As a mom it always seems as though there aren’t enough hours in the day to tackle the never ending to-do list. Laundry needs to be done, lunches packed, children bathed, stories read, homework checked, tears dried, snuggles snuggled, floors vacuumed… the list goes on and on. Not to mention the everyday distractions of the twenty first century. The ping of an email awaiting your attention, a social media feed that never ends, the ringing of your cell phone, or the flashing light indicating a new text message. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day to day goings on and to lose sight of what really matters.
Hands Free Mama (A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfecting to Grasp What Really Matters!) by Rachel Macy Stafford was exactly what I needed in my quest to better myself, and be the best possible mom that I can be. Rachel delves into her personal story of becoming a slave to her phone, email and to-do list while letting her husband and children slip to the back burner, the heartbreaking moment that forced her to see the reality of her situation, and the journey she undertook to recommit herself to her family, and being present in their lives. Although the book is meant to be read over the course of a year, I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in a few short days, but it will definitely be a book that I will read again and again when I need to remind myself to unplug and just be.
As Rachel tells with heartbreaking honesty how the realization that her phone got more attention than her two young daughters, I found myself relating to many of her stories. No, I don’t have a calendar jam packed with events and commitments, but I have allowed the day to day chores of running a household, driving boys to and from sports, scrolling through social media to become a higher priority than slowing down to enjoy the little moments with my kids. How many times had I told them to wait just a second so that I could finish sending a text, or told them we couldn’t play until the house was clean? When did folding laundry become more important than morning snuggles, and how did people’s posts on Facebook come before looking in my little boys eyes while he told me about his day at school? We only have them for such a short time, don’t they deserve our full attention while they are still little?
In July I lost my best friend of thirteen years. She contracted swine flu when she was 30 weeks pregnant with her third child, and shortly after her son was delivered she passed away. While the death of someone so dear to me was heartbreaking to say the least, it was the reminder of my mortality, and how short life really is, that truly rocked my world. Her three young children were now going to grow up without their mom whose laughter was contagious, whose smile could light up a room, and whose gentle touch soothed them to sleep each night. In an instant their young lives were forever changed, and I found myself wondering what my children would do if something were you happen to me. Have I told them that I loved them that I love them enough? Have I made enough memories with them to allow me to live on in their memories for the rest of their lives? Do they know just how important they are to me? Or do they see me checking my phone instead of being fully in a moment with them and wonder if they are important? I never want them to question my love and commitment to them. They are the most important people in my world, and I want to spend every day showing them that. I don’t want to just raise my children, I want to be apart of their lives, making memories, learning everything about them, and enjoying them as long as I have them.
Hands Free Mama is a step by step guide to how Rachel put down her phone, stopped taking on commitments that weren’t bringing her and her family joy, let go of the to-do list, and slowed down to enjoy what really matters. For me, although I gave up all social media at the beginning of the year, there are still many areas that I need to work on. I am currently making a conscious effort to leave my phone on the kitchen counter, not answer it when I am spending time with my husband and kids, and become a hands free mama. I also am working on letting go of keeping my house looking spic and span. The dirty handprints on the wall are signs that small children live here, the pile of backpacks on the floor are from the two little boys that couldn’t wait to go outside and play after school, and the dirty kitchen floor is proof that Braydon and Maddie made cookies together, and even cleaned up their own mess! 😊💕 There will be plenty of time for cleaning when they are grown and gone, but for now I am going to learn to embrace those signs of life, and those who left them there.
I would highly recommend Hands Free Mama to all mamas (and dads for that matter), because at the end of the day we all want to be the best parents we possibly can be, and in an age where smart phones, computers and busy lives have become the norm we can all use a little reminder to slow down, hold your little ones hand while they still want to (because one day holding your hand won’t be cool anymore); read one more bed time story while they still love listening to you read; and look them in the eye when they talk to you, because one day they will be grown and gone, and you don’t want to look back and wish that you had paid more attention to what they had to say.
There’s a spot on her face I have yet to kiss.
There’s a freckle on her nose I have yet to count.
There’s a place on her back I have yet to scratch.
There’s a scent in her hair I have yet to inhale.
Theres a place on her belly I have yet to rub.
There’s a laugh in her chest I have yet to hear.
There’s a joyfully expression on her face I have yet to see.
There’s a dream in her heart I have yet to believe.
There’s a song in her throat I have yet to hear.
There’s a word of love I have yet to speak.
There’s an apology I have yet to offer.
There’s an embrace I have yet to provide.
And so I need more time.
For I can’t bear ro let a spot go unlisted, a word go unsaid, or a strand of hair go untouched.
Not in this lifetime.
Not in her lifetime.
–Hands Free Mama Rachel Macy Stafford