Parent Stories

Emmett Brizendine

Father to:
Eloise (9 months)
Current roles:
Clinical Manager and co-lead of the LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group at MedVet
Emmett's story

How co-leading MedVet's LGBTQ+ ERG helped him grow personally and professionally–especially after becoming a parent

Emmett Brizendine wears several hats. He has a 9-month-old daughter, he’s the clinical manager at emergency and specialty veterinary care company MedVet and also the co-lead of his company’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG).

It’s this last role that impacted Emmett as a non-birthing parent both professionally and personally in ways he never dreamed—especially at a time when the country and the world is in a state of unrest surrounding LGBTQ+ individuals.

Feeling the sense of community since co-leading MedVet’s ERG - and building strong relationships with other LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals across the country - has been a bright spot in Emmett’s professional career.

And while he thinks some people may hesitate committing to ERG responsibilities, he’s thrilled MedVet makes it easy to get involved to learn from and educate others. For example, for the ERG Emmett co-leads, they limit meetings to every other month and utilize chat for all who want to be involved in the in between.

This short time commitment works well in the wider context of boundaries Emmett has set – something he had focused heavily on since becoming a parent.

When he first returned to work after his parental leave, Emmett found himself coming home and talking to his wife about work. When he realized he was missing out on time with his daughter, he made leaving work at work his number one boundary.

Emmett also completed a 20-credit hour CE course on burnout and wellbeing and became a Certified Veterinary Burnout Preparedness Professional, which helped him set healthier boundaries and teach others to do the same.

Emmet’s one regret is not taking a longer parental leave. He received six weeks at 100% pay and went back to work around week nine. His biggest piece of advice for others in his position is to fully commit to taking the leave—not just physically, but mentally:

“Delete the work apps. Disconnect. Be present with your family. Work will always be there, but you never get those first moments back with your children and family.”

<p class="content-highlight">Read Emmett’s full Q&A below to learn more about how he’s upheld his boundaries at work and advocates for others to do the same.</p>

You are the co-lead of MedVet’s LGBTQ+ employee network. Can you share more about the network and your company’s commitment to DEI?

MedVet’s commitment to DEI applies to all team members—they have a commitment to creating a safe and inclusive space where all team members are treated fairly, respectfully and without bias and includes maintaining an environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, bullying and retaliation.MedVet’s benefits team has done extensive research on insurance carriers who cover gender-affirming care. Our uniforms team has partnered with our scrub company to give all team members the option to add their pronouns to their uniforms. They have been the sponsor for many DEI events in the veterinary space including DEI happy hours, National Association for Black Veterinarians Conference, PrideVMC partnership, many local Pride celebrations, scholarships for Melanin in Veterinary Medicine and more.

How has this impacted you professionally and/or personally?

Being the co-lead for the LGBTQ+ Network has impacted me professionally and personally in ways that I never dreamed. I have built strong relationships with other LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals across the country both in and out of MedVet. I have had opportunities to educate others on issues related to the community. I am continuously learning from others within the community and am grateful for each friendship that I build along the way. With the country and the world in a state of unrest surrounding LGBTQ+ persons, specifically all the anti-trans rhetoric and legislation, it is nice to be able to feel safe when you go to work.

Do you have any advice for working parents who want to create or get involved with ERGs at their companies?

If you want to get involved with an ERG, make sure you speak with one of the co-leads or someone that is deeply involved in the group and find out what is required of you. Some people never join because they assume there is a huge commitment or that it is too time consuming. I can’t speak for all ERGs, but most of them require a 1- to 2-hour commitments month—if that.Our ERGs at MedVet were built around accessibility for all team members. We limit our meetings to every other month for one hour and utilize a Microsoft Teams chat for all that want to be involved in the in between. ERGs are a great resource for all employees to learn the struggles of others, educate yourselves or share your stories with someone who may be in a similar position as you are or once were.

How did taking paid parental leave help your family?

MedVet provided six weeks fully paid as a non-birthing parent. This allowed me to spend time with my wife, helping her with our daughter as she recovered from a C-section and for the three of us (five with our dogs) to bond as a family. My wife and I were able to develop our routine without having to worry about who is going to wake up when and do what versus who is going to sleep, etc. This was huge in helping us to strengthen our relationship to be able to better provide for not just Eloise but for each other.

Are there things you wish you had done differently before, during or after your parental leave?

I wish that I would have listened to my ‘parental gut’ feeling that I was missing out on Eloise’s early days by being [at work] so many hours and so late. On the flip side, I also know that I did not give 100% back to my employees because I was so focused on how I was going to spend time with Ellie when I got home before she went to bed.

Overall, even though my re-onboarding process was a smooth one with my leader, colleagues and employees, I still feel that I could have set myself up better at home to set myself up better to return to work.

What was the most challenging part of taking parental leave and how did you address or overcome it?

Feeling like I was truly able to disconnect from my job and my teams and be present with my family when I was on leave. I already turned off my notifications for my work apps, but decided to delete them off my phone completely to avoid the temptation of checking them every now and then.

What did your manager or company do that was really helpful to your success transitioning back to work?

At the time of my leave, I was overseeing three separate clinical departments. I had one co-manager overseeing two and another overseeing the third. For the first week I was back, I was not expected to jump back into managing those departments and instead I spent the week catching up on emails, meeting with my leader to review any changes in policies and procedures that would affect me or my teams and attending to other miscellaneous tasks. My second week back, I met with the managers that watched my teams for me to get caught up to speed on what happened while I was out and where the departments stand today. It was finally in week three that I re-assumed my normal work duties.

What worked really well in your re-onboarding experiences? What helped you feel good and up to speed faster?

Similar answer to the last question—what helped me feel good and get up to speed faster was the two week-long re-onboarding process my leader put in place for me.

What is one professional achievement that you’re most proud of since becoming a parent and why?

Shortly after returning to work after parental leave, I went through a 20-credit hour CE course on burnout and wellbeing and became a Certified Veterinary Burnout Preparedness Professional. I’m incredibly proud of this achievement because it has helped me help other veterinary professionals both at MedVet and around the country. It has also helped me to learn how to set healthy boundaries, know when to step back or step away and has impacted my personal life just as much as my professional one.

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?  

Leave work at work and leave work on time. Prior to having a child, I would often put in 10-12+ hour days and bring home my work issues to my wife. I would feel bad ‘leaving early’ and leaving the managers that were still there for the day with my teams. I felt like the ‘ship would sink’ without me here.

I realized one day that I was on parental leave for two months and the ship was still afloat—they don’t need me to pull 60-hour weeks to remain successful. Now, if I come in at 8, I try my best to be on my way out the door around 4-4:30, and when I get home, I fully invest myself in whatever my wife wants to talk about or whatever my daughter wants me to do with her.

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 would echo the statements from other parents on no longer tolerating wasteful work or unproductive meetings. Additionally, if there is a meeting on a day that I am off, I no longer feel the need to go in just for that meeting and leave. I will watch the recording (if available) or check in with a colleague to get the key points when I am back.

As a separate point, I think that parenthood has made me a better people leader. I have a much higher patience and tolerance for people and their individual situations and have developed a habit of teaching and training my teams instead of doing things for them and setting them up for failure in the future.

What boundaries do you maintain as it relates to work/home? How have these boundaries shifted over time?

My number one boundary is to leave work at work. I will never say to ‘leave home at home’ because that isn’t possible. When I leave for work, I am sad to leave my daughter. When I am at work, I think about her and talk about her as much as people will allow me to without becoming annoyed. 😀

I’m lucky to have coworkers, leaders and employees who care about me as a person and ask about my home life frequently. Every Tuesday and Thursday, we gather around my phone and look at the fun and sometimes ridiculous pictures I get from my daughter’s daycare. But once I get home, my number one priority is my family, and work waits until the next morning when I walk in the door.

Referencing something I mentioned previously, these boundaries have drastically changed over time. I would bring work home every day—and not because I was unhappy at work, but simply because I spent so much time there, that I didn’t have anything else to talk to my wife about. When I first came back to work, I would find myself coming home and talking to my wife about work instead of asking her about Eloise or helping Eloise learn the world around her. It wasn’t until I learned the true meaning of ‘They grow up in the blink of an eye’ that I realized how much I was missing out on and that I refused to miss out on in the future.

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?

I sound like a broken record, I’m sure, but my biggest piece of advice is to fully commit to taking the leave—not just physically, but mentally. Delete the work apps. Disconnect. Be present with your family. Work will always be there, but you never get those first moments back with your children and family.