Hands Free Mama has been on my to-read list ever since we first got it in the bookstore I manage two years ago. I’ve picked it up, put it in my to-buy pile, put it back, picked it back up, and put it back down I don’t know how many times. It was highly recommended to me by one of my regular customers, but I just wasn’t sure it was for me. And when I have a to-read list that grows significantly faster than my reading pace, time, or budget allow for, I tend to be pretty choosy in the books I buy. It wasn’t until I saw that Crystal Paine of moneysavingmom.com (one of my favorite blogs) had put it on her 10 Best Books I Read in 2014 post that I finally pulled the trigger and bought the book.
Why did it take me so long to read this book that had come so highly recommended? Well, to be honest, I wasn’t sure this was a book I needed. The subtitle of the book states that it’s a “guide to putting down the phone, burning the to-do list, and letting go of perfection to grasp what really matters.” But I didn’t think burning my to-do list was something I should do. If anything, I needed books about how to be more productive, not less!
Even after buying it, while reading the introduction, I was more convinced than ever that this was the opposite of what I needed. I mean, this author was superwoman. She was efficient, she was productive, she was B-U-S-Y. I am nowhere near as engaged in activity. I constantly feel I don’t do enough. I didn’t need a book that would teach me how to do less! This was going to be a disappointment, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong! I could not have been more wrong!
I am so glad that I finally decided to read this book, because it quickly became one of my new all-time favorite books and one that deeply challenged and inspired me. I would recommend this to any and every mom, whether you spin a dozen plates or one.
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What is Hands Free Mama?
Hands Free Mama is the chronicling of author Rachel Macy Stafford’s life-changing decision to live a less distracted life. She first describes her life pre-“hands free” journey and how she came to the conclusion that she needed to change – when she realized that her most uttered phrases to her girls were, “Not now, Mom’s busy,” and “Hurry Up.” After sharing the events and moments that caused her to reevaluate her distracted life, she then spends the rest of the book offering 12 pieces of advice to help the rest of us embark on our own “hands free” journey. Interweaving personal stories with practical advice and inspirational messages, Rachel Macy Stafford produces a book on motherhood that is truly different than any other I have read and one that I would recommend to every mom I know.
My Thoughts About Hands Free Mama
As I said earlier, I began reading this book thinking that it was going to be all about slowing down and doing less … and in a way, it is. But it was soooo much more than that! In a digital-centric age where cell phones are permanent accessories and the world is always at our fingertips, this book inspires moms to minimize the distractions in their lives that are taking their attention away from the things – and people! – that matter most. Her definition of distraction includes “anything that takes the focus off what truly matters, prevents [us] from being fully present, stops [us] from investing time and energy in people [we] love, hinders [our] ability to slow down, relax, or get adequate sleep, and holds [us] back from enjoying life, taking risks, and being [our] authentic selves.”
Reading this book will cause you to deeply examine just how distracted you are, even if your schedule is relatively open. These distractions come in easy-to-miss ways like constantly reaching for your smart phone, looking at your to-do list more than your kids’ faces, or rushing through good-byes. It will cause you to take a hard look at the ways in which you are or are not establishing meaningful and lasting connections with your family. And I guarantee it will inspire you to be more intentional about making the most of every minute you have to spend with them.
As usual, there were way too many amazing quotes and lines to share everything I loved, but one of the parts that most affected me was her realization that she was missing out on precious opportunities by being distracted during times of waiting, especially during drive times. As she says, “If zoning out, being on autopilot, or popping in a DVD have become part of your drive-time ritual — consider the tragedy: conversations that will never happen, concerns on your child’s heart and mind you will never hear, and smiles in the rearview mirror you will never see.” That realization, and her practical tips on turning “drive time into connection time” motivated me to make the most of every opportunity to connect with my son.
My other favorite part was at the very end, where she offers her “Cure for the Disease of Distraction.” Here she urges us, in rather poetic form, to regularly engage in attentive activities, such as reaching for our children’s hands, watching them sleep, or offering to play their favorite game, realizing that each of those things will be different a year from now.
The one that got to me the most was “Let him help in the kitchen… You might find he is no longer your shadow a year from now.” The word “shadow” in this line particularly affected me because Aidan loves to grab onto the ends of my sweaters or the sashes of my dusters that I regularly wear around the house and follow me around as I work. It’s adorable and funny, but it also drives me crazy sometimes. I have often complained to my husband that I can’t do anything without my shadow behind me. The reminder that there will come a day when he doesn’t even want to be with me in the kitchen – and that that day may be as sooner than I think – hit me hard. I’ll admit … I may have sobbed a little. I’ll blame it on the pregnancy hormones. 😉 While I know that I have to acknowledge that he will grow up and won’t be my little boy forever, the reminder made me reevaluate my frustration, and the next time he wants to hang on my sweater and follow me around, I will cherish the moment rather than chase it away.
The Bottom Line
I hope I’ve given you an adequate taste of just how deeply moving and affecting this book is. I finished it a week ago and I’m still processing the emotions that it stirred in me. The first reading served to provoke me to action; now I need to go through it again to make notes of all her practical ideas for making lasting connections. I am so very glad I did not follow my initial reluctance to read this book, because what a shame that would have been to have missed out on such an inspiring story. My mothering will forever be changed, and my kids have Rachel Macy Stafford to thank, though they will never know it because they (hopefully) will never know how distracted their mother would have been otherwise.
I truly cannot stress enough how much I recommend this book. If you have ever found yourself saying “Not now” more than “I love you” in a day, or “Hurry Up” more than “I enjoy your company,” if you can’t go a car ride’s length of time without checking your phone, or if you look at Facebook more than your child’s face, then this is a must-read! Even if that sounds a little more extreme than your level of distractedness, it’s still a must-read! Because getting back to what life is all about is an admirable ambition for any mom.
So borrow it from a friend, check it out from the library, or get your own copy of Hands Free Mama here, but please, whatever you do, read this book!