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The first (and only) vice presidential debate—what parents need to know

Here's what happened between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence.

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris debate
White House/California

It has only been seven days since the first presidential debate of the 2020 election but it feels like so much time has passed since President Donald Trump and his opponent Joe Biden took the stage.

And when the vice presidential candidates took the stage tonight for their first (and only) debate, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence were speaking to a changed nation. In the last week the United States has seen a coronavirus outbreak in the country's highest office. The world saw the president diagnosed with COVID-19, then hospitalized before returning to the White House.

So much changed in one week's time and so much more change is needed for families in America. That was as clear as the plexiglass barriers separating Pence and Harris Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

Here's what you need to know about the vice presidential debate:


Coronavirus 

Moderator Susan Page of USA Today started the debate by asking Senator Harris about COVID-19 and what the Biden administration would do in the early months of 2021 if elected. "The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country," said Harris, before rattling off a list of statistics related to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the fact that more than 211,000 people in the United States have died after contracting coronavirus.

"They knew what was happening and they didn't tell you," Harris said, suggesting that if the Trump administration had communicated the seriousness of this pandemic to the American people earlier, people may have made different choices.

"They still don't have a plan. Joe Biden does," she said, but did not get into the specifics of that plan before her two minutes ran out.

(It includes listening to science, restoring trust in public health professional, and ensuring public health decisions are made by public health experts.)

Turning to Pence, Page pointed out how the U.S. death rate from COVID-19 is 2.5 times higher than Canada's.

Vice President Pence pointed to President Trump's restrictions on international travel as proof of the Trump administration's track record on fighting the pandemic.

"If the swine flu had been as lethal as the coronavirus, in 2009, when Joe Biden was vice president, we would have lost 2 million American lives," Pence stated (a claim that was challenged by the New York Times' fact checkers.)

"From day one, Donald Trump put the health of the American people first," he said. Later, Pence thanked the American people for their well wishes for President Trump and the First Lady, and defended his own presence at a Rose Garden event where the president announced the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, an event that is now considered a "superspreader" event after numerous attendees have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

"Stop playing politics with people's lives," Pence said to Harris, before telling his opponent and the nation that there will be a vaccine for COVID-19 by 2021.

When the moderator asked Harris if she would take a vaccine for COVID-19 when it becomes available, Harris said she would if health experts recommend it. "I'll be the first in line to take it, absolutely," she explained, adding that if it is not health experts but the sitting President who recommends the vaccine she will not be getting vaccinated.

Taxes

Taxes were a contentious topic at the vice presidential debate, which came just over a week after the New York Times revealed how President Trump: "paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency."

Harris stated her concern over the sitting President's finances, saying: "It'd be really good to know who the president owes money to."

Her opponent, Vice President Mike Pence, is not concerned with the President's tax returns as much as he is with the idea that Joe Biden would raise taxes on his first day as president (a claim fact-checkers say is false).

"The American comeback is on the ballot," Pence said, suggesting that if President Trump's tax reform is repealed taxes will increase for American families.

Harris says that if Biden wins taxes will not go up for families making less than $400,000, and she criticized the tax reform Pence defended. "He passed a tax bill benefiting the top one percent and the biggest corporations of America, leading to a $2 trillion deficit that the American people are going to have to pay for," Harris said.

Black Lives Matter

In a year when the United States is reckoning with how racism impacts the nation's history and present, Senator Harris became the first Black and South Asian woman to stand on the debate stage and oppose a sitting vice president. That is historic and so was the back and forth between the candidates on racism in the U.S.

Referencing last week's presidential debate, Harris reminded viewers that "last week, the President of the United States took a debate stage in front of 70 million Americans and refused to condemn white supremacists."

Harris spoke about how the Biden administration plans to implement law enforcement reforms, including a ban on certain chokeholds. When asked if she believed justice was served in the case of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT who was killed by police, Harris said she does not believe Taylor's family saw justice.

"Bad cops are bad for good cops," said Harris, a former prosecutor. "We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system."

Pence fired back with a retort that is confusing to people familiar with the history of the United States and the contemporary experiences of Black Americans. "This presumption...that America is systemically racist...is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement," he said.

Harris later explained that the hate the United States witnessed during the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 prompted Joe Biden to run for president in an effort to end the kind of division and hate America saw that day.

Healthcare

With coronavirus looming large in the daily struggles of American families, healthcare is never far from voters minds in 2020.

Senator Harris raised the issue of the Trump administration's attempt to overturn Affordable Care Act, which insures millions of Americans.

"If you have a preexisting condition, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, they're coming for you. If you love someone with a preexisting condition, they're coming for you. If you're under the age of 26 on your parents' coverage, they're coming for you," she said.

Vice President Pence addressed the issue by stating: "President Trump and I have a plan to improve healthcare and protect pre-existing conditions for every American."

The problem is, the administration is not currently working toward protecting those with pre-existing conditions, so fact-checkers flagged Pence's statement as false.

In the America-First Healthcare Plan issued last month the President stated his plan "includes a steadfast commitment to always protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions and ensuring they have access to the high-quality healthcare they deserve."

In an executive order the President said: "My Administration has always been committed to ensuring that patients with pre-existing conditions can obtain affordable healthcare, to lowering healthcare costs, to improving quality of care, and to enabling individuals to choose the healthcare that meets their needs. "

The details of how the Trump administration intends to protect those individuals remain unclear.

Pence was unable to elaborate on how those with pre-existing conditions would be protected if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and instead switched to a new topic.

[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.]

Sunday Citizen

I live in the Northeast and when I woke up this morning, my house was freezing. It had been in the mid 40's overnight and we haven't turned the heat on yet. Suddenly, my normal duvet felt too thin. The socks on my bare feet too non-existent. Winter is coming, and I'd been drinking rosés still pretending it was summer.

I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time to do my annual tradition of winterizing my home—and I don't mean making sure my pipes and walls have enough insulation (though obviously that's important too). I mean the act of evaluating every room and wondering if it has enough hygge to it.

If you've never heard of hygge, it's a Danish word that means a quality of coziness or contentment. And what better time to make sure you have moments of hygge all throughout your house than right now? As far as I'm concerned it's the only way to get through these dark winter months (even more so during a pandemic.)

So I went room by room (yes, even my 4-year-old's room) and swapped in, layered or added in these 13 products to get us ready for winter:

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This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

Stylish storage cabinet

Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

White board calendar + bulletin board

With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

Bamboo storage drawers

The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

Laminated world map

I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

Letterboard

From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

Expandable tablet stand

Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

Neutral pocket chart

Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

Totable fabric bins

My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

Work + Money

It's 2020, but for American mothers, it's still the 1950s

Once a woman in America becomes a mother, our society transports her back in time. In an instant, generations of sexist ideas and structures descend back upon her.

We like to think that women have come so far.

We have our educations. Today, our education system not only allows girls to thrive, but it has enabled the first generation in history—Millennials—in which women are more highly educated than men.

We have choice. Access to family planning has given American women life-changing control over their fertility and the decision to start a family.

We have basic respect. Today, our marriages are built on the principle that partners are equal regardless of gender.

We have careers. It's utterly common for a woman to return to work after having a child.

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We have acknowledgment. And our culture even declares that caregiving is essential work for both mothers and fathers.

We have possibilities. And all of the potential our lives as women hold now gives girls the hope that anything is possible.

But the truth is that American motherhood has the veneer of being modern, without any of the structures to support our actual lives today.

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