Adam Nathan, CEO of Almanac, sat down with Darren Murph, the former Head of Remote at Gitlab and current VP of Workplace Design and Remote Experience at Andela, to dive into one impactful decision that has shaped Darren's career and life. Darren is named an Oracle of Remote Work by CNBC, and is included in the Forbes Future of Work 50. He's a recognized visionary in organizational design. He holds a Guinness World record in publishing, and authored GitLab's Remote Playbook and Living the Remote Dream: A Guide To Seeing the World, Setting Records, and Advancing Your Career.
Adam Nathan: Well, let's jump right into it. What was the most impactful decision you've made in the last 10 years?
Darren Murph: Adopting a son and, by doing so, becoming an adoptive father.
Adam Nathan: That is a big decision. Take us back to before the adoption and paint a picture for us. What was the context around this decision in the first place?
Darren Murph: My wife and I were married 12 years before we became parents. During that period of time we were incredibly privileged to travel a lot – far and wide. And if you are fortunate enough to travel far and wide, at some point you begin to pick up on various needs, various cultural differences.
And one of the needs that stood out very starkly to us was the orphan crisis and the need for more parents, more people to open their homes, to be families for those who needed it. And you see that if you travel enough.
And over time as we continued to travel, it just became something that sat deeper and deeper in our hearts and it became a topic of conversation.
Adam Nathan: Yeah I can imagine how that's the case. If you're traveling around the world and seeing kids and babies in need of love. Did you ever consider having biological kids or not having kids at all?
Darren Murph: We didn't consciously think of either of those. Once adoption was on our radar, it didn't leave. That's how I see it.
I consider both of us adventurers. And when you pair exploring and adventuring with seeing a need where you can be a "solve," it was pretty clear to us how we could positively impact something like the orphan crisis.
It just became something that we thought about and we prayed about. I'm a man of faith and I do think that there are some things in this world that humans can't logically sort out this side of heaven. And it just became one of those callings that our heart couldn't deny.
And when we started to look at the context of our life, we both had very flexible jobs. We could travel around the world easily. Many of the constraints that a lot of working couples had, we did not have. And that made us ideally positioned to step up and be adoptive parents.
And so we recognized that and we embraced that privilege and it led us to a point where we wanted to make a move and open our family and home up to that.
Adam Nathan: It sounds like you're committed to the idea of adoption, but I'm curious, as you were thinking about it and researching it more practically, what were the pros and cons that you came across at the time?
Darren Murph: Cons first. There's a completely unknown amount of risk and challenge and potential heartache that you open yourself up to when you effectively say, "I'm willing to be the home and the family for someone else." I think this could be true in other scenarios, but adoption is certainly one of those.
So the con is you're walking into a lot of risk and you have no idea how big the risk is or how you'll react to the risk. And it's a guaranteed lifelong scenario. It's not just for a short amount of time or a season. So you have to be comfortable with that.
Adam Nathan: What kind of risks are you talking about there, Darren? Potential medical risks, psychological risks, or physical risks?
Darren Murph: All of those. All of the above, absolutely. And also the risk of the heartache that can come from the journey. I know some adoptive parents that wait 3, 4, 5 years to be matched. And so if you are inclined to become a parent quickly, just the wait before you even become a parent is a part of that risk. And that's a part of the unknown.
The pros, however, far outweighed the cons for us. I mentioned earlier that we're explorers, we're adventurers. And the pro is by becoming an adoptive parent, you guarantee a life of adventure. Your life will never be boring. That's an incredibly exciting pro.
And you're also opening yourself up to layers of life that I would argue are difficult, if not impossible to find except through this journey. Tangible example: our son now gets gifts from three sets of grandparents on Christmas. How else do you manufacture that? That is truly an incredible element of this and just one of the small things that I consider a pro.
Adam Nathan: What was your process for adopting? Walk us through what it takes to do that in these times.
Darren Murph: There are lots of ways to go about it. We actually know friends that have done a private adoption.
We went through an agency. We had several friends that had worked with an agency based in North and South Carolina: Christian Adoption Services. They had used them and had incredible results. They had built just amazing families and we were able to witness some of the beauty that came from that. So it gave us a lot of hope and it de-risked the situation significantly for us.
So we already had an agency that we knew we wanted to work with. You have a meeting with them, and they vet all of their families to make sure that you're in it for the right reasons.
What I loved about this agency is they looked at birth moms who usually in very troubled times, make the incredibly selfless and bold and brave decision to place their child with a caring family.
They viewed these women as heroes and so did I. And this was critical for me in deciding what agency do we want to work with. It's not transactional. These are real souls. These are real humans at stake here. And adoptions don't happen without the birth moms. And I like that they treated and considered the birth moms as heroes.
So once we signed up with them, we went through the motions. We did all the things: the fingerprinting, the paperwork, and we put together a This Is Us book, which is essentially a profile book of my wife and I, our family, our community, and things that we like to do.
The adoption agency then shares these books with birth moms. The goal here is for the birth mom to choose a family that is a deep fit. They're trying to create families, not just serve a transaction.
Our book was placed into the hands of a birth mom that was just such a natural fit for us, very divinely appointed. And from end to end, it was a seven month process for us, which is incredibly quick. That's faster than you can have a child biologically, but again, it can take longer.
But ours was a perfect fit.
Adam Nathan: I'm curious now looking back on it, how did it turn out?
Darren Murph: The adventure quotient is high. So I got what I bargained for on the adventure side. It's been beautiful. It exposes you to love and unity in a different definition of family than society or the world has laid out.
Every day you're experiencing life and love and family and unity through a very different lens. And that's beautiful for explorers and adventurers who are always looking for something new and different. You get a lot of that.
It also acts as an accountability partner. And I think parenting in general does this. When you look at behaviors and leanings of a child that you're rearing, you can see the reflection back of you and the environment that you create.
It pushes you to be a more self-aware, cognizant, empathetic person because you're seeing the direct impact on the next generation. I didn't really see that anywhere else in life in the 12 years leading up to being married, but not a parent. Didn't see it in a conventional marriage, didn't see it in a conventional workplace.
In parenting, there's something different where the mirror is very obvious. It's something that is humbling, but I'm grateful for.
Adam Nathan: So for others who are listening in and maybe contemplating starting a family soon, what advice do you have for them?
Darren Murph: If you're called to it, go for it. There's a huge need around fostering and adopting. And if you're called to it, you'll step into something that will bless you immeasurably and it will expose you to life and love and unity in a way that you won't typically find in other areas of life.
It's been a source of great fulfillment and passion for us. There are cons that you could talk yourself out of it, but I would say if you're called to it, you'll know and jump into it.
The other thing I'll say here is that we made the choice to have an open adoption. Now these are becoming much more common in the world of the internet where folks eventually, given enough searching, will find out their origin and their lineage.
Now, not every adoption is cut out to be an open adoption, but if yours is, consider that. It has been absolutely amazing to truly, genuinely share the life of a son with his birth mom. We get to see his birth mom every three or four months. We enjoy Thanksgiving and holidays together.
It's really special. He'll always know that he was chosen and what his origin story is. And that's a special dynamic that if you look back at 50 or 60 years ago, not very common in adoptions, but it's totally doable now. And the psychology around it shows that if you're more open and honest from the start, it leads to a much more trusting and much more beautiful relationship long term.
So TLDR is, if you're thinking about it, go for it. You will be blown away by what's on the other side.
Adam Nathan: Wow. A really powerful story, Darren, thanks so much for sharing today.
Darren Murph: Thanks for the platform to share, Adam. Be well.