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Mom's in the House, With Kids at Home

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), left, shows off infant son Cole to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), left, shows off infant son Cole to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). (By Carol Guzy -- The Washington Post)

Maloney (D-N.Y.) owns the house and rents space to Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) and Wasserman Schultz. The three are at different stages of child-rearing: Maloney's children have graduated from college and law school; Bean's girls are 14 and 16; and Wasserman Schultz is raising the 3-year-old and 8-year-old twins.

Over late-night bowls of microwave popcorn, the women are as likely to talk about their children as caucus politics. They communicate daily with their kids by phone and e-mail. Wasserman Schultz's twins fax their homework for her inspection.

Several of the mothers try to include their children in their work.

Wasserman Schultz brings each of her three children to Washington separately to spend a week with her when Congress is in session.

Last month, it was Rebecca's turn. The little girl with a blond ponytail glided down the polished terrazzo hallway of the Rayburn House Office Building in her Heelys sneakers. A pink blur, she slalomed around clusters of adults in dark business suits and turned into the Appropriations Committee room where her mother was presenting a budget. Afterward, mother and daughter walked hand in hand to the Capitol in time for Wasserman Schultz to cast some votes, debating along the way whether dinner would be Chinese food or sushi.

The balancing between the professional and personal is constant, and sometimes the juxtaposition is jarring.

As she was walking into the Senate chamber to vote on renewable energy bills last month, Sen. Amy Klobuchar's cellphone rang. Her 12-year-old daughter, Abigail, was in fashion crisis. She needed a bathing suit for the sixth-grade pool party, and the school had banned bikinis. Could she buy a tankini? The freshman Democrat from Minnesota listened attentively, told her daughter to hold on and hid the phone, which is not allowed on the Senate floor.

"I walked in, kind of put the cellphone down and signaled my vote to the clerk," Klobuchar said. "Abigail was saying 'I think I can get a tankini' and the next thing I saw was Lindsey Graham. I thought, 'What's wrong with this picture?' "

No. 1 Constituent at Home

Pryce, the eight-term Republican from Ohio, couldn't imagine life without motherhood. She and her ex-husband, Randy Walker, tried for years to get pregnant and then turned to adoption, finally becoming parents in 1990 to a baby girl named Caroline. Two years later, Pryce was elected to Congress. Her life seemed complete, until Caroline developed a rare childhood cancer and died at age 9.

Heartbroken, Pryce wanted to adopt another child; Walker didn't. After 21 years of marriage, they divorced.

Pryce adopted again and became a single mother at age 50. "I'd been trying all my life for the basics of having a family, something a lot of people take for granted," she said. "It was incomprehensible to me that I wouldn't have one."

Her daughter, Mia, now 5, lives in Ohio near Pryce's parents and four siblings. She attends preschool and a babysitter cares for her during the week, until Pryce flies home on weekends. Mia comes to Washington "when I can collect enough frequent flier miles," said Pryce.

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