Work Benefits: Adoption is not treated the same as giving birth
By: Stacie Ellis
Everyone tells you “having a baby will change your life.” Yes, it does. And it’s hard to adjust to such a tremendous life change. Now, add to that a new job. I knew I’d have to go back to work, as I am a big financial contributor to our family and I carry the health insurance since my husband is self-employed. But I didn’t just have to go back – I had to go back within a month. Adoption is not treated the same as giving birth. When a woman gives birth, my company offers full pay for two weeks’ baby bonding, and six weeks’ “disability” (eight weeks if you had a c-section). But I didn’t give birth; therefore, I got just two weeks’ baby bonding at full pay. The state offers six more weeks of “state disability” at 45% of your salary, but that caps out at $780/week. So, I had two weeks. Fortunately, I had two more weeks of vacation I could tack on. That’s it.
People misunderstand, thinking companies pay for six months off. No, they pay whatever time period they want to pay for, yet you can take up to a total of six months off UNPAID. People asked me – why don’t you at least take the state disability and stay home? “Your baby needs you,” they’d say. They looked down on me, not believing I HAD to go back to work. I joked that I wouldn’t be meeting my baby’s needs if we couldn’t pay the mortgage and she didn’t have a roof over her head. That was my way of keeping myself from wringing their necks and screaming at the top of my lungs, “What part of spending nearly $60,000 in infertility treatments and $32,000 to adopt – all in straight cash –do you not understand?” That’s an entire salary! Gone! But how could any of them understand? When they gave birth, their insurance covered every aspect of the pregnancy and delivery.
So, we hired a nanny, which was remarkably cheaper than daycare, and one month after our baby girl was born, I was back at my desk with no interest whatsoever. None. But I went through the motions and pretended to care. My husband works from home so he took pictures of our daughter and sent them to me during the day. As much as I wanted to see them, this made being away from her even harder. I was missing everything. Missing her smell. Missing her touch. Missing her in her cute clothes. Missing her in the gymini. Missing comforting her. Just missing her. It was a much harder adjustment than I thought it would be…and then my world was rocked again with the offer of a new job.
Before we ever turned in our adoption paperwork, and before we were matched with birthparents, I interviewed for a new job that paid tens of thousands of dollars more than I was making and with a higher title – Vice President. I never planned to leave my stable job of six years. I was merely “exploring my worth.” But then it happened – I really liked the people I interviewed with and I really liked the fact that the job was more managerial instead of worker bee. After my first interview, I was intrigued and thought I could see myself at this new company. But then came “the call” that brought us our daughter. While in Chicago, I completely flopped back to the other side. I had no intention of taking the new job. I couldn’t handle a new baby and a new job. But I was determined to continue the interviewing process to get a counteroffer from my current company. I still had one interview to go but I was stuck in Chicago for two weeks. I threw caution to the wind and sent an email with the subject line heading of “A funny thing happened on the way to…” My new “boss to be” was so incredibly gracious, congratulating me and telling me that was the best email she ever read that week and it brought a tear to her eye. She said to just let her know when I got back in town to reschedule. They’d wait. Wait? What kind of employer was this? Waiting for me to get back? That’s just surreal. Most employers couldn’t care less about your personal life and most would interpret “new baby” to mean “I won’t be as available as someone without a baby.” (I’m a lawyer. I know they can’t take familial status into account in hiring, but still, they could just have said, “Oh, that’s too bad” and moved on.)
My baby was three weeks old when I went in to meet with the General Counsel of the company for my final interview. I had already decided; I wanted an offer. I would get a counter offer, make more money and stay in my old job. Then I interviewed and dang it, I liked these people even more! And I liked the job even more! I was conflicted. Now I didn’t want an offer so I could justify staying in my old job. It would be impossible to turn this down if the money were right. Sure enough, the money was right. And the counteroffer came – it was nearly comparable. Welcome to migrane hell for the weekend as I wrote lists upon lists of pros and cons to each position.
I’m a strong woman. I had endured a year of infertility treatments which included surgery, poking, prodding, and mind- and body- altering drugs. I had endured the heartache of being told I’d never have a biological child. I had endured 48 hours of no sleep following the call that our baby was born. Sure enough, I could handle a new job on top of a new baby. No problem. I knew I would never be promoted in my current job and my salary, even though higher, wouldn’t continue to grow like it would in the new job. There was simply more room for advancement. And while I was completely disinterested in work, I was now a mama bear who wanted to provide for her child and if I HAD to work, it may as well be somewhat rewarding. So, I took the new job. I soon realized, no matter how strong I am, I was not strong enough for this.
In a total of six weeks I had a new baby and now I was walking into my first day of work at a new job…in New York. YES, my first week of work was 3000 miles away from my baby for four days. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. I quickly learned that this new job wasn’t just bigger than my old job. It was 10x bigger, with 10x more work, with 10x more stress. I figured this out on my first day. I felt like I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
It took nearly three weeks (now back in Los Angeles) for me to feel like I made the right decision, even though I am still not entirely sure. I leave for work at 6:15 AM to get to work by 7AM. If I left at 7AM, I’d get to work at 9ish because of Los Angeles traffic. I leave to come home at 3PM and get home between 4:00 PM and 5:00PM on good nights and remain on blackberry til about 6:00PM. I run in the door, grab my baby and try to spend those “quality three hours” with her before she goes to bed. Anyone who has an infant knows, quality time with a baby is mainly trying to soothe her from crying because they are cranky in the evening hours. I, of course, also thought I was SuperWife, trying to cook and clean up dinner as well, and my husband finally put his soft foot down and said, “let’s get Dream Dinners” (prepared healthy dinners which we pick up once a week and defrost as we use them). Once I figured out they weren’t any more expensive than buying all the ingredients to cook healthy meals, I was sold. Still that didn’t alleviate my intense stress.
I’m not working out. I’m not performing as well in my job because I can’t stay late to “get up to speed”– I have a baby who needs me. I’m not having sex because I’m going to bed at 8PM most nights so I can do the 4AM feeding and have at least some time with my daughter in the morning even if she sleeps through it. I’m crying every day on my way to work in the pitch dark, watching the sun rise as I approach the office. I’m crying most days on my way home. I’m not de-stressing in any way possible and I feel like my life is completely out of control…
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