Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekly Book Post: Hands Free Mama

I've just read 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 by Rachel Macy Stafford.  There is also a blog of that name.  I absolutely recommend the book to folks like me, that is to say to moms who are prone to taking on too much and trying to be too "perfect".

But first, I had a few immediate reactions to some aspects of the book that might trouble some readers:

  1. The author is very clear that she believes in God and is comfortable using language such as "God-given talents", or "what God wants from me".  I know many readers who are put off by any mention of religious language in a book like this, but I would note here that Stafford's mentions of God are always personal and do not play into her advice to others.
  2. This is also pretty clearly a story of privilege.  Obviously, only some moms have the option of putting everything else to the side to focus on their kids.  If the phone and the To Do List are for work, you probably shouldn't just forget about them or you'll soon be looking for a new job.  But, once again, I don't see Stafford trying to say her way is the only good way.  She is telling a personal story, with tips and exercises for you to use to reflect on your own personal story, but the implication isn't that we all need to live exactly as she does.
  3. And, lastly, this book is all about the Mamas, and doesn't talk too much about what Dad is doing in this picture (let alone any other possible family constellation).  As many have noted, there is a very fine line between reassuring moms that they are important as moms and leaving moms holding the bag all alone for everything that needs to be done and every sacrifice for family and children.  Some good thoughts on that issue here (long, but good) at Raising Faith.

With all that out there, now I'll say that I really, really liked this book.  I would - almost - add it to my "life-changing" shelf, but the verdict is still out on whether or not it does change my life.  But it's safe to say that it was the right book for me at the right time with the right message, and that I was deeply moved by it.

Rachel Macy Stafford starts off by describing herself during her "distracted days" as being that woman who was praised for her ability to "do it all" and took great pride in her busyness.  Then she had a moment of epiphany, or as she describes it a breakdown, and was brought to a screeching halt by the realization that she was missing something - she was missing profound connections with other human beings, she was missing the beauty of sunsets, she was missing chances to love.

As she says in the book, she was "managing life instead of living it".

So she decided to go Hands Free, and for the rest of the book she tells stories about that journey and its challenges and rewards, and gives little prompts for reflection and challenges for others to try and put this practice in effect in their own lives.

(One big practical idea she mentioned was creating a "life list", or a sort of mission statement for your own life calling, and then using that as a guideline for what to say "yes" to and what to say "no" to, in order to not get overcommitted.  I am a huge "list person", so this idea appeals to me and I'm working on my list right now.)  

The book will not appeal to everyone (see list of problems above), but if you are either a similar or a sympathetic soul to the harried do-it-all supermom of suburbia, I would put this book into your hands.

"There will never be a finish line.  But there is something far better.  Every single time I let go of distraction to grasp what really matters, I am embracing life.  And life will embrace me back."

--Rachel Macy Stafford

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