Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hands Free Mama

This month I've been slowly making my way through Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford. (A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp what Really Matters!)

Wait... BURN the to-do list???
She suggests reading this book over the course of a year, one chapter per month. I'm probably getting through one chapter per week, but that's still much slower than the all-in-race-to-the-finish approach I have towards most books. But I think the slower approach is helpful to let the ideas sink in. Basically the gist of the book is about being present and focusing on what's important in life.

I want to make memories AND to-do lists!

Speaking of my to-do list, I really don't think I can abandon it altogether. These things do need to get done! But sometimes I notice it scrolling through my head. I'll find myself thinking, "After THIS, I'll do THAT, then THAT," . It drives me crazy. I call that feeling "The Tyranny of the To-Do List." The to-do list, as Gretchen Rubin would say, is a good servant but a bad master.

The first chapter is about Awareness. This chapter caused me to notice how often I pick up my phone and check my email, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It has become a mindless habit. To that end I downloaded a new app called Moment that tracks how much I'm using my phone. All it tracks (for free) is how many minutes per day, and how many "pick-ups." My goal is <30 minutes per day, and <10 pick-ups. But even that is subject to interpretation. I don't want to stop sending text messages or taking photos. But I do want to change this idle habit of checking social media anytime there's a 10-second pause in life. I can't wait in line at the grocery store, at a red light, without a phone to distract me? I can't be alone with my thoughts for 5 minutes? I'm not against social media. I've just started this blog after all! But I don't want it to take over. I want to use the Internet to connect, not to distract. Here's a snapshot of a few days my first week using the app.

October 11... Yikes! I think this involved lots of photo taking though.

The next few chapters are on Connection, Deliberateness, and Presentness. To be more present has been on my New Year's Resolution list for years. Some days I do better than others. Much of this book is about putting down your phone and doing the chores later to focus on being present with your family. And I agree... To an extent.

I think Swede and I spend a good deal of time together in which I'm present, focused, and engaged with her. Sometimes I think it's even too much time! I think she needs to learn how to play by herself, how to handle boredom. She needs to be frustrated, and fail, and keep trying, and figure it out on her own. I think those are valuable skills that she won't learn if I'm there every single second.

Legos are the most successful "independent play" activity.

I think it's good for Swede to NOT be the center of attention 24/7, to understand that sometimes the chores DO need to get done, that Mom and Dad work hard at their jobs to provide for our family, which sometimes means we need to send one more email before it's playtime.
There's a story in the Deliberateness chapter about how the author chose to go swimming with her daughters instead of taking the morning to herself to read and nap, and how glad she is that she didn't miss that precious time with her family. I'm not saying I'm not in favor of family bonding. BUT I also think it's important to have some alone time. I know my night off from the bedtime routine with Swede when I go to yoga makes me a better mom the other nights.

Practicing for an upcoming birthday...

I think the key (for me at least!) is to find the right balance. Between spending time with family, and spending time by myself. Between playing, talking, reading, laughing with Swede, and giving her space to explore the world on her own. But overall, no matter what I'm doing, I want to be present and engaged in that moment, rather than thinking about what else I could/should be doing, or what's next on the to-do list.

Do you ever get overly distracted by your phone or your to-do list? Do you ever struggle to be present? Do you have any strategies or techniques that help you to focus on the moment?


  1. I might need to check that book out. I agree with everything you said. There has to be a balance to it all. I know I spend too much time online, on my phone etc. You would be scared to see my numbers if I had that app, but I do social media as my job so that does not help. I try hard not to be on my phone around A all the time but like you said I also want her to know she is not the center of attention all the time.
    Oh and I am all about the lists! I might lose my mind without them! But they focus me more than distract me...I think.

    1. I couldn't live without my to-do lists. I love them. And most of the time they love me back. It's only occasionally that they take over.
      It's so hard to find the right balance. Or maybe what's hard is to KEEP it.

  2. Oh man, I do not want to see my numbers. I already know I spend way too much time on my phone and I check social media way more than I'm proud of. Some days though, it's my only connection to the outside world or access to adult conversation. I remember growing up (my mom was a SAHM) and I think about how much she talked on the home phone! She also had her "me" time where she read her book in the living room. She wasn't always at our disposal, although she was there if we absolutely needed her. I agree - it's all about balance. I want my kid to learn how to play on his own and I think kids these days absolutely need to know what boredom is and how to deal with it.

    It's also definitely hard to put down the phone, or put it away, when you use your phone to take videos and pictures during the day. Plus, we text my husband during the day to keep in touch too. And leaving everything till the evening to do (blog, social media, emails, etc) doesn't work either since I also like to spend time with my husband then! ;)

    Lots of food for thought, that's for sure!

    1. I agree about the photos/videos. I love being able to capture the random cuteness, but then it's so much easier to get sucked into random this-and-that online. I agree about being connected too! I don't want to stop texting or FaceTime-ing. Like you said, Lots of food for thought. And I'm only 1/2 way though!


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