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Kirsten Gillibrand just dropped out of Democratic presidential race

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Political decisions impact mothers every day, but historically, mothers have been discouraged from trying to make an impact in politics. While fatherhood is practically a prerequisite for male politicians, motherhood has nearly disqualified women from running for office. In our daily lives, motherhood gives us strength and purpose, but in politics, it was a perceived disadvantage to be downplayed.

When Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her candidacy for president, she said, "I'm going to run for president of the United States because as a young mom I am going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own."

This week her run for the highest office in America ended as she failed to qualify for the third debate, The New York Times reports.

The mother of two sons, ages 16 and 11, and she's never denied that her kids will always be on her mind, and her 'Family Bill of Rights' proved that she's been thinking about the children of her fellow mothers.

Her recognition that Americans should have the right to a safe and healthy pregnancy, the right to give birth or adopt a child, the right to personally care for those children in their infancy and access health care for them, the right to a safe and affordable nursery, and the right to affordable child care and early education before kindergarten was important in this race and proved why we need more mothers in office—because America's moms need to be represented and advocated for.

We need mothers in politics

It used to be that when a mother ran for office pundits and potential constituents would ask, "Who will take care of her children?" But these days, the majority of America mothers are in the labor force. Today's America is quite different than it was when former California Senator Barbara Boxer took her first run at public office in 1972. "Even my next-door neighbor said that she couldn't vote for me because I had two young kids," she told Cosmopolitan. "And this was a part-time job as a county supervisor seven minutes from my house."

That was in 1972. In 2017 the Barbara Lee Family Foundation published a study which found voters still felt like Boxer's neighbor did all those decades ago, and have concerns about female candidates' ability "to balance the competing priorities of their families and their constituents."

The idea that women with children will be less committed and more distracted from any job sadly goes far beyond Boxer's next-door neighbor and beyond politics.

Research shows this isn't just a problem for women wanting to get elected—it's a problem for any mother trying to get ahead in the working world. Fatherhood is seen as an asset in an applicant, while motherhood is a liability.

Science proves this bias exists, but it also proves how unfounded it is. Motherhood does not make working women more distracted or less committed to their jobs. In fact, research shows working moms are actually more engaged than working dads and fathers and equally committed to their work.

Mothers can be found in all levels of local, state and federal government, except for in the job that Gillibrand sought and fellow moms Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Elizabeth Warren still have their eyes on: The one in the oval office.

Way back in 2006, when Hillary Clinton was making plans to run for president, her advisor Mark Penn warned her that America wanted a father, not a mother. He believed that voters were "open to the first father being a woman," but told Clinton "they do not want someone who would be the first mama."

Thirteen years later, Gillbrand's failure to qualify for the third debate means she won't be the first mom to become president, but with Warren, Klobuchar and Kamala Harris still in the running, she's hoping that the country will soon see a woman as its leader.

"I think that women have a unique ability to bring people together and heal this country," she told the New York Times, explaining that she will support whoever becomes the Democratic nominee.

She continued: "I think a woman nominee would be inspiring and exciting."

[A version of this post was first published March 6, 2019. It has been updated.]

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    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

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    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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