My partner and I always knew that our route to parenthood would be through adoption, and after moving to Edinburgh in the summer of 2019 we began the official process. We knew it would be years before we could call ourselves parents, with interviews, training courses and home visits. I was very open with my manager about the uncertainty of timings and how much had to happen before we adopted. He was supportive and ensured that I could take the time I needed to get everything sorted.
The following Christmas, we were told there was a potential match. We were so excited, and in July 2021 we finally met our son-to-be, Desmond. We organised a ‘bump into’ meeting with his foster carers, where myself and my partner ‘bumped into’ them as if we were old friends, whilst they were in a play park with Desmond. As soon as we were introduced, Desmond asked where his friends were, so we said we could be his friends too, which he seemed quite happy with! We spent a lot of time with Desmond over the next month, increasingly taking on caregiving responsibilities, until the very emotional and amazing transition day, when he moved-in and we became a family.
I cannot thank my team enough for how supportive they were. Diageo allowed me to take as much holiday leave as I needed before the family leave kicked-in, which allowed me to meet up with Desmond as much as possible and sort out the final bits of admin.
The six months of family leave was more valuable than I could have ever imagined. Spending time together, just the three of us, was so important for setting the routines and making time for the shared experiences that are so necessary for new families to create lasting bonds.
My husband and I worked with an adoption agency that assists women who are going through the tough moment of deciding what to do with a pregnancy. Our adoption profile went live in March 2019, and we were told that we could expect to adopt within the next 12-24 months.
That 2019 summer, we were at a friend’s house enjoying the July 4th holiday weekend and also talking about the many possible ways adoption works. One morning, we noticed that we both had received missed calls from the agency. I checked my voicemail, and their message was -a woman in active labour had chosen us to be the parents of her child, please call us back immediately -
My emotions were all over the place, excitement, adrenaline, shock. We jumped in the car and drove five hours to the hospital, arriving 30 minutes after our son had been born. It was crazy, yesterday we had been sipping cocktails, and suddenly we were giving this wonderful boy his first cuddle. Our lives had changed just like that.
Returning to the office after taking six months of leave was very daunting, but it also presented some important realizations. I spoke to several female friends and colleagues who had taken up to 8 months of leave, and they told me about the anxiety that mothers feel returning from such a long break and how they feel that they have to catch up on the work and the pay reviews that were missed. They also told me that once they returned to work, they felt that they could never have their child appear on-screen when they are on Zoom or speak in the background of a call, as it might be perceived that they may be distracted or not working hard enough. This is something that, as a male, I had never considered.
Equal parental leave policies are not only essential for new families to bond, they might also help to break down gender biases and level the playing field at work and across society.