Hanging out with my kids in my favorite light gray maxi skirt, I noticed a rust colored stain in the vicinity of my knee. I lamented out loud about it, hoping the stain would come out, and wondering how that had happened.
My seven year old son suggested, “Maybe it’s from your period.”
His faulty location and conclusion aside, his logic was sound.
When I stopped to think about that moment though, I wondered if most seven yearolds, boys especially, would be so matter of fact about their mama’s monthly cycle. If my intuition and research is true, most seven year olds are likely not as straight forward about menstuation, and I decided an article was in order.
In case you’re wondering, the first day of your cycle isn’t the best day to write that article. ( Ahem.)
How to begin
Women should know that their monthly cycles and hormone changes are very real, and beyond your control. Educating yourself about your body and its processes should be step one. An excellent place to start is Taking Charge of Your Fertility, or The Art of Natural Family Planning. Another book I like (even if it is a little “woo”) is the book by Lucy Pearce: Moon Time: Harness the Ever-Changing Energy of your Menstrual Cycle. She also has a guide for you to go through with your daughter. Even this video would be a good start for you understanding the ups and downs of what you go through each month
After you have a more solid understanding of what amazingness you are in possession of in the form of a female body, you need to start talking about it. Say things out loud to your partner like, “My period is due that week, I better schedule time to rest.”
“That’s the week before my period, so I need to be gentle with myself and be aware I might be more sensitive.”
“That’s my fertile week-let’s make sure we have some love time.” (or whatever you call it 🙂 )
No one should be allowed to say to, or about you, “Oh, are you on the rag?” “Are you about to start your period?” “Are you PMSing?” in a derogatory way. Make that kind of talk off limits in your home. On the other hand, a partner who says, “I bought you some chocolate on my way home; I know you’re due to start your period soon,” should be praised in all the ways you can think of.
Practice saying some of those things to your partner in front of your kids.
After you feel comfortable talking about cycles in front of them, talk about your body to them. You know what is age appropriate. A good rule of thumb is when they’re expressing curiosity, they want to and are ready to know.
The more matter of fact you are about everything, the more matter of fact they will be. Boys need to be in on the conversations about their mama’s body because they will be husbands, parents, friends, and co-workers of the womanly 50% of the world’s population who menstruates. They might have sisters, which gives them lots of practice to be respectful to women in training at all times, and especially around more sensitive times. Teach your girls to be matter of fact about their times of the month and be more gentle with themselves as well.
Don’t let them grow up to be like most of these guys.
A couple of books you could look into as a guide to equip you for what to say in those conversations is My Body, My Self, Hello Flo, and What’s Happening to My Body? Of course, boys need education on what’s happening to both genders, just as girls do, but that’s not the purpose of this post. In my opinion these books are not meant to be handed to a child and let them read them on their own, but for the adult to read them, disseminate the information in a manner appropriate for your child and family.
Talk about what products you use during your period. Research options besides the traditional pads and tampons. Look into menstrual cups, sea sponges, cloth pads and period panties. Talk to your kids about what you use and why. The more open you are about your choices, the easier these conversations will be.
Talk about all aspects of your cycle. (If you’re unclear about it yourself, refer to step one.) Most men, and many women, have no idea of the beautiful rhythm of a woman’s body. For instance, a lot of people don’t realize the egg dies within a day or two of being released, and that two weeks before the bleeding time is the fertile window. The men you’re raising will likely be in sexual relationships with menstruating people and they need to understand the biological logistics of a woman’s inner workings. It’s a good idea for them to be proactive about becoming a dad, and not just “shoot in the dark” (pun intended). Their partners will be eternally grateful for you demystifying periods and giving him accurate information about their bodies. Knowing women intimately, and how they biologically work, will be more sexually responsible men.
Get an app on which you keep track of your cycles and talk about how interesting it is to track your symptoms. Just make it normal. If you’re married to a man, help your husband learn to model compassion.
Chat about what to do if they notice someone needs help because of a period related accident. Teach boys and girls how to be gentle and kind and thoughtful about all things, and especially things that currently considered sensitive.
By being open about periods and your monthly rhythms, as hard as it may be, you’re educating women on how to act. You’re educating men on how to act. You’re raising people who will be kind and compassionate to everyone. Well done, Mama. Well done.