This marketing director made a life-changing decision and found unexpected support at work
Natasha Brown’s life didn’t turn out the way she thought it would... It turned out better than she could have imagined.
But let’s rewind first.
Natasha is a marketing guru who has worked in a number of roles at McDonald’s for 16 years.
She started out in US marketing, working on the national launch of the Dollar Menu. Later, she moved on to US Menu, working on the development of salads – she was even featured on the salad bag for three years. “I became the resident ‘bag lady,’” she laughed.
It was in the US menu group where Natasha first worked on a cross-functional team, including our food scientists, culinary, supply chain and operations, and she learned McDonald’s capacity to create great products. She then went global – travelling the world with a stint in global marketing which culminated in her current role as a Director in Global Menu Strategy.
All of that experience means she knows the business well. It also means she has created a huge network which, unbeknownst to her, was going to prove wonderfully essential.
She decided she was going to adopt a baby.
“I found an adoption agency – The Cradle in Evanston, Illinois – and went through all of the training and paperwork… LOTS of paperwork… and I thought to myself these things take forever. So, I sort of just carried on with my life,” she said. She continued focusing on work and leading a full social life.
But then life swerved.
“In the movies, and news and popular culture, you hear adoption takes forever, so I imagined I was in for a long wait. But I got a call and they told me I would be a good match with a chosen birth mother,” she said.
The catch? The baby had been born a week ago, so she would be a mom in a mere 15 days.
“After that first call from The Cradle I immediately thought to myself, I need to talk with my team, especially my new boss, Amy, who was so supportive,” she said. Then it was time to prep. In only 15 days, Natasha had to prepare her life for a new baby… which is something most people have 9 months to do.
Suddenly, that network she spent so many years unintentionally cultivating showed up in force.
“My decision to adopt a child wasn’t only accepted at McDonald’s, but it was encouraged and supported,” she remembered. “There was this network of moms who gave me advice and helped with preparation. There were also other adoptive parents who were thrilled for me and giving me their specific perspectives.”
And then there was one more person she had to share the news with, her boyfriend of three months, Anthony. Natasha laughed as she remembered thinking, “I’ve only been dating this guy for a minute, and overnight I’m becoming a mom. So no fault or surprise if he considered this more than he bargained for. ”
Those 15 days flew by, and Natasha was soon face-to-face with her brand new baby: her daughter, whom she named Avery.
Natasha was exhilarated with her new role as a mother and it turned out that guy she’d been dating was in it for the long haul. Around Avery’s six month birthday, Anthony proposed on a family trip to Martha’s Vineyard and they were married a few months later.
Natasha’s story is a beautiful one. And she’s eager to share it because diversity of experience makes for a better workplace.
McDonald’s is a place for talent of every type. And for that talent to perform, they need to be able to bring their whole selves to work. This means creating a space that is inclusive for every type of choice and life circumstance.
As cheesy as it sounds, the company that Natasha devoted 16 years to stepped up in a big way.
We’re always talking about culture change in our corporation, but Natasha says this support feels like it is in the DNA of McDonald’s - it's not something new. “The people I am lucky to call colleagues were essential to my experience, and McDonald’s was hugely supportive as a corporation. They even have a credit benefit you can use towards adoption expenses,” she said.
Natasha was quick to say we all deserve the kind of support she felt through this huge change in her life, but that she never wants to take it for granted. “You have to step back and realize that it’s wonderful when you find a place that supports and even helps you make life choices – rather than hinders,” she said.
In Natasha’s case, she wants to focus on the positive narrative around adoption, and elevate the beauty of the differences in how families are made.
“When people are expecting in the workplace, it’s a very proud thing – but it’s also a visible thing,” she explained.
With adoption, you might not even know there’s a baby coming, and it’s certainly not as visually obvious. Sometimes people assume things, or don’t know what to think, ask or say.
“Instead of that, I want the narrative surrounding how I became a mom to help other people who are choosing or considering adoption to know that they have a support network here that will support them,” Natasha said.
Ultimately, she wants to remind people this is more than a workplace, it’s a community.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the support I’ve received from the network of people that I’ve been lucky to know at McDonald’s. They’ve shown me the good that can come from being yourself and being open – and I want to pay that forward.”