A week ago I was doing some research for No More Perfect Moms when I ran across a woman who blogs under the name “Hands-Free Mama.” I dug into her blog and determined that we were kindred spirits. I just love the journey she’s been on over the past two years and I wanted to share it with you!
Let’s learn today from a mom who has challenged herself to live differently than the rest of the world:
What launched you into your “Hands Free” journey?
Almost two years ago, I experienced what I call my “breakdown-breakthrough.” For the first time in my life, I honestly answered the complimentary question I received on a daily basis: “How do you do it all?”
I painfully admitted that I was able to “do it all” because I missed out on life—the playing, connecting, memory-making parts of life. Tragically, I knew every precious moment I had missed could never be retrieved. With clarity, I saw the damage that a massive to-do list, a constantly buzzing phone, and an overscheduled calendar was having on my relationships, my health, and my life.
Once I acknowledged that living distracted is not really living at all, I vowed to change. From that day forth, I began taking small steps to let go of distraction by creating designated times of the day to be FULLY present with the people I love.
The impact of my “Hands Free” tactics were so immediate and so profound, I felt compelled to share them with as many people as possible. So three months into my journey to grasp what matters, I published my first post on my blog “Hands Free Mama.”
Where do you see moms struggling with distraction?
I believe there are two types of distraction in society today that prevent many moms from grasping “the moments that matter.” One type is external distraction, which includes technology, electronic devices, overcommitted schedules, and excessive to-do lists. The other type is internal distraction, which includes pressure to be perfect, comparing ourselves to others, feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy, just to name a few.
Although I knew how damaging the distractions of the 21st century were on MY life, it wasn’t until I started my blog that I realized distraction is a widespread problem for many. Within a day of publishing my first post, I received an overwhelming response from many mothers who said, “I want to get off the hamster wheel. I am not really living anymore. I have been yearning for this ‘Hands Free’ message … please keep writing.”
I continue to get emails every day from people who share their struggles and triumphs with daily distraction. Furthermore, it has been an unexpected blessing to build a community of people who strive to reject the unrealistic and productivity-driven standards perpetuated by society.
What have been some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
*Be available to the people you love. Take a moment to be still in one place each day. Remember: No matter how much they want to or need to, your children cannot kiss or hug a moving target.
*Designate distraction-free time periods. Daily distraction has a sneaky way of invading your home and family life through your phone and computer. Protect your personal relationships and your “moments that matter” by shutting down your electronic devices periodically each day.
*Choose for yourself. Refrain from making choices in your life in an effort to please others—your boss, co-workers, family members, and friends. Do what makes YOU happy. Do what makes you feel alive and fulfilled.
*Unite with authenticity. Choose to surround yourself people who are real and allow you to be real. Living real equates to loving real. It is by seeing each other’s scars, imperfections, and messy closets that we love each other more.
*Measure wisely. Strive for a measurement of success that is not tied to money, status, or appearance. Are you happy? Do you laugh often? Are your children kind and loving? Have you made a difference in someone’s life? Did you accomplish something you didn’t think you could do? If the answer is “yes,” consider this success.
*Seek every day miracles. Spot a flower in the crack in the pavement. See messages in the sky. Marvel at the symmetry of a child’s eyelashes. Trace the lines of your spouse’s hand. When you focus on life’s simple joys, you connect to something far greater than yourself. This awareness keeps life’s petty inconveniences into perspective. Being late for an appointment, having a garment ruined at the dry cleaner, and waiting in line at the post office line suddenly aren’t such a big deal in contrast to life’s miracle moments.
*Let go. You are going to make mistakes—lots of them. Don’t keep reliving mistakes—that is cruel and unnecessary punishment. Learn from them, forgive yourself, and move on.
What have you “downsized” in your life that you thought you’d miss, but you really haven’t?
I started my “Hands Free” journey by letting go of some of the small, immediate distractions in my daily life and then moved on to the larger activities and commitments that sabotaged my time, focus, energy, and joy. In order to do so, I created a life mission statement by asking myself: What are the most important things I must do in my lifetime? From the short list of “must dos” that I created, I was able to better decide what activities and commitments to say YES to and which ones to decline.
Over the past two years I have drastically scaled back my extracurricular commitments and my social activities. I have also scaled down my circle of friends to consist of a small core group of women who share similar values and a quest for authenticity. Now I can honestly say that everything I say YES to is something I find value in or feel passionate about. I am no longer resentful and depleted by having “too much on my plate.”
What have you gained in your “Hands Free” journey?
I have gained uncountable “moments that matter”—moments that would have been tragically missed had I continued living distracted.
In these precious moments, I have gained the ability to know my children and my spouse. I know every good and precious thing about each of them because we spend time together talking and interacting. I have also come to know and accept myself. I know my faults and my weaknesses, but I also know my strengths and my gifts.
Through my “Hands Free” journey, I have found my calling, my purpose for my precious time here on earth. I have found what it means to truly live.
How would you encourage a mom to begin her own “Hands Free” journey?
My journey began with one small step of letting go of my distractions to cuddle with my child on the couch. That first step can be as simple as closing your laptop, turning away from the laundry and the dishes, shutting off the phone, or sticking the to-do list in a drawer.
Simply let go of your distractions and immerse yourself in what (or who) really matters to you. Watch her breath, listen to his words, memorize her face. In those beautiful moments of connection, time has a way of standing still; the insignificant falls away. Whether you “let go” for 10 minutes or two hours, you will feel an overwhelming sense of peace and connection that you cannot find when you are distracted. Immediately, you will yearn to experience that meaningful connection again and again until it becomes the practice of your life.
Once you see what have been missing, you don’t want to go back to the way it was before. By living “Hands Free,” your eyes will be opened to what really matters and a meaningful life will be within grasp.
Jill’s note: I’m challenged! How about you?