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tattoomoms2By Kristy MacKaben

Whether it was a holiday party, field trip or reading a book in the classroom, it didn't matter. Crystal Hite-Ellis just wanted to volunteer at her daughter's elementary school, but no one seemed to want her help.

"Not a single mom would call me back to volunteer," Hite-Ellis says.

Hite-Ellis is covered with tattoos. The 32-year-old Laurel mom has them on her toes, hips, thighs, calves, arms and shoulders, which often attracts stares or causes people, like the school moms, to wonder whether she is a "drug dealer or a gangster."

Despite the snubbing of school moms, Hite-Ellis doesn't regret her tattoos. She's one of a growing demographic—women with tattoos. About a third of the population in the United States has tattoos, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, and a recent poll conducted by the network behind the show "Best Ink" revealed that 59 percent of them are women.

People get tattoos for different reasons, from self-expression and rebellion to artistic freedom, says Michael Mantell, a clinical psychologist based in San Diego who has researched and written essays about the psychology behind tattoos. Some people use tattoos to mark milestones or to remember a significant time in their life. And for many women—that milestone is becoming a mom.

"They get tattoos when they become mothers because they are proud of the mother/child relationship," Mantell says.

Annapolis mom Karla Reeder has several tattoos, but her favorites are the names of her children inked on her wrists—"Kailee" on one and "Michael" on the other.

"I get great reactions to my wrists," Reeder explains.

Kate King, a mom from Shady Side, has a likeness of Simba from "Lion King" tattooed on her lower back to symbolize her son, Caleb. The 32-year-old stay-at-home mom plans to tattoo a mane on the lion cub when Caleb, now 5, turns 18.

"I wanted something different to symbolize my son," King explains.

Every one of King's seven tattoos on her lower back symbolizes a family member or a special moment in her life—a frog for her brother, a ruby slippers for her grandmother named Dorothy and a blue moon, which, to King, means "Take advantage of moments that don't come very often."