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Husband & Cloth Pads: Q & A with our very own “Padman”

Q&A with Scott co-owner of Tree Hugger Cloth Pads

Scott Burton 
Co-owner of Tree Hugger Cloth Pads, husband to Crystal, father of 2 (a son and daughter), and often referred to as "Padman" by our customers.

Are you a man wanting to learn more about or get used to your wife or partner using cloth pads?  Are you a cloth pad user who would like your significant partner to be a little more understanding?  Are you looking for ways to talk to your children about menstruation? What is it like to be a man in a cloth pad business?  We reached out to our very own “Padman” Scott (husband and business partner with Crystal at Tree Hugger Cloth Pads) with these questions and more.  The questions were collected from members of our private Facebook chat group.

Scott has a unique perspective as someone working in the cloth pad industry and being a husband and father to cloth pad users.  Answers are specifically his own thoughts and his opinions and are certainly not the end all of the advice when it comes to men’s reactions to cloth pads. 

Q:  How do you talk to your own kids about menstruation?

A:  For me personally, I mostly just keep it as an open topic in the house rather than doing a sit-down talk.  The kids have grown up with pads all over the house so it’s become a normal topic. Questions naturally come up and I’ll answer them honestly.  I’m talking mostly about communicating with my son since Crystal talks more directly on the topic with our daughter.

Q:  When you two started up this business, were there any awkward moments, and how did you overcome It?

A:  Practice!  The most awkward I felt was earlier on was when people (often men) would ask in normal conversation “what do you do?” (for a living).  I usually began with “well, you might regret asking me that but....” because I felt it prepared the person (again, usually a guy) for something they may feel awkward for me bringing up.  After time went on and I’ve had this conversation sooooo many times (including being on national TV and other news outlets), it feels much more natural and normal to me. So now when people ask what I “do”, I simply and proudly say that “we have a home-based business making and selling cloth menstrual pads”.  And to my surprise, when I treat it as a normal thing people react to it very well. In fact, many guys are fascinated with the idea and often ask all sorts of questions. Add to the conversation that we were on Dragons’ Den and the men usually go crazy wanting to know everything about that experience. So, yes, with practice I don’t feel awkward anymore.

Q:  How can I get my husband, who is the only man in the house full of women yes even the cats, to stop being all "periods are yucky and gross and shouldn't be talked about." Our two girls will eventually hit puberty and I can't stand how he reacts to anything period related.

A:  Wow, I wish I had a really good answer to this question.  There is a strong cultural taboo in many instances that people grow up with.  Unfortunately, I think many guys are going to be pretty stubborn about this and it’ll take some time to normalize the topic.  But that would be my personal suggestion: to normalize the topic. Bring up the topic as a normal thing to your husband and kids.  Act like it’s not a big deal (which it isn’t). Set the example. Don’t force the conversation but just mention things here and there.  Talk about your love of cloth pads for example and how they make you feel and the new beautiful print you just got. That’s ultimately what got me more at ease - having it as an open conversation for so many years.

Q:  Were periods something you were openly talked to about growing up or more learned as you were older? Any advice on talking to younger boys about it?

A:  I was one of 3 boys growing up and it wasn’t a topic that was brought up at all.  I didn’t date until I was 16 and started dating Crystal at 17 so it wasn’t something I learned much about until later on.  Talking to younger boys? I would suggest mentioning things here and there, how it relates to you and making it a normal part of conversation.  That way, when he gets a little older and gets into the details it’s already a normal topic that he’s accustomed to. Everyone obviously knows their kids best and different approaches will work obviously.  I personally think that, if you make it a big sit-down meeting sharing it all at once with a younger child, it may seem like a bigger and stranger deal than it really is. Just my thoughts.

Q:  Do you find that women talk more freely around you once they realize you’re “Padman”?

A:  Yes!  I’ll give 2 examples.  

(1) Keep in mind I’ve NEVER talked menstruation with my mother.  One day I was on the phone with my Mom during the time I was preparing to go on Dragons’ Den.  She was just starting to realize that perhaps it wasn’t just a handful of really “out-there” people who use them and it might actually be something that could be adopted by many people.  So we started talking about ALL THINGS cloth pads and periods and how they are used.  But, yes, my own Mom and I talked more freely because I was her son, the Padman! 

 (2) I was just at my 6-day race in Arizona a few weeks ago. One lady who follows me online (but not a close friend) started to talk to me about her issues with her period and was asking advice.  I didn’t feel that I had the answers for her very specific question (I suggested she contact Crystal) but it was great that she felt free to discuss such issues with me directly and in person.

Q:  What was your reaction when Crystal decided to use cloth pads, make her own, and then start her business.

A: Decided to use cloth pads:  Wow this was a good many years ago so my memory may not be 100% on this!  I think, because we cloth diapered, that it didn’t phase me too much. It was certainly strange to hear at first because I’d never heard of cloth pads before so I might have done a bit of a double take and I know I joked she was a "Tree Hugger".  I LOVED the money savings we got from cloth diapers and was happy if we were going to save money with pads too.  I’m a spreadsheet geek so I might have done a bit of a cost analysis haha.  
Decided to make her own:  Contrary to what some may believe, Crystal didn’t sew much before deciding to make her own cloth pads.  It took many months (a year?) and dozens of prototypes to settle upon what she liked. The early variations were pretty hideous looking but there was a noticeable improvement on every step.  I was proud of her for working on it so hard.
Decided to start her business:  She slipped into this by accident.  She started selling her creations online but swore that it would never become a job - only a hobby.  We did have young kids at the time and the priority was the kids. She maintained this “only a hobby” stance for several years but simultaneously our living room, kitchen, and our bedroom was becoming more and more filled with fabric and supplies.  I was honestly pretty annoyed at having to organize all this stuff and our bedroom started looking more and more like a warehouse. I thought for a while that she was going overboard on her “hobby” but I slowly started to clue in that there was something to this.  Crystal really had a talent for creating pads and spreading the word to women all over the world.  

Q:  Do you wash your wife's pads, or would you feel squeamish about doing so?

A:  The wash routine here for pads is really easy.  The dirty pads go in big wet bags and they simply get dumped into the washer.  I’ve certainly washed pads many times for my wife and daughter and don’t feel awkward at all about it.  We used to cloth diaper and those dirty diapers could get nasty sometimes! Cloth pads are a breeze to wash!

Q:  Were you always cool with the topic of menstruation or did it have to come over time?  Also... what's your favourite ice cream?

A:  Many years of hearing about then talking about menstruation over time.  Now I can’t live a day without it coming up. Not that I ever had a strong negative reaction.  More that it was a silent topic for me growing up.

Ice cream:  Wendy’s chocolate frosty!  Oh, and it has to be a large size.  Those small frosty’s don’t count.

Q:  Besides getting to work with your amazing wife, what is your favorite thing about being Padman?

A:  I love so much about my work (including working with my amazing wife!).  Even as early as 12 years old, I wanted to have a home-based business when I grew up (who could have guessed it would be a pad business!).  My favorite thing (and the thing I’d miss the most) is the life balance and flexibility that this business has given us. We work hard at our jobs and try to do the best we can for our customers but we also choose to fit the work around our life.  We have a lot of time together as a family. We also have a lot of time to pursue our hobbies. I do ultra-endurance events (running and/or walking) including races of 300 miles+. Our flexible schedule allows me a lot of time to train for these races that I wouldn’t necessarily get with a standard job.  We do work a lot of hours but we fit it into days, evenings, and even weekends when it works out best. While on this topic, I want to sincerely thank you for your business. All this is possible because you chose to buy from us. Our family appreciates you very very much!

Q:  Tree Hugger Cloth Pads has planted so many trees over the years.  What is your favorite type of tree?

A:  This is going to sound like I’m avoiding the question but I really don’t have a favorite type of tree!  I love trees - lots of them - but I can’t say I’ve ever looked at some and said: “those are my favorite”.  But I’m not going to completely dodge the question. I do have a favorite specific tree: the big tree in front of our house.  It is one of the largest on the street and is the feature of our front yard. That tree is what we see every day in our life through our front window.  It has grown along with our family. My kids have played under that tree. It’s just so beautiful and has so many memories attached to it. I hope that it remains there for the rest of my life so that I may visit it even if I move one day.    

Q:  You may have answered this previously but what was it like being on the Ellen Degeneres show pitching cloth pads?

A:  That is a fun story.  I’m not a regular Ellen show viewer but I just happened to plop myself down on the couch one day and saw a potential opportunity.  Ellen wanted to partner with a company to sell a “unique” product in the Ellen shop that she could attach the Ellen brand.  All you had to do was submit a pitch video (pitch like on Dragons’ Den or Shark Tank). No word of a lie, I immediately got up and said to Crystal “well, I guess I need to go make a video submission now”.  I felt like we were a perfect fit to at least get shown on the TV show. I wanted to get that video done and post it as soon as possible to get ahead of most other videos and increase the chance of the Ellen show staff seeing it.   Two weeks after Ellen had asked for submissions and I had posted my video, we got a message from a customer saying they just saw us on the Ellen show. WHAT!!!!!!???  We had absolutely no advance notice.  It was still early in the day for us so the show hadn’t even aired in our time zone yet. We were the feature laugh of the first segment of “Sellin Ellen” on her show (I played it for comedy since the show wants laughs). Ellen was completely stunned into silence and it was amazing. We loved it!  I only wish she didn’t cut out so much of the informative parts of the video but they still got our company name out there. We contacted a bunch of local media outlets and we had several interviews. Being on the Ellen show as a company pitchman is extremely rare. In fact, I don’t know if any business (especially a home-based business) can say that they have appeared on BOTH the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Dragons’ Den.  We are truly lucky! 

Q:  When are you going to make yourself (Padman) that epic cape made of cloth pads snapped together that I suggested? I need pics or it didn't happen.

A:  Well, there was a time 5 years ago when we were trying to figure out how to increase awareness for our pads and our company.  One idea that we were beginning to take seriously was a Youtube video of “Padman” mascot in costume wandering around the city interviewing and interacting with people while being followed by a video camera. The idea got brushed aside due to timing as we got the Dragons’ Den acceptance email right around that time. No costume and no costume photos yet! No specific plans made yet either.

Q:  Have you tried them on? 🤔 Aren’t they comfy?!?!!!

A:  Awesome question haha!  I hear all the time that they are!  Nope, haven’t tried them on yet. However, I have a feeling that my Padman job may ask this of me for some Youtube video in the future.  

Q:  Do you ever wish you could experience a period first hand so that your involvement with making and selling pads was more...I don't know..."authentic"? Or do you ever just want to know what menstruating is like?

A:  I can’t say I’ve ever thought that I’d want to experience menstruating.  If I had to brainstorm a list of reasons why I’m glad I am male, avoiding menstruation would certainly be high up on the list.  That being said, I do see what you mean about being authentic in the selling of cloth pads. I do wish I could be in more of an active role in communicating with our current and future customers and helping them understand the benefits of cloth pads and helping with customer service.  I certainly know all the words to use to communicate the benefits and could verbalize some advice around the topic but I’ll never truly be able to speak from experience. I usually stay in the background while Crystal is the face and voice of the company. She is so authentic, honest, and caring that I could never do the great job that she does.  The time that I really miss being a part of the public face of the company is during our craft shows. I’d love to be able to stand with my wife and smile and meet people and talk to them about our company and pads. I’d love to spend all day with Crystal as we do all week. The hard truth is that many women, who may already be very hesitant to talk to complete strangers about their period at a craft show, would be even more hesitant to talk to us if there was a man standing in the booth.  If I’m ever at the shows, I’m often wandering around the aisles in case Crystal needs something: food, drink, more cash for the register, bring the kids home, etc. Feel free to say “hi” if you ever see me at a show but I’ll likely be surprised and shy so don’t mind me as I do like talking to customers who want to talk to me.

 

 We also interviewed our teenage daughter if you'd like a teens point of view

Just for fun check out the video we made with some of our real-life guy friends:

Men reading Cloth Menstrual Pad Reviews



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