The new year is ripe with transition for second-time mama-to-be and clinical psychology Ph.D., Elizabeth Adams. Starting this week, she joins Y Combinator‘s winter 2020 start-up accelerator in the heart of Silicon Valley. For three months, she’ll commute hundreds of miles back and forth each week between her co-founders, and her 5-year-old daughter and husband at home in the nation’s capital.
As potentially the “first woman who’s visibly showing on Demo Day” in March, Elizabeth already feels like “a fish out of water,” in more ways than one. She’s a subject matter expert in a sea of younger start-up founders, who primarily bring tech and business chops to the table.
“Ninety percent of the time I don’t know what the people around me are talking about, which is both absolutely frightening and exciting because that hasn’t been my life for a long time,” she says.
After spending the last eight years as a clinical child psychologist at an inclusion school for children with “developmental differences,” where she was able to bring her daughter, Elizabeth is beginning a six-month transition to go all-in as Chief Clinical Officer of Trustle, an app for parents to connect with childhood development experts on-demand.
“One of the things that, luckily, I learned from wiser psychologists than me–throughout my years of training–was hearing people talk about change and saying there’s always loss associated with change,” says Elizabeth.
“The thing that makes change really difficult is that you have to lose something in order for the change to happen. Change and loss sort of travel as companions.”
Naturally, Elizabeth’s decision has roused feelings of fear and guilt; in particular, since her second baby won’t have the same experience her daughter has attending school in the same location she started working in while pregnant the first time.
“I was leaving this safe place that had been a comfort for eight years, and a program that I built and I really care about and people that I’m strongly connected to,” she says.
Elizabeth is giving herself “permission to feel that loss and to be okay and recognize that it’s hard, but also know that if there’s any change I want in life this is going to be part of it.”
During this transition, she’s also letting go of perfection and accepting that her house isn’t going to be as clean as she wants it to be, but more importantly, “being okay with that, and not having everything perfectly lined up and just trying to enjoy the process and just say ‘it’s okay.'”
“My word of 2020 is going to be ‘breathe.'”
It Takes a Village
Elizabeth recognizes that support is critical, especially for parents during childhood transitions. She noticed this gap firsthand, when she started getting stopped in the hallway at her school by parents asking questions they assumed were out of scope for therapy. Eventually, she started hosting parenting workshops and one-on-one calls.
“I was spending my evenings on the phone talking to my friends, my friends’ friends and my friends’ friends’ cousins about whatever was going on with their kids,” she says, which led to an epiphany.
“We should just be supporting parents better; especially as, culturally, we’re moving away from networks of support and becoming more distant from that,” she says.
“How are people finding their tribes and support?”
Elizabeth decided to start an online parent-coaching business at night, but her window of time between 9-10 p.m. was consistently booking up.
It was around this time that she got introduced to her now co-founder Tom, a Google for Education alum who had reached out to his network to find a psychologist that works with kids, and can help parents.
While the two eventually added a technical co-founder who also had experience with Google–running an autism program for Glass–Elizabeth has spent the last year focused on curating Trustle’s expert coaches and clinicians.
“All of our coaches have a Masters degree or higher in early childhood education,” she says, adding that parents also have access to “a Ph.D. level clinician if they need it.”
“They’re all vetted and trained by me and they’re coming in with at least 10 years of experience working with children and families.”
A combination of credentials, and the ability to develop a personal relationship with each family, are by design.
“When you’re talking about supporting somebody with the most precious thing, their kids, on the most personal thing they can do–which is parenting–you really want to have somebody you can trust and connect with, that can give you non-judgmental but evidence-based support.”
Elizabeth believes that because the business of coaching parents is not a regulated industry, the “variability of quality of those coaches is kind of all over the place” and context is king.
“There isn’t one way to sleep train; there isn’t one way to put your child through school,” she says. “It really has to be contextualized based on the child individually and the family context.”
Over the four years since I became a parent, I’ve witnessed an explosion of resources available online for things like potty training, picky eating and tantrums.
With so many options and so little time to compare solutions that may or may not be right for our kids, Elizabeth and her team at Trustle are determined to simplify and personalize it for us.
“Figuring out how to help parents sort through all the noise that’s out there, and have a personal relationship with somebody who understands children–but is going to honor their context and them as the experts on their kids–is what high quality support is.”
You can try Trustle out for yourself, free for two weeks, with code BEST at http://trustle.com/free.