Attorney Well-Being Is Always a Priority, and BarCARES Can Help

Colleen is a white woman with brown hair. She is wearing a royal blue blouse.Bryan, a white man with red hair, wears a white shirt, blue tie and navy suit.By Colleen Byers and Bryan Norris

I vividly recall the first time I flew on an airplane as a new parent. My infant was snuggled into my chest in a secure baby wrap so my hands could still juggle the diaper bag, plus my own carry-on bag. Walking through the aisle and making eye contact with fellow passengers over the top of the baby’s head could very well have been a fascinating social experiment. There were those who smiled generously, some who softly let out a little “awww,” and others who frowned and quickly looked away as they silently hoped my seat was far from theirs.

After stowing my bags and ensuring I had all the baby’s needs within quick reach, I vaguely heard the flight attendants reviewing their safety instructions. Then I remember having the most visceral reaction I have ever had to those safety instructions. “Remember to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.” I recall tensing and vehemently arguing (thankfully only in my head) about all the reasons why I would absolutely NOT put myself before my precious baby.

Fast forward about three years.  I was now a parent of two and struggling to juggle all the various balls in the air that regularly threatened to come crashing down. How the kids always seemed to choose a morning when I had a deposition, mediation, or court hearing scheduled to go rigid as a board and make it 100 times more difficult for me to buckle them into their car seats remains a mystery to this day. But it was on one such day when I lost my patience and started yelling. Of course, as everyone knows, that did absolutely nothing to help the situation, and only resulted in more tears from the little people in the car as well as deep feelings of shame in the supposed grown-up.

It took me years to realize (and I still frequently forget) that I am absolutely no good to anyone, either personally or professionally, if I do not put my own oxygen mask on first. In other words, I cannot pour from an empty cup.

Whether it is because I want to share this learning with others or because I need the constant reminder myself, I am privileged to serve, together with many other lawyers who are passionate about promoting well-being in the law, on the Board of Directors of NC BarCARES. One of the many resources that BarCARES offers is a volunteer Speaker’s Bureau, who are happy to come speak for free to your local bar association, your firm, or your group. Through an engaging presentation, you will learn about BarCARES’ resources and benefits as well as practical tips and strategies to improve lawyer well-being, individually, and within your organization. Please contact Bryan Norris if you’re interested in hearing from one of our excellent presenters.

We cannot promise that your children will make it any easier to get out the door in the morning, but we hope to remind you that you are not alone on this journey.