat someplace that the kids aren’t going to see very often is fine, but you should also know that I’m going to have to talk to my kids about it and make sure they know why I don’t agree that getting a tat is a good idea.

You should also know that my kids are horrified at tats–they saw in a magazine a photo of someone getting one and the needles freaked them out. They also do understand the health risks, and are young enough that they think it’s stupid. “Cool” isn’t yet a super-huge factor in life for them (though it will be soon enough….)

I totally agree that not having any would give you an advantage in matching, but it really does depend on the particular tat you’re thinking of getting, and where you want to put it.

It seems like being an AP inherently puts some of your things that you want to do in life on hold while opening up opportunity for others; maybe think of the tattoo as something you will do when you get back home. And you might really change your mind in the meanwhile; if you don’t, you haven’t ‘lost’ anything.

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