Michael D. Morgan of MDK Law Group: How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents
As parents, the demands on our time seem greater than ever — especially with the work from home scenario many of us have encountered during the pandemic. Even when we are not at work, many of us still have our phones and the ever-flowing stream of calls, texts and emails at our fingertips. It is easy to get lost in distractions.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Michael D. Morgan.
Michael D. Morgan is a Partner and Owner of MDK Law Group, a personal injury and immigration law firm based in Phoenix, Arizona.
He is a proud member of the Million Dollar Advocates forum and has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of his clients.
He is a family man, husband, and father to two beautiful children. His passion is helping people through traumatic times and offering his expertise and support to those in need.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I was a high energy kid with a quick wit. Not much has changed. I credit my parents with providing discipline and structure. I learned how to show strength and compassion from my grandmother who immigrated to the United States as a young child. I also learned how to be a team leader through my participation in water polo at the national level.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
My passion for helping people crystalized when our family hired an attorney after my father was hit by two semi-trucks. The experience with the attorney we hired, was awful. He rarely communicated with our family during an extremely stressful time, and I knew that there had to be a better way. I decided to do something about it by becoming a highly effective and responsive attorney who fights on behalf of accident and injury victims.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
My schedule is subject to frequent changes as a trial attorney. The additional challenge of running multiple businesses often presents unexpected twists and curveballs. I have found that the ability to make clear and definitive decisions while remaining flexible is key to negotiating the shifting landscape.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
There are times when my trial schedule and the needs of clients limit my time at home. The difference from those moments to my usual routine with the kids is stark. Our children crave a level of attention and structure. When one or both of these are thrown out of sorts, we have seen the disruption manifest with behavioral changes. This is understandable and it is predictable. The net result is that these emotional bursts tax the parent picking up the slack and cause friction amongst our children — both of which are currently toddlers. It is obvious that this friction stems from underlying emotional disruption and the inability of our children to verbally express their frustration which instead is voiced through mood and behavioral changes. Recognizing this pattern and taking steps to mitigate by introducing new faces during stretches when one or both of us are outside of our typical parenting routine has been a game changer.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
The best time that I spend is with my family and children. Seeing and exploring the world through their eyes is astounding and incredibly enjoyable. The sparkle in their eyes tell us, as parents, all we need to know. It is these moments of connection, face to face with our children, that allow us to engage, understand and dream about what is next together as a family.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
I readily subscribe to the quality over quantity approach. Especially in the midst of a global pandemic, it is a common challenge for parents to balance professional demands with the needs of their children. Like many, my wife and I have struggled to find the right balance.
One strategy my wife and I have found successful is to have scheduled one-on-one time with our children. We rotate between daddy-daughter, mommy son-and visa versa dates. These are routinely planned ahead for windows on the weekend that remain flexible as our kids do not necessarily comply with a set schedule. On our last date, I took my daughter to get croissants. Her favorite was the Nutella croissant. It was not a big commitment of resources or time. But, my daughter still talks about it. This tells me it was impactful and appreciated.
Another strategy that we have found productive is to carve out time as individuals by doubling up with the children. This allows each of us to individually spend quality time with both kids together. Whether it is a trip to the local park or the nearby zoo, seeing the kids together, pointing, laughing, playing and sometimes pestering each other brings a new dynamic. It also brings new learning opportunities and teachable moments.
Finally, we are proponents of family dance parties. We regularly turn on music and boogie with the kids. We have found that this instantly changes the mood and gives both of our children a chance to cut loose and belly laugh at mom and dad’s silly moves.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.
As parents, the demands on our time seem greater than ever — especially with the work from home scenario many of us have encountered during the pandemic. Even when we are not at work, many of us still have our phones and the ever-flowing stream of calls, texts and emails at our fingertips. It is easy to get lost in distractions. And I frequently find myself struggling to balance business and family. This is a natural struggle in our busy world. It is also one that we can mindfully approach. In our family, we have found a few key strategies that help.
One, try to put the phones away when possible. If it is 6 o’clock at night, there is nothing so urgent that it cannot wait for the children to go to sleep.
Two, make plans with the kids and stick to it. If we are set to go the Phoenix Children’s Museum and, once landed, busy painting a mural, it becomes difficult to knock out email after email. The alternative is that we end up getting painted by not paying attention — which is a strong motivational force to be present.
Three, find brief moments. Not every event or outing with the kids needs to be remarkable. Some of the best moments can, at least on the surface, appear to be pedestrian. In our family, we have a routine of getting our kids milk and watching something on Disney almost every morning. This is usually accompanied by a fresh cup of coffee for mom and dad and lots of cuddles from the kiddos. And, from our perspective, there could not be a better way to start the day.
Four, make parenting a team sport. Seeking out new adventures with other parents is a great way to be present with our kids and to get much needed adult time simultaneously.
Five, let your children plan some adventures. Most parents have moments when their children’s attention span moves as fast as a hummingbird’s wings. We have certainly seen this with our toddlers. But we have also seen that activities that they have planned tend to keep their focus. We look at it as a learning opportunity and feel like our children have more skin in the game when it is an activity they have planned. Our daughter recently planned an adventure in the backyard pool. We recently had a dust storm, and the pool was frankly a smidge green, but we shrugged our shoulders and went for it. It ended up being the first time she was able to swim without floaties on and was a true gem in our store of family memories.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
Being a “good parent” in my book is equipping children with the tools to live the life they envision for themselves. I am openly borrowing this approach from my parents. I distinctly recall sharing with them that I wanted to play water polo in high school even though I had never played the sport. They were supportive but told me I needed to make all arrangements. I rode my bike to practice the first day and showed up with swim trunks and snorkel goggles. The coach was not impressed. He saw how far behind I was from the other experienced players and gently suggested that I might be able to play to varsity in a few years. He did not appreciate how quick of a study and dedicated I would be. Within a few weeks I had secured a starting varsity position. The reality is that my parents could have easily driven me and gotten me all the needed equipment to start. By having me learn from mistakes, I built confidence and learned how to adapt quickly. If I can instill similar life lessons to my children, I will consider my role as a parent a success.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
My children are four and two years old. Right now, my older daughter is interested in becoming Doc McStuffins or a unicorn. I remember wanting to be a professional basketball player or snoopy as a child. Like my parents did with me, I make every effort to try to role play with my kids and let them explore what it might be like to live in the shoes of their vision. I share with my daughter that I do not feel well and ask her what can be done. She routinely grabs her “stessyscope” and checks out my heart and lungs. She takes pride in asking me questions. And, her medical recommendations usually involve taking a rest, drinking lots of water and a cookie break — which, of course, she also enjoys. Still working on the details about how to be a unicorn — but reading lots of unicorn books with my daughter seems to be a good start.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
To me, “success” is captured in moments. I have found that life ebbs and flows as do good and less favorable times. However, regardless of context, I have found that moments of joy, laughter, and connection are possible. I have also found that being present, as opposed to just being there (which is increasingly challenging given that business is always at our fingertips on our phones), tends to make more moments like that occur. As I look back over my accomplishments, it is not the achievements that matter most. Rather, it is distinct moments and connections with others that pop like flashes and capture the story. I hope to encourage my children to consider this perspective as they grow and define their own vision of success.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
With two toddlers, food and sleep are priorities. I credit Feeding Littles, www.feedinglittles.com, with providing wonderful advice on how to introduce and incorporate new and healthy foods into the routine. The recommendations are simple and, from our experience, work. I also value Healthy Children, www.healthychildren.org, for providing evidence based dialed-in recommendations for all the sleep challenges children face. This resource had helped both of our children, and in turn us parents, sleep much better.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The quality of your life ultimately depends on the quality of your decisions.” This quote by the famed investor Ray Dalio stuck with me the moment I heard it. And, as I look at the landscape of my life, I find that it applies in spades. A single decision to become an attorney did not shape my life. Rather, it was decision stacking upon decision in this career path that added up to make up the cumulative whole. There were many great decisions: Working with the Honorable Owen M. Panner at the U.S. District Court in Oregon; working with Maggie Hoffmaster early in my career; and ultimately taking the entrepreneurial plunge with my friend and law partner Sargon Khananisho to start and grow MDK Law Group, www.mdkattorneys.com, are among the best. There were also some flops — like my gear for the first water polo practice. However, on the whole, the balance of good decisions dramatically outweighs the less favorable decisions. I fundamentally believe that the life my family and I enjoy, as well as the countless clients whose lives we have positively impacted, reflect this proposition. The numbers, which goes well beyond the economics, simply add up.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I am a firm proponent of individual agency. I encourage my clients, no matter what their circumstances, to begin to take control of their lives by getting the information they need to make good decisions on the path forward. This goes beyond the confines of the legal arena. I have seen it positively and remarkably impact individuals and families. So, on this note, I will challenge you to consider one area where you believe additional information could help. I will encourage you to reach out to someone in the know to provide guidance so that you can make an informed decision on how best to proceed.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!