1,000 Families Project: Cultivating Kindness through the Period Purse

A mom of two and accidental menstrual health activist shares what she views as her ultimate job as a parent – raising kind citizens of the world.

I always knew I was going to be a mother. I always knew I wanted to teach my children to be kind citizens in this world. That is my ultimate job as a parent. I never imagined, though, that I would be a menstrual health activist using my voice to make change. I wouldn’t have guessed that I would become passionate about periods with two sons at home.

My destiny made itself apparent one day in late February 2017. I was driving to work when I passed a woman panhandling. While waiting at a red light, I realized I had nothing to give to her. Yet before the light turned green, I thought about how I could have helped if I’d had a used purse in my car with nice things inside to give to her. A gesture so simple and so easy.

My two children are now almost six and three. I have a full time job, a husband who works shifts and, now, I run a non-profit organization in my “free” time. It’s a full and busy life.

Thanks to the birth of my children and the postpartum pads that still sat in my closet, that night when I got home, I found myself packing up a lovely care package. I had my aha moment a few seconds into packing it when something I never thought of crossed my mind: how on earth do people experiencing homelessness handle their periods? What the heck do they use?

My idea of one period purse grew very quickly with love from social media. One purse turned into 12, which turned into 300 and now, The Period Purse has given 9,000 healthy periods to marginalized women and trans persons across Ontario. Kindness really is simple. Giving love is easy and the early response to my idea has been incredibly moving.

At first, the donations came to my back porch. A mountain of tampons beside my BBQ quickly turned into a family event in our living room. Sorting, counting, packing. My oldest son loves to count tampons and pads and put them in ziplock bags. He loves to go on deliveries with me, too. Their favourite activity during our sorting time is to make forts with all the period product boxes!

Just as naturally as I had answered all the other mundane questions they ask, I responded to my boys as openly as I could, describing what a pad is, how to use a tampon and what a menstrual cup does – visit divacup.com to see more.

Menstruation has been such a taboo topic, but I am changing this with my boys. I have been showing them that periods aren’t gross, strange things to hide.

Periods are in the lives of 52 percent of the population. Not my sons, and not 75 percent of my household, but, my boys will have friends, partners, and colleagues who might use a sanitary pad or other menstrual product. Now, I know they will be comfortable talking about this amazing bodily function. My boys have been taught to see menstruation as simple because that’s the way I explain it – in a matter-of-fact manner.

Parents, our kids might grow up to be doctors treating menstruators for painful periods, researchers who find new treatments for painful periods, marketers selling menstrual products or policymakers deciding what type of product will be available in public washrooms. We have work to do. We also have to educate people on the proper ways to dispose of their period products as it should not be a discussion to shy away from simply due to the subject matter. Knowing the proper method is far easier than having to retrieve items flushed down the toilet after disposing of them improperly, which could potentially lead to some pretty problematic plumbing problems.

Last year, my oldest son nonchalantly told his male kindergarten teacher, “My mom gives out purses to women who are homeless because sometimes they bleed out of their vagina.” (His teacher’s facial expression was classic, by the way!) Yup, my son pretty much has The Period Purse’s elevator speech down. My then four-year-old could tell an adult what a period was! Damn, I was proud.

These little creatures are ours to mold, ours to teach about being open, ours to show how to be kind to others and ours to talk with about topics that shouldn’t be taboo. To support this, The Period Purse has started a high school program called Menstruation Nation in collaboration with a North Toronto school. Menstruation Nation unites students to discuss and advocate for menstrual equity within their communities. I dream that my sons might run a chapter of Menstruation Nation in their high schools one day.

Some might describe my practice as an atypical way of raising boys, but why? We don’t talk about periods very much. Why not? We never think about what menstruators experiencing homelessness do while they have their periods. Why not? Don’t we think it’s important to teach boys about periods. Why not?

This wasn’t my plan – to start a charity supporting menstrual equity and work to answer all of these questions with a group of committed volunteers and board members by my side. With that said, I have loved to rise up to this challenge, shed light on menstrual equity and bring my boys along for the ride.

Periods are a part of life and now. My two sons will grow up knowing that. It’s true, one purse can change the world.

This is #1000families post number 238. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.

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Jana Girdauskas

About Jana Girdauskas

Jana launched The Period Purse in early 2017 from the idea of donating one purse. Now, TPP has helped ensure over 9,000 healthy periods. When she is not talking about periods, Jana is a special education teacher in Toronto. View all posts by