The Iowa caucus is not set up to include mothers—and that’s a problem

When Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz asked "How do you caucus with a baby?" she sparked a national conversation

The Iowa caucus is not set up to include mothers—and that’s a problem

Citizens in Iowa will make history tonight by bunching together in gyms and auditoriums, but some worry that there is a vital group underrepresented in the process: mothers.

Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz, author of the upcoming book, Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women, sparked a national conversation last week when she used her column to ask, "How do you caucus with a baby?"

Caucusing involves voting with your body. You have to be there in person, in a loud, busy room at 7:00 o'clock at night—bedtime for many little kids and therefore a busy time for many mothers. As Lenz wrote in her viral piece, the way caucusing is set up means that, "In 2020, 100 years after the 19th Amendment was passed, Iowa's mothers are still effectively disenfranchised from caucusing."

Lenz is a mother of two, a 6-year-old and 8-year-old, and lives in Cedar Rapids. We spoke with Lenz about her viral piece and the barriers to political participation mothers face.

"Women are still, even in 2020, the default caregivers," Lenz tells Motherly. "A lot of people have said to me, 'Well, why didn't you talk to the dads? Why didn't you ask the dads how they're going to do it?' And I mean that is a fair question, but I think we all know the answer."

The answer is that women do the majority of childcare in America, so the system itself needs to be overhauled to allow mothers to be more involved in the political process.

Lenz told Motherly that she "had a lot of conversations with my neighbors and friends, and I wanted to know if they were going to caucus, and how they were going to do it with their babies." She heard from many women—some with supportive partners who will care for the baby, others who plan to just put their baby in a sling and breastfeed and even moms with toddlers who plan to head to caucus tonight armed with an iPad and Goldfish crackers.

"But other people were like, 'I just can't do it'," she says. "I had women say to me privately, because they didn't want to admit this in public, but they just were like, I'm not going to do it. It's too much. I'm too overwhelmed."

For some, the idea of dragging a stroller up a flight of stairs and wrangling multiple small children with trying to interact (and be taken seriously) by adults is just too much. That's okay. But what isn't okay is the continuation of political inequality when we have alternatives.

When Lenz's piece blew up on Twitter one of the common critiques was "just get a babysitter," but getting a babysitter isn't that easy for some mothers. Hiring a sitter is prohibitively expensive for some. If you don't have family nearby (or if they're busy caucusing or have different political views) it can be difficult to find someone locally. One of the women Lenz spoke with ended up getting her kids' grandparents to come in from Nebraska.

It really isn't a question of getting a babysitter, it's a question of whether mothers should have to go to extreme lengths to access something that those unburdened by unpaid care work can simply walk into. Lenz adds, "People are so willing to just say to mothers, 'just try harder, or just hire a babysitter, or just make it work,' without trying to understand the cultural and structural ways that we remove women from the process."

Sometimes equal does not mean fair. On paper, mothers have an equal right to show up and caucus just like anyone else but in practice the same lack of support that mothers face in other areas is preventing mothers from participating in political life. While some women can overcome the barriers Lenz describes, others simply cannot and their voices are silenced because of it.

The answer to "How do you caucus with a baby?" is with the support and understanding of society. And America's mothers don't have that, yet.

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

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

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.


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!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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