November is National Adoption Month, and as the mother of three adopted children (a seven-year old daughter from China and sons from Korea aged three and two), I tend to get a little emotional at times as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. I’m frequently reminded of how thankful my husband and I are to have the privilege of getting to raise and love these three crazy kids of ours. Our journey to parenthood was long and winding, as the international adoption process took us nearly two years for each of our children.
While we worked hard to bring home our kids, there were days in which the only thing that kept me focused was the solace of keeping my brain busy at work – no time to think about anything else but the numerous tasks at hand, the plans that needed honing, the colleagues that called me to meet. Other days, I thought I wouldn’t survive the emotional strain of waiting, and being at work seemed only to make the slowness of minutes stretch into hours, days and weeks. During these long stretches of waiting without any news, my job sometimes felt like a distraction from my primary work of waiting. Fortunately, I was able to focus most days.
A lot of people were there for us to help make it through the waiting and the worrying. One of those who understood – who “got it” – was my manager. Monsanto, like a lot of companies, prides itself on being “family friendly” and flexible. Our website says, “Through unique family-friendly programs, Monsanto’s goal is to help employees keep the right balance of work/family/life.” A lot of companies say that, but for me, Monsanto came through on its promises.
When we went to Korea to get our son, I gave my manager all of two day’s notice that I would be leaving. Because, as I mentioned earlier, he understood clearly what had to happen at work to make my family life survive, we had planned for this “surprise” together, and everything was in place for me to make a quick departure. During my leave, very few work emails invaded our family bonding time.
And when I came back, I was in a new role, one that allowed me to work part time (while retaining my benefits) and still remain on a career path and performing a challenging job I loved. Having time to continue to bond with our new son while still contributing to the household income and keeping my skills solid was very important to me. So, when after just six short months back on the job we found ourselves in the very rare and exciting position of learning that our son had a baby brother, and he was ours to adopt if we wanted to embark on yet another journey, we said yes.
Again, my manager and colleagues at Monsanto worked with me to prepare for yet another leave. When I came back, I was able to continue working part-time. It’s been almost two years since we brought home our second son, and I am still in the same challenging role, although I have increased my hours a little. Working part-time in a professional role is a huge challenge, but also such a rare opportunity, that I stuck with it even when it was grueling, knowing I would eventually find some balance.
I now head up one of Monsanto’s many diversity networks, the Monsanto Adoption Network, part of the Monsanto Family Network. We help educate employees about Monsanto’s generous adoption and family-friendly benefits. We advise upper management on benefit concerns. We also help each other with advice and friendship for other adoptive families at Monsanto and those considering adoption. It’s pretty amazing to find out how many adoptive families at Monsanto first learned about adoption through Monsanto colleagues.
Working at Monsanto has its ups and downs for sure, like any other job. Sometimes I feel guilty being a working mom, wanting to spend more time with my kids. Other days, going to the office where I can actually finish a hot cup of coffee and engage my brain in higher-level thinking than is offered at a play date at Gymboree is something to look forward to. Day care costs can feel crushing, but my Monsanto flexible spending account helps out. When it feels like I am lugging someone to the doctor every five minutes, I know I’m fortunate Monsanto insured my adopted children without incident, something many of my friends struggle with at their companies.
So in this month of looming holiday craziness at home and insane deadlines to complete before year’s end at work, when I get a little too caught up in the hurly burly of the moment, it feels refreshing to sit back and feel thankful for all the hard work I have, both at home and at work.
By Connie Vivrett
Connie Vivrett works for Monsanto’s Corporate Marketing & Communications team.