An educational technology consultant hopes to educate others on the need for surrogacy benefits
A year into the pandemic, Jim Puccetti and his husband welcomed twin daughters into their family via a surrogate.
The couple pursued an independent journey with surrogacy, tackling all the significant elements without the help of an agency. Jim’s husband works in the fertility industry and is knowledgeable about surrogacy and associated processes.
They were able to secure their eggs from an egg bank, a surrogate through a referral from a friend, legal counsel through another referral and a fertility clinic that Jim’s husband deemed top-notch.
As the surrogacy happened during the pandemic while the couple worked from home, they did all ultrasounds via video conference until the end of the pregnancy, when they took some time off to attend some of the final scans.
Since the birth of the couple’s daughters, life has been all about flexibility.
Jim took three months of paternity leave through the state and requested as much flexibility as possible during his first month back at work. His girls had a full-time nanny for most of the last two years but just started at a nearby in-home daycare which has helped further solidify boundaries between work and home.
Still, Jim aims for no meetings before 8 AM or after 4:30 PM to be present and avoid getting sucked back into work. Any extra work can wait until after the kids go to bed or the next day. Setting these boundaries hasn’t impeded Jim’s career—he recently got promoted.
While life since his daughters were born has stabilized, Jim encourages companies to explore fertility benefit options that include surrogacy.
Because though they were able to tap into Jim’s husband’s company’s fertility benefits to help with IVF costs, they quickly learned these benefits tend to cater toward those in heterosexual or lesbian relationships involving female anatomy.
Since Jim and his husband pursued surrogacy, and that individual was not on their benefits plan, they couldn’t apply those fertility benefits to her. They understood the stipulation legally, but it felt unfair while they were going through the process.
“Surrogacy is a very expensive pathway to go down,” he said. “If companies can help [all couples] on that journey in any way, that would be helpful.”
Read Jim’s full Q&A below to learn more about his experience with surrogacy and how he balances parenting twins with leading a team at work.
What did you do in preparation for parental leave to help set yourself up for longer-term career success?
“I passed my job responsibilities over to a direct report to fill in for me during my three-month absence.”
What mistakes did you make? Are there things you wish you had done differently before, during or after your parental leave?
“I didn’t fully understand the financial impact I’d be facing once on leave since it was my first time going through that experience. I also took advantage of paid leave benefits provided by the state, which was incredibly helpful and critical for us during that time.”
What worked well in your re-onboarding experiences? What helped you feel good and up to speed faster?
“My colleague who covered for me did a great job bringing me back into the fold. I also had an agreement with my boss that I needed as much flexibility as possible during this first month back as I settled into this new role as both a working professional and parent.”
What did your manager or company do that was helpful to your success transitioning back to work?
“They were flexible with my schedule and knew I needed some grace as I adjusted to my new working life as a parent (especially with newborns).”
What is one professional achievement that you’re most proud of since becoming a parent and why?
“I’ve been able to handle the demands of my job while managing my other new full-time job of being a parent. I’ve also recently been promoted at my company, which has proven to me that I can do both. It has definitely not been easy, but it is doable!”
If you had to name one thing (something you do, something you buy, something you have) that has had the greatest impact on your ability to manage working parenthood, what would it be?
“Keep a flexible mindset, give myself the permission to feel a wide range of emotions and to expect the unexpected.”
Many parents say that once they had children their “bar” became higher. They no longer tolerated wasteful work, unproductive meetings, etc. What else would you say changed as it relates to your career or work style once you had kids?
“I end my work day at a reasonable and consistent hour to be fully present with my children in the late afternoon/early evening. I didn’t have to worry about this before starting a family. I now put healthy boundaries around my time.”
As your children have gotten older, how has that changed your perspective on how to balance parenthood with career (if at all)?
“I don’t feel as overwhelmed by being a parent as I did when it all first started. I have been able to adapt in many healthy and productive ways. I’ve become more comfortable in my parent shoes while also accepting that I show up to work with some new responsibilities on my shoulders.”
What boundaries do you maintain as it relates to work/home? How have these boundaries shifted over time?
“I aim for no meetings before 8 AM and after 4:30 PM so that I can be present for my family and not get sucked back into work stuff. I also know when my kids are home, I usually don’t have a choice in the ‘hat’ I’m wearing, so if I have more work to do, I’ll tackle that after they go to sleep or, if it can wait, the next day.
My children recently started attending a nearby daycare after being with an in-home nanny for almost two years. That change has been positive for our family regarding work/home boundaries. Now that they are out of the home, we can focus on our work responsibilities. When they come back home, it’s family time.”
If you could give another parent [in a similar position as you] one piece of advice leading up to their parental leave, what would it be?
“Parental leave is a unique and special time, full of firsts and unexpected moments. Try not to worry about your job as much as you can, so you can enjoy this early stage. Like everything with parenting, it moves fast.”
What, if any, benefits did your employer provide that were most helpful to you as a non-birthing adoptive parent? Are there any specific offerings you wish you had?
“My employer did not have any additional benefits to offer in the fertility space; however, my husband’s company did. Those fertility benefits helped us with some of the IVF costs; we are incredibly grateful for that.
What we learned about the fertility benefits was that the way those were structured seemed to benefit those in heterosexual or lesbian relationships (where female anatomy is involved). At the same time, gay couples were not eligible for some of those benefits because of their anatomy. Since we pursued surrogacy, and our surrogate was not on our benefits plan, we couldn’t apply those fertility benefits to her. So while we understood it legally, it felt unfair to us.”
Can you share a little background on your experience with adoption/surrogacy, and how you coordinated the time off needed with your employer?
“We pursued an independent journey with surrogacy and tackled all of the major elements on our own (without the help of an agency). My husband works in the fertility industry (sales) and is fairly knowledgeable about surrogacy and associated fertility processes. We secured our eggs from an egg bank, a surrogate through a referral from a friend, legal counsel through another referral, and a fertility clinic that my husband highly regarded (and was close to our surrogate).
One crucial detail is that our pregnancy experience happened during the pandemic when many people were working remotely (including my husband and myself). So we did all ultrasounds via Zoom/FaceTime until the very end of the pregnancy, where we took some PTO to attend some of the final ultrasounds. Luckily, I had no other issues with needing more time off.”
In your opinion, what is the best way companies can support parents who are adopting?
“Explore fertility benefit options to add to your benefits package. Surrogacy is a very expensive pathway to go down. If they can support that journey in any way, that would be helpful.”
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