When my husband Carlo and I began the very lengthy process of adoption, our journey started with a lot of paperwork. Deciding to be fathers meant we interviewed with several adoption agencies, which eventually brought us to the matching phase (think of it as online dating for birth and adoptive parents).
I had an opportunity over a work dinner to share this news with my boss, Sukanta Dutt, who was EY’s global risk management leader at the time. I made sure to note that on average the process takes two years, but in some extreme circumstances parents might match with a recently born baby—meaning they could become parents in a matter of days. The uncertainty of this timeline is a major challenge adoptive parents face.
Shortly after this dinner, friends who adopted children called to share that their daughter’s birth parents were pregnant again and were curious if they knew anyone currently in the matching process. Carlo and I agreed we should be open to the opportunity to find out more. What we weren’t anticipating was that the birth mother was scheduled to give birth in 17 days.
We met the birth parents that weekend and decided to take the leap forward. Suddenly, everything became real. Since we weren’t prepared to become parents so quickly, we had to run to purchase bottles, formula, diapers, onesies, and wipes.
When I called Sukanta to tell him that Carlo and I would soon become that rare exception case I mentioned during our dinner weeks earlier, he couldn’t have been more ecstatic or supportive. A few short days later, we were in a rented car driving toward the hospital where our daughter was about to be delivered. From the moment our daughter was born, the hospital engaged us as her parents.
Making it work as an employee
As soon as we met our daughter, I was determined to take full advantage of EY’s enhanced and gender equitable paid parental leave policy, which offers up to four months of fully paid time off for new moms and dads to spend as much time as possible with their newborn during the early months of her life.
To prepare for my leave, I co-developed a written plan with my team about coverage in my absence, and in turn, I received no resistance from my teammates.
Knowing that I had the support at work to take the full 16 weeks of parental leave was an emotional weight lifted. We had limited time to prepare mentally to become parents, or logistically for our daughter’s arrival. The ability to take all 16 weeks meant I was able to be totally present with my daughter as we got to know each other. This means more to me now than I ever could have realized.
In addition to taking leave, we received the reimbursement for the adoption-related expenses we incurred under EY’s Pathways to Parenthood benefit. While the next few weeks and months were a major adjustment, I was engaged with an internal EY career and family transitions coach, who helped me with my transition as a new parent. Some of our conversations were about my daughter and some about my husband, but they all forced me to pause and think about how I was actually doing.
As a professional, dad, husband, homeowner, and commuter, I benefited tremendously from the time that forced me to stop, reflect, and take a breath. Having the opportunity to share and be listened to with someone who had no judgment made a huge difference for me as a new parent.
It has been a few years now since my daughter was born. While I am not on a formal flexible work arrangement, I do work from home a fair amount, which means that I’m able to spend my lunch break at home with my daughter some days—a treat I always look forward to.
As I approach my third Father’s Day as my daughter’s dad, I am thankful that I was able to spend such meaningful time with her during her first few months without feeling like I wouldn’t be supported at work. As my daughter grows and Carlo and I continue to balance our schedules, I am even more cognizant of the importance of providing all working fathers with the ability to spend time with their newborn children, as well. I can go to work now feeling like I haven’t missed a single pivotal early moment of my daughter’s life, and that’s an experience every father deserves.
Bryan Parsons is the innovation leader and director of major accounts at EY. He and his family are based in San Francisco.