Playtime Celebrates Mother’s Day. Period.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, it’s a good time to remember that Playtime Project is not just about the children. There are over 1000 families fighting homelessness in DC – the vast majority of them headed by single mothers. When thinking about these families, it’s easy to put all of our attention on children and forget about the mothers working to support them. This Mother’s Day, it’s time to ask ourselves: What about Mom?
This year, Playtimers made handprint butterflies and pipe cleaner picture frames to add to the Mother’s Day gift bags we distributed for mothers at DC General. Alongside the butterflies and frames, we included items like hair care products, makeup, nail polish, soaps and… period products including tampons, pads and panty liners. Yes, period products.
For most of us, having our period is such a normal part of life that we probably don’t even consider the cost. But for mothers experiencing homelessness, unemployment, or underemployment, who do everything they can to feed and clothe their children while trying to find work, housing, childcare and transportation, coming up with the additional cost of a box of pads or tampons is no easy feat. Do you know how much you (or your friend or partner) spend on tampons and pads in a year? Have you ever had to budget it out, or weigh the cost of tampons against the cost of dinner?
I have not. In fact, even as a women’s health professional in DC, I was so focused on the needs of children that I had not considered this issue at all until Playtime started a partnership with the DC Diaper Bank last fall. Thanks to the dedicated volunteers at the DC Diaper Bank, Playtime is able to provide families at DC General with over 5000 diapers every month. One Saturday, while picking up our monthly diaper supply, I was handed an extra bag of period products and a light went off: Women experiencing homelessness or housing instability often turn to shelters for essential personal products, but unlike shampoo, soap or toothpaste, period products aren’t often donated!
In the months since, a group of us have been collecting period products wherever we can get them. In April, some amazing women came together at the live show of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast to collect thousands of tampons, pads, and panty liners for those in need at DC General and other locations throughout the city. We have additionally been working with community partners, harassing our friends and coworkers to donate menstrual products (I have a sign at my desk that boasts “Donate Period Products Here”), and most importantly, talking with mothers at DC General to address this need.
Some mothers have talked about having to use paper towels or toilet paper when they don’t have adequate supplies during their cycle. One mother said she even had to cut her baby’s diapers when she ran out of pads for herself.
This is more than just an embarrassment or inconvenience; It is a health risk. Even in shelters, women experiencing homelessness often lack access to regular showers, hot water, and soap and run the risk of infection and illness. Mothers are more likely to request additional diapers or baby wipes than period products, always sacrificing for their families and putting their children first.
At Playtime, we always put children first. But a big part of supporting happy, healthy childhoods is having happy, healthy parents. This Mother’s Day, I know I will be thinking about how period products are a big part of #WhatMomsNeed at DC General and across the city. I encourage you to support Playtime as we address the unique needs of mothers experiencing homelessness.
Mallory Schwarz serves as Baby Room Coordinator for DC General, works in Government Relations for a women’s health organization, and is co-founder of Project Flow DC. If you would like to make a period products contribution or learn about ways you can help with this effort, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.