Welcome to womanhood: Should you mark your daughter's first period?
In October she launched her business Funky Goddess, which sells Welcome to Womanhood gift boxes for when a girl reaches the milestone of her first period.
For £20.84, the pink-themed First Period Gift Box contains "teen pads", a "secret sanctuary" diary "in which to record dates and innermost thoughts", an eye-mask, a scented candle "to cope with the inevitable mood swings", a pack of moist wipes, bubble bath, a "discreet case to put in her bag", a "tummy chum" hot water bottle, a pack of pocket tissues "for added security in case of emergencies" and an information booklet about periods, written by Samantha.
The product's website, which has run a competition for women's "first period'" stories, explains: "'We here at Funky Goddess know how difficult some milestones can be. Sometimes you would like to offer a little comfort to your daughter, friend or sister at certain times but don't know what to say or give them that would show them that you understand what they are going through."
Samantha started the business when her older daughter Leah, 12, got her first period last year. "I wanted to make her feel less embarrassed about it, and to make her feel special," she says. "Not to make a big hoopla out of it, but make it a nice thing, a rite of passage."
But when she went looking for something to get Leah, she struggled: "There was no starter pack, nothing. I thought: 'Hang on a second, there have to be other mothers who feel like me'.
I started talking to other mothers and fathers with daughters Leah's age, and lone fathers gave me the push to do it. They said it was really awkward; they had to get their mother or sister to do 'the talk' and if my product had been around it would have been so much easier.
Samantha advises: "Get a DVD, popcorn, hot chocolate and marshmallows, bring this up and then have a girly night with a bit of bonding. If you're not comfortable talking about it, just say: 'This is something for you, and if you have any questions you can come to me.'"
Leah advised her mother on what the products in the gift box should be, and, according to Samantha, is not embarrassed about the publicity.
Samantha says: "She thinks it's brilliant. Leah and her friends all came to the launch and put Funky Goddess t-shirts on. It's got them all talking about it, which is the whole aim of it all. I try not to mention her name too much, but she's not as embarrassed as I would have been in my day. She's able to talk about it. She recently said 'Mum, you're real supportive' to me, and that made my day."
Samantha has sold over 350 to date, through her website and in 15 pharmacies, gift shops and beauty salons in Ireland. She's now exploring sales in the UK, and says she has "exciting news" to be revealed when she appears on the Irish Dragons' Den.
Catherine said: "I think it is about the worst product I have ever seen and I would have been mortified if anyone had given it to me. Spew."
Maria agrees: "I would have died, died, died if my mother had 'celebrated' my first period in any way, shape or form. I just found the whole thing toe-curlingly embarrassing and the fact she kept everything low-key really helped."
Emily says: "The more I think about this, the crosser it makes me. Are even our bodily functions no longer safe from twee pinkified commercialisation?
How is a scented candle meant to help with mood swings anyway, unless you throw it at someone? Where is the kit to celebrate a teenage boy's first wet dream? It could contain a Hollyoaks calendar, a box of Kleenex (mansize, obviously) and a single sock.
Ultimately, though, what matters is what girls think, not their mothers. And according to Florence, 12, the period pack is a spot-on idea. "It's quite cool because if it happens and I'm like 'Oh my gosh, what do I do now?', I've got the things I need," she says.
But wouldn't she rather her mum spent £20 on something she really wanted or a meal out for her instead? No, she says - she'd prefer to get this kit. "It's the fact that it [the kit] is not just for you - others will get it as well. I like the fact this is something you'd get as well as a meal - something to keep, to celebrate and remember."
While mothers in their 30s or 40s may remember their own mortification at discussing periods in their day, and the general lack of information they were given, don't today's girls expect, and deserve, more? And the idea of talking about the female rite of passage is, in principle, a sound one.
Fertility educator Toni Weschler, who advises women how to conceive and deal with problems like PMS by understanding their cycle, has spoken of adult women's "anger that they had been left in the dark about their bodies for years," and how they wish they'd been taught about what periods actually are as teenagers, rather than just "whether to wear sanitary pads with wings or not".
Her book for teenage girls, Cycle Savvy, aims to educate today's generation about periods more responsibly.
"I like the idea of something to mark the first period as an occasion,' says Deborah, a mum of one. "Not what's in the Funky Goddess box - pink again, sigh - but something grown up."
Whatever you think of this particular kit, the fact remains that many parents would like girls to be more educated about their bodies in a positive way, but don't know how to talk to their daughters about periods because they're fearful of embarrassing them about something private.
So how should a mum or dad respond to the "coming of age scenario" - is it better to never ask about it, discreetly hand them some towels, or give them a special treat to celebrate?
Florence is clear that the worst possible path is not to speak openly about periods. "Sit down and talk about it - if you don't, they'll have no idea and it'll come as a complete shock," she says.
What do you think about the Funky Goddess Welcome to Womanhood gift box?
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