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With the midterm election fast approaching (did you register to vote yet?) you may have seen candidates knocking on doors in your neighborhood. But have you ever seen your candidates door knocking with one hand while holding onto a toddler with the other?

In a new piece for Fast Company, Caitlin Clarkson Pereira—a candidate for a House seat in Connecticut's state legislature—reveals that she's been doing just that. One hand shakes those of the neighbors she hopes to one day call constituents, while the other holds onto her 3-year-old daughter, Parker.

"I can't always afford a babysitter," Clarkson Pereira writes.

Campaign funds for campaign childcare? 

That's why, earlier this year, she petitioned Connecticut's State Election and Enforcement Commission to allow her to use campaign funds for childcare expenses.

Mamas know it's hard enough to execute a successful Target run with kids in tow, so bringing them along while you run for political office must be very hard, and just can't be done a lot of the time. Politically-minded parents are forced to limit their campaigning to the times they do have childcare (there's only so much door knocking even the most patient 3-year-old is willing to do).

According to Clarkson Pereira, this puts mothers at a significant disadvantage when seeking public office. And that's too bad, because we really could use more moms in all levels of government.

"Working moms with young children like me promise to bring an important—and largely overlooked—perspective to the political arena," Clarkson Pereira explains, noting that policies around childcare, education and family leave could benefit from the election of working moms, who've had a inside look at the issues.

"But we can't elect more moms to local, state, and national office unless our laws—campaign and otherwise—adequately support them and their families. We have to provide opportunities for non-wealthy candidates to enter and compete on a level playing field in electoral politics," she writes.

There's good news—and bad news 

Clarkson Pereira's petition to her state's Election and Enforcement Commission was denied. They're not letting her use campaign funds for childcare (although, as the Hartford Courant reports, if she wants to use the money to buy some campaign golf tees, that's totally cool). The Commission ruled that childcare falls under the same umbrella as mortgage payments—it's a household expense, not a campaign expense.

That wasn't the case in another state where women petitioned boards for approved childcare spending, though. Clarkson Pereira's political peers in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and Wisconsin were successful in their petitions.

But in Iowa, single mother Reyma McCoy McDeid didn't get approved for childcare spending, either. Shortly after filing her petition, McCoy McDeid told the Des Moines Register that the estimated four figures she'd be out of pocket for childcare if she made it through the primary was a significant expense for her (it would be for many parents). She didn't make it through the primary, but she hopes that the mothers who come after her will be able to spend campaign funds on campaign childcare.

"This is about candidates in Iowa moving forward," McCoy McDeid said. "It could be a facilitator to normal everyday people like myself running for office because it could be one less barrier to run."

At the federal level at least, mothers are seeing that barrier fall. Liuba Grechen Shirley has got two toddlers and her sights set on Congress and she recently became the first woman to get approval from the Federal Election Commission to use campaign funds for child care.

"Our babysitter is just as important as my campaign manager or my finance director," Grechen Shirley told Newsweek. "She's just as integral, and she's paid as staff. I couldn't run my campaign without her."

Change is knocking 

After the approval Grechen Shirley said she was proud to lead the way on this, and hopes that the decision results in a more diverse Congress.

"There's a reason more than half of Congressmembers are millionaires: running for office takes a huge toll on a family's budget, especially while raising children," she said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "This groundbreaking decision will remove a major financial obstacle for working families and mothers at a time when women are increasingly considering elected office."

As the midterms draw nearer, Grechen Shirley is likely depending more and more on her campaign babysitter, but meanwhile in Connecticut, Clarkson Pereira is making due without one, knocking on as many doors as possible with a toddler in tow.

"By the time we walk hand-in-hand up steps that are seemingly endless to a preschooler, I am able to greet about half as many voters as I can when she isn't forced to tag along. In retail politics, that's a very high cost," Clarkson Pereira writes.

Time will tell if the cost of childcare will cost her the election, and if the next mother to knock on those doors will be able to get a babysitter.

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Creating your baby registry is one of the most exciting getting-ready-for-baby tasks a mama takes part in (other than, you know, growing a life). But even though sorting through adorably teeny this and itsy bitsy that can be loads of fun, that doesn't change the fact that there are SO many products from which to choose—not to mention slight variations in version for each. And how do parents know if you even need that *very specific* item to begin with, since each baby's likes are so different? It helps to have an expert guiding you through the what's-actually-worth-it process, whether it's veteran parents in your life who will likely offer up suggestions, or stores like buybuy BABY that handpick the must-have options and make registry building super easy for you.

From strollers to car seats and swings (because you'll definitely be needing a swing at some point), here are our top picks for first-time parents of the items you'll be glad you put on your baby registry, trust us.

UPPAbaby VISTA stroller

UPPAbaby VISTA stroller

The best recommendation is the one from someone you trust and if you ask around, it won't take long for you to learn that UPPAbaby® is one of the most beloved stroller brands by new and seasoned moms alike. The VISTA is their crème de la crème, and it comes with all sorts of high quality features (think an ultra-sturdy frame and all-wheel suspension to help absorb all those bumps on the road) that will keep your babe comfortable no matter where your walk takes you. Plus, it comes in a bunch of great colors and transitions to a double as your family grows.

$959.99

Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat

ChiccoKeyFitcarseat

When it comes to keeping your little one safe, a car seat is probably the most important piece of gear you'll buy. While you'll hopefully never need to test it out, the KeyFit® seat keeps your little peanut extra secure with things like side impact protection—plus, thanks to handy bubble indicators, installing it correctly doesn't require a rocket scientist[JS9] . It's all about making your life easier while helping you breathe easier, too!

$199.99

4moms mamaRoo classic infant seat

4momsmamaRooswing

All hail the infant swing 🙌. Whether your cute new bundle is generally calm or has more of a defiant streak, chances are there'll be a time when you need some hands-free soothing. Enter the mamaRoo, a beyond useful swing that looks as cozy as it is. Strap the nugget in, choose one of five distinct motion patterns, and let yourself enjoy that moment of solitude on the couch (without leaving baby unsupervised, of course).

$219.19

HALO Bassinest premier series swivel sleeper

HALOsleeper

Being a new mom is all about snuggles and, if we're being honest, surviving those sleepless nights. And since the American Association of Pediatrics' current recommendation is to have your baby sleep in your room for at least the first 6 months of life anyway, why not have your little one spend his or her early nights snoozing in a bedside bassinet to save some time in the middle of the night? The HALO Bassinest is designed to nuzzle right up next to your bed, too, so you won't even have to get out from under the comforter during those 3am feedings.

Graco Table2Table premier fold 7-in1 convertible high chair

Gracohighchair

Spoiler alert: Your little babe is going to grow up fast. While it may seem like they'll be in that just-learning-how-to-eat phase forever, they'll outgrow the full-fledged high chair in a blink. While you can definitely buy a variety of different seating apparatuses for them, you can also buy one that'll last with your growing baby. With seven different configurations ranging from an infant reclining high chair to a toddler table and little chair, this is the only one you'll ever need.

$169.99

Fisher-Price 4-in-1 sling 'n seat bath tub

Fisher-Pricebath

Bath time is arguably one of the cutest elements of parenthood. So rather than concentrating on holding your slippery little baby safely in the sink while also, you know, washing them, do yourself a favor and invest in an infant tub with an adjustable sling. It'll help make the bonding time fun of bath time more secure so you can focus on enjoying those beautiful sudsy moments.

$39.99

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine night light + time-to-rise

HatchBabyRestsoundmachine

Technology has brought us a lot of advantages, but one of the best? The ability to comfort your little one without ever leaving bed. The Hatch Baby Rest offers sound- and light-control from your smartphone so you can use the power of noise to help them back to sleep if they fuss in the middle of the night without requiring you to drag your tired self out of bed. Plus, when the toddler years come around, it doubles as a time-to-rise clock so that ball of energy knows when it's appropriate to barrel into your room.

$59.99

Fridababy baby basics kit

fridababybasics

Fridababy has made a name for itself with its cheeky (but incredibly practical) products like the congestion-fighting NoseFrida® and the less-than-pleasant Windi. With this basics bundle, you can get four of their most popular—for nose, behind, scalp and nails—in one convenient package. It's not glamorous, mamas, but it's parenting at its finest.

$39.99

Graco 4Ever all-in-one convertible car seat

Gracocarseat

Whether or not you choose to purchase an infant car seat for the first months, you will eventually need a convertible car seat as your kiddo gets bigger, and the best options will grow with them. The Graco® 4Ever All-in-1 accommodates children up to 40 pounds facing backwards and up to 65 pounds facing forward. Plus, it can be used as a booster seat up through the age of 10. One less thing to buy until then, mama!

Skip*Hop explore + more 3-stage activity center

Skip*Hopactivitycenter

Insider parenting tip: Invest in a few great toys that serve as a great way to help your baby learn and explore and stay safe (read: unable to crawl away when you turn your head for a split second). An activity center serves both of those purposes—keeps them entertained and contained fabulously. Even better, the SKIP*HOP® Explore & More 3-Stage has an extra-long shelf life as it converts to an activity table when they outgrow the harness. Plus, there's a snack bowl attachment, and as every mama knows, snacks mean victory.

$129.99

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

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There are so many things to do this time of year and for most of us, gift wrapping is one of them. Some people love doing it and devote whole rooms in their homes to the art of wrapping and others just wrap as fast as they can and move onto the next box.

If you're in the second category you may have worried about how your presents are perceived by their receivers, but we have good news: No one cares if you are a sloppy wrapper, in fact, they kind of love it. This is according to a new study from the University of Nevada which found imperfectly wrapped gifts are more pleasing to receive than flawlessly wrapped presents.

FEATURED VIDEO

Sloppy gift wrapping makes people happy so stop making yourself feel guilty about it.

"When we receive a gift from a friend, we use the wrapping as a cue about the gift inside and form expectations," says Jessica Rixom, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Nevada, Reno. "If it's wrapped neatly, we set high expectations, and it's hard for the gift to live up to those expectations."

According to Rixom and her colleagues, giving a friend or family member a sloppily wrapped gift is a good idea and will actually make them like the present more...but if you're giving a gift to someone you don't know well the wrapping should be neater. When we get gifts from acquaintances we perceive the wrap job as an indication of how important the giver thinks of relationship is. The researchers say we should take relationship closeness into account when deciding how much time to spend wrapping a gift. The more time you spend with someone, the less time you have to spend on the present.

"It may be wise to go the extra mile with wrapping when giving a gift to an acquaintance," says Rixom.

So if you're giving a gift to the new mom you just met at the playgroup, do a good job on the wrapping this year and by next year she may be your BFF (and then you can wrap her present in a hurry and she'll love it).

News

You don't have to tell a mama just how irresistibly cute her baby is—we get it. There is just something about that feathery hair, those teeny fingers and their precious outfits that make babies completely magnetic, even to strangers. The problem is that strangers can bring along some strange germs, which is no small concern this time of year.

Now, some parents are going on the offensive against people prone to ohh-ing and aww-ing in dangerously close proximity to babies without getting a parents' permission. With some brilliant (and creative) signs, pins and onesies that spell out "Please, don't touch me,"it's easier for parents to send the message that their baby should not be touched.

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With yet another cold and flu season upon us, keeping babies healthy is top of mind for just about every mama—especially those of us with the tiniest babies. Two years ago, as we were going into one of the worst flu seasons on record, I welcomed my second child and quickly had to learn how to speak up to the people in grocery store lines who would try to shake my baby's hand or touch her cheeks.

Harsh as it may sound, if someone was offended when I (kindly) asked them not to touch my baby, that was a worthwhile tradeoff for keeping my infant healthy. I just wish I had one of these signs to do the hard work for me!

As Tracy Lapointe from the Etsy shop Little Love Canada says, her pediatrician approved and recommended these signs for use during a baby's first six months of life while their immune systems are strengthening.

"Just one well meant cheek pinch or hand rub can transmit harmful germs to an infant," Lapointe says. "This tag will politely let others know that you would rather not have germs spread to your child via physical contact."

Like Lapointe, Johanna Ackerman, owner of Tags 4 Tots is passionate about this because she's been through it.


"I started this business when my nephew was born with a heart condition that required him to stay healthy," she tells Motherly. "Then, years later, I ironically has premature babies with compromised immunity and I felt the anxiety of keeping our little ones safe."

Lapointe, Ackerman and other entrepreneur in this niche are helping mamas reduce their anxiety by reducing the need for confrontation through creativity. There are several mamas and NICU nurses who are putting a lot design ebergy into into getting this important point across.

Tags, pins and onesies can be cute ways to assert your wishes when bringing your baby in public. Some moms gave even taken the messaging a step further with DIY custom baby shoes.

Considering most people mean well, these cute and creative signs are an easy way to give everyone a refresher on best practices around babies.

[This piece was originally published October 18, 2018. It has been updated.]

News

If you find yourself standing in the toy aisle or staring at your digital shopping cart wondering if you should buy an expense toy for your child this Christmas you might want to consider investing that money in a family getaway instead.

Experts say that the return on investment is so much higher when we spend our money on experiences instead of toys. And you don't have to blow thousands of dollars at a theme park or a tropical resort in order for your kids to benefit from this—you could even just take that toy money and book a spot in a campground a couple of states over.

Science suggests we should consider getaways with the family—and their benefits—as priceless gifts that are way more valuable than any toy.

Here are 5 reasons to consider spending your toy budget on a trip, instead.

1. Holidays with our kids strengthen our bonds.

The gift of an experience, like a family vacation, is proven to be a more prosocial, connecting present than any material possession, according to a study out of the University of Toronto.

"An experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it—like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa—and is more intensely emotional than a material possession," says lead researcher Cindy Chan. "If you want to give [someone] something that will make them feel closer to you, give an experience."

2. The happiness from a trip lasts so much longer than the joy of a toy.

Experiencing a vacation together doesn't just bring us closer to our kids, it also makes the whole family happier long after the trip is over.

One British survey found almost half of respondents stated their most favorite childhood memory is one of a family vacation, and more than half (55%) of respondents said "that these holidays have given them happy memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives."

That survey was funded by the Family Holiday Association, an organization dedicated to helping lower-income families fund low-cost getaways. According to John McDonald, Chief Executive of the Family Holiday Association, a family vacation can act as a "happiness anchor." When families are faced with challenging times, reflecting on memories of happy times can be very powerful. "By using these memories as an anchor to take us back to more cheerful moments, we're often able to approach problems with a fresh sense of perspective," he says.

3. Trips with the family boost kids' brain development.

Getting out of the house and heading to a different location isn't just fun for kids, it actually might make them smarter. Family vacays can also be a brain booster for kids by providing an enriched environment.

"An 'enriched' environment offers new experiences that are strong in combined social, physical, cognitive and sensory interaction," Dr. Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist and Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health, wrote for the Telegraph.

Vacations provide kids with all kind of enriching experiences (like making sandcastles with mom and dad) that aid in cognitive development and helps with frontal lobe growth. "If you are choosing between buying your child a tablet or taking them on a family holiday, consider the profound effects on bonding and brain development; there is no competition," Sunderland writes.

4. Vacations reduce stress for the whole family.

Plus, playing on the beach or running off with the family on a hiking adventure activate systems in a child's brain (and our own) that trigger neurochemicals including oxytocin and dopamine. "They reduce stress and activate warm, generous feelings towards each other and a lovely sense that all is well in the world. With all the anti-stress aspects of these systems firing, family members get to emotionally refuel," Sunderland writes.

You don't have to fly to the tropics to enjoy the benefits of a family vacation. Whether you're planning a quick trip to the lake or flying the fam to a resort, the results are the same: A happier, more connected family. And that's pretty priceless.

5. Unlike toys, Vacations don't clutter up the house.

The toy you're considering spending big bucks on this year may be the object that doesn't spark joy for anyone in the house next year. While expensive playthings can often turn into expensive clutter as kids grow, time spent away from the daily stressors (like physical and digital clutter) invites creative play opportunities for parents and kids.

Christmas morning can still be magical with smaller, less expensive gifts and toys...but when we save some money on toys we can save to make other mornings magical and special, too.

[This post was originally published Mach 7, 2018.]

News

There are less just two weeks left until the end of the month—and the decade. We're in shock here at Motherly and we're sure you are too. It feels like it just snuck up on us this year!

Well we're with you on the endless to-do list that usually pops up at this time of year (or, let's be honest—any time of year when you're a parent). It's a lot, but trust us when we say you've got this, mama.

If you've been missing the news this week while you run around trying to get everything done don't worry...we're keeping an eye on all the headlines you need to see.

Take a moment for yourself today and check out the headlines that are making us smile this week:

This mama edited her deployed husband into her Christmas card 

Danielle Cobo is a mama to twin boys and a proud military spouse. Her husband is currently serving overseas on a year-long deployment. He wasn't home for this year's Christmas card photo shoot, so Cobo's photographer, Shannon Sturgeon, did some photoshop magic to get the whole family in frame and the resulting picture is going viral.

"I am extremely proud of him and grateful for what he's doing because I think there's a purpose greater than our own," Cobo told Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA. "This year's deployment has been the toughest. By the time he returns, my husband will have missed half of our twins' lives. With that said, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm so proud of him."

When the card went viral, Cobo started getting messages from all over the United States from people who could relate to how she is feeling this holiday season. "I love the holidays," Cobo told WTVT. "I love Christmas cards. I save Christmas cards. It's just a way of showing people that though we are apart, we are a family."

Baby girl goes viral for adorable 'mean-mugging' photos 

Newborn photos are supposed to be adorable but this baby is looking adorably angry in hers. Baby Luna is taking over the internet thanks to the hilarious expression captured during her professional photoshoot.

"She's been mean-mugging since day one," Luna's dad Christian Musa told Good Morning America. "She's either mean-mugging non-stop, or just unimpressed."

Photographer Justine Tuhy says that while Luna (who was born November 15) was totally content during their photo session, "She just gave me the stare down the entire time as well."

This mom went viral for loving Christmas (and Wawa) too much

Mary Katherine Backstrom is the mom and writer behind MomBabble's website and social media accounts, and this week she went viral for the most hilarious reason.

Going live from her car in the parking lot of a Wawa gas station, Backstrom cry-laughed into her phone's camera as she explained how embarrassingly carried away with the holiday spirit she'd become. She was in the Wawa and saw the woman in line next to her only had a ginger ale, so she offered to pay for it to pay the Christmas spirit forward. Then, she came out of the gas station and saw a man washing her car's windshield.

"'This is my favorite part of humanity! I love Christmas so much, thank you for doing this,'" Backstrom recalls saying to the guy. "And I gave him a hug."

The problem? It wasn't her car. It was that dude's car. She just hugged and thanked him for cleaning his own car. 😂

She was so embarrassed that she just walked to her own car and pretended like nothing happened, then recorded her video and now the whole world knows about it.

Keep spreading the holiday magic Mary Katherine! You're hilarious.

Viral PSA reminds us to be kind to retail workers this time of year 

Whitney Fleming is the mom and writer behind "Playdates on Friday" and this week she's going viral for reminding the world to be nice to retail workers this time of year.

In a post that has been shared over 10,000 times, Fleming recalls a recent trip to Target. While chatting with her cashier she learned he'd had a pretty rough shift, as some moms who were stressed out during their Christmas shopping had taken it out on him.

"As the young man handed me my receipt, I handed over the gift card. 'Have a frappuccino on me. It's for dealing with all of us crazy, stressed-out moms.'

'Oh, no, ma'am. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything,' he stammered. You could see he was nervous about getting in trouble.

'No, I'm sorry, I told him. 'Have a great holiday.'"

Thanks for the reminder, Whitney.

Viral deal alert: Get a dozen Krispy Kremes for $1 today! 

Krispy Kreme is giving customers an early Christmas present this week.

If you're reading this on Thursday, December 12 you should swing by Krispy Kreme ASAP and get a dozen original glazed doughnuts for the low price of $1 when you buy a dozen specialty doughnuts.

They're practically giving the glazed doughnuts away at that price and the internet is going wild about this because the deal even applies when you buy the Instagram-worthy holiday-themed donuts!

So you can show up to work, school or the Christmas party with a dozen festive treats and still have 12 delicious original glazed doughnuts that you can keep for yourself!

This is happening in participating stores in the USA and ALL the stores in Canada.

News
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