No two families are exactly the same, and with that, neither are their journeys to parenthood. For Joe and Nathan Matuszewski, featured in the mini-documentary above, becoming parents meant growing their family through surrogacy — which included coming face to face with the heartbreak of several failed pregnancies along the way.
Joe, an EY audit partner based in Cleveland, said he and his husband Nathan were nearly out of resources, embryos, and emotional bandwidth when they finally welcomed their first daughter, Addyson, to the family. “It’s definitely the hardest emotional roller coaster I’ve ever been through in life,” Nathan shares in the video. To say they were thrilled to become a family of three is a massive understatement.
That said, they always wanted to have more than one child, but grappled with the decision of whether to continue to grow their family. “The hardest part of the decision was remembering the years of trying for Addyson and just asking ourselves, did we want to put ourselves back into that boat again?”, Joe explained. There was a lot to consider: “the emotional heartache and challenge, the financial aspect, and keeping in mind that wasn’t just the two of us.”
But one thing made the couple’s decision much easier: the unwavering support of Joe’s employer, EY. The company’s progressive policy for parents makes all parents eligible for up to 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave, whether they welcome a child through birth, adoption, surrogacy, foster care, or legal guardianship. Employees are also eligible for up to a $25,000 lifetime benefit per family to cover expenses related to infertility, surrogacy, and adoption through EY’s Pathways to Parenthood program. Knowing this, the couple committed to trying one more time. Now, Addyson, who is 3 1/2, has a 4-month-old sister, Anderson.
In 2016, only 45% of male employees at EY took three weeks or more of parental leave, and in 2018 that percentage grew to 60%. Of the almost 1,500 EY employees who took leave under the program in 2018, nearly 50% of them were men — signaling that paternal leave is not only becoming part of the parenthood status quo, but also something that men are beginning to see as a right instead of a privilege. “Originally there were some doubters that said it’s a nice thing for your firm to offer, but men may be interested but won’t really take it,” said Karyn Twaronite, EY’s Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer. “I’m proud to say that more of our men are taking leave. In fact, we have as many men taking leave as we have women.”
The time off allowed Joe and Nathan — and countless other moms and dads — to prioritize family. “The best thing about being a parent is having something that you love more than you ever thought that you could possibly love something in the world,” Nathan said. “When that child turns around and looks at you the same way, it’s the best feeling ever.”