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.
Aside 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:“
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.
Also, 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?
Images: Girl with tat from ibm4381
Pretty girl with a Great Smile and…
Young girl with Darwin tattoo from Colin Purrington