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Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!

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Discover the power, joy, and love of living a present, authentic, and intentional life despite a world full of distractions. If technology is the new addiction, then multitasking is the new marching order. We check our email while cooking dinner, send a text while bathing the kids, and spend more time looking into electronic screens than into the eyes of our loved ones. Wit Discover the power, joy, and love of living a present, authentic, and intentional life despite a world full of distractions. If technology is the new addiction, then multitasking is the new marching order. We check our email while cooking dinner, send a text while bathing the kids, and spend more time looking into electronic screens than into the eyes of our loved ones. With our never-ending to-do lists and jam-packed schedules, it's no wonder we're distracted. But this isn't the way it has to be.  Special education teacher, New York Times bestselling author, and mother Rachel Macy Stafford says enough is enough. Tired of losing track of what matters most in life, Rachel began practicing simple strategies that enabled her to momentarily let go of largely meaningless distractions and engage in meaningful soul-to-soul connections. Finding balance doesn't mean giving up all technology forever. And it doesn't mean forgoing our jobs and responsibilities. What it does mean is seizing the little moments that life offers us to engage in real and meaningful interaction. In these pages, Rachel guides you through how to: Acknowledge the cost of your distraction Make purposeful connection with your family Give your kids the gift of your undivided attention Silence your inner critic Let go of the guilt from past mistakes And move forward with compassion and gratefulness So join Rachel and go hands-free. Discover what happens when you choose to open your heart--and your hands--to the possibilities of each God-given moment.


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Discover the power, joy, and love of living a present, authentic, and intentional life despite a world full of distractions. If technology is the new addiction, then multitasking is the new marching order. We check our email while cooking dinner, send a text while bathing the kids, and spend more time looking into electronic screens than into the eyes of our loved ones. Wit Discover the power, joy, and love of living a present, authentic, and intentional life despite a world full of distractions. If technology is the new addiction, then multitasking is the new marching order. We check our email while cooking dinner, send a text while bathing the kids, and spend more time looking into electronic screens than into the eyes of our loved ones. With our never-ending to-do lists and jam-packed schedules, it's no wonder we're distracted. But this isn't the way it has to be.  Special education teacher, New York Times bestselling author, and mother Rachel Macy Stafford says enough is enough. Tired of losing track of what matters most in life, Rachel began practicing simple strategies that enabled her to momentarily let go of largely meaningless distractions and engage in meaningful soul-to-soul connections. Finding balance doesn't mean giving up all technology forever. And it doesn't mean forgoing our jobs and responsibilities. What it does mean is seizing the little moments that life offers us to engage in real and meaningful interaction. In these pages, Rachel guides you through how to: Acknowledge the cost of your distraction Make purposeful connection with your family Give your kids the gift of your undivided attention Silence your inner critic Let go of the guilt from past mistakes And move forward with compassion and gratefulness So join Rachel and go hands-free. Discover what happens when you choose to open your heart--and your hands--to the possibilities of each God-given moment.

30 review for Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ciara

    i thought this was just dreadful. i was not previously familiar with the author's blog. i read the subtitle & thought it sounded like something i might enjoy. but i was wrong. so many things are wrong with this book. it purports to be a kind of memoir/guide to reassessing your priorities & maximizing your relationships with your children & other people that matter most in your life. sounds legit, right? but i didn't know that zondervan, which published the book, is apparently a christian imprint. i thought this was just dreadful. i was not previously familiar with the author's blog. i read the subtitle & thought it sounded like something i might enjoy. but i was wrong. so many things are wrong with this book. it purports to be a kind of memoir/guide to reassessing your priorities & maximizing your relationships with your children & other people that matter most in your life. sounds legit, right? but i didn't know that zondervan, which published the book, is apparently a christian imprint. this book is VERY heavy on the religion. i would categorize it as downright evangelical. maybe some people wouldn't mind it, & i'm sure others would consider it a bonus. i found it off-putting & actually somewhat disturbing at times. every chapter makes reference to some incident or another in which stafford was feeling impatient or frustrated, until the voice of god spoke to her & encouraged her to "slow down" & "make time for what matters". as the book progresses & it starts to sound more & more like a polemic urging mothers to abandon work & all other commitments in order to be the best mothers they can possibly be, it begins to feel that stafford is suggesting that god wants women to remain in the home. patriarchal christianity? i was also very disturbed at how desperate stafford seems to be for her children's approval. in one chapter, she writes about asking her children to describe her in three words. she hopes that her "hands free" revelation will be reflected in their choices & that they won't describe her as impatient or too busy. she is gratified when they choose words like "nice" & "pretty". she asks them to describe their father & they choose words like "fun". she's jealous that her kids see their father as more adventurous & she spends some time doubling down on the spontaneity. examples include having a picnic & joining in with a game of football. then she revisits with her kids to see if they've revised their word choices. they have not. she's disappointed. look, i don't think there's anything wrong with making an effort to be more spontaneous & "fun". but she doesn't seem to see anything wrong with competing with her husband over who is more "fun," or openly pandering to her children's conception of what counts as "fun parenting," & most disturbing, basically switching up her entire parenting approach in order to curry a specific type of favor with her kids. allow me to state for the record: i have a child. she's still too young to describe me in three words (she would just say "mama mama mama"), but i don't have any plans to quiz her on what she thinks of my parenting once she's old enough to weigh in, in order to boost my own self-image. maybe that's not how stafford meant to come across, but that's how i read it. there's another distressing scene in which she castigates herself for her "two lost years" of "distracted parenting". the particular scene i'm thinking of is one in which her younger daughter recalls an incident when stafford took her girls to a holiday party but then started crying & said they had to leave. one of stafford's friends took her outside & helped her calm down & they stayed at the party & had fun, but the younger daughter remembers the incident & was sad that they almost had to leave & that her mom cried. stafford explains that her husband had been traveling for business for a few weeks, leaving her to care for their two daughters, then three & six, by herself. the oldest one had just been diagnosed with lice for a second time, the girls' shoes were too small & giving them blisters & causing whining, & stafford felt overwhelmed by her various responsibilities to family & community. that's why she started crying at the party. when her daughter brings it up three years later, she is overcome by guilt that she almost let "lice & blisters steal [her] joy". she apologizes profusely to her daughter & tries to learn how to forgive herself for what an apparently terrible parent she used to be. WHAT? sometimes i feel overwhelmed taking care of one kid while my partner is at school, & i know he's coming home at 4:30pm & i'll be able to lay on the couch & read "the new yorker" if i want to. & that's without lice & the stress of toting my baby to a party & listening to her whine about her shoes. sometimes parenting is stressful! it's STRESSFUL to be the solo caretaker for your kids! it's STRESSFUl when your partner goes away on business for weeks on end! it's STRESSFUL when your kid gets lice! hell, it's STRESSFUL to listen to your kid whine! stafford says that her "hands free journey" is about "letting go of perfection," but this story sounded to me like stafford was having a perfectly normal reaction to a stressful situation & then beating herself up for not looking upon every moment--even the solo parenting, louse-ridden ones--with her children as a special gift from god. seems to me that TRUE relinquishing of perfection would involve letting yourself cry sometimes because shit is hard. although, a fun drinking game that will help this book go down more easily would be taking a shot every time stafford writes that "tears were streaming down [her] face." warning: you will probably die of alcohol poisoning, because getting a letter in the mail is all it takes for this woman to turn on the waterworks. i can't imagine what her kids think of the constant flood of tears. i'm sure they're building an ark for their own survival. i'd love to hear what stafford's husband thinks of his weeks-at-a-time business trips & how they may be stealing away his opportunities for "sunset moments" & "sun delays" with his children. the only appearances he gets are when stafford explains that he is always laid back & ready to hang out & have fun with the kids, portraying herself negatively in contrast. i talked to my own partner about this after we both read "all joy & no fun". i stay at home with our daughter & he works full-time as a teaching assistant & PhD candidate. i observed that i'm admiring/jealous of the way he is so quick to stop what he's doing & sit down with our daughter to play with blocks, read her stories, or simply give her cuddles. he said that he feels he gets enough time to work being out of the house 40 hours a week, so whatever time he has to work at home is just gravy, & it's easy enough to take a break to spend time with ramona when she wants him. i, on the other hand, am home all the time. which means that anything i want to do besides look after ramona (cleaning, reading, writing this book review, sewing, etc) has to be fit into whatever cracks i can find. i'm basically multi-tasking ALL THE TIME. which is exhausting. & while i would love to "burn the to-do list" & spend 24 hours a day cuddling with ramona, reading to her, tickling her, etc, the reality of the situation is that the litterbox still needs to be scooped, the laundry still needs to be washed, breast milk still needs to be pumped...there's shit that needs to get done. it's true that i'm probably not going to be on my death bed in sixty years, reflecting on how awesome it was that time i pumped 17 ounces of milk in one twenty-minute session. in the big picture, it "didn't matter," i suppose. but it still needed to get done & i had to take a break from counting my child's eyelashes to do it. the overwhelming majority of this book is just about putting down your phone to spend quality time with your loved ones. i know there are people who are addicted to their phones. i've known people like that & they're annoying to be around. but as it's not a problem i've ever had, maybe this book just isn't for me. i honestly don't know where my phone is right now. maybe in my purse? i don't know where my purse is either. i don't really care. stafford writes many, many times about the difficulty of training herself to stop texting while driving, & i'm like...seriously? like i said before, my baby is too young to be, like, carpooling, but if i found out her carpool driver was texting while driving...FORGET IT. that's just such a "no duh" issue! stafford is like, "i was texting while i could have been spending quality time with my kids," & i was like, "or you were texting while you should have been WATCHING THE ROAD & NOT KILLING YOURSELF & YOUR CHILDREN." i also don't understand how she thinks her target audience--busy moms attached to their smartphones--would have time to read an entire book. & to top the whole thing off, it's not even very well-written. sometimes stafford uses the wrong words (she writes about "drudging up memories" when clearly she means "dredging") which is sloppy & irritating. but the bigger crime is how unbearably repetitive the whole thing is. there's so much "i lost TWO YEARS of my precious children's lives to being over-scheduled!" & "i never would have noticed this sunset/dog/look on my child's face/whatever if i hadn't slowed down to pay attention" & "my god-given talents & abilities". you could tear out all the pages, rearrange them any way you want, & come away with pretty much the exact same book. & on the rare occasion when she quotes one of her blog readers (because of course this book was a blog before it was a book), it's usually clear that the reader has a chronically ill child or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness & is trying to make the most of their limited time left alive. those little shots of sobering reality only make stafford's own tales of woe ("i stayed up until almost 1am making cupcakes for a class party & then i was really tired the next day!") seem even more petty. please skip this book. don't make my mistakes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    I couldn't wait to read this book after reading her viral blog post. The post resonated with me. I wish I could say the same for the book. While I do think it is brave of the author to continually (and I do mean continually) point out her parental shortcomings (namely the two years she missed of her children's lives because she was addicted to technology, distracted and overcommitted), the book was not the guide it purported to be. It was more like a collection of blog posts and stories that see I couldn't wait to read this book after reading her viral blog post. The post resonated with me. I wish I could say the same for the book. While I do think it is brave of the author to continually (and I do mean continually) point out her parental shortcomings (namely the two years she missed of her children's lives because she was addicted to technology, distracted and overcommitted), the book was not the guide it purported to be. It was more like a collection of blog posts and stories that seemed to all be illustrating the same point chapter after chapter. It was a struggle for me to finish this book and it took me several weeks to do so. I found it very repetitive and there was a lot of crying on the part of the author, which got old after a while. She is relatable and her goal is admirable, but I wanted to go to her house and tell her that in some ways she is missing the point...trying too hard to create a perfect childhood. Just be! Every second can't be meaningful and eventually the laundry does need to be folded and put away. Also, I could not stop thinking of her poor children. I hope they don't read the book when they get older and learn just how distracted their mother was before she became hands free. I also couldn't shake the irony of someone writing a blog advising others to unplug. All that being said, the writing is good. The book is intended to be read one chapter per month. It's overall premise is a good one and it might be more enjoyable if read that way...but I doubt it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    (3.5 stars) As a long time reader of the Hands Free Mama blog, I had high expectations for the book. I devoured the first fifty pages, eager to see how the blogs would be expanded into a fuller, more comprehensive look at living more in the present and less in electronics, the past or the future. After about fifty pages, this became a harder read for me. I felt like I'd already gotten the gist of the book, but was having it reiterated for me with slightly different examples. Rather than reading a (3.5 stars) As a long time reader of the Hands Free Mama blog, I had high expectations for the book. I devoured the first fifty pages, eager to see how the blogs would be expanded into a fuller, more comprehensive look at living more in the present and less in electronics, the past or the future. After about fifty pages, this became a harder read for me. I felt like I'd already gotten the gist of the book, but was having it reiterated for me with slightly different examples. Rather than reading a book with a book's overarching framework, I felt like I was reading slight variations on the same blog entry. I did force myself through to the end, knowing I would find bits of wisdom that would guide me in my own journey to be closer to hands free, but it was a struggle. Though its words are beautifully crafted and its sentiments uplifting, even the sorrowful parts were so prettily painted and vague that I didn't actually feel any of the sorrow. I spent most of the latter part of the book wondering when the reader would be shown the true depths of darkness that led the author to her hands free journey, until finally understanding about three-quarters through that it wasn't going to happen. For me to take stock in the "after," I really have to see the "before." Here I saw only fleeting glimpses, each of which left me wondering why the whole was being withheld. Don't get me wrong: There are some wonderful lessons for anyone to take away from this book. There are passages you'll highlight and want to revisit as you learn to live more in the here-and-now and less in some version of wishful thinking. In the end, this book felt more like a dessert than a full course meal. I felt filled, but not nearly full. I hadn't even finished and I was already hungry for something more substantial. And yet, for all that, I would still recommend this book to anyone who's struggling to live in the now. Read at a pace of a chapter a week, say, this could be some excellent food for thought to guide actions and intention throughout the week. For folks who don't need the experience of full darkness to make the lightness seem real and relatable, this will be a perfect read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I'm not sure what to say about this. I think the key thesis - live your life now, be with the ones you love - is good. It's certainly worth thinking about. But this book is a big fail for me. For one thing, as far as I can tell she says the same thing in every chapter. Read the intro and you're set! Also, the whole thing is so laden with regret and guilt. She seems to feel that every moment of stress, distraction, or preoccupation was a terrible sin. And that leads to my final major criticism: s I'm not sure what to say about this. I think the key thesis - live your life now, be with the ones you love - is good. It's certainly worth thinking about. But this book is a big fail for me. For one thing, as far as I can tell she says the same thing in every chapter. Read the intro and you're set! Also, the whole thing is so laden with regret and guilt. She seems to feel that every moment of stress, distraction, or preoccupation was a terrible sin. And that leads to my final major criticism: she didn't give up perfectionism, she only changed what she was perfecting. Instead of Doing It All, now she's Experiencing It All and it's still set up in success/failure terms. Even in the parts of the book I skimmed, there were numerous comparisons to other people (couples looking at phones at dinner and can she save them??, other moms known as more fun and she wants that title!!) and she is constantly looking to her children to affirm that she is making The Best Childhood Ever for them. There has got to be some balance between "I only care about my phone" and "if my kids' memories of their childhoods aren't full of me being WONDERFUL than I've failed life." Well, now I need to stop reviewing this book and pay attention to my kids, because that really is a good idea.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I couldn't finish this. While I truly appreciate the message of the book--choose your kids over housework as much as possible; your phone/to-do list can be a distraction--but I found several off-putting problems. First, I found her tone weirdly extreme. Shrill and hysterical at times, this was not a mom who had found freedom and joy, but one who seemed to be constantly berating herself with guilt and shame. For instance: "If zoning out, being on autopilot, or popping in a DVD have become part of I couldn't finish this. While I truly appreciate the message of the book--choose your kids over housework as much as possible; your phone/to-do list can be a distraction--but I found several off-putting problems. First, I found her tone weirdly extreme. Shrill and hysterical at times, this was not a mom who had found freedom and joy, but one who seemed to be constantly berating herself with guilt and shame. For instance: "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, smiles in the rearview mirror you will never see. ... Not many tragedies are preventable but this one is." Really? Choosing to turn on the radio while we drive 10 minutes down the road is a tragedy? Calm down. Second, her style is verbose and clunky, and weighty with all the right buzzwords: journey, moment, authentic, etc. I can see the chevrons now. Also I was weirdly bothered by the fact that she chose to pursue this distraction-free lifestyle by starting a blog and Facebook group. I wouldn't call her a hypocrite, but it's pretty counterproductive to me. Mostly, I wish the author had put aside the hyperventilating and instead shared how she has found a balance between maid and mother. While I agree that it is a challenge to spend time with children and get household chores done, at some point the chores have to get done...unless you plan on just throwing out all your clothes and eating take out every night. And also let's be honest--motherhood is not just rainbow (catching) and sunshine (moments). There's plenty of whining, crying, pooping, tantrums, messes, etc., and no amount of "savoring" is going to make those moments easier.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Trisha

    Hands Free Mama has its good moments, but overall, it is repetitive (perhaps that's what a technology-addicted person needs?)and dramatic. Jim Elliot said it best with, "Wherever you are, be all there!" No matter how long we've been a parent, we must constantly remind ourselves to be in the moment and enjoy the passing little things. Distractions will always tempt us, no matter our level of technology use, and there is no rewind button on these years. However, Stafford takes being present to a l Hands Free Mama has its good moments, but overall, it is repetitive (perhaps that's what a technology-addicted person needs?)and dramatic. Jim Elliot said it best with, "Wherever you are, be all there!" No matter how long we've been a parent, we must constantly remind ourselves to be in the moment and enjoy the passing little things. Distractions will always tempt us, no matter our level of technology use, and there is no rewind button on these years. However, Stafford takes being present to a level that might drive a parent to insanity, and sometimes her being present includes indulging her children (if you must get up in the early hours of the morning and go potty, go potty, but no, we're not going to sit here together while you decide you now want to read a book; go back to bed, and we'll read it in the morning--that's not mindless or inattentive parenting, that's making our children aware the world does not revolve around them or any of us) and making mountains out of molehills. If our child is "devastated" because we made them leave a party early, so much so that they share the memory years later, and we must emotionally come to terms with how we failed our child...oh my. There is an attentiveness that creates self-centered, emotionally manipulative children, and while I have no doubt that was not Stafford's goal, it's a caution to be mindful of when reading this book. Had I read in the introduction of Stafford's being "greatly inspired" by the work of Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton, I would have passed on this read. However, Stafford saves that information for the end. What to read instead for that push we often need to be in the moment? The Bible, Rachel Jancovik's books on mothering, and Spurgeon's sermons on the use of time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    CJ

    I like the way this author writes her blog, but many blog entries do not make a book. It is far too repetitive. We, as readers, understand her point after the first example. And, yet, it feels like she is still holding back - trying to protect an image while admitting that she - like all of us - is a work in progress. And, if we all focused on our own families instead of working or volunteering in order to catch magic moments, society would suffer and so would our children as a result. The balan I like the way this author writes her blog, but many blog entries do not make a book. It is far too repetitive. We, as readers, understand her point after the first example. And, yet, it feels like she is still holding back - trying to protect an image while admitting that she - like all of us - is a work in progress. And, if we all focused on our own families instead of working or volunteering in order to catch magic moments, society would suffer and so would our children as a result. The balance is a goal that we are all working toward. I am not sure if she hasn't traded one extreme for another.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I feel bad about the rating, because I really hoped to like this book. This is a book that (allegedly) has a yearlong implementation plan, but honestly, it is redundant enough that you can easily get through it in a couple of weeks. Or days. This is a book from a blogger-turned-writer and it suffers in the usual ways (redundancy, unrevealed backstories, lack of continuity). I wish she'd described her watershed moment that encouraged her to start paying attention to her kids. Like, was it a car cr I feel bad about the rating, because I really hoped to like this book. This is a book that (allegedly) has a yearlong implementation plan, but honestly, it is redundant enough that you can easily get through it in a couple of weeks. Or days. This is a book from a blogger-turned-writer and it suffers in the usual ways (redundancy, unrevealed backstories, lack of continuity). I wish she'd described her watershed moment that encouraged her to start paying attention to her kids. Like, was it a car crash or a relative's or friend's sudden death or a miscarriage that changed everything? A moving sermon or motivational speaker? Three spirits visiting in the night? There are twelve main ideas in this book: Awareness, connectedness, Deliberateness, presentness, serenity, clarity, simplification, acceptance (of self), authenticity, forgiveness, compassion, and gratefulness. The problem is that she basically repeats anecdotes over and over and over to drive home the points: [something] happened and then she decided she should make a precious memory for Avery [her younger daughter], or feel bad about a crappy memory she already made. She has an older daughter who is mentioned far less often. She's into the idea that you should put down the phone/email/blogs and spend time with your children/spouse in order to create lasting memories. But like, do you have control over the things your kids remember from childhood? There's something sort of artificial about this motivation to me. It reminds me of when my sister-in-law got married and my mother-in-law wanted to "re-create" a bunch of memorable shots from *her* wedding (like a nephew putting his finger into the cake, bridesmaids posed on the hood of a car, family members arranged in a precise way, etc). The things that are important or meaningful to the parent may not end up being important or meaningful to the kids. I remember when my father angrily flung a plate into the sink and shattered a wineglass more vividly than I remember going fishing at my grandfather's pond, for example, though the latter happened far more frequently than the former. So while you can't know, I guess you can try. She also seems mired in guilt, despite trying to be non-perfectionist. Another thing I thought was interesting was the idea of a facebook group or blog forum to discuss distraction. Sounds kind of like an AA cocktail hour.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kandice

    You know the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Although I should probably follow Thumper’s advice (Bambi, 1942), I’m not… Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! has been peeking out at me at the library, various blogs, Facebook, etc. Although no one whom I was following had read it, they had intentions of reading it. So I took the dive. Sadly, it was i You know the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Although I should probably follow Thumper’s advice (Bambi, 1942), I’m not… Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! has been peeking out at me at the library, various blogs, Facebook, etc. Although no one whom I was following had read it, they had intentions of reading it. So I took the dive. Sadly, it was in the shallow end of the pool. Rachel Macy Stafford had an addiction to her smart phone and stretched herself way too thin by volunteering and striving for perfection. She had an epiphany one day and decided ‘enough was enough’; she was going hands-free. She started her journey by taking baby steps, such as putting down the phone for 10 minutes and devoting those 10 minutes to her two daughters. Way to go, Mama! Then she started a blog, which apparently took-off. Then she had some really nice friends from church and readers who encouraged her to write a book about her journey. Here’s my rant: Why does it seem all the bloggers get book deals? This book was A BLOG IN PRINT! It had personal stories and poems (eye roll) and it read like a diary. I started listening to the audiobook (see below), but what I was hearing was worth re-reading because I couldn’t believe my ears. I picked up a physical copy from the library to confirm. I’m not sure if I was turned off by the cliché writing style or obvious advice. I kept laughing to myself, “DUH!” The narrator sounded like a Valley Girl. At times, I wasn’t sure if she was over-the-top because even she thought the content was ridiculous and she needed to be in character. But I couldn’t stop listening… my husband overheard it playing on a speaker in our kitchen. Even he was entertained, which was nice because we missed SNL last week.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andy Kerckhoff

    This book is a must read for the moms who struggle with busy schedules, perfectionism, and wanting to have it all / do it all everyday. Stafford does an excellent job of exploring the problem that so many parents face - how to balance family life with all the responsibilities and tasks of everyday life. She tells stories, shares poems, and enlightens the reader with her hard-won wisdom. She is a recovering type-A mama, and I am sure that there are millions of women like her whose lives are less This book is a must read for the moms who struggle with busy schedules, perfectionism, and wanting to have it all / do it all everyday. Stafford does an excellent job of exploring the problem that so many parents face - how to balance family life with all the responsibilities and tasks of everyday life. She tells stories, shares poems, and enlightens the reader with her hard-won wisdom. She is a recovering type-A mama, and I am sure that there are millions of women like her whose lives are less than fulfilling. It's a well-written book that will inspire moms to live in the moment with their families more often.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    I skimmed the last two chapters...enough with heaping guilt on myself. Good to read a book that encourages me to analyze the quality of the time spent with my family, but a little over the top on being present every moment your kids are.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jacki

    So, I’m an internet person. I was a teenager when the internet was “new” and I jumped on board and didn’t look back. I have good friends who live in my computer and honestly some of my closest friends are “internet people”… so when I jumped on the smart phone train, I was in it. You know what I mean. The panicky feeling when your phone isn’t touching you, the times spent in front of a glowing screen when you could be building your marriage, that constant need to be “connected”… I was there. When So, I’m an internet person. I was a teenager when the internet was “new” and I jumped on board and didn’t look back. I have good friends who live in my computer and honestly some of my closest friends are “internet people”… so when I jumped on the smart phone train, I was in it. You know what I mean. The panicky feeling when your phone isn’t touching you, the times spent in front of a glowing screen when you could be building your marriage, that constant need to be “connected”… I was there. When I saw this book, I knew that it was absolutely something that I needed to read. I had been trying without success to pull myself out of the computer & my phone and felt like hearing someone else’s account of the same situation would be helpful. It totally, totally was. Rachel’s struggle was a bit different than mine. I think that I became a phone addict because being a SAHM to two little ones is just lonely. Real conversation is infrequent and texting and being online was a great way to alleviate that. Rachel was more of an overachiever that needed to constantly be emailing about projects and schedules and things that I don’t deal with as much… but the result was the same: that feeling that maybe we are not giving our kids and husband the best of ourselves. I think that this idea of being “hands free” is pretty beautiful. The whole goal is just to put down electronics, get away from the glowing screen and give our families our undivided attention for large chunks of time. It’s about striking a balance between being a busy, connected person and also a caring and attentive family member. She is realistic in saying that we will still use electronics, but that there is a time and place for that. There were a lot of practical tips here, but actually what helped me is not something that was mentioned. I told myself that I was “allowed” to check my phone every hour on the hour for about 10 minutes. When the boys were napping, or before they woke up I could have free reign and that after they go to bed I can look at it only after I have some quiet time with my husband. Knowing that I was not restricted entirely but just disciplining myself really helped. The first few days were really, really hard but after a week or so, I didn’t find myself craving that outside connection as much, as I was finding more satisfaction what I was doing in the moment. There is something powerful in that, in being so totally in the moment. I thought that this book was written in a really familiar, personal way. I have never read the author’s blog, but I suspect that a lot of the chapters were pulled from her blog, as they just had that short form feel more than the feel of a whole cohesive book. I don’t necessarily think that that detracted from the book especially since it was set up with questions and suggestions for using it as a group discussion book. By the end of the book I could feel the repetitiveness setting in, but honestly sometimes to learn something you have to hear it a few times, so it didn’t feel as repetitive as it did reaffirming. So I loved it. It is one of those books that has truly, truly made an impact on my life and my family. I heartily recommend it to all of my internet people :) I got this book for free through NetGalley, but all opinions are my own!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leah Colbeck

    3.5 There were things I wholeheartedly agreed with, encouraging and inspiring things and beautiful things. Overall also a slightly elitist perspective which rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted her 'message' which is basically to be present and not miss out on your own life, to be described in ways applicable to those not of her social and economic standing as well as her own. 3.5 There were things I wholeheartedly agreed with, encouraging and inspiring things and beautiful things. Overall also a slightly elitist perspective which rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted her 'message' which is basically to be present and not miss out on your own life, to be described in ways applicable to those not of her social and economic standing as well as her own.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chelsey Crouch

    I did not finish this book. I don’t think I’m the audience. Yes, i certainly am on my phone distracted at times but I already know the joy of experiencing special moments with my kids. And honestly the book just made me as a mom of 4 feel guilty as i don’t have the choice to just stop doing laundry. She says this isn’t what she means but then she paints a picture of just enjoying every second with your kids. And let’s be honest: every moment with kids is not enjoyable. I currently have newborn s I did not finish this book. I don’t think I’m the audience. Yes, i certainly am on my phone distracted at times but I already know the joy of experiencing special moments with my kids. And honestly the book just made me as a mom of 4 feel guilty as i don’t have the choice to just stop doing laundry. She says this isn’t what she means but then she paints a picture of just enjoying every second with your kids. And let’s be honest: every moment with kids is not enjoyable. I currently have newborn sleep deprivation, a 3 year old who always wants to paint, and two big boys who are wonderful but emotionally draining. So. I’m doing my best to survive right now and care for them as best I can.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura June

    I’m not sure when this book came across my radar but as soon as I saw the title I added it to my “To Read” list. Being a working mama to 2.5 kids who is highly engaged in social media, sometimes to my own chagrin, I often find myself struggling to find the right balance for myself and my family. This is where Stafford’s book comes into play. Stafford is a self-proclaimed perfectionist do-it-all mama who realized a few years ago that she had lost herself to her endless to-do list. She found that I’m not sure when this book came across my radar but as soon as I saw the title I added it to my “To Read” list. Being a working mama to 2.5 kids who is highly engaged in social media, sometimes to my own chagrin, I often find myself struggling to find the right balance for myself and my family. This is where Stafford’s book comes into play. Stafford is a self-proclaimed perfectionist do-it-all mama who realized a few years ago that she had lost herself to her endless to-do list. She found that she was missing out on the things in life that really mattered: heart felt connection with those she loved most, namely her two young daughters and husband. She began a personal journey to live more intentionally which meant overhauling her relationship with technology and social media. She started a blog to chronicle her journey where she recognized there was a hunger for this type of change in the parenting community. That led to this book, this movement. This is a book that you read through once and then study chapter by chapter over the course of a year. I read it all over the past week and there is so much to this book that you can’t put it up on a shelf after your first read through. I related to SO MUCH of what Stafford had to say. It’s amazing how easily we can let life slip right by us because we’re too busy to notice it. With work, running a household, raising children, cultivating a marriage, trying to have a social life or hobbies, etc it can be easy to be distracted from those small moments that really matter. The pride on your toddler’s face when he finally is able to dress himself. The snippets of wisdom that come out of the mouth of your elementary schooler at unexpected times. The beauty of a winter sunrise on a stressful morning commute. All of those things can get swallowed up by the constant go go go mentality so many of us seem to share these days. I’ll admit the whole concept can be overwhelming if you try to tackle it all at once. That is why breaking it down into smaller pieces and pursuing each one at your own pace is key. I honestly couldn’t wait to finish the book so I can start tackling the first part myself. Stafford ends each chapter with questions to get you thinking and to help you focus on the important issues related to that particular piece of the puzzle. You don’t have to completely give up technology and social media to join the Hands Free movement. Stafford describes it as “making a conscious decision to temporarily push aside distractions and give your undivided attention to someone or something meaningful in your life.” So follow Stafford’s steps and add your own flair. Start with a few minutes a day and continue to grow that time each month as you yourself grow as a parent, spouse, and friend. There are very few parenting movements I will proudly stand behind but the Hands Free movement is definitely one I can get behind. Disclosure: I received this book for free from BookSneeze.com in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. I truly did love this book. Just ask my husband.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I felt sad while reading this book. Sad that we live in a day and age where books have to tell us how to put down our phones and enjoy life. Sad where our lives ARE our devices. After reading this book I am happier more than ever that I don't have a smart phone or any device that I carry with me. With that said, it has helpful advice for people like myself who find themselves vegging out in front of the computer more than they would like to. I quit reading the book half way through. It's too simi I felt sad while reading this book. Sad that we live in a day and age where books have to tell us how to put down our phones and enjoy life. Sad where our lives ARE our devices. After reading this book I am happier more than ever that I don't have a smart phone or any device that I carry with me. With that said, it has helpful advice for people like myself who find themselves vegging out in front of the computer more than they would like to. I quit reading the book half way through. It's too similar to other books that I have recently read (Happier at Home and The Blue Bike) for me to get much out of it. I think had I not read those other books so recently I would have enjoyed this book more. I do think Rachel thinks too much about making memories instead of just letting them happen. Forcing them to be memories won't necessary make them so.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    So good! Before I read this book I thought that I was pretty ok in the area of "distraction" / social media etc - I don't do Facebook, Twitter, I've eased up on Pinterest and I have about 10 blogs in my reader BUT this book was a real wake up call for me and I would definitely consider it one of the most impactful books on parenting that I have read. It made me realize my own personal areas of "distraction" and I fully plan (and have started already and noticed huge benefits) to put into action So good! Before I read this book I thought that I was pretty ok in the area of "distraction" / social media etc - I don't do Facebook, Twitter, I've eased up on Pinterest and I have about 10 blogs in my reader BUT this book was a real wake up call for me and I would definitely consider it one of the most impactful books on parenting that I have read. It made me realize my own personal areas of "distraction" and I fully plan (and have started already and noticed huge benefits) to put into action what I read in Hands Free Mama. I listened to this on audible but now I wish I had a hard copy because it is the type of book I would love to reference and highlight. This book is so RELEVANT for this generation of parents. This book also made me kinda want to blog again (I know, kinda ironic!) because there is so much more I could say - that could easily have been several blog posts!!!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gina Crosley-corcoran

    I only got half a chapter in before realizing this wasn't my cup of tea. The author is a mom who decided she was spending too much time online. So she solved that by creating a blog and a Facebook page where she tells everyone else to get offline. Huh!? It's also heavy on the god stuff so if you're a non-believer like me, you'll find that a little tough to get through. I only got half a chapter in before realizing this wasn't my cup of tea. The author is a mom who decided she was spending too much time online. So she solved that by creating a blog and a Facebook page where she tells everyone else to get offline. Huh!? It's also heavy on the god stuff so if you're a non-believer like me, you'll find that a little tough to get through.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    The author’s style might be a little too syrupy for some, but I found this book life-changing nonetheless, full of practical, actionable advice that has already improved my relationship with my kids. I especially appreciated that she addressed how too much volunteer work can also lead to an overly busy, distracted life — that’s not a perspective I see in a lot of books.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dorena

    This book spoke the truth and hit me straight to my core. I shed many tears and guilt. But like Rachel said “the truth hurts but will set you free”. It makes you aware of where you are headed and what you need to change. I wanted to finish this boom before 2019, but I see it was meant to be finished today, on New Years Day. I want to start living on purpose. I want to enjoy the moments with my kids and spouse, not just what’s to be done on my to-do list. I want Sunset Moments. I want to know my This book spoke the truth and hit me straight to my core. I shed many tears and guilt. But like Rachel said “the truth hurts but will set you free”. It makes you aware of where you are headed and what you need to change. I wanted to finish this boom before 2019, but I see it was meant to be finished today, on New Years Day. I want to start living on purpose. I want to enjoy the moments with my kids and spouse, not just what’s to be done on my to-do list. I want Sunset Moments. I want to know my kids. Life is short. Time is not granted. This book will stay with me. To remind me to stay and be present.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Jayne

    ah, could’ve read the reviews before borrowing this from the library. oh well. this was a shallow christian read. yes, thank God for all of the precious moments that you’ll never get back, but no, you don’t deserve them and you’re not perfect just the way you are. and dropping all of your responsibilities to do spontaneous and relationship bonding things cannae always be the best way to go. as other reviews say, you do still have to get stuff done.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe McDonald

    I read this book last year and LOVED IT! A must read for mama’s in this day and age. Great reminders that life is not on your phone

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kellie Ashburn

    Please don’t waste your time reading this.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Traci

    While I enjoyed the overall message of the book: stop trying to look like a perfect mom and be the mom you want to be, I had all sorts of problems with the way it was presented. I am really starting to hate blog-to-book books because I think the problem is that in general blogs aren't the equivalent of books; they are the equivalent of magazines. For most of this book I felt like Stafford was wasting my time (a particular problem in a book about prioritizing time). The focus is less on the reade While I enjoyed the overall message of the book: stop trying to look like a perfect mom and be the mom you want to be, I had all sorts of problems with the way it was presented. I am really starting to hate blog-to-book books because I think the problem is that in general blogs aren't the equivalent of books; they are the equivalent of magazines. For most of this book I felt like Stafford was wasting my time (a particular problem in a book about prioritizing time). The focus is less on the reader's family than on her own journey, which would be fine if it was more entertaining. However walking along with Stafford on her journey is painful (and not just because she fell back on the same cliches again and again [her children were described by their hair a nerve-grating number of times]). It's overwritten and feels indulgent. I'm also concerned that Stafford is still just advocating for a swing from one extreme to the other--she seems to have swapped trying to get society's approval of her status as a mom (overscheduled, perfect body, perfect hair, etc) for her child's approval (her quest to have her children describe her as 'fun'). I think she still needs to step back and look at what SHE defines as motherhood success, and some part of that isn't always letting the kids dictate what happens. For example while I think it's harmful to have your nose in your phone every time your child talks, I think it's also harmful to instill the idea that they are the center of the universe. I got through this book because I identify with a lot of Stafford's struggle (the fear of gaining 5lbs [or not losing the 5lbs I gained], fighting the compulsive desire to check email at stoplights, etc) but continually felt like this was less of a guide book as titled and more of a memoir. I was halfway through Hands Free Mama when Slow Family Living arrived from my library, and the difference between the two was immediately noticeable. Whereas Stafford focuses on her family, Noll (author of Slow Family Living) focuses on the readers' families. Whereas Stafford is long winded and wastes your time before getting to the 'apply this to your life' sections at the end of each chapter, Slow Family Living is arranged in extremely short chapters with tangible ideas. Whereas Hands Free Mama dictates an ideal version of life (ie- her new ideal version of family should be yours, too), Slow Family Living repeatedly tells readers that they need to find what works for THEIR family (from the introduction: "slow family living is not...a prescription for living, doing it somebody else's way, more dogma, using someone else's definition of success ..."). It was also in reading Slow Family Living that I realized that Noll makes it all sound fun! It's a much more lighthearted view of making family life feel happy and successful versus the serious (and depressing) tone of Hands Free Mama.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chantel

    I have to admit, I couldn't continue to read her guilt laden parenting methods any further and just read through the 'hands free intentions' at the back of each section, instead. I made it about half way through this book before I got tired of her twisting the premise into raising entitled and spoiled kids... So the basics of this book is how to put down your phone, stop living enslaved to your to do list and societies idea of perfection and hold on to what really matters - because your kids are I have to admit, I couldn't continue to read her guilt laden parenting methods any further and just read through the 'hands free intentions' at the back of each section, instead. I made it about half way through this book before I got tired of her twisting the premise into raising entitled and spoiled kids... So the basics of this book is how to put down your phone, stop living enslaved to your to do list and societies idea of perfection and hold on to what really matters - because your kids are only this young today. You don't want to miss a thing. I TOTALLY agree with this point and am working on being more intentional with my phone - BUT heres where she gets it twisted. She takes it a step too far and starts doing anything her kids want because 'they are only young now'. She is constantly sharing story of guilt and regret because of moments she rushed through things and missed moments - which did hurt my heart...but the stories she shares of success are always ways she's raising her kids to..well..suck later in life. My stopping point was when she talked about not 'rushing'. She told a story about how they were ALREADY late for school because her daughter wanted to add accessories, change shoes, etc. But she chose not to rush her. Then...once they arrived LATE to school her daughter wasted moments in the car after unbuckling herself to buckle her stuffed froggy. She reveled in the lateness by saying if she would have rushed her daughter she wouldn't have heard her say to him 'once I put you in your place, you'll be fine'. She let her daughter be LATE to school because she wanted to add accessories and buckle up her froggy and she acted like that sentence was something earth shattering that she would have missed if she would have rushed....um. One day your daughter will get fired for being late...just saying. There is absolutely a place for her revelations - I loved EVERY SINGLE hands free intention. But her stories (and the bulk of the book) were more about guilt or totally indulging and spoiling her children. The bible says we are to train up our children in the way they should go...I totally believe that there is a place for a happy marriage of enjoying the moments and not turning your kid into an entitled jerk. She missed the mark ENTIRELY. Rant...I mean review...over.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jac (For Love and Books)

    I’ve been a long-time reader of Hands Free Mama, a fantastic blog about what really matters in life. (Seriously – Rachel’s got a great way of putting things in perspective!) One of her posts that really resonates with me is “How To Miss a Childhood” (Which is actually how I found her blog – it appeared on my facebook feed one day!) and also, The Important Thing About Yelling. Anywho, when her book – Hands Free Mama – came across the screenon Netgalley one day I immediately requested it! And let m I’ve been a long-time reader of Hands Free Mama, a fantastic blog about what really matters in life. (Seriously – Rachel’s got a great way of putting things in perspective!) One of her posts that really resonates with me is “How To Miss a Childhood” (Which is actually how I found her blog – it appeared on my facebook feed one day!) and also, The Important Thing About Yelling. Anywho, when her book – Hands Free Mama – came across the screenon Netgalley one day I immediately requested it! And let me tell you, I’m so glad I did!! Here’s the part in the review where I have to be honest with you! I haven’t read every single page of her book yet. I read the first chapter, and then I skimmed. I decided, about 1/3 of the way into chapter one that I was going to use this book throughout 2014 as a guide – read it week by week/month by month and implement it slowly into my life. See, I have a lot in common with Rachel. I am a blogger (both here for fun, and by profession) and I lead several groups, am on the board for charities and am active at church. All these things require me to keep a pretty hectic schedule, on top of homeschooling. So I feel like I’m never done with my work, like I’m always checking my calendar, email, computer, etc. So maybe it’s not a bad idea to take her steps and slowly implement them. After all, I decided to homeschool so I wouldn’t miss anything – and now I am doing just that! Even with her right beside me. For example? The first goal she gives is to spend a week with designated “No Device” times. Shut off yoru phone, step away from the computer and just enjoy life with your family. Enjoy the world around you. I can honestly say that I would recommend this book to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, like you’re glued to your phone or who just plain spends too much time connected to electronics!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lucille Zimmerman

    Have you ever rushed through a day, wishing you had spent more time being present with your child? Have you ever raged in-proportionately for the circumstance at hand? For instance, when your child spilled something or wouldn’t hurry? Maybe you realized you were taking your own feelings of inadequacy out on your children. Rachel Macy Stafford is delightful young mother who realized she was creating an environment of stress, and hurting her children in the process, because of her own Type A nature Have you ever rushed through a day, wishing you had spent more time being present with your child? Have you ever raged in-proportionately for the circumstance at hand? For instance, when your child spilled something or wouldn’t hurry? Maybe you realized you were taking your own feelings of inadequacy out on your children. Rachel Macy Stafford is delightful young mother who realized she was creating an environment of stress, and hurting her children in the process, because of her own Type A nature. Two years ago she decided to slow down, re-focus, and make her daughters the priority. She wrote this book and has written numerous articles that have touched a nerve in our over rushed, hyper-achieving culture. She has been featured on MSM.com and The Huffington Post. Here’s the mantra from her website: “I want to make memories, not to-do lists, I want to feel the squeeze of my child’s arms, not the pressure of over-commitment. I want to get lost in conversation with the people I love, not to be consumed by a sea of unimportant emails. I want to be overwhelmed by sunsets that give me hope, not by overloaded agendas that steal my joy. I want the noise of my life to be a mixture of laughter and gratitude, not the intrusive buzz of cell phones and text messages. I am letting go of distraction and perfection to live a life that simply consists of what really matters. I’m living Hands Free.” My favorite thing about Rachel is her willingness to be vulnerable and let us peer into the window of her failures as a mom. This is a rare writer and person. I know you’ll want to follow her blog: http://www.handsfreemama.com

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I have finished Hands Free Mama – for the first time. I knew not long into it that I was going to do a breeze through reading, and then really read it, implementing as I go. When I first read Rachel Stafford’s blog some time back it spoke to me. I saw myself in Rachel. I am the person who is overextended. Who says yes to way too many things because I feel obligated, or responsible, or guilted. Who spends way too much time checking emails, answering texts, following social media. The person who m I have finished Hands Free Mama – for the first time. I knew not long into it that I was going to do a breeze through reading, and then really read it, implementing as I go. When I first read Rachel Stafford’s blog some time back it spoke to me. I saw myself in Rachel. I am the person who is overextended. Who says yes to way too many things because I feel obligated, or responsible, or guilted. Who spends way too much time checking emails, answering texts, following social media. The person who measures her success in the number of checks on the to do list. And in the grand scheme of it all, I am missing what is important in life. I am unhappy and unfulfilled by this constant race to finish the things that are “so important” to do – just not important for the right reasons. So I am going to become the Hands Free Mama. I’m going to pull back from many of the things I am involved in (my next two days include working all day both days, and I have two meetings each on the next two nights – REALLY?) So from now on, if you aren’t my husband or children, I’m likely going to say no to your request. You won’t see me online as much. I may not answer my phone or text or Messenger right away. But I will be happier. My kids will have their Hands Free Mama present and there, and so will my husband.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    This book was obnoxious since by putting down her phone this woman's life turned into rainbows and flowers with her children suddenly becoming the most well behaved kids ever who randomly profess their love to their new, available mother. However, this book really did make me think about how much I use technology around my kids and where I could cut back. I think it was a great book for that reason, but the sugary sweet delivery was a bit much for me. (Maybe it was the way the audio book was nar This book was obnoxious since by putting down her phone this woman's life turned into rainbows and flowers with her children suddenly becoming the most well behaved kids ever who randomly profess their love to their new, available mother. However, this book really did make me think about how much I use technology around my kids and where I could cut back. I think it was a great book for that reason, but the sugary sweet delivery was a bit much for me. (Maybe it was the way the audio book was narrated??)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Needed this! Such great examples of what it means to put other things ahead of the most precious people in our lives. Thank you for writing these words to help me and so many others connect with those we love!

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