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More moms than ever before have arrived in Congress—and we can't wait to see what they do

They're bringing a much-needed new perspective to the American government.

More moms than ever before have arrived in Congress—and we can't wait to see what they do

This week was the first of 2019, but it was also the first in a new era for America. Women made history in 2018's midterm elections, and they made history this week as they were sworn into Congress.

The 116th class of Congress looks different than any that came before. It includes more women than ever before, and more moms than ever before.

These women are entering a congressional culture that, in the words of Katie Porter of California's 45th Congressional District—a single mother of three—wasn't built for members like them. They're walking into a workplace that, until 2011, didn't have a women's washroom near the House floor. It literally wasn't built for them.

But these women—these mothers—will change the culture they are working in, and change the culture the rest of us live in by bringing a perspective that has been lacking.

These lawmakers have personal experience with some of the most pressing issues American families face, like inadequate or non-existent parental leave, rising childcare costs and long daycare waitlists. More and more American parents are working non-standard hours, but few childcare options exist outside the standard workday.

Having more moms in Congress is good for American families, and these women are ready to make change for the next generation. They even brought the next generation with them to witness their swearing in.

Rashida Tlaib of Michigan's 13th Congressional District brought her boys with her, noting that they help her "stay focused on what matters most" (even when they are dabbing in the House).



Abigail Spanberger, the rep for Virginia's 7th Congressional District, brought her daughters for the historic day.


So did Lori Trahan of Massachusetts' 3rd Congressional District.


These moms (along with fellow congressional freshmen like Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey's 11th Congressional District and Cindy Axne of Iowa's 3rd Congressional District) are joining mothers like Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) who have been balancing congressional duties and motherhood for years.

It isn't easy, Wasserman Schultz told Politico, but it can (and should) be done. "Your family is always your No. 1 priority. And you can structure your schedule, I tell members, around your life to make it work. It just requires a lot of organization and a lot of family cooperation," she explains.

For some of the freshman moms in the House, it's also going to require some serious childcare arranging. As a single mom, Katie Porter is still figuring out what her childcare situation in California will look like now that she's in Congress, and she (like many American moms) is used to paying too much for it.

"The cost of childcare for my daughter Betsy was $16,080 last year— more than an entire year of in-state tuition at @UCIrvine. That's ridiculous," she tweeted back in July.

"We must address the high costs of childcare in this country," she said at the time. She is now in a position to help do so, because this week, on her 45th birthday, she was sworn in as California's 45th district's Representative.

Porter's kids are 12, 10, and 7, so a newly opened House day care facility won't help for her family, but it does signal that her fellow lawmakers have some understanding of what an issue affordable childcare is for families. Spearheaded by Porter's fellow Californian, Republican Kevin McCarthy, the day care is now accepting babies and toddlers of House employees, according to NPR, and will add more than 120 preschooler spots in 2020, an effort to retain staff who face lengthy wait lists for child care.

NPR reports only two members of Congress (both dads) currently have kids enrolled in the newly opened (and taxpayer funded) day care facility. But like the majority of day cares, this one also already has a long waiting list, as it's not just Congress members, but all kinds of House employees who are on it. Being a Congress person doesn't guarantee you a spot.

Jaime Lynn Herrera Beutler, mom of one and the Republican representative from Washington's 3rd congressional district, understands what being waitlisted for day care is like. "I had to keep looking like everyone else does. You get on a list, you hope it works, and if it doesn't work you've got to make something happen," she told NPR.

American parents are constantly hustling to "make something happen" for their children. They're saving their sick days and using generous colleagues' donations of paid time off to maximize their time at home after a birth or adoption, they're paying huge amounts for childcare (if they can even get it) and reducing their work hours when they can't find it.

It's time for lawmakers to "make something happen" for American families, and we have hope that the 116th class of Congress might just be the ones to do it.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But, a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4 year old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year...

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keeping an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Following children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$189

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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