When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? My first aspiration was to be an astronaut. I can remember starring at the poster of a space shuttle blasting off on my wall. Years passed and my dream of reaching the moon changed. When I was about 14 years old I thought about things like being a professional inline skater or extreme skier. After several evenings of coming home with bleeding knees and realizing that I had a relatively low pain threshold, I decided professional extreme sports would have to stay on the movies screens for me. By the time I was 17 my interests and dreams had changed significantly from flying to outer-space, to flying off of ramps and jumps, to something a little more grounded. Even more than what I wanted to do for a living, I remember wanting to be a Dad. I know it’s a little weird, but by the time I graduated from high school I had a strong desire to be a father. Not just any father, I wanted to be worthy of a shirt that said, “World’s greatest Dad!”
The realization of the goal to be the world’s greatest Dad has wavered from time to time, but I am always continually working on it. I always prided myself in my ability to be an empathetic, calm, mindful and connected parent. That is one of the reasons I felt compelled to start this blog. However, a few months ago my “Best Dad” goal was threatened and I struggled to see it as it happened. At the same time my friend Rachel Stafford invited me to review an advanced copy of her new book, “Hands Free Mama.” It couldn’t have come at a better time and was instrumental in helping me get back on track.
Ironically, after starting my TRU Parenting blog the very characteristics that motivated my writing began to fall by the wayside as I struggled to maintain my desired goals for the blog. My computer and device time left me distracted and disconnected from my marriage, parenting and life. Hypocritical? Maybe. Ill prepared for the blog’s demands? Definitely! Human? For Sure!
The Day “Hands Free Mama” Arrived
I was distracted and overwhelmed the first few weeks after I launched the TRU Parenting blog. I had thought and dreamed of writing and sharing TRU Parenting with the world and now that I had done it, it almost consumed my every thought. I wanted everyone to see it and yet I didn’t, because after all, what if the things that I was so passionate about didn’t find an audience?
The day Rachel’s book came, my wife had to tell me several times because my head was bowed in prayer to the Samsung Galaxy III idol and my listening dial had been turned to the OFF position. The next morning, as I sat in my bathroom isolation, I read the first words of “Hands Free Mama.” They seared my soul like a hot iron. Her opening lines read…
“Maybe it was the recurring disappointment in my children’s faces when I told them I didn’t have time. Maybe it was the superficial hellos and hasty goodbyes offered to my spouse… Maybe it was a combination of all these troubling factors that finally made me ask, ‘Is this really how I want to live?’”
Just days later, my wife reiterated this question. She approached me and said in essence, “I love what you are doing with TRU parenting and want to support you, but it needs to be handled in a way that allows us to maintain the blog long term and still nurture family relationships. We will lose something priceless if we continue as we are currently. Is it worth it? You’re head is constantly buried in your phone or computer and even when it’s not, your head is somewhere else. The kids aren’t getting all of you like they used to, and neither am I.” The very purpose for TRU Parenting was being neglected in my own home and family because I struggled to focus on the things that mattered most.
I knew she was right.
How “Hands Free Mama” has changed and enhanced both my home and my blog
The subtitle on “Hands Free Mama” is, “A guide to putting down the phone, burning the to-do list, and letting go of perfection to grasp what really matters!” Not only is it a wonderfully written book with emotionally poignant stories, but it is a handbook, a guide so to speak, to literally doing what the title suggests. Each chapter in the book has weekly “intentions” and reflection questions to encourage an honest look inward and a strong outward change. Letting go proves to require much more effort that we first assume. These elements of the book were incredibly insightful and impactful for me.
By divine providence, I arrived at chapter three the morning after my wife called me out. This chapter challenges us to “choose what matters.” That’s right, it’s a choice. Rachel touched my heart with these words about her daughter…
“I know full well that someday she will be tall enough to reach the sink without a stool, and she will have better things to do than wash dishes with her mom.”
I knew the same was true with my own children. They were only this fun, playful age for a little while and I had a choice to make. The next day when I was working and my son pulled on my shirt sleeve and said, “Dad, Dad, look what I made out of legos!” Rachel’s statement came back to me and I pushed the computer away to give Eli my undivided attention. His face lit up and we shared something special.
Rachel shares a couple specific practices that are staples in our home, however in my distracted state, they had been pushed aside or received my distant participation. She suggested establishing simple family traditions like a family game night and encouraged parents to implement special distraction free times, like bedtime routines, that are sacred. I had always enjoyed bedtime but it had become something that took me away from the “things I needed to get done.” My wife and I recommitted to these sacred family events and I set out a schedule for writing and working on the blog that would not interfere with important family practices or any of the waking hours with our children. It took some adjustments, but was worth it all. When I got organized and was able to focus on who and what was in front of me, I not only reconnected with my wife and kids but became more productive with the time I had to work.
There is a line in the book where Rachel tells a story about her daughter’s excitement to see her. She says, “I didn’t know anyone could be so happy to see me- because I hadn’t stopped long enough to notice.” This same sense of joy and gratitude fills me each night as I walk through the door when I come home from work. My kids faces light up and they run into my arms. That is enough to live on, enough to keep me living Hands Free!
In the last chapter, Rachel writes,
“I planned to live hands free for one year. I thought after one year of grasping what really mattered I would be cured. I thought my life would then be permanently void of distraction… Reading that now makes me laugh. Because my journey is far from over. My pursuit to live a Hands Free life will likely last forever.”
I join Rachel in this journey to continue to live Hands Free regardless of what comes my way; to always keep what is most important in perspective. I’m so grateful for this beautiful and gentle reminder to take me back to the path to be the father I have wanted to be since I was 17 years old and to enjoy every minute of it! Thanks to my wife. Thanks to Rachel and Hands Free Mama!
TRU Parenting will be starting our “Hands Free Mama” Giveaway today! You could win an autographed copy of the book. Enter below and come back for more chances to win over the next 3 weeks!
Question: If you haven’t read Rachel’s book, why should you win the autographed copy of “Hands Free Mama?” If you have read the book, what are your favorite quotes or moments in the book?
Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of “5 Jump Starters for Powerful Family Cycles: Creating Happier and More Effective Parenting THIS Week!”