- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2002

Cindi Welch wants to stay at home with her children. But the 47-year-old mom from Oak Hill, Va., may have to go back to work.
Ms. Welch was one of about 1,000 women who turned out yesterday at the McLean Hilton to hear how other women manage to juggle a job and still give their children and aging parents the attention they need.
"What mothers do needs to be recognized by society," Ms. Welch said. "In Europe [caregivers] are given a stipend by the government."
"American families are struggling today because, while we exalt family values in rhetoric, in practice we devalue the labor of both paid and unpaid caregivers. Our policies need to support our values," said Judith Mueller, the president and chief executive officer of the Women's Center in Vienna.
The Women's Center sponsored its 17th Annual Leadership Conference, a daylong symposium that featured a range of speakers from Rep. Tom Davis, Virginia Republican, to Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, who had broken one of her cardinal rules over the weekend the duchess, 43, crossed the Atlantic and left her two daughters at home, back in the castle in Sunninghill Park.
Time with her children means a lot to her, as a single mother who was divorced from Prince Andrew in 1996.
Despite living in a castle and marrying a prince, Miss Ferguson said she hasn't exactly lived a fairy-tale life.
"Mother Teresa said the greatest disease people suffer from is a lack of love," she told the standing-room-only audience at the hotel ballroom.
The duchess recounted her problems dating back to age 12 with overeating and her highly publicized divorce, and the media circus surrounding it. She founded two charities, "Children in Crisis" in the United Kingdom and "Chances for Children," which was in the World Trade Center in New York that was destroyed on September 11. The two charities were established in the mid-'90s. Yesterday, the duchess was awarded the 2002 Leadership Award by the Women's Center for her philanthropy.
The logo of "Chances for Children" is a doll named Little Red. Miss Ferguson said the rag doll was intact after the World Trade Center collapsed: "A fireman found her and put her under his hat. The doll had survived. It was a sign to me that I must continue with my work, especially for American children, so that they too have a right to dream."
Women from all walks of life stay-at-home moms to executives gathered for a day of one-on-one conversation and panel discussions that focused on taking care of others. The theme was "Caregiving in a Time of Change."
"Women are doing so many things while caring for their children. … We're caring, we're big-hearted, we're not just thinking about ourselves," said Ms. Welch. "That's truly why we are here today.
"My primary job is raising my daughters. I'm trying hard to do that. And I don't want to abandon that."
Ronni Hargrove, 39, of Vienna has a supportive husband and someone to care for her 3-month-old baby while she's at work. But she still faces a dilemma, she said.
"There's a unique problem returning to work when you have a child. The American Pediatric Society recommends that mothers breast feed for one year. But, women have to go back to work. Doctors say that from a health view it is better for the child [to breast feed]," Ms. Hargrove said.
Ms. Mueller said women pay a steep price for taking care of others. "If we leave the work force, we lose Social Security, pensions and job competency. Women pay the economic price for doing the right thing," she said.


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