I was literally checking the mail box every day for my copy of Hands Free Mama to arrive. If you haven’t heard of author Rachel Macy Stafford, then you’re probably not a momma OR you live under a rock :). Rachel’s website Hands Free Mama has been featured on many major blogs and websites because of her “Hands Free Revolution”. A few years ago, Rachel realized that she was constantly distracted and that her family was not as healthy because of it (specifically her relationship with her two girls). When considering reading the book, I thought that it might be about technology use. Perhaps she would make a case that we all need to put down our phones and iPads and computers and engage with our children instead. It only took me a couple chapters to realize that it is much, much more than that.
Actually, the challenge to put down the cell phone is only one of the first steps (and probably the easiest) in the hands free revolution. In addition to the technological distraction of always being able to be online, this book talks about something deeper- our striving for a perfection that’s biggest cost is our relationships with others. Even from my own life, I’ve learned this the hard way. If I am wanting my kids to look put together and trendy, then it costs some of my children and I’s relationship because there is going to be a fight about what will or will not be worn. If I want perfection when it comes to the cleanliness and tidiness of the house, then it’s going to cost a bit of my husband and I’s relationship because it’s probably going to cause an argument about what is done, how it is done, and when it is done. In Hands Free Mama, Rachel shares stories both about her struggle in this area as well as with her stories of victory.
Probably the chapter that most hit home with me is the one on overcommitment. Rachel shares that after being a SAHM for a few years with her two daughters, she was itching to get more involved outside of the home once her oldest child entered kindergarten. For two years she dragged her younger daughter around to meeting after meeting. Her daughter was a happy girl and was mostly just fine with it, but she grieves now that she was giving her youngest daughter the leftovers of her energy during that time. Rachel explains that in order to stop this trend of saying Yes to too many (wonderful) opportunities, she decided what she wanted (and felt like God wanted) life to be about- 1. nurturing her family and 2. writing and speaking to help encourage others. Every opportunity that came to her was evaluated against those two criteria. Anything unrelated she would kindly say no to. The result was not only less stress and distraction, but it also gave her more white space in her calendar- time that was unplanned and available for playfulness, spontaneity, relaxation, and random acts of kindness. She now had the time to really live well.
I would say that this book is a good one for moms who feel like they are living a distracted life, and want to make a change. Rachel shares stories of success and uses a variety of ways to help the reader see the value of letting go of the “other things” and focusing on what is important. For moms who try hard at intentionally using their time to nurture their kids, while at the same time pursuing interests outside the home (and perhaps feel the tension between home and other things), then I don’t necessarily think this book is one that you need to read. It may make you feel (unfairly) guilty that because you feel the tension, then maybe you’re not doing enough.
One thing I didn’t care for so much was that the Rachel’s mantra in the Hands Free Revolution is to “Love All I Do”– meaning if she doesn’t love to do it, then she won’t do it. I think a danger in this motto is that we begin to believe that God won’t ever ask us to do something we don’t like to do, or believe that our desires are perfectly write and trusting as they are. Rachel seems like a nice enough lady with a big servant heart who loves to encourage and serve people. But what if she didn’t love to do that? Would she not do that then? What if no one wants to clean bathrooms in my house? I definitely don’t love that. Or something less superficial- what if I really don’t love spending my money on other people who have real needs? What if I don’t love to care for those who are familyless around the holidays? What if I don’t really love spending time with a mentally handicapped neighbor who sometimes just needs to interact with people and I happen to be in the hallway when he comes out of his apt, looking for someone to talk to? What if I don’t love helping out at my child’s school stuffing backpacks full of books for kids who may not even use them? I think that sometimes it’s through those times that we do things that we don’t love to do, but do it anyway, that perseverance, self-discipline, and deep character is built in us. Sometimes we learn to love those things, and sometimes we don’t, but just do them because someone has to do them.
But, even with that said, I think that Rachel is a prophetic voice to many, many, many people in our culture– to put down our phones, to close our laptops, to put away our to-do list, to close our book, and to give our friends and family the gift of attention, which in the words of one of my friends, is the most important skill that we need to learn in 2014. And if this idea makes your heart stop and your stomach drop a little, or if someone has been so kindly dropping not-so-obvious hints that you are a distracted person, then go download her book now and stay up all night reading it. The fact that this book has become so popular and that it is so widely endorsed speaks volumes to the constantly distracted culture that we live in.
If you’d like a copy of Rachel’s book, leave a comment and I’ll randomly choose someone in a few days to send a free copy to!
Thank you, Booksneeze, for sending me a free copy of this fantastic book (and one to giveaway), in exchange for an honest review.