Editor’s note: We asked Josephine Kelly, a Wells Fargo financial consultant in Dripping Springs, Texas, to share her experience taking advantage of the company’s new Critical Caregiving Leave benefit and how it helped her care for her infant daughter and spend time with her other children during the holidays.
My family’s 2016 ended much like it probably did for many Wells Fargo team members — surrounded by loved ones at the holidays, celebrating one another, eating heartily, and toasting to a new year. As you can see by the accompanying picture, we were all smiles. When the year started, however, we weren’t sure those smiles were going to be possible, especially for my infant daughter, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was born in December 2015; joining her two excited siblings, Vivian, age 7, and Wil, age 4, who couldn’t wait to spend the holiday season bonding with their new baby sister. However, we were immediately faced with a scary situation as she was born with a birth defect — a bilateral cleft lip and palate — which affected the structure of her mouth and lip and altered her facial form and structure.
I was grateful that she was happy and healthy, and I loved her at first sight, but there were a lot of questions racing through my head: Would she be able to speak? How would she eat? Would the doctors be able to repair her smile? Could I still care for my other two children while attending to her medical needs? How would my work be affected if she needed more care?
We were immediately connected with the amazing group of physicians from the Austin Cleft Team who assured me that they would be able to fix her smile and make it easier for her to have full speech, but cautioned me to be ready for a long and difficult road ahead filled with multiple surgeries. Her first surgery would be when she was only three months old, and she would need another surgery at 10 months. That’s a lot of surgery for anyone — particularly a small baby. This also meant that part of my maternity leave was going to include time spent at the hospital caring for her after her first surgery.
Uncertain times — but wonderful news soon arrived
Prior to this, balancing my career and my family’s needs had never been a problem, mostly because of the support of my teammates and managers. With my maternity leave nearing its end, however, I was concerned about the ongoing medical needs of my daughter and wondered how I could manage both home and work responsibilities.
“Whenever I share my experience with family and friends, they are always impressed and a bit envious that I work for a company that offers such a great benefit.”
With Elizabeth facing a second surgery later in the year, I thought that I might have to use my paid time off to give her the care and support she needed. I worried that if I used up all my PTO I might not be able to spend quality time with my two other children around the holidays, especially considering all three have birthdays within weeks of each other near the end of the year! I also wondered what I would do if either of them got sick and had to miss school.
It was during this uncertain time for my family that Wells Fargo announced three new family-related benefit programs, including the Critical Caregiving Leave benefit. I did some research and found out it would allow me to spend up to five paid days caring for my daughter after her second surgery without using my PTO. This, along with knowing I had the support of my wonderful husband and extended family, gave me the peace of mind that I could focus my attention needed on getting Elizabeth the care that she needed.
Cause for celebration
Being able to care for my daughter after her surgery meant the world to me and my family. Her surgery went great, and I couldn’t have been happier that I was able to save some of my PTO to spend that much-needed quality time with my family during the holidays, and for our now very busy birthday season. It truly was magical, from watching our favorite movie “Elf” together to seeing them make cookies with Grammy, which is one of their favorite holiday traditions.
Best of all, knowing that this is a benefit I can use every year is a huge source of relief, as she will need ongoing surgeries throughout her childhood to help improve what is already one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.