Name: Michelle Bedoya Barnett
Job Title: Founding Shareholder, Alexander DeGance Barnett
City: Jacksonville, Florida
Number of Children/Other Dependents: 3 children; Rawls (age 6), Jacqueline (age 3), and Madeline (age 1)
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated? Why?
You can have it all just not all at the same time. I firmly believe that you have to focus on what is important and prioritize and reprioritize constantly. This means saying no to a board appointment that sounds enticing if it means hours that don’t work for you or would cause too much stress. For example, I shy away from organizations that would require me to travel and be away from my children on nights and weekend. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved and I have learned that you don’t have to do everything now. My kids are at a stage in their lives when they need me and I want to be with them. Of course I travel for work when I need to but then again try to be strategic as to when I am gone.
What does having “it all” mean to you?
First, and foremost, a great marriage – a healthy and happy home life – a stable job that provides interesting work and financial reward
What is the best advice you have ever received on balance?
A few things: 1) Simplify your life – live close to work and enroll your children in schools that are close to your home and work. Everyone will be happier because life will be so much less stressful and you will get to spend more time at home. 2) Avoid a big house – big houses mean more expense and greater demands on you to have to maintain more even if you can afford it! 3) Plenty of help – The only way to do it all is to delegate a lot, except being a mom. Before you buy a new car, a new piece of jewelry, a bigger house or go on an extravagant vacation, hire as much help as you need. An extravagant home, a new car, etc. does not create a happy and health home life. A happy and healthy home life is created by reducing chaos.
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
At the gym some days and at home some days.
Looking back at when you started in the profession, and knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
I should have listened to my mom more when I was younger!
Do you deal with guilt in trying to balance your personal and professional lives?
Of course but I try really hard to listen to my heart.
What’s the single piece of advice you would give a young lawyer seeking to strike a “balance” between family, self, and the practice of law?
I think Sheryl Sandberg said it best when she said that “The most important career choice is who you marry!”. My husband, also a lawyer, and I have a system and view our work both at home and outside as a team. Sometimes one of us rows harder than the other but we work hard at rowing in the same direction. Sometimes we get out of sync and have to regroup (sometimes meaning daily)! Also, my accomplishments and his accomplishments are “our” accomplishments. If you want to be happy you can’t keep score, at least at home.
What single change do you believe would have the biggest impact on work life balance?
If I did not have to enter time and keep track of time that would be amazing!
What part of “balance” do you struggle with?
I’d like to spend more time with my aging parents, a weekly date night would be awesome, and I would love to have more time to connect with my girlfriends. I’d also like to have more time to go to the gym! I struggle with all of these things. I also realize that if I had these things I might yearn for a more fulfilling career and more financial stability for my family. I think life is about tradeoffs and being happy with where you are in life.
What part of “balance” are you improving at?
As a working parent, how do you balance your career and your role as a mother?
I’m always a mother, whether I am working or at home where I work harder than I do at the office. There is no on and off switch in my world. As to lawyering that is a profession that I love and that I practice during the week and on weekends as needed. I tried hard to turn off on Friday afternoons and when I get home. I also get up really early and try to get some work in before my kids get up so that I can get a jumpstart on the day.
Name one committee/event/position that you attend or hold in your professional life that you would not sacrifice in order to have a better work/life balance and why.
I can’t think of one. There are plenty of ways to be involved and if the organization is not consistent with my schedule/constraints, it doesn’t work for me.
List one activity/event/position in your personal life that you would not sacrifice in order to have a better work/life balance and why.
Time with my husband and family.