hands free life“In an especially chaotic rush out the door to go on a family vacation, I sat in the passenger seat fuming. Mad because I didn’t have time to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Mad because we were late getting on the road. Mad because the garage door was acting up. I am talking trivial, insignificant, minor inconveniences here, but that was the state of a distracted woman who could no longer see the blessings, only the inconveniences of her over-scheduled life.

Just before we were about to pull out of the driveway, my husband, Scott, looked at me as if someone he loved very much had died. In a barely audible whisper he said, ‘You’re never happy anymore.’

I wanted to defend.

I wanted to excuse.

I wanted to deny.

But I couldn’t.

Because I knew he was right.

Where had that cheerful woman gone?”

Rachel Macy Stafford, Hands Free Mama, writes in her new book, Hands Free Life.

I have found that in the early years of parenting, there have been many times where I am focused on and fretting about (yelling about) trivial stuff. I’m feeling overwhelmed, like I’m holding it all – and like it is my responsibility to keep holding it all. So I’m stressed. Super stressed.

And when we are in a constant state of feeling so stressed, our attention becomes very myopic. We focus on and point out the negative – what’s wrong with ourselves, what’s wrong with our partners, what’s wrong with our children, what’s wrong with our house. We try to gain control over something – anything. We blame – ourselves, our children, our partners.

I’ve seen it time and time again. In my own self. In my coaching clients. In my mom friends. There are moments – seasons, years – where we are so stressed, so holding it all, so overwhelmed that we slowly become…really unhappy. And when such unhappiness remains unattended, we can become even bitter.

I recently listened to a podcast on On Being with Brene Brown. In this podcast, she shared that in her research on shame, the message women get is: Do it all. Do it perfectly. And make it look easy.

We cognitively know that this is impossible. It sounds absurd. Yet, I see how sneakily this message is weaved into our current culture of motherhood.

image002In her first book, Hands Free Mama, Rachel talks about having a breakdown-breakthrough moment. She looked around and saw how exhausted, unhappy, busy, and distracted she was. And she woke up.

She woke up in powerful, everyday ways. From what she’d say to herself, like “STOP!” to the inner bully, to how she set aside her phone and electronic devices every day when her children came home from school, Rachel was on a mission to show up for her life, show up for her family…and along the way, she has inspired thousands to do the same.

Now in her new book, Hands Free Life, Rachel shares beautiful, personal and real stories from her own life to inspire others. With such vivid descriptions and details to her stories, we can see ourselves in her stories. And we can feel a sense of hope rising within us, an “I can do that, too!” attitude.

Continuing the story of vacations, Rachel shares how she and Scott had the opportunity to go on a vacation by themselves. As she was living the HANDS FREE LIFE now, Rachel made a conscious decision to embrace the joy – in her heart and in her relationship on that vacation. She decided to create space for loving and being loved.

She talks about the “connective silence” – this simple “abiding with each other” in the silence and in the experience instead of filling the space with talking.  On that sacred vacation, Rachel and Scott enjoyed “connective silence” — times of not saying much at all…just abiding and being together.  And from her description, it sounds like it was incredibly nourishing and restorative.

Even as an extrovert, I need such connective silence.

But it takes slowing down to make the opportunity for connective silence and embrace the delight in enjoying such connective silence.

At the end of her vacation story, Rachel shares a Hands Free Life Daily Declaration:

“Today I will seek two empty-handed moments, two complete-silence moments, and two fully available moments. I will avoid setting expectations for what is to happen during these moments. Instead, I shall allow these moments to unfold naturally so there is room for them to flourish, evolve, and transform into fuel for my connection-hungry soul.”

Two empty-handed moments…complete silence…completely available.

Rarely do we enjoy one of these moments, let alone two!

What would it be like to make this declaration today? What would it be like to just be alongside, abiding with our own selves, our children, our partners?

Every morning before school, the last thing we do as a family before we head out the door is our family prayer/meditation.


Within that time, no matter how late we are, no matter how I can hear the ticking of the clock telling me “You are late! Forget this part!”, I invite our children to gently close their eyes, put their hands in a prayer position as they choose, feel themselves being breathed – in and out – a few times, and noticing the silence.

I never skip this part of our 7 minute family prayer/meditation time.

I call it a “sacred pause.”

I know that over time, over the hundreds of school days we will have this year, the thousands we will have over a lifetime together, these 30 second sacred pauses and our 7-minute family prayer/meditation time are teaching my children how to turn inward and cultivate stillness. I am putting the power back into my children’s hands as to how they will go about their lives – according to the clock or according to their own internal rhythms.

The second daily “connective silence” practice we do as a family is in the evening, every night we lay with our children. I am tired. I have a million things to do. But at least five out of the seven nights a week, I stay with my children for a long while. I breathe in the scent of them. I breathe in their goodness. I breathe in the warmth between us. I breathe in the connective silence.

Rachel is a superb storyteller. She is a wise woman who is inspiring so many to take back their lives. To take ownership over their happiness. To live in a way that is focused on what matters. I was thrilled and humbled to receive a copy of her new book. I read each of her beautiful stories in two nights. And now I am going back and taking my time with each one.

Rachel’s new book Hands Free Life: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More can be pre-ordered now. Those who pre-order HANDS FREE LIFE from now until September 7 receive the FREE e-book of HANDS FREE MAMA.

You can visit her blog here.

I know you will be inspired by her stories, her tender sharing, and her inspirations.


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