13 Comments

Congratulations [Employee Name Here Except if Adopting]!

On Friday, a notice came home from our son’s Grade 3 teacher. It read (in part), “I have also enclosed a class list. If your child chooses to hand out Valentine cards I am asking that everyone receives one and no one is left out.” When I asked our son if he wanted to hand out cards and pointed out that everyone needed to get one, he looked at me like I was some special kind of stupid. Of course he would give a card to everyone. That’s how it’s done. Duh.

Also on Friday, I got an upset phone call from the wife. It wasn’t the first of these calls but it was the last straw for me. She was upset because she’d just received yet another work email congratulating a fellow employee on the birth of their new child. She has also recently been asked to contribute to a shower gift for someone who is pregnant, to attend a party for one who just gave birth, and to “join all of us in congratulating” several sets of parents on their new additions. Before you get thinking that the wife has something against babies (although, let’s face it, they are kind of annoying) you should know that none of these emails were to congratulate our family. Not one. Not an email, not a party, not one of those cards that get sent around to everyone’s desk so they can sign it whether they know who the hell you are or not. Nothing. Yes, individual co-workers and friends offered heartfelt congrats, but no customary jovial announcement was sent out from management or beyond.

It’s not that we necessarily need their corporate endorsement of our family, it’s the glaring omission that hurts so much.

This is not some piddly or conservative company either. This is a large, international corporation that values its employees and treats them very well. It provides our same-sex marriage with the same benefits it provides their straight employees and enrolled our newly adopted kids in our extended health plan without batting either of HR’s eyes. So this is not company policy, this is just company ignorance. I have no doubt it was simply an oversight on the part of management as I know the team to be run by good, caring people. But would such an oversight have happened if one of us had given birth? Not a chance.

No, we didn’t bring our kids home from the hospital all wrapped up in receiving blankets Grandma knitted. But if you think we were any less thrilled / terrified / exhausted / hopeful / grateful than any other new parents, you’re mistaken. No, neither of us walked around with a big belly for nine months (shut up, you know what I mean) signaling our impending arrival. But if you don’t think we wanted to scream it from every rooftop and hug every person we met as soon as we found out that we got to adopt these two amazing kids, you’re mistaken. No, we can’t bring our kids to the office for you to pass around and hold on your laps and shake your keys at. Okay, wait, we can totally do that. But as they are 8 and 13 it’s going to be wicked awkward for all of us. And if you think this doesn’t feel like a punch in the gut, like our kids don’t count, like our family isn’t as important as others, like this momentous occasion that has changed our lives and our hearts immeasurably isn’t worth celebrating just because we didn’t give birth to our kids, well, you are nothing short of wrong.

I doubt there is a policy at the office that reads, “All managers must send out congratulatory emails to employees within 48 hours of any employee or employee’s spouse giving birth”. This isn’t corporate policy, this is corporate culture. And our culture period. We value procreation enormously and there’s something wrong with you if you don’t tear up and make at least some kind of squealing sound whenever someone informs you that they’re pregnant. I get it. Babies are amazing. They’re cute. If you find miniature versions of Winston Churchill cute. They smell good. Probably better than our kids. It’s fun to look at babies and say “She’s got your eyes!” and “Oh, look at those feet! He’s going to be tall like his daddy!” and “Phew! Good thing she doesn’t look like Martin from Accounting, hey? I was worried after what happened at the Christmas party!” And maybe it would be different if we had adopted a baby. Maybe that would have triggered the oversized greeting card buying instinct or inspired management to take thirty seconds out of their day to copy and paste a birth announcement email with the wife’s name plugged into it. But we adopted kids. Real live kids. Kids as real as everyone else’s real live kids. And they count.

So, next time someone in your office grows their family, be it through sexual intercourse, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, adoption or any number of fancy new ways people make kids or families nowadays, congratulate them. As a company. If you’re a manager, it’s your responsibility to show that ALL of your employees’ families matter, not just the ones that make babies. If your manager doesn’t think to acknowledge your co-worker’s wonderful news, step up and mention it to your manager or send a message out yourself. If you’re not sure if it’s okay to share such news on your co-worker’s behalf, do what any adult would do in any other situation and ask them. A quick email / phone call / text message saying “Is it okay to share your news with the team? I’m so happy for you I want to tell everyone!” ought to do the trick. It’s not going to win you Employee of the Year, it’s just going to make sure you don’t look like a corporate jerk. You’re welcome.

In Grade 3, our son finds it unthinkable to leave anyone out. In Grade 3. Seems to me that with all of the corporate training and professional development and managerial coaching that goes on in the corporate world these days, someone in the wife’s office might have learned that somewhere along the way. Too bad head office didn’t think to send home a notice “asking that everyone receives one and no one is left out”.

When you don’t acknowledge adoptive families you send the message that we don’t count. And we do. Everybody does. Duh.

Advertisements

13 comments on “Congratulations [Employee Name Here Except if Adopting]!

  1. i am so sick of babies. oops, wait, that wasn’t your point. in all seriousness, this is an awesome and much-needed post, and funny and informative at the same time. and i am also sick of babies. not the small things themselves, they can’t help the nonsense around them. but i am sick of the idea that having a baby is the ultimate pinnacle of a woman’s life, and that every single birth is cause for celebration (so long as the mom is not evil, i.e. poor or drug-addicted or something like that). i know you are not saying this, but imho, at this point in our planet’s existence, adopting children who are already here and who need love and parenting is perhaps possibly just maybe a bit more of a reason to celebrate than the creation of a brand new baby. just perhaps.

  2. Hells, yeah! That totally sucks, and you are so right – the glaring omission is a kick to the gut. I was going to say, hopefully we’ll evolve into treating all kinds of expanding families equally, but damn, we shouldn’t even have to evolve. Just be there, already.

    Can I still shake my keys at them?

    • After the boy left my keys somewhere wacky causing me to spend an entire morning freaking out, they are no longer allowed near my keys. So shaking your keys at them might be read as taunting. So yes, you can.

  3. Hey how about this my In-Laws did throw a BBQ for us when we adopted our son. However my sister-in-law (my hubby’s brother’s wife) decided it was the perfect oppertunity to announce she was expecting. So whenever someone asked her about her new nephew and how lucky my husband and I were to finally realize our dream of a family, she would say “yeah it’s great but did you hear I am pregnant with our second baby!!!”

    • My jaw totally did a cartoon drop when I read your comment! Holy hand grenade! That is brutal, just brutal. I can’t stop shaking my head and laughing though! Unbelievable. Thanks so much for sharing. I hope it was an otherwise fun BBQ!

  4. Aren’t grade 3 kids amazing. Corporate 500 could learn something from them.

  5. Great points and so true. Although I’m mostly commenting because our second daughter went through a really unfortunate Winston Churchill phase and so you made me spit out my tea when I read, “If you find miniature versions of Winston Churchill cute.” And now I’m going to see if my friend who finally has the ink signed on the adoption of her 3.5 year old (who she has been fostering since he was 4 months old) is going to have a party – because really, that woman deserves a party!

  6. I was glad to read she “went through” the phase rather than “Madam, I will have you know our daughter looks like Winston Churchill and she is a lovely girl!” Although he was a pretty powerful dude so maybe she could make it work for her. And big congrats to your friend! That’s fantastic news and most definitely calls for a party. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. […] No, we didn’t bring our kids home from the hospital all wrapped up in receiving blankets Grandma knitted. But if you think we were any less thrilled / terrified / exhausted / hopeful / grateful than any other new parents, you’re mistaken. No, neither of us walked around with a big belly for nine months (shut up, you know what I mean) signaling our impending arrival. But if you don’t think we wanted to scream it from every rooftop and hug every person we met as soon as we found out that we got to adopt these two amazing kids, you’re mistaken. No, we can’t bring our kids to the office for you to pass around and hold on your laps and shake your keys at. Okay, wait, we can totally do that. But as they are 8 and 13 it’s going to be wicked awkward for all of us. And if you think this doesn’t feel like a punch in the gut, like our kids don’t count, like our family isn’t as important as others, like this momentous occasion that has changed our lives and our hearts immeasurably isn’t worth celebrating just because we didn’t give birth to our kids, well, you are nothing short of wrong. via morganbrayton.wordpress.com […]

  8. What a great, fun rant. Thanks for sharing it. And congratulations! Interesting – as two guys adopting a toddler son it did occur to me that we’d be missing out on the thing where people put ribbons together to make a hat (hats?). Oh darn. We wondered for a bit if we should throw our own adoption party but then our friends got together and threw us a surprise toddler shower when we adopted our son, who was three and hadn’t had a lot of socializing (lots of hospitals). We walked in and everyone screamed surprise and threw rice and he freaked out and for months afterwards would not go through the doorway of anyone’s house 🙂 The thing that saved the day for him was how excited all the other kids from all the other families were to meet him and greet him and make him part of their community. That’s, indeed, the community of grade 3s (and 1s and 2s) – “of course you are one of us!” And the cake!

    I think our workplace makes an equal fuss over adoption of any aged kids of any-combo couples (or singles) as it does of people having babies. We got a Winnie the Pooh lamp from the board of directors. But thanks to your blog I will make sure 🙂

    • Thanks for your amazing comment, Aaron! As baby (and bridal) showers are my idea of the 8th circle of hell, I’m totally fine to avoid those. Our adoption happened uncharacteristically quickly (four days!) so there wasn’t time for a shower but we most definitely plan to have a big party at the completion of our six month “probationary” period. We did have a Christmas Open House as a way of beginning the introductions. We only recently heard from a friend that our son ate ALL the rice crispy squares while we were talking to other guests. Our friend just sat, entertained, watching him return every few minutes for a few more…until they were all gone.

      I love the story of your son freaking out about his surprise shower! Poor little muffin. And your workplace sounds like somewhere other workplaces should model themselves on. Thank you so much for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: