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In this episode, Chelsea talks to Brandi Ebersole, a writer, photographer, and adoption expert. They discuss the finances of parenthood and adoption, the realities of adoption that many people don't know about, and how to decide if you'd like to become a parent.

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Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of The Financial Confessions.

It is I, your host founder and CEO of The Financial Diet, and person who loves talking about money more generally Chelsea Fagan. Today we're doing an episode that I am both very excited about, and maybe a little surprising to some of you.

A lot of you who have been watching our YouTube channel, or generally engaging with the content that I make, are probably aware to some extent that my husband and I are very much child free by choice. We are living that life. We are laughing and loving and that life.

Quite a bit less so right now with both a global pandemic and him being booted out of the country for the past year. But nonetheless, we are definitely on that particular journey. But I am also someone who absolutely adores children.

And is moreover very interested in the ways in which we talk about mothers, become mothers, treat mothers, and generally think about mothers in our society. As of fairly recently I am finally coming into the role I was born to play, which is to say the cool aunt to my current only niece. But soon I'm sure there will be many more behind her.

And even that has been an interesting journey, just in terms of figuring out my own role within it. And realizing the ways in which it will change my life, and change the ways that people interact with me. Obviously for the mothers in our society, that's times 1,000.

I'm also someone who's always been very interested in non-traditional motherhood. Specifically around things like adoption or becoming a foster parent. It's something that my husband and I are much more agnostic about when it comes to a little bit later in our life, when at minimum he's back in the country and we're even able to think about things like that.

But that is also something that is both, for many of us, shrouded in mystery as a process. But also extremely expensive for many people who want to go that route. We live in a country that offers very little in terms of maternity leave, subsidies for parents, child care.

And even less so for parents who become parents through alternative means. So I really wanted to bring on someone today to talk about the costs and the experiences and the cultural view of motherhood. But who could do it through a unique perspective that is very inclusive of mothers who are not biological.

My guest today is Brandi Ebersole. She is a writer, a blogger, a communicator, an educator all about motherhood. She is both a mother through adoption, and she is a mother biologically.

She's also, herself, an adoptee. So she has quite a lot to say on the subject from all sides. She's also a photographer and takes many beautiful photos on her Instagram, which we'll link you guys to.

And I'm very excited to get to talk to her. So without further ado, please welcome to the show Brandi Ebersole. Hello.

Hi, how are you? I'm great. How are you?

I'm good. Thanks for having me. Thank you for being here.

I'd love to kick off our conversation with just a quick talk about your story, both as an adoptee yourself, and as a mother both adoptive and biological. Yeah, so I was adopted internationally when I was six months old I made my big flight from Korea to the United States. I grew up in a predominantly white community.

So there was a lot of bumps and bruises along the way being that I was transracially adopted. So both my parents are also white. And yet, there was this sense of resiliency that was still held in my story, and who I am.

And as I ventured through life, identity and belonging we're always a huge part of my internal landscape. I was always reading books, and asking questions, and super curious around where people came from and who they were. And as I began to enter adulthood, I was able to meet my partner and husband during college.

And thankfully, he also had a heart for things less conventional. He understood that being tied to me meant his life would not be normal. And we had lots of conversations right off the bat surrounding my adoptee identity, and what that meant for me as I planned my life.

So we talked about adopting. It was something that I think as an adoptee I had seen almost as a more clear view of parenthood because that was all that I had experienced. And so as time moved on, and we began businesses and doing different types of work, we started having conversations around kids.

We're kind of kids people, as we like to call ourselves. And so we started the adoption research process. And it felt very funny as somebody who was adopted doing that because I felt like, in a lot of senses, I knew the experience in a way that these-- what's the word I would look for-- businesses were trying to educate me.

And so it always made for an interesting dynamic between us and the different adoption agencies that we interviewed because I was adopted. But we maybe interviewed about five different ones until we landed on one that we felt like was a really great fit for us. And so there is a process around privately adopting that you have a home study, which is basically a legal document written about your life, and who you are and who your partner is.

And then that document is written so that it can be taken to court eventually as you finalize your adoption. So we had our home study written, we took classes, we were doing all the different pieces of putting the puzzle together. And private adoption usually takes I don't know, three to five years.

And however, when we finished our home study and it was all written and all of our education pieces were done, three weeks later we were called for our daughter. And what that kind of entails is for us we got to get to know her birth mother, or at the time her mother. And hear what her story was and where she was and what was going on for her.

It was a very emotional time for me, as an adoptee, because I don't have any connection to my biological mother. But it was really apparent that this connection between my daughter's birth mother and I was really special because she also was adopted. And so we had some sort of just currency between us that made a lot of sense.

And so yeah, it was a really special and emotional time. She was so kind and vulnerable with us to allow us in the room when our daughter was born. And since then, that's kind of how our relationship has always worked.

It's very vulnerable, we're very open. And my daughter knows that she has two moms and two dads. We've had both of her biological parents to visit at our house, and we go down to visit.

The pandemic has, in a lot of ways, stopped a lot of that. But as an adoptee, I just know the importance of identity. And I love that my daughter knows exactly where she gets her hair and her feisty spirit and all the things that we celebrate.

And I love that we can share her with them even though their circumstances at the time did not lend them to choose to parent. I think it was a really powerful place for her mom to be able to be. And to be able to have the choice in that setting.

That's not always the case with biological parents. So Yeah. But fast forward, we then had a biological son, which was a really interesting nuanced experience for me as someone who was adopted.

It was the first time that I'd ever met or interacted with someone who shared DNA with me. And so there was a lot of internal work that I had to do surrounding that. But he's great and fun and his sister's best friend.

And then, during that time we really realized though that the business of adoption can be very unethical and corrupt. We know that the adoption agency that we worked with to adopt our daughter really did not treat her biological mother very well. There was a lot of promises on our end that things were going to be a certain way, and that is not how it was.

And so with that, and our continued heart toward growing our family, and understanding that there are always going to be kids in situations that need a less conventional landscape. We started to really research and get to know what it meant to be a foster parent. And so yeah, it was kind of natural for us to go that way.

I think I had grown and understood so much too of the need for adoptees to be connected to their biological parents. And so foster care's main purpose is reunification, and to keep families together and preserving them. And so we of course were like, this is great.

We love biological parents. And we see the ways that if we could be a tool for them, for parents that are in need, that it would be something that we could do. And we kind of-- so fast forward, we again you do a very similar kind of education and home study when you become a foster parent.

But the difference the big difference between privately adopting and fostering is fostering is a government run program that is through your state here in the United States. And I think it's different in Europe and other places, but obviously my experience is working within the US. And so here in Massachusetts it's completely free.

But your purpose is to be a resource to these families until they can hopefully get out of their situations that they're in. And be healthy enough to have their kids. And so that was what our intention was in doing that.

However, the first child that came to our home to stay, his parents were never able to really get healthy enough to parent. And they didn't want to. And which is also really different in a lot of foster care settings.

And so yeah, so we were his foster parents for like a year and a half until his goal changed to adoption. And at that point, we knew that he had been a part of our family for that long. And we felt like it was a good fit for us to adopt him.

And so yeah, that's kind of how our family came to be. So, yeah. That's a great story.

You know I'm curious about a lot of what you said in there. And specifically the role of being genetically related, versus not genetically related. I have a couple of questions for you on that subject.

But one of the first ones is, obviously you have three children, it sounds like two of whom are not yours biologically. And I can only imagine that your love for them is just as strong regardless. I'm curious you know why it feels so important to you for there to be that connection with biological family.

And if you could explain to myself and our audience some of the controversy around open versus closed adoptions. Because I know that myself, personally, but I'm sure a lot of our audience who's done any kind of cursory research into it, can find out pretty quickly that this is a very controversial topic. Yeah so I can tell you that open and closed adoption is kind of, I hope, going out of style.

I think that there are enough adult adoptees like myself that have spoken out and done research. And there's tons of them that are working on getting more educational documents to show that there can be this fluid relationship. And that it doesn't have to be this finite way of creating a family.

I think, especially in our culture today, we're seeing more and more diversity within a lot of different spheres. I think, and in particular, adoption. A lot of people come at adoption because of different infertility issues, or just a lot of them come at it with fear.

I think there is enough stories and headline news of around how adoption has not always gone well. And so I think that there's a lot of fear, and just that idea of we are human and we want to own and have ours. I think as an adoptee I have had the particular scope of realizing and seeing firsthand that I am both my parents, who raised me and who gave me their last name and flew me from Korea to be a part of their family.

I am theirs, but I am very much a part of this family that I don't know. And I think the echoes of that unknown for the past 30 years of my life have not enriched it, if anything it has created further trauma for me to have to reckon with. And to be resilient in because I'm Korean.

And I am, like I can't show up to the doctor-- and I can't show up to the doctor and not answer-- I cannot fill out the form of what is my medical history. Because I don't know. And so I just think that there is a lot of-- so I think the controversy starts at where adoption begins, which is like what is your motive?

And what is your reasoning to come at this? Is it to serve self, or is it to serve the child in the whole picture? I think if we're serving the child in the whole picture, then we understand that the child needs the connection to their biology and you.

Because there's a part of severing at the beginning of the child's story that cannot be undone. And so how do we build a bridge to make it a little bit better in some ways. It doesn't heal all, but it gives more answer and less kind of like unknown and all that.

So I think that that's where-- but I think a lot of times open adoption isn't always available. Sometimes, some circumstances, birth parents aren't healthy enough or safe to be able to have that kind of relationship with their child. And so in that case, I think that there's room for nuance there.

But I think the role of the adoptive parent is to at least advocate for there to be openness. You can be open in your home around issues, and not have the issues actually going on in your home. In today's society, we have all these different instances of racism, and all of that.

And even if we're not-- even if that isn't physically affecting the people in our home, we can be open to talk about it. In that same way, I think adoptive parents can be open and talk about their child's birth parent. Their children can know their birth parents' name, even if they're not safe people.

And know that they're celebrated because those people are who gave you your child. I just think a lot of times I think the root of why it's a controversy issue is fear and unknown. When in reality I think that the adoptee, when it becomes an adult, will advocate to know.

Because we all are curious about who we are, and what made us the way we are. So one of the things that I'm very curious about specifically is fostering. And I know you mentioned that sort of the fundamental framework of fostering is sort of a place for children to go, in so many words, while their parents get better, essentially.

Or a member of their biological family gets better. But when you research fostering, or you go on the forums, things like this. A lot of the times you'll see two things.

Foster parents who will say you think it's fostering, but a lot of times you're going to end up adopting the kid, this happens all the time. Or also, there being a great kind of controversy or pain around where the child ends up placed one way or the other. And when you see it from the outside, when you're reading about it, it seems like a system that's very difficult to understand.

And doesn't always necessarily seem to be totally, what's the word, always operate in the most ideal way. Can you give a little bit of insight to our audience who might be interested in the foster system. Some of the myths versus realities, your experience of it, and what your perception of it overall is for someone who might be getting interested.

So, you're right. It's not a myth that it's disorganized, and at times can feel kind of like a puzzle that is hard to crack. I think that there is something to be said about the funding that is lacking there in terms of our government.

And so social workers are overworked and underpaid, and so kids are not always taken care of in the best manner. However, I think it's a myth that all these kids are broken and hurting. I'm not saying I think all adoption there's trauma.

And I am not saying to go into it ill-equipped and unaware of where these kids come from. However, one of my best friends is an adult adoptee who was adopted at four through the foster care system. And she is one of the brightest, most savvy and runs her own business.

She's an amazing person. And I think that the taboo view of foster children is that they have run away from home. Or they have all these things stacked up against them, when they're just kids too.

They just haven't had the privileges that the rest of us get to have all the time. And I think it's a myth that all kids do end up being adopted. That was a part of the story within my family, however we've had other children in our home that have either reunified or gone back to family of kin.

And so it does happen. However, I think what is also a reality is that the broken system plays against even biological parents. I think that the stakes that are stacked up against them are good because they're trying to keep these children safe.

However, oftentimes it's harder on them than it often needs to be. So because they're their kids, and they love them. And being a mother myself, I have so much empathy for parents of kids who are currently in the foster care system.

I think it's also a myth that the birth parents are villains because they have wronged their children in some way. I'm not saying that they haven't, but a lot of times what's at play with these parents is years of mental illness. Or different socioeconomics that are at play, that we aren't aiding these people.

We're not we're not pouring money into keeping kids with their parents. And so instead, this is kind of the result of what has happened. But yeah, I don't-- I think it's a myth to stand-- I would encourage your audience to not stand on the sidelines.

There's so many different ways to get involved in foster care. You don't have to have a kid in your home. You can expose yourself to these awesome kids by volunteering and doing different-- they put on different events for these kids to give them kind of like a childhood.

Spend an afternoon with them and they will change you. That's basically how it kind of rolled out for my husband and I is we began to do photographs for kids in waiting. Which is also a reality in the foster care system.

There is-- in every state-- there is a huge list of kids that are just waiting for a home. And you can find their picture on websites and I think what is hard is society's desire is for everyone to get a baby. And so we don't take the time to get to know all these other kids that have maybe had to have removals at different points in their lives.

And so they're on these lists. But all that to be said, my husband and I were exposed to these lists of kids, and we gained a heart by just volunteering and taking photographs at these different events. And I don't know they just-- they change you.

It's really awesome and they're resilient. And they're fun, like they're people. So, yeah.

I'd love to talk about the finances of the three ways in which your children have come into your life. Can you talk to us a little bit about-- and please we encourage you to share any numbers you feel comfortable sharing. But the costs of bringing your adoptive child into your life, your biological child, and your foster to adoptive child.

Yeah. So our eldest daughter was privately adopted. We were originally with an agency that had given us a $30,000 kind of tag.

What ended up happening with us is there was an-- our daughter's birth mom was considered like an emergency case because she was going to give birth in three weeks. And so they sent our profile over so then we ended up being kind of networked with another agency. So our bill went up even higher.

I think the number was around 45 to 50 by the end. That didn't even include all the travel expenses, and all that. Now, I say all that with hesitation because I would do it all over again.

She's my kid. However, I think that there's something to be said about what taking the time to ask your agency exactly what are all these costs for. We didn't have the luxury or the time to do that.

We knew what that was for the agency that we had chosen originally. We knew the different amenities and things that they were going to be giving to birth parents. And for follow ups for us, and how that worked in terms of legal documents and different things.

We didn't know that about this other agency. And the best way that we were able to do that was pre adopting. We had filled out tons of forms for different grants and we ended up taking a personal loan.

And so that's how the finances kind of shook out for that. And then for our biological son-- I mean the result with both cases, there's all of the buying bottles and diapers and all of that stuff. But in reality I don't think-- I mean, I saw a chiropractor during the time that I was pregnant.

But other than that it was under a health insurance, and so all of the regular amenities needed to be paid for to have a child. And then now we're obviously paying for child care and different things as time moves on. But original cost it wasn't like a big bill in the sense of private adoption.

And then for our son, through foster care, if you're a foster parent you're paid a stipend every month to basically kind of give the kid the needs that it has. And so it's definitely a different situation. However, and then post-adoption there's no cost.

Because again, it's all run by the state. So it's much different however, yeah I think that there's-- I mean, again all of the regular expenses to parenting a child. So food and diapers and all of that are still a part of that.

But it was not a ticket price like a private adoption. Or an international adoption is also very similarly scaled as a private adoption is. So as women are having children statistically later and later in life, more and more women are seeking alternative fertility treatments.

And ways to sort of prolong their ability, or intervene on their ability to have a biological child. And a lot of women who may be having serious difficulty conceiving a biological child, or carrying one to term, resist the idea of bringing a child into their life who is not biologically theirs. Even in the face of mounting costs or difficulties with biology.

What would you say to women, or to families, who feel scared or hesitant or unsure about possibly pursuing the route of bringing a non-biological child into their life? I mean I would probably start with saying the hesitation is good. I think that there's a part of it in which it does take a particular type of person to adopt a child.

I think that there is a real reckoning with who you are, and how you work. And I know there are stories where it wasn't the best fit, I don't-- I think that it's OK to have those questions. However, I do think that motherhood comes at all of us in different ways.

Or fatherhood, or parenthood, comes at everyone in different ways. And so to also trust the process. That there is this-- if you can have conversations and begin to understand and to expose yourself to these different types of families.

I mean the love within my family is not any different than our best friend's family, who have kids all the same age as ours but they're all biologically connected. We have dance parties, we go on trips together, we love each other, we talk about hard things. Though that's all a part of our reality.

However, I think there's a lot of fear, when you become a parent, there's a lot of fear about what's inside of you that's going to come out. Because these little people challenge you in ways that you've never been challenged before. And I think it's a particular place when it comes to parenting a child that's not from you, or looks like you.

There is this particular reflection that you need to have about yourself before you can take a step forward. And so my biggest advice would be to yes, be real with those questions. But don't not take steps to expose yourself to what these families are like.

And try to imagine outside of the box of what you think your family's supposed to be like. Take the time to re-imagine what your family is, what your family can be like. And I think a lot of times we have small views of what that will be like, when in reality I never imagined my family's story arching out to so many different places.

I think I just imagined adopting and having kids. But now we have this rich family. We have family all over the place, and from all over the place.

And there's something really beautiful that we're all connected in this way that would never have happened if we didn't give it a chance. I also feel that we have a tendency, as a society, to overstate and over scrutinize the problems that arise in adopted children. And sort of negate the fact that plenty of biological children have all kinds of troubles with their families, with their development.

And that having a child-- no matter which way you have a child, there's never a guarantee that it's going to be a seamless experience. Or turn out the way you thought it was. And I do feel, even in my own life, I know a lot of people who have feelings about adoption that I think are very biased.

And I think ultimately come from a view that there's something-- there's sort of a uniquely-- it's a uniquely sort of open opportunity to negative outcomes. When I think the truth is that there can be negative and positive outcomes and in every situation, we just don't tend to point those out as much as examples. Yeah I definitely think that that's very true.

And that there's a part of parents that it's a lot harder to admit when somebody is a reflection of you and then there's a problem. But when there's that little bit of nuance that it's maybe not, it might be easier to kind of focus on that. And so that's why a lot of those stories I think surface in a lot of senses.

Because yeah, there is this weird I don't know, kind of culture around talking about adoption. You seem like borderline Disney princess in your level of like seeming so natural at being a mom and loving being a mom and knowing that you wanted to be one. But I think a lot of women don't know that they want to be one, or feel scared of becoming one, or feel like it's going to necessarily come at the cost of certain things.

So could you speak a little bit to the experience of how being a mother interplays with all of your other identities. For example, your professional one. And speak a little bit to what maybe you weren't expecting before you got into it.

Yeah I can definitely speak to that. I'm definitely not a Disney princess when it comes to my motherhood. I think that there has always been a part, each time I have become a mom, that there's an internal reckoning that I have to have as I am re-imagined and I'm remade.

They change you in this very unearthing way. So every time there is this reshaping of my identity, and all the way, your capacity gets smaller every time you have one in lot of ways. However, I think because they're-- a part of my personality is pretty certain and pretty determined-- I try my best to balance.

I don't really think there's such a thing as balance in life. But I try my best to keep alive the parts of myself that I know that are important, and still powerful. And I think that it's an example to my kids when I choose to do that.

So I want to be an example to my daughter that you can work and be a mom. And that it doesn't-- the best version of myself is the one that is myself. It's not this version of motherhood that looks like my neighbor.

It's the one that I am. And I'm the most happy when I'm being that person. And so I think through every stage of motherhood, though that thus far I'm only been here for seven years.

But I think that there has been different seasons that that's looked different in every season. However, I think for me, what has kept me intact is I think I try my best to make myself a priority. That you can't put your mask on somebody else until you put it on yourself.

And so I really try my best to live by that. I really want my kids to see me as a whole person, and that I'm not resenting them. I definitely think motherhood you can find yourself in that place of pouring out and pouring out, and then you don't pour in.

So yeah, and I have people and friends and other moms that keep me accountable to continuing to pour into myself too. It's interesting. I've read a couple of books that talk about the way both parenting and being a parent, and a mother especially, have changed over the past 50 years.

And especially in American culture. I've only ever lived in one other culture. So it's certainly not an exhaustive sampling.

But I will say it did strike me when I was living in France for several years, how much less a family's life is centered around the children. Like the children do things obviously that are child's activities still, but many fewer of them than the average family in the US. And when it comes to what time the family eats, the food that they're eating, what they're doing with their weekends, their schedules-- it seems much more tilted toward well, this is what the parents are doing.

This is what they're eating, this is when they want to eat, and the children just sort of have to kind of accommodate the parents. And that used to be much more of the way our cultures were centered, even in the US like 50 or so years ago. And I do think now especially, especially if you have more financial security.

And therefore can afford to put your child in all kinds of activities. And schedule them for trips, and you know this, that, and the other. That we're increasingly kind of creating a dynamic in family life where the life is really kind of centered around the child.

And the child's schedule, and the child's culinary desires, and their weekend activities, and all of that. And I do think that's part of the reason why a lot of women who do have these really rich, full lives I think feel a little bit scared. That they're now going to suddenly be thrust into a dynamic where they're not allowed, or even able, to have all of those parts of themselves.

So how do you, in raising three children who sound quite young, kind of balance providing for them and giving them their life and their space. While still making space for you and for, quite frankly, adult stuff. Yeah.

So my first response to that is there's a book called Bringing Up Bébé which it's a-- Oh yeah, there is. Yeah, so that was the first parenting book that I ever read. No way!

And so I think that has been probably my biggest influence above any adoption book or discipline book. That's been a goal for me, where I want to not center them and a lot of ways. My kids love sushi, they love Curry.

I mean, we just drag them along and if they're going to be hungry then they're going to be hungry. They've learned that their cultures are represented within the food that we eat. And there's a story, and a way to kind of educate them along the way.

I'm not saying that we don't eat French fries and chicken nuggets every once in a while. But it's not a regular part of our cuisine. They get that when they go to their grandparents' house.

And so I think that has been something I have committed our family to. I also think it really helps that we live near other family. And so we do rely-- I'm not the only person raising these kids.

And so we do rely on grandparents and aunts and uncles to invest in these kids in the same way that, before we had kids, we invested in our nieces and nephews. There is a part of that that I think is really beautiful. That I'm not the only woman that's influencing my daughter, or I'm not the only woman influencing my sons.

That they get a wide scope and a wide view of what this looks like. And I can tell you that that's how I find time for myself. And I think also giving my partner and I, having the understanding that this is a partnership.

That he very much gets offended when people even note at him that he's watching the kids. Because he's like I'm a parent, I'm not watching my kids. And so I think that it also helped that we had, from the get go, kind of had that concept and understanding between the two of us.

Now I think, and it's also, I think a lot of times I have to resist what American culture says about women. That I don't have to have all the baked goods for school. I can walk in with my Oreo's, and that's fine.

I think that there's a part of that where I've had to just really get confident in who I am. And that my kids may feel differently, but hopefully I'll be working and I can pay for their therapy eventually. Yeah, I think that is where my parenting lies.

So that's how I make time for myself. That Bringing Up Bébé, man. That thing made some points I will say.

Yes it does, definitely. And yeah, I also don't think-- I mean, listen, I'm no child psychologist. But I have been a full time nanny to many, many a rich family.

And let me tell you, I do not think it's doing the kids any favors to be little princes in their kingdom who get completely catered to at every moment. And get to eat whatever they want, and watch whatever they want, and their parents are just shuttling them around. Or the nanny is shuttling them around.

Yes, exactly. I don't think that makes you a better person. But I will say the gender role thing that you touched on a little bit with your husband, I think that's also probably one of the biggest.

Because I think one of the biggest tensions in today's society as it pertains specifically to gender roles and parent roles. So we obviously see this borne out in the workplace. So, for example, as a lot of our audience probably knows, men who have children are statistically going to earn more over their lifetime.

It really plays into how they're perceived at work. They're taken more seriously. They come across as older, more mature, all this stuff.

Women systematically take a hit, and it increases with every child they have. They're also constantly sort of the ones expected in an unspoken, and spoken, way to be taking on the majority of the responsibility. In terms of time, in terms of energy, all of that kind of stuff.

So in many ways, I think one of the biggest problems is that in heterosexual couples who have children, we're really setting the woman up to fail in a lot of ways. And I do think that we need to put more emphasis-- to all my heterosexual ladies out there who are considering marrying. Or even just moving in with, or God forbid having a child with a man, do more serious vetting in terms of the type of partner he's going to be.

And the extent to which, as you said, like he's not like watching his kids. He's not like babysitting his own children. He's like doing the fundamental work of being a father.

So I'm curious how you kind of came to be sure that your husband is the type of man that you felt comfortable being a co parent with. Yeah. He was a really good uncle, and I saw that.

And I knew that he loved getting on the ground, and playing with them. He babysat before-- he babysat them before we were dating and it just came naturally to him in a lot of ways. I was in the heat of a lot of my sociology classes when we were dating, and so it was always on the table at dates.

What I was learning, and how I wanted my life to be. And so he knew he wasn't marrying a passive Polly, he knew he was marrying me. And so I think that kind of gave him the expectation.

And he didn't want to be a dad that worked all the time, he loves being involved. And so I think that also his desires fit mine in a lot of ways. Where he didn't want to be away every weekend working, he wanted to be at the soccer games.

And I wanted to be reading books at home. So it's molded into that. And I just think in general when people make partnerships, whether that is heterosexual or not, I know from talking to all my different friends that there is this definite need to have the conversation that roles are fluid.

That there is-- communication needs to be key so that we can have the best foot forward in a lot of ways. I think it's also part of the issue is that the gender norms in which we're sort of operating still come from a time when women largely didn't work outside of the household. So it was like natural that she was going to assume the majority of the domestic labor.

But now, we've got women who work outside of the house almost as much as men do. And are still tasked with the majority of the domestic labor. I think just yesterday actually there was a thread that went viral on Twitter I saw where this woman was talking about, I don't remember who, but some woman with a lot of followers.

So she must be doing something. Who was talking about how when you go on a trip with your kids it's inherently not a vacation. And all these women underneath it we're talking to each other about how since the advent of Airbnb all they do is go to other people's houses, and just do all the cooking and cleaning and washing and everything in a different location.

And in my mind, looking just quickly at these profiles of these women, I'm like you guys have jobs. Like you're accomplished women and you're talking openly and commiserating with each other about the fact that your husbands don't do any of this stuff. And that you're tasked with all of it.

So I do think it's a reckoning that we have to have. And I think to your point about not being passive, I do think there has to be a time at which women really throw down gauntlets about like I'm not going to-- like if you're not doing the dishes, I am also not doing them. Like, goodbye.

I'm not going to be your maid. Yes, very much so. And I mean, but I think I have to give credit to my mother-in-law, right.

Because I think she also didn't shy away from teaching her sons how to wash the bathroom, and how to fold laundry, and how to do all those things. And those were all a part of my husband's upbringing. So I can't-- he was not treated like a little prince.

And so he didn't expect that from me. So I thank her all the time. Now listen, my mother-in-law doesn't speak English, so we can get real.

My mother-in-law did raise her three sons to be little kings. When we go to their house, she still does all of their domestic labor. And my husband is 33 goddamn years old, but let me tell you I corrected for that very quickly.

So the division of labor is equitable in this house. No thanks to my mother-in-law. Who again, does not speak English.

And none of you guys translate for her if you're listening. So as I promised, we do have quite a lot of questions from our audience. And I'd love to get to a few of them.

So let me pull them on up. So someone is asking, are there affordable options for adoption that do not include church affiliations? Yes.

So different companies actually offer different grants. I know if you work for certain-- I remember when I was doing research, granted it was seven years ago, that some of the bigger companies, I think MSN at the time. Or what's another big one-- I'm not sure.

But I would be curious to ask your employer because it is becoming definitely a part of that whole startup company. You know pro supporting parents kind of places to try to find ways to support their workers. And so I know that there's those resources.

I think state to state there are also other resources. Yes. So check with your-- so non-religious affiliations can be your employer, there are other big companies that want to support unconventional-- less conventional-- ways of family making.

And so I think just do a little deep diving research. A great resource is your community. I think that a lot of times it's hard for us to ask for help.

But I think if we want to have the mindset that parenting is a inclusive task then we should let them be a part of that from the start. And so, yeah those would probably be my first thoughts about that question. We have someone asking what are your thoughts on the quote "adoption culture happening on social media right now?" Yeah, I think that there is a definite move in the adoption culture.

And some of it I see to be very productive and useful. I think seeing adoptees and birth parents speaking out on their experiences, and kind of giving light to the nuanced experience is really beautiful and educational. And people should be listening.

I think it's really cool to see the ways in which mainstream media is taking on the theme of adoption. And trying to give it more legs and understanding in different shows like This is Us or A Million Little Pieces. However, I see the opposite effect too.

Where a lot of times on social media, we can say whatever we want and leave it. And I see a lot of hurt that can also be happening for adoptees as they see adoptive parents kind of vent or not bring light to the parts of adoption that these kids didn't have control over. Very interesting.

In terms of-- sorry I just lost the question. What is the longest a single foster-- what is the longest a foster child can stay in a single home? Oh a very long time.

I think I've seen, I know, of children being foster kids aging out of foster care. And being in homes and not-- either the parents, the rights are never relinquished due to different circumstances and the parents keep working. Or the kids never get adopted so they always stay in the foster care.

So that's up to 18. And also on the question of fostering children, can you specify the ages of the kids that you want to take in? Yes you can.

That's very good to know. Very interesting. We also have-- well I guess you wouldn't necessarily be able to speak to this-- but you might know of a lot of other situations.

People are asking how hard it is to adopt as a single person. And does higher income have any effect on that because we have someone who wants to adopt a child with or without a partner. Yeah lots of people are single and they foster and they adopt.

It's very common. And very amazing. And I have a very good friend who lives in Atlanta.

She's a single foster mom and she's just adopted her daughter. In terms of foster care, there's no income cap. You know, there's background checks and lots of different ways that they make sure you're safe.

But you can do that at any sort of rate that you make. I also think it's important to say to your audience that kids at different stages of life. So let's say I take in a teenager, there are state amenities that are different for that than there are for a baby.

So babies you can have daycare, that is given by the state. And then for foster kids, let's say I work till seven, there are different programs that the high schooler could go to until you get home. So there are ways that the state does want to support you to be a family for these kids.

And is it true generally that the older a child is, the more difficulty they have in finding permanent placement? Yes, that's very true. OK, so for example, if someone feels strongly that they might want to work with older children, maybe 10 and above.

That's all the more reason to kind of specify that age? Yeah, definitely. I mean I know some single guys in my community that have chosen to take in 10 to 13-year-old boys.

And that's what they do. They have their own condos, and they have the boys live there until their parents can get better. It's really cool.

I love that. Do you have any familiarity with programs like Big Brother Big Sister for people who are not ready necessarily to take the step to fostering? Yeah!

I mean I have friends that volunteer with those programs as well. I think that they're really great. I think that they're a great support for all the parents that are able to send their kids to them.

So, yeah they're great. Oftentimes-- sometimes anyways-- they're not usually filtered with kids that are in foster care though. Those are different.

You can be a mentor to a foster kid, but it's a different it's a different run thing, at least here in Massachusetts. And what is the name of the mentoring program? So you can contact your local office and just say, are there any foster kids that are currently looking for a mentor?

You know and just shoot them an email. I think every state and every county has a different thing set up so it's very specific to where you live. And do you have any familiarity-- here in New York, and I'm sure in other states there's a program-- court appointed Special Advocates.

Yes. Can you speak a little bit to that program? Yes, I think that program is amazing.

We have it here in Massachusetts as well. And I have heard many stories where these kids get these advocates, they're all volunteer based. But basically the more social workers that a child has, the less likely they are also to get adopted.

Because basically their file is being transferred from person to person. And all the information is being transferred from person to person. So there's a lot lost in translation.

However, these CASA workers are committed to the child to see them through the whole court process. And so the odds and the statistics, if you have a CASA worker, to be adopted are a lot higher than if you don't. So they're super important.

So before we get to our rapid fire questions, one last thought for our audience of young women who are totally unsure. One thing that we hear all the time, we do hear a fair amount of like I definitely can't wait to be a mom. We do hear a fair amount of I'm definitely child-free.

But I think honestly the most that we hear is like, I really don't know. So for someone who feels kind of open to either, and they don't know. What do you recommend as far as their first steps to sort of even figuring out if they want to be a parent?

Hang out with kids. Like I don't think that you can go wrong. And kind of exposing yourself-- I think expose yourself to a lot of different types of families.

I think you can figure out pretty quickly what you like and what you dislike. And I think it's more empowering to the kids and yourself if you know. And I don't think you can know without experiencing it.

There's a lot of different ways for motherhood to come to you. My best friend is single, and she is my kid's godmother. And there's so many ways that she mothers our kids that I can't because I'm me.

And we need-- children need the village. So just jump in and be a part of it. And then you'll figure out what role you want to play would be my biggest advice.

Wonderful. So just to finish up I'm going to hit you with some of our famous rapid fire questions. Of course, feel free, Brandi, to pass on any of these if you want.

But they're just for fun. So whatever pops into your mind, no right or wrong answers. OK.

What is the big financial secret of your industry, and in this case we'll say adoption. Research. I would say research.

Just find out what grants and things are available to you? Yeah. Well and find out how the internal landscape of ethics works within the companies that you may or may not be working with.

Understand how your state system works, if you decide that you're doing foster care. And how that plays itself out. And that my adoption-- it shouldn't be about the money.

I think what has happened to it is it's become about the money because of these industries that have corrupted it in a lot of ways. So research is probably the best way that you can know that you're doing something ethically. Wonderful.

What do you invest in your life, versus what are you cheap about? I invest in food because I don't like to eat bad food. And I am kind of cheap about my clothes, which I probably should care more about that but that's next year.

Well your shirt is great, so we're all good. Thank you. What has been your best investment, and why?

I would say my kids are probably my best investment. I can't say how much each of them has allowed me to grow and heal as a person. And there's definitely a financial investment and a time investment when it comes to them.

What has been your biggest money mistake, and why? Probably going to a private college. That's real.

Oh gosh, yeah. There's that. Because I think that there's a lot of great ways to have an education.

And I think I was fed a certain-- I was just fed a certain story that it needed to be a certain way. That private college indoctrination happening. What is your biggest current money insecurity?

COVID-19 has definitely shifted an entrepreneur's life. I think that it has been a year of fear in a lot of different areas. And it definitely has affected us financially.

However, I'm thankful that we haven't been completely decimated. And that there's vaccines and we have our health and things are turning around in a lot of ways. What has been the financial habit that has helped you the most?

Budgeting. I'm a big fan of budgeting. And then when did you first feel successful, and what does that word mean to you?

I'm my worst critic. So I don't necessarily know that I have beckoned on a moment that I have felt successful. However, when I hear my kids say things that I would never have the whereabouts or knowledge to say, whether that's surrounding adoption or race or the ways that they care about other people.

I do feel a sense of success because I think it's an undoing of the things that I know of tied me in for a really long time. That's beautiful. Well thank you so much, Brandi.

This has been a lovely conversation. I've benefited a lot from it personally, and I'm sure the rest of our audience has too. Where can people go to find more of what you do?

Yeah. I'm pretty active on Instagram, so my Instagram handle is brandi_ebersole. I also have a website that is linked there that you can reach out if you would want to have a collaboration, or have another conversation.

I'm always up for that. And yeah, so I'm on the interwebs bopping around-- I'm on Twitter too-- in different places. So not as active as I am on Instagram though.

Well listen, Twitter is a worse place. So it's better to be more-- And Facebook is demonic, I'm just saying. It is literally the worst thing that happened to our society.

So anyway on that-- thank you so much again to Brandi for joining us. And thank you guys for tuning in. And I will see you next Monday, on the next episode of The Financial Confessions.