Somewhat incredibly LKW Family Mediation turned 10 on 1st July writes founder of the mediation practice, Louisa Whitney. One of my negative qualities is that all too often I hone in on the things I haven’t done rather than taking in the view of the things I have done. I’ve been making a concerted effort to change that so looking back over the last 10 years seemed to be an important thing to do.
Before I became a family mediator I was a family lawyer for 11 years. I’d become disillusioned with my work. When I explain it to people I say that I felt that as a family lawyer I was helping people to put out the fire they’d just started but as a mediator I could teach people to avoid starting the fire in the first place. It suited my skillset more and especially so because I was (and am) a Highly Sensitive Person. I notice things in the mediation room with two people and pick up on things and this assists me in helping people by asking questions.
I was also teetering on the edge of burnout managing having young children with a busy working life. Even though I worked part time I often dealt with things on days I wasn’t working and I felt like I barely had time for a comfort break when I was in the office – let alone lunch. I know that working parents everywhere will recognise this.
It was not long after my mother in law died that I had a long conversation with myself. I knew it was something my heart was telling me to do but I had so many doubts about whether I could make it work. In the end the conversation I had with me was that it was better to try things and fail than to spend your life wondering whether you could have succeeded at something and I stand by this as a philosophy. 10 years later the practice (and me) are still here!
After I set up LKW Family Mediation I became fired up about work again. As a lawyer I had almost stopped wanting to learn because I felt I had no capacity to absorb information (another sign of burnout). Suddenly I wanted to learn and there was A LOT I wanted to learn. It wasn’t all about law either. I knew the law and the cases but I wanted to learn more skills that would help people in the mediation room. I wanted to learn about people, conflict and nervous systems and brain functioning (and probably a few more things as well. I quickly learned I had to do one thing at a time!). I did two levels of Reiki training because I was interested in it and it helped me to understand more about being calm and about feeling the energy in the room (which is invaluable).
It’s a touch cliché but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s true, but it was part of a spiritual journey for me to understand myself more. Anyone who has been on such a journey will also tell you that it is not just sitting comfortably and letting things unfold there are also uncomfortable questions you must ask yourself. Initially the business was just me so if I was having an issue so was the business. If I was working myself into the ground the business was having to take a break. If I didn’t want to do something it couldn’t happen for the business. I can’t pretend that this part hasn’t been tough. My confidence has grown but at points it has been hard to believe in myself. Especially so during the challenges of the phone going quiet, or second guessing myself as to whether I was doing the right thing. I spent a lot of time ruminating in my own head.
That’s why it has been such a joy to have colleagues. When people asked me what I missed about working in an office I would usually say having IT and accounts at the end of a phone and being able to pop into a colleague’s office for a chat. Emma, Jo, Michelle and I all largely work from home but we have monthly staff meetings and we can always pick up the phone to each other and having people to bounce ideas off and to share the load has been a godsend. There were challenges making what I do work in the same process for four people but we’re getting there and the joy of being able to share the load and talk things through is honestly immense.
Manging running a business, client meetings and home schooling in the pandemic was definitely not a high point although I will say we did have some special moments – I will forever remember the belly laughs. It did make me thing more clearly about what I wanted out of my working life and what an ideal working day/week/month looks like. Getting a puppy really made me get out from my desk and take breaks and I’m not sure I can really recommend such a drastic step.
Though it all what I’ve realised I’m most grateful for is people: the people who trust us with helping them resolve issues at the most difficult time of their life; the professionals who trust us with their clients; the mediators who now work in LKW Family Mediation. I am really, really grateful for you all. It is my life’s work to continue developing what we do so that we can help separating couples to answer the question “what happens next” as calmly and as easily as possible. We will continue to champion focusing on keeping your communication in line with the 4 Cs: Calm, Constructive, Conscious and Compassionate.