Should I leave my tampons out when my dad comes to stay?
My mum and dad have been coming over to help us out with Scout more regularly since my mum retired in April which has been just brilliant and a total life-saver at times. But we live in a tiny flat in London and our bathroom has very little storage space in it, so when either Holly or I are on our periods then sanitary towels and tampons are left out on top of the toilet. As a two (well, three but only two menstruating) female household this means the sanitary products are in use more than normal and they are therefore out for all to see more regularly.
Generally when people come over we have a good tidy up and everything gets put away nicely before they arrive. And this used to be the case with my parents. However, now they’re coming over more regularly to help with Scout-care, do I need to be tidying them away?
When I was younger I used to be super embarrassed about my periods. I didn’t tell anyone when it started because I was so embarrassed – yet I forget to put my (clearly stained) knickers away so they were found by my mum (or maybe Dad although the thought of that when it was happening as so awful that I pushed it away and decided it must have been mum that found them) and she gently and kindly said she knew I’d started and why didn’t we go and talk about how to deal with it all. Mum was great of course but she also had an attitude of ‘we don’t talk about these things’ that I assume was passed down from her mum. In fact I remember vividly once when I was on my period and I left the sanitary towel packet out, we had a plumber come over and he (shock horror) saw the packet when my mum was in the bathroom with him. Mum (who was no doubt stressed from work) got very cross and told me and my older sister how embarrassing that was for her and would we PLEASE learn to tidy up after ourselves. It was this kind of attitude that made me hide my period-related-products away. No man wants to see that! Perhaps no woman either! It’s private! It’s gross!
Which leads me onto my Dad. He was always a bit of an enigma about things. He’d never talk about periods and ladies things. But he also didn’t necessarily avoid them. It just was something that would never come up in his presence. However when I was about 26 I was very suddenly and dramatically diagnosed with endometriosis (a problem where the lining of the womb gets really thick and goes to different places where it shouldn’t be and causes very heavy and bad periods). This led to my parents being suddenly thrown into a world of periods and blood and looking after me and my vagina. It also led to me suddenly having to get used to every Tom, Dick and Harry having a little peek up inside me whenever they fancied it (ok, maybe not quite like that but it felt like it at the time). All of a sudden the embarrassment and shame surrounding it all vanished – almost in an instant. And I began to have a bit of fun with it…
While I was recovering from various operations my Dad would come home at lunchtime to look after me and ask how I was doing and I took a slight delight in telling him exactly how I was feeling. When I was bleeding I’d get my horrified Mum in to have a look to see if she thought what was happening was normal. Part of me enjoyed seeing my mum and dad so uncomfortable at my new-found lack of shame, but part of me also enjoyed this new freedom. I suddenly didn’t care what people thought, I didn’t worry about people knowing if I was on my period or not and it felt like a weight had been lifted off me.
But as I’ve got older and had a girl of my own I’ve been thinking about how I want her to approach her periods. Of course I’m not going to throw her (much as I may want to) a ‘you’ve got your period’ party when that day happens. But I want her to see the sanitary products around the house and understand that it’s a normal part of growing up. Something not to be scared of or avoided or ashamed of. But then I’d also want her to be respectful of us as her parents, and if my sanitary products make my Dad feel uncomfortable then perhaps I should in fact be respectful of that and put them away. What would you do?!