Honorable Margaret W. Hudson

Honorable Margaret Hudson headshot, Caucasian woman with short light brown hair is pictured in a large leather chair with an American flag behind her

Name: Honorable Margaret W. Hudson
Job Title: Circuit Judge
City: DeLand, Florida
Number of Children/Other Dependents: 1 grown stepdaughter (and 2 adorable grand-children)

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated? Why?
I do think having it all is realistic. However, every aspect of your life cannot be perfect. You can make time for each aspect, but the quantity or quality of each aspect may not be as much as you need or want. For example, on top of work, committee meetings, social events, phone calls to your parents, time with your husband and children (together AND separately), you can fit in exercise. But it probably won’t be as often as you would want to or should exercise. It is all about compromise and balance. Being balanced doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you decide to look beyond the imperfection.

What does having “it all” mean to you?
Being able to actively participate in those aspects of my life that are meaningful and important to me. My “all” will look different than someone else’s “all.” Being fully engaged with what matters to me is having “it all.”

What is the best advice you have ever received on balancing your personal and professional lives?
Most of the advice I received in my early career was not about balancing.  In fact, in my first legal job I was advised I was taken off the partner track after getting married – a direct quote: “well, obviously, now you are more concerned about making cookies than your legal career.”  I interpreted that “advice” to mean that if I was going to be successful, I was going to have to put my job and ambitions first.  Sometime later, a non-lawyer friend said that I should focus on what I wanted and not what I thought I should do.  That is when things started to come into focus for my career.

If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Reading fiction because it liberates me from analytical thinking, making me more creative and willing to “think outside the box.”  Or, looking at a sunset and ruminating about my day.

Looking back at when you started in the profession, and knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
Be more willing to take risks.  If I wanted to volunteer to participate in a legal or civic organization or change jobs or modify my career path, because I thought that would be personally rewarding, I would have made those attempts without consideration of the naysayers that said that’s not what I should do to be successful.  I would tell myself to not be so afraid.  I would also say ask for help.  Many friends and mentors may be unwilling to “butt in” but are more than willing to give advice or assistance if asked.

Do you deal with guilt in trying to balance your personal and professional lives?
Not really – at least now.  There have been many commitments or events that I have had to cancel or miss due to work, but only one event in my personal life for which I cancelled work – the birth of my first grandchild.  I am blessed with family and friends that accept my priorities and do not attempt to make me feel guilty.  Why should I add it on myself?  More and more, I am owning my decisions and accepting the view of balance that works for me, my family and friends.  There is very little room for guilt in that view of my balance.

What single change do you believe would have the biggest impact on work life balance or quality of life?
A collaborative effort among colleagues to 1) accept that everyone’s personal life is important; 2) cover for those who need extra time and expect the same in return; 3) hold everyone accountable for honoring both work and personal commitments.

What part of “balance” do you struggle with?
Saying no.  Even when my plate is full and I may reduce my effectiveness to present commitments; it is hard to say no.  Especially if someone I want to work with asks or it is some project I am interested in, I struggle with declining so as not to add too much to my plate.

What part of “balance” are you improving at?
Referring back to the context of my answer to #11 above, I am improving at owning my decisions and not feeling guilty about those choices.

How important is civic and/or professional involvement to you and why?
Civic and professional involvement is very important for personal growth.  Involvement in these activities gives me an opportunity to be involved with people from other areas of practice and walks of life.  Rather than being limited to what is known and comfortable, it gives me an opportunity to learn and grow.  I feel It is also important to remember that service to the community – whether the civic or legal community – is  important because I benefitted from those communities and owe them my service in return.

What’s the advice you would give a young lawyer seeking to strike a “balance” between family, self, and the practice of law or achieve better quality of life?
Stay true to yourself. Make decisions that are best for you and your family. Fully engage and participate in those areas of your life that you have decided upon. If you aren’t happy with those decisions, it is likely not a good fit or “balance” for you. Don’t be afraid to be different and try new things. That is the only way you will find what does make you the most fulfilled in all aspects of your life. If you make a mistake, don’t hide; learn from it and move forward. Ask for advice and listen; you don’t have to agree with the advice, but listen. Most of all, take each day and decide to make it the best you can in the circumstances you are in that day. Tomorrow is another day and you will get another chance.

Any other parting words of advice?
Work hard, never stop learning, always be thankful, stay honest to yourself and others. Smile. Breathe.