"I find myself trying to appear calm on Zoom calls with clients or colleagues. In the meantime, there's absolute chaos happening right outside my door."
In this very special episode, we hear from Kristen Mathews, Kara Dodson, and Randy Liss, executive coaches from Volta Talent Strategies. All parents themselves, they've spent the past month interviewing people within their communities—law students, associates, partners, business services, professionals from leaders in-house counsel, lawyers, families, and even teachers—as a part of the Parents-in-Law Project.
This fall, "school is back in session," means something a little different from place to place, as well as from family to family. So as they wrap up the project and kids begin new school years in very new realities, they reflect on the unique stories, challenges, concerns, and perspectives as we all continue to cope with the shifts caused by COVID-19. While the three coaches heard from people from such a diverse array of perspectives, situations, and identities, there were a few things that seemed to be universal.
What was most important? For people be able to share what they are going through—and to truly feel heard.
I got the sense that they were glad to do it because it felt good to share and to be heard. And I saw that kind of come through in my interviews when I was asking people things like, "What does support look like?" "What do you need?" So many people said, "I want my colleagues or my family, or whoever in my life to be truly curious about how I'm doing; to ask me how I'm doing and to really want to hear the answer, and to acknowledge that they see that what I'm doing is really hard and I'm trying my best."
Almost every single one of the people that I interviewed thanked me for giving them that opportunity to speak and talked about kind of that emotional journey that they went through just in our own conversation.
She said to me, "I just want the people around me who work with me, who go to school with me, to be able to understand all the roles that I'm playing. And the burden I have; that I might have a smile on my face, but I'm carrying a ton of debt and a ton of burden. I'm cooking for four generations in my household."
So there's this disparate impact on people in ways that we can't begin to comprehend. That's where conversation is so important. And we know there's not one answer and one solution because if we knew it, but we don't. But what we know is, and what we experienced is the power of asking and being curious and spending time with someone can bring so much relief to that person. And so it means so much.
But they also hope that being able to share these stories can help people across the legal profession to understand how to best support one another.
I think the hope is that we can continue to support working parents themselves as best we can, and that we can support the leaders who are trying to support those working parents, and keep listening [to] hopefully come up with some long-term shifts—at both the institutional and individual levels—that can help.
I'm so hopeful that leadership at firms are seeing these stories and that this, if anything, is just kind of drawing the reality into what everyone's dealing with, and this continues to open that conversation, continues to allow them to support those at the firm with whatever flexibility they need; to offer that empathy; to let them know that they're thinking of them and that they care.
We've got a lot of working parents among the Volta ranks, and we're finding different ways to support each other. I [also] really hope that we will continue to be of service to our clients; that they'll listen to this, share the interview summaries and be in conversation with their, working parents to find out what's possible and ask how they can be supportive.
Want to read more?
Check out a full summary of insights from Volta's Parents-in-Law Project interviews here.