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Posted in Journey to Joy, Life, Parenting, Reviews/Giveaways | 41 comments

Can I be a Hands Free Mama?

Can I be a Hands Free Mama?

I’m seeing messages in everything I read at the moment which, aside from making me an ultimately boring dinner companion!) tells me I’m on the right wave length, that I’m receptive to learning how to embrace my Journey to Joy this year, how to make it my own and how to use other’s tools to craft something amazing for myself.

One of the messages that has resonated so much with me is the danger of DISTRACTION and how it can stop me from being PRESENT when it really matters. Not the big, important times, like school sports day, Christmas morning or birthdays which are easy to focus on, but the everyday moments when my family just wants to connect with me.

Over the past few weeks I’ve written about the four books that set me off on my Journey to Joy and this week I want to share the last one: Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford.

Journey to joy books

I first came across Rachel on her blog of the same name – Hands Free Mama – when I read the post that has become a phenomenon on The Huffington Post “The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up“.  It sparked me to write this post and I knew I wanted to read more from Rachel straight away.

Hands Free Mama is a guide to grasping what really matters in your life by letting go of distraction, putting aside to-do lists, phones and perfectionism. It’s a simple message. But how often do you jump when you hear that beep, beep? Yep, me too.

Hands Free Mama and Social Media

Like so many books that have lessons we really should learn, picking up Hands Free Mama was a bit scary. And I’m not the only one who felt that way. As Glennon Melton, author of NY Times bestseller Carry On Warrior wrote in her own review of Hands Free Mama;

“The truth is I was afraid to read this book, because I didn’t want to put down my phone. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the things that Rachel had to teach me. ” – Glennon Doyle Melton


If I hadn’t started reading the other three books that stimulated my Journey to Joy this year I might not have fully embraced Rachel’s story as my own either. Denial, as the joke goes, is a deep and powerful river and it’s hard to step out of it’s imposing flow.

But when I read this first, gripping line…

“Maybe it was the recurring disappointment in my children’s faces when I told them I didn’t have time. May be it was the superficial hellos and hasty goodbyes offered to my spouse.” – Rachel Macy Stafford

…it hit me like a bolt of lightening and left me reeling with recognition. That was me there on the page. I was that person, being too distracted, not being present at the right times with the right people – my family.

“Not right now, darling, I’m busy.”

How many times had I said those words? What moments had I missed?

And so I’m working my way through Rachel’s book. The guide is formatted to be followed over the course of a year with each of the twelve chapters explaining another step in becoming distraction-free illustrated with stories from Rachel’s own journey and ending with a set of weekly intentions and reflections to work on yourself.

Hands Free Mama chapter 3

Importantly this is not about sacrificing my goals, my dreams, giving up pro-blogging and social media consulting or living under an oak tree in Kansas with slippers made from reeds. Not going to happen people!

My aspirations, my work, my time – it’s all still important to me – vital even – but it has it’s place. What I’d let it do was leak out over everything else, permeating every moment. My phone had become an extension of my hand, my fingers poised to pounce on every beep and buzz.shutterstock_196132064 resized

Rachel writes about her own arrival to awareness

“What if one day you realised the best moments in your life come in the mundane, everyday moments?” – Rachel Macy Stafford

And it is these mundane everyday moments – bathtime, tea time, books at bedtime, milk bottles in the morning on my lap when the Little Man’s sleeping baggy is still warm and smelling of sleep, dancing the conga around the living room with Curly Girl just because – that I was not always wholly present for. Oh I was there, of course, but they were towns I was passing through on my way somewhere else.

“Where did I think I was going that was more important than each and every one of those special and magical destinations?” – Rachel Macy Stafford.

But heck I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I LOVE what I do and I feel the pendulous swing of the bar in my hands as I balance like a tightrope walker between presence and absence.

No-one CHOOSES to be absent, it just sort of happens. It becomes a habit, like my ingrained negativity that I’m also working through. And habits can be broken. (I know this from using Noom to lose 60lb with the husband last year.) As Rachel says

“Change begins with a spark of recognition within ones heart.” – Rachel Macy Stafford

So with that recognition firmly under my belt I’m working through the chapters one at a time (I’m on chapter two at the moment) and starting with Rachel’s suggestion of an intention to be present and distraction-free for set periods of time in every day. I switch my phone onto silent at those times – for example in the evening when the husband and I are sharing some quality time (and wine) and at meal times when we should be heads-up and chatting rather than heads-down and tapping.

[Tweet “At mealtimes with your children are you heads-up and chatting or heads-down and tapping?” –]

Another of the techniques that Rachel talks about in her book is Sunset Moments, those moments in time when you grasp what really matters with both hands because you realise just how beautiful and special it is – like a perfect sunset that is gone in minutes and so easily missed.

In the bath

I’m making a concerted effort to record my sunset moments every day – to capture them in my journal, to celebrate them and be thankful for them.

Simple things like Curly Girl coming to me in the kitchen and asking for a ‘sit-down hug’, enfolding her in my arms as she settles in on my lap for as long as she needs to.

Like following Little Man when he shouts ‘Come Mummy come!’ and marvelling right along with him at whatever has grabbed his attention.

Like receiving a thank you email from a friend with kind words that make me gulp a little.

Or a kiss with my husband that lingers for just a few seconds more.

Each and every one, however small or simple, is a moment to savour and remember.

I’m only at the beginning of the Hands Free Mama guide, only two chapters in, but already I’m finding it hard to put down my phone when so much of my work is online and I do still race around some days trying to catch my tail and stress out about being late for this or that.

But when I DO choose to be present and avoid distraction, slow down my pace and release myself from perfectionism I’m less frantic, less scattered, less impatient and, yes, happier. I think at the end of the day it’s about priorities – the right choice at the right time and Rachel’s book has certainly made me more aware of finding that balance.

What moments in your day would you like to become more present in? What distractions can you put aside to make that happen?


Have you written a post that makes you smile? I’d love you to link it up over at my Share The Joy linky – all genres welcome, new posts or old favourites. Let’s share the joy together!

Share The Joy Linky

Busy Mum image copyright: Angel Waye/

Linking up with Post Comment Love at Verily Victoria Vocalises, Welcome to the Weekend at Claire Justine, Tried & Tested Tuesday at Family Fever, All About You at Mama and More, Image of the Week at Truly Madly Kids, Brilliant Blog Posts at Honest Mum, Share With Me at Let’s Talk Mommy



  1. I’ve got this book and need to start reading it again. I feel exactly the same. Trying to build the right balance of it all as blogging involves a lot of social media,but remembering to slow down, turn off distractions and choosing allocated times for each. Remembering that family is more important xx
    Natalie recently posted…Living Arrows 2015 – 6/52

  2. I am loving your journey to joy and I am so off to buy all those books. I could use a few pages if not more from it. I keep telling myself my babies are only small for a little while and I don’t want to miss it. Great inspiring and motivating post hunny. Thank you ever so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme
    Jenny recently posted…Valentine’s Day Chocolate Hearts Cake Recipe

  3. I think this is an issue we’ll always struggle with as moms. For me it’s one step forward, two steps backward! A great challenge though and one worth working through! #sharewithme
    normaleverydaylife recently posted…Traveling Through the Teenage Years

    • I hear you! It does feel like that sometimes for me too – but I’m powering onwards every day and hope that I’m learning something about myself through the journey too!

  4. Wow! This is one powerful message and something I will deeply consider. It’s hard to balance the work I do (blogging and writing) with motherhood. Though I’m fortunate enough to stay at home to work, I do realize that being present with my child is more important–I don’t want to miss the mundane moments that you mentioned. It’s been tough since the work requires me to be in front of the screen most days, but I found that putting time in for my daughter–whether it’s in my planner or an alarm on my phone–helps tremendously. And it allows me to let go of the screen and see what’s unfolding in front of me. Thank you for an eye opening post.
    Maria recently posted…

    • You’re right it’s hard when you work from home, as I do too. I tend to limit my screen time to when the little people are asleep – although that does mean some very early mornings and late nights for me! Thanks for visiting :)

    • It’s so easy to do isn’t it? I’m very much still a work in progress! Thanks for visiting :)

  5. I empathise COMPLETELY with this post. I have started leaving my phone in another room when I’m with Gwenn. Not all the time, but more than I used to certainly. I did think about putting it on Airplane mode but then nobody would be able to reach me in an emergency. So many times I’ve been sending a Tweet or replying to a message and I’ve had to hold the phone aloft to stop Gwenn taking it out of my hands, and I’m always tapping when she’s eating rather than being actively involved.


    Betty and the Bumps recently posted…My current favourite beauty products

    • That’s such a good idea to leave the phone out of arms reach – I switch mine to silent at meal times but I’m still aware of the little flashing light that tells me someone is sending me a tweet/text/FB message. It’s a distraction that I’m working towards freeing myself from but work in progress for sure!

  6. This book does look amazing, and I completely concur with those ‘sunset moments’. Thank you for linking up to #iotw – the photo of them in the bath is precious
    Megan – Truly Madly Kids recently posted…Image of the Week #3

    • Thank you Megan, it’s one of my favourites too and will be linking up again!

  7. This really resonated with me. Recently our 7 year old complained that my husband and I are ‘always’ on our phones – when a 7 year old says something like that I do believe you have to listen. We have our own business and work from home, this has meant a certain amount of flexibility that has been great while the girls are young – the flipside is we are never full ‘off’ work, there’s always something to do.
    I am being more mindful of our phone time, my husband and I have started pulling the other one up if we’ve become distracted during family time. I don’t want to look back and realise I’ve missed out – nothing happening on my email can be that important!
    I’m really enjoying your journey to joy posts!
    JoyandPops recently posted…12 Ways To Celebrate Your Wedding Anniversary

    • Oh honey you’re right, children notice so much more than we realise don’t they. It’s great that you and your husband are working together to help each other switch off – it’s hard when you work from home, as I do too, to properly unwind but so important. Thank you for your kind words too! x

  8. Aaack! Sounds like a great book and I wish, I have enough time to get things done. :)

    • You and me both! There are only so many hours in the day aren’t there but I bet if someone invented a machine to add a few more in we’d still not have enough, right? 😉

  9. This looks another great book – I have so much reading to now! – and like anything I think the key is to work out how it works for you while retaining the key principles. Good luck x #sharethejoy
    Stephanie recently posted…Things in threes: rum cake, curry & a clean(er) oven

    • You’re completely right Stephanie – wise words! x

  10. I love the idea of this, but blogging has only brought a whole new world of distractions to my life, I will check out the boo and see if it gives me any more ideas to help lighten the load, I am scared to do it too much as I am new to it and want to keep up to date and in the communities but there is only so much time in one day! Thanks Michelle
    Rebecca Slinger recently posted…

    • Firstly welcome to blogging! It’s a new and exciting world and only natural that you want to dive in and get involved :) I think what I’ve learned from this book and experience is that finding a balance is the key for me. I’m definitely not switching off, just choosing when and where to switch on :)

  11. Oh love this and thanks for introducing me to Hands Free Mama via FB-I cherish all the little moments but like you need to work and love that too, it’s about boundaries and being strict with yourself isn’t it but also understanding we are all human, love this #sharethejoylinky x
    HonestMum recently posted…Broccoli and Stilton Soup Recipe

    • You’re absolutely right Vicki – boundaries are everything but as you say we’re human! I think having the awareness of it is half the battle and I’m pleased to say this book has definitely highlighted that for me. Thank you for your kind words too x

  12. Sounds like a good read, you are so right. I have been thinking this too so I spent all weekend going out spending time with the kids instead of being inside and end up on the comp/blog/twitter :) we had a great time, bit cold on Saturday though. Now the children are at school I am catching up :)

    Thanks for sharing at the weekend blog hop :)
    Claire recently posted…

    • That’s great Claire! Glad you had a fab weekend with your family x

  13. This sounds like another great read Michelle. I’m marvelling too at the irony because I started reading this post when it came through on email the other day, then again this morning when I was linking up to #sharethejoy, and I’ve only just managed to finish it and comment as I’m sat on the loo taking my time while the kids are having a quiet moment.

    I really try to be present and not feel like i’m constantly connected to social media (have a post in draft about this) but don’t always stick to my rules. You’re right though,it’s definitely a choice we make. I personally don’t think adhering to the kids wants 100% of the time is a good thing either, because they need to learn to respect and appreciate the fact that I have to work. I’d be lying to say I’ve found the elusive balance though…

    Another thought provoking post, thankyou xx
    Mummy Tries recently posted…My Gorgeous Girl – Now You Are Three

    • Haha I’m a loo blog-reader too – the only place to get a moment’s peace some days! I completely agree with you too re kid’s wants, patience is an important skill to learn. Don’t be too hard on yourself, I think the balance is a hard one to strike for those of us who work online. I’m still very much a work in progress too… x

  14. You are so write, I’m forever putting my phone before the important things. I try and have a night when I switch off from everything as I feel I live in a virtual world too much and worry at what image I’m portreying to my baby who sees me, my husband and his older brothers on electronic devices all the time. I need to be a hands free mummy!
    ali recently posted…Devon Beach Stroll on a Sunny Winters Day

    • It’s so easy to get drawn into the virtual world isn’t it – don’t get me wrong I’ve made some AMAZING friends online and I totally LOVE my blogging career but at the end of the day there’s a balance to be struck between the virtual world and the people right there in front of us, at home, waiting to look us in the eye and matter to us, right?

    • I’ve really been blessed this year with a plethora of amazing and inspiring books! So glad I can share them x

  15. i love the idea of this but wonder how anything would ever get done.
    Mummy Fever recently posted…How things change…

    • I wondered that too but I realised that it’s not about NOT doing the things that you want or need to do but finding the balance and prioritising. Like switching off my phone in the evening to spend time with my husband without being drawn away by the ‘beep’, you know? x

  16. Michelle – you’re going to bankrupt me with all these amazing books you keep recommending! 😉

    Seriously though, I am in desperate need of a book like this. Just last night I thought to myself, I’ve become addicted to my phone (again). I had a spell last year where I was doing so well, leaving it alone, not jumping to every alert and yet somehow I’ve ended up at the other end of the spectrum.

    Living in the moment, being present is so critical to our lives and happiness (And goodness me, especially our children) but it’s just so bloody hard to do sometimes isn’t it? (And it shouldn’t be).

    Thank you for giving me a big ol’ nudge and for pointing me in the right direction. I’m off to check out her blog and visit Amazon. x

    P.S I love these book recommendations. I would happily spend most if not all of my money on books if i had the chance so keep ’em coming!
    Katie / Pouting In Heels recently posted…Pouting In Heels turns 3! (and what the future holds – eek!)

    • Haha! Sorry Katie 😉 Like you it was a real wake up call to step away from not just technology but all distraction and just ‘be’. You will LOVE her blog I just know it x

  17. cool book. I’d like to read it, although I’m a mama of an adult child who no longer lives with me, both he and I are always saying “sec” while we finish our text to someone else before we listen to what the other has to say.
    About 7 months ago, I learned to close my laptop and move my phone away from me when he or anyone came to visit so I could be completely “with” the person I am “with”. Person to person visiting is where it is at. Although I love my online and phone/text communication, I’d much rather spend face to face time with someone. Particularly my family.
    Definitely going to look into this book.

    • Such a powerful thing to be completely ‘with’ someone isn’t it? I can’t believe I strayed so far from this. Thankfully Rachel has me back on track!



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