What a “Hands Free” Summer Looks Like

feet by #HFMWhen I started writing this blog, I made a promise to myself. I vowed to be the real deal—meaning whether I am being Hands Free or writing about being Hands Free, I promised to be open, honest, and authentic about my successes and shortcomings on this journey to grasp what really matters.

Simply stated, there is no faking Hands Free; there is no half-way Hands Free. Either I’m distracted or I’m present. Trying to mentally and emotionally exist in two places at once is like trying to live life with one hand. And I tried that for two long, draining years—it doesn’t work. I have found that I can only grasp what really matters in life with two free hands and one committed heart.

So with that said, I’ve come to a decision about summer. And I share it with you because we all have responsibilities that beg for our time, attention, and energy.

Whether your work involves sitting at a desk or never sitting down  … whether you do your job in a tailored business suit or a rotating set of yoga pants each with their own unique stain … and whether you are Type A or so “chill” that everyone wants to know what is in your coffee, we all want to do the things that matter to our children in the precious time we are given. In other words, we want to do the things that will stick with them, shape them, and cause them to look back on their childhood with happiness.

So what exactly are the things that kids remember? Would you believe there is a list of such items derived from children themselves?

When I stumbled on this list of what kids love their parents to do, I felt as if I discovered the proverbial pot of gold at the end of a “Hands Free” rainbow.

Catching Rainbows
A wise teacher named Erin Kurt happened to have the insight to ask her students what they most liked their parents to do with them. She asked this same question every year for 16 years and from these responses she revealed, “The Top 10 Things Kids Want From Parents.”

Be prepared to be surprised.

Be prepared to be hopeful.

Be prepared to give yourself a celebratory high five, because the news is good, my friends.

And if you are like me, you might even have unexpected tears. Because the things your kids will remember are a lot easier to do than we often overly-pressured parents have been led to believe. And you might already be doing some of them.

The Top Ten Things Kids Really Want Their Parents To Do With Them

  1. Come into my bedroom at night, tuck me in and sing me a song. Also tell me stories about when you were little.
  2. Give me hugs and kisses and sit and talk with me privately.
  3. Spend quality time just with me, not with my brothers and sisters around.
  4. Give me nutritious food so I can grow up healthy.
  5. At dinner, talk about what we could do together on the weekend.
  6. At night, talk to me about about anything; love, school, family etc.
  7. Let me play outside a lot.
  8. Cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite TV show together.
  9. Discipline me. It makes me feel like you care.
  10. Leave special messages in my desk or lunch bag.

Isn’t it simple?

Isn’t it beautiful?

Isn’t it achievable?

This list inspires me so much that I taped it to my fridge. It serves as a reminder that it’s the small things we do as parents that mean the most, and it is those very same things that our kids will remember when they are grown.

Most of these actions are fairly simple if (and this is a big IF) I am not tied to my distractions. I am referring to external distraction in the form of electronic devices, computers, to-do lists, and exploding calendars. I am also referring to internal distraction like pressure for things to look or be a certain way, thoughts of inconvenience, fear of messes, and guilt over past mistakes and lost opportunities—all things that prevent us from living in the moment and grasping what really matters.

But when I compare the distractions in my life to the things that matter to children, it quickly puts my distractions in their proper place on the priority list.

So based on this newfound knowledge, I’ve decided exactly what I want my summer to look like. Because the simple fact is this: I hold the power to determine what my family’s summer will look like based on the choices I make. But be warned, some of it may not look pretty.

This summer there will be …

Less clean surfaces and more projects that reach across the table for hours …  maybe even days

Less drawer usage and more piles

Less keyboard typing/online activity and more old-fashioned notebooks/face time

Less treadmill running and more unconventional forms of exercise

Less hours spent in the kitchen and more casual picnic dinners on the patio (popsicles included)

Less baking perfection and more helping hands

Less formal sheet music and more playing of the tunes within our heart

Less watching of Netflix and more watching of the storms roll in

Less “hurry up” and more “take your time”

Less time spent on appearance and more hats on unwashed hair

Less sitting on the side and more jumping in to the action

As you can see, living Hands Free is not always pretty. It’s not always organized. It’s often not efficient or productive, and it’s definitely not perfect, but I can breathe; and I can laugh, and play, and feel joy—which are impossible to do when I am tethered to my device, constantly trying to pick up the mess, and stressing out over details that won’t matter 10 years from now.

Now at this point, I could wrap this post up in a warm and fuzzy bow and have every intention of following through on my summer vow. But I promised to be the real deal when I write in this space I call “Hands Free Mama,” so let me give you some realness.

I know me.

I come from a long line of overachieving workaholics. I have a tiny drill sergeant in my head that tends to drown out my Hands Free inner voice with demands of productivity and perfection.

So what I need is a little accountability. And I happen to know two summer-loving people who can hold me accountable.

So I wrote a contract—a Hands Free Contract—and presented it to my kids. I explained the situation of a published book coming close to fruition, but also my deep desire to keep my Hands Free priorities in check. (update: book is now published!)

And just as you would expect from the true experts on grasping what matters, the ones who taught me everything I know about living Hands Free, they looked the contract over carefully.

And with every Hands Free summer goal my children read, the wider their smiles became.  They even whole-heartedly agreed to do their part to help me to be Hands Free (such as, helping with household chores, meal preparation, having positive attitudes, and cooperating with each other).

After we all signed the contract, I felt it was important to post it in a prominent location for us all to see. And when I stood back to view it, I got a glimpse of the future.

I envisioned a wise teacher asking my beautifully grown daughters what they remember about their very favorite summer.

They didn’t say the summer they went to Disney World.

And they didn’t say the summer they got their ears pierced or got the latest and greatest electronic device.

It was the summer we played countless games of Euchre, visited with elderly folks at the nursing home, and made fresh squeezed lemonade despite the mess it created. We caught lightning bugs on our fingers and had perpetual grass stains on the bottom of our feet.

It was the summer their mama could have spent hunched over the keys of her computer, but she didn’t. Instead she chose to live, laugh, and love her family through the unforgettable gift of her presence.


Update: After reading this post, many people asked to read my “Hands Free” summer contract so I’ve included it below the photo of the contract. Keep in mind this is based on my family’s interests/goals, as well as my personal areas of distraction weaknesses that need accountability. Every family’s contract will look a little different based on their own individual circumstances. (Also, if your children use electronic devices and you’d like them to have a ‘hands free’ summer, you may want to read my post, “An Invitation to Save Summer From the Screens.”

The "Hands Free" Summer Contract

The “Hands Free” Summer Contract

My “Hands Free” Summer Contract:

I want to do more…
-fun projects (science, arts & crafts, gardening, jewelry making)
-exercise together (tennis, kickball, walks, swimming)
-picnics & easy dinners that we make together
-practice ukulele in nature –sing to the birds
-watch the weather, storms, rain, rainbow spotting
-sit down and relax more – have “do nothing” moments
-get rid of excess – buy less, give away unneeded things to charity
-play on the floor – Barbies and board games
-think of others – make cards, bake goodies for people, pray for people in need
-remember things don’t have to be perfect!

Other goals …

-when I get lost driving – stay calm
-get a good night’s sleep (7 hours goal)
-be patient/cheerful/thankful
-be spontaneous –have fun, not so serious
(adult signature here) ________________________________
In order for me (parent) to be “Hands Free” and meet my goals, I need you (the kids) to …
-have positive attitudes
-help with household duties (be specific here)
-follow directions first time asked-cooperate with me and each other
-be grateful and thoughtful
-play quietly when situations arise that I do need to get my adult duties accomplished

(both children initial here) _____________________________________________

*A word of warning: The minute your child signs the contract, you may have a request. My younger daughter said, “I don’t want to wait for summer. Can we start now?”

*The book I referred to in the post is HANDS FREE MAMA, which went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. It describes all the steps I took to transform my distracted, hurried, perfectionistic life. I have also written a second book, HANDS FREE LIFE which details 9 doable daily habits that bring more presence, peace, and acceptance into your heart and home. Thanks for being part of The Hands Free Revolution

Books by Rachel Macy Stafford



  1. 1


    New to your blog. Thank you for writing what I would write today if I had my writing energy flowing. Being present with my kids and with life is one of the things I write about the most! Perhaps more than anything really. Love your thoughts and posts…they are the best thing about getting on facebook…the thing that reminds me to get OFF facebook. Looking forward to getting to know you better.

    • 2

      Regina says

      ‘they are the best thing about getting on facebook…the thing that reminds me to get OFF facebook’
      Well said. Exactly my thought! I just recently discovered your blog too. I wasn’t that bad with my phone, but I could certainly do better. Now that I’m paying closer attention, I can’t believe how many mom’s I see staring at their phones instead of their kids. Makes me sad. Oh, and I’m enjoying my kids more too!

    • 3

      Jerry says

      I too am new to your blog. Excellent content. I am a retired Grandpa who is blessed with being daycare for my 2 granddaughters. With my kids I was too “busy” working and “getting ahead”. Now I have the time for my grandkids and totally enjoy it. They really are a lot of fun and I laugh more than ever now. They have taught me so much about life. The bible verse “suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God”. They have no cares, no worries. They love and are loved. They trust us totally. I need to do the same. No cares, no worries, God will provide. Love God and know that I am loved by God and to trust God, he knows what I need.

  2. 5

    Susy says

    THIS was awesome!
    THIS was real.
    Just discovered you not too long ago. Follow you avidly.
    Here’s to a happy hand free (maybe a tad stressed till we get the way of things) summe! My 3 kiddos will thank you! I thank you for the reminder!! 🙂

  3. 6


    Just love your blog! Stumbled onto it about two weeks ago and I am so glad I did. It gets me motivated to be more present with my kids. There is nothing more important than my little ones. You can tell what is most important to someone by how they spend their time!! 🙂

  4. 8


    This is beautiful. I am new to your blog (and it is so ironic that I found it while scrunched over a keyboard!) I am also an author and blogger, trying to find the balance- with six kids to help remind me to be hands-free! You have such wonderful ideas- thank you for today’s inspiration! now, it is time to step away from my computer!

    By the way, I’m blogging about mess this week, and since this post is a such a beautiful perspective on mess, I’d love it if you would link up with me!


  5. 9

    Liz says

    It’s May 17th and my calendar has no blank boxes on it until August 6th…I’ve been so stressed over that lately. Thanks for the reminder of the posibility summer really brings, and that erasing some of the writing in those little boxes is really within my control as a parent.

  6. 11


    Yesterday I had my iphone in my hand, looking at some app, my son asked me a question, I started to reply (while still looking at my phone), then one of your articles popped in my head. I immediatly put down the phone and looked my son in the eyes to give him an answer and then a hug. I realized that little actions like eye contact and putting the phone down really does make an impact.

    • 12


      Ditto — did this EXACT. SAME. THING. yesterday here, too. Was watching TV & all 3 of us were on the phones simultaneously as the TV played a recorded show — it hit me — WTF are we doing?!??!??! I put my phone down & guilted the other 2 into doing the same. SO MUCH MORE PRESENT. Felt sooooo good. 🙂 THANKS for that reminder!

  7. 13


    By the way, I’d love to see that contract… or hear your suggestions to make my own… my kids are old enough this summer, I think they’d appreciate this.

    • 14


      Emily, lots of people wanted to see the contract, too! I added it to the bottom of the post! Thank you so much for your interest and commitment in being “Hands Free”! Keep me posted on how it’s going!

  8. 17


    Thank you for sharing this. I’m new here, too, and so much of what I’ve just read hits home. I want to be the present, connected mother you describe, and need to make changes… so this is inspiring stuff.

    • 18


      Thank you, MJ! And you can be. It is amazing how even little steps to let go of daily distraction can make huge impacts on our connections to loved ones. I am so glad you are here.

  9. 19


    So happy I came across this post and your blog today. I love everything you have written here and looking forward to reading more. I too do my very best to be Hands Free (as you so beautifully call it). It is definitely my practice and I stumble often but I know that those hand free moments are where the beauty lives.

  10. 21

    sheena behr says

    I am new as well and guilty. you are inspiring me to relax. I am a perfectionist workaholic as well but I have 2 daughters that need me to relax and have fun after the work day. Thank you for the reality check

    • 22


      Thank you for your openness and honesty, Sheena. I am glad to know that something I wrote resonated with you. I have found life to be so much more enjoyable now that I have let go of the need to control everything and for things to be “perfect”–my kids much prefer their relaxed, happy mom!

  11. 23

    lindsey says

    love this post! This is the first time I’ve been on your blog and it makes me so happy to see this ‘hands free’ revolution going on. 2.5 years ago we couldn’t afford our cell phone bill anymore (husband was in grad school and I was a full time stay at home mom) so I had to get rid of my cell phone. I still had a home phone and hubby kept his cell for work/school purposes. It was hard at first and I still sometimes wish I had it for when I’m traveling.. etc. But wow.. it has been SOO liberating! It really is so nice to not even have it around. All my friends think it is crazy I don’t have a cell phone (which is a little extreme to not even have one- I know) I will get another one soon now that we are done with school, but at the same time I am a little aprehensive about it b/c it REALLY bothers me when I see other people constantly on their phone and carrying it around the entire house with them. I do not want to be that person! Thanks for advocating this hands free movement.

    • 24


      Thank you for sharing, Lindsey. I love hearing your perspective about life without a cell phone. I think if you do eventually get one, you now possess a greater awareness that will help you be mindful when using it. I appreciate the feedback! SO glad you are here.

    • 25

      Jennifer says

      Just a suggestion! When you do get a phone, go basic!!! Wish I had never bought a smartphone because it’s so addictive!!! My husband is now the one who doesn’t want to go back to basic service! I’m so excited to go camping for four days with no reception so I can be out of reach with no guilt:)

    • 26

      STL says

      I know this comment is way after the fact, but I’m new to this blog. For cost’s sake, my husband and I went with prepaid cell phones, for which we pay about $200 for the entire year. We live in an area that doesn’t get cell service for our cell company, so we only use it away from home. People think I’m old fashioned or “out of it,” but the truth is that it was a conscious choice to avoid the cost and the addiction people have to their smart phones. I don’t regret it and we’ve been doing that for about three years. It feels healthy.

  12. 27


    This is a beautiful blog, very inspirational.

    My 3 year old already knows how to use a computer in a scarily grown-up way… time to pull back, I think!

    Thanks x

  13. 28


    We will definitely be having a Hands Free summer. I only signed my children up for one week of half day camp. The rest of the summer will be devoted to free play and lazy days!

  14. 30

    Alyson says

    This is wonderful. I have the same feeling in my stomach about summer! Are you going to post your contract so we can come up with our own for the summer?

    • 31


      Thank you so much, Alyson! Lots of people wanted to see the contract so I added it to the bottom of the post! I hope that helps you create your own. I would love to hear about it! Thanks for being a part of this journey to grasp what matters!

  15. 32


    What a great blog and post! I am a wife, fulltime working attorney and mother to a 17-month-old. I am constantly thinking of all my to-do lists and stressing…but your posts are great reminders to me to just be present, especially as my son gets older. Thank you for the inspiration.

  16. 34


    I <3 this, thank you for this post.

    Although my daughter is only 3 years old and attends preschool fulltime, I think we can make an awesome Hands Free summer together. 🙂

  17. 36

    Kellie says

    Thank you for reminding us all about being fully present in life. I am a new mom and I wife and find there are nights when I put my daughter to bed, I find that my husband and I are on our computers or watching tv, not connecting or sharing of ourselves. I want to make an effort of putting real-life conversations first. My daughter, though only 10 months, will soon pick up on the fact that I am texting and emailing while she is playing. I cried thinking about what she might say if she could talk, “Mommy, spend more time on me not on your phone.” ahhhhh!!!!! I am new to this blog but I thank you for waking me up and reminding me of what is MOST important.

  18. 40


    Love this post. I just had a student who gave a speech on Living Life to the Fullest in which she explained exactly what Ghandi meant when he said

    “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, Learn as if you were to live forever.”

    The fact that both my student and you are holding a mirror up to me right now is wonderful and makes me really consider I will be spending my summer.

    Thank you.

  19. 41


    I loved this, I even felt a bit guilty reading this while lying in bed, but I can’t help it I have a lumbago.
    I’m going kick myself to the living room now and hug my kids. I need it and maybe they do to.
    Thank you for writing such an inspirational post.

  20. 42

    Jana Taylor says

    Another awesome posting…and a plan is now forming in my head. My “baby” is 22 but there are still things we can do, ways we can connect.
    And time spent with my hubby will be richer as well.

  21. 43


    Another who’s new to your blog and loving it.
    My tears tell me that I NEED to do this…and that I also WANT to do this. Hopefully the “want to” emotions I’m feeling will help balance out the anxieties of the “need to” emotions I’m feeling.
    Thank you.

  22. 44


    I am so grateful for your website. It’s the most amazing breath of fresh air. You are changing me, my family, my life. I cherish your blogs. I am working again for the first time in 8 years and have three daughters at home. I have always believed in the special moments always happen over a bo of Cheerios or bedtime kisses. I feel I have found a new like minded friend in this busy world. Thank u for the ideas of how to balance life because I am doing something for me that’s long overdue but I still want to put my kids first. Thanks for addressing balance and what truly really matters in life. I am now soooo excited for my summer. And making a family contract. 🙂 you are a gift.

  23. 45

    Kellie says

    I discovered your blog when a friend posted something from your facebook page. It has been an epiphany. I knew I needed to somehow break free of my “distractions”, and your blog has put words to my scattered unfocused brain. Thank you for lighting my “hands free”path to my important goals of moments and memories with my family instead of missed opportunities and regrets. Your words truly touch my heart, and I can’t help but tear up as I read every post. I look forward to a summer spent on the floor, in the pool, surrounded by messes, crumbs and dirty laundry and best of all the laughter and smiles of my husband and young daughters. Thank you!

  24. 46

    Marian says

    It is known that not only attention to children is taken away resulting in frustrated people when they grow, but also attention to each other, love and affection is taken as we are getting dependent on technology and try to find happiness and entertainment in something that is false and time wasting. More of that, education in schools is degrading trying to wash our children brain. The governments don’t what our good, just to make robots from us. We can fight against this just to do exact the opposite and not to let ourself in first distraction and give more attention to each other, and to humans activities that helps us…like reading, playing music, play social activities…..i stop here. Nice blog!!

  25. 47

    Mindi says

    Your blog was shared with me from a friend. I am a Mother of 3 and a Bonusmom of 4 which equals 7. You have inspired me to be “there” for my kids and not worry so much about the piles of laundry, the miles of shoes left on the floor instead of the cubbies provided and to just enjoy moments of them being children. Thank you for sharing your journey and inspiring so many!!!!

  26. 48

    Keyra says

    I’m a first time parent of a toddler and I love your blog, thank you for the wonderful inspiration.

  27. 49

    Molly says

    I just discovered your blog a week ago and I absolutely love it, and completely agree with you! I have been trying to live my life this way ever since my first child was born 3 years ago, and am so thankful not to be filled with regret when I look back. Not that I don’t wish I would have done some things differently, and I certainly am not perfect in being “hands free.” I don’t have a smart phone and its distractions, but I am guilty of checking email or FB when I should be playing with my kids. Your writing is honest and challenging, yet not condemning. Thank you for your real-ness in sharing your story, and encouraging all parents to join you in this difficult, but immensely important goal. Parents regularly and truly connecting with their kids will have so many positive outcomes, including improved behavior in kids and healthier relationships with everyone, not just parents. Keep up the good work!

  28. 51


    Just found your blog today. What encouragement we can find here! Thank you for your daring and your committment to your family. Thank you for sharing your journey and your experiences. As I read your posts, it makes me think hard about my own family. My oldest is 13 and he has his hands wrapped around his iPod an awful lot. I have plans for a family centered summer, but this Hands Free idea has given it a new dimension.

    • 52


      Thank you, Jenny. I am thrilled to know my blog has given you a new awareness, as well as motivation to grasp the moments that matter WITH your family! Please keep me posted on how it’s going!

  29. 53


    I just discovered your blog today and have been going from post to post to post, with tears rolling down my face! I am in the midst of a life transformation, working towards a life where I work for myself and have more freedom to focus on what really matters – my family. Your blog is a treasure that I have found at just the right time – it reaffirms what I’m working towards and is a reminder that I can begin making improvements now in how I connect with my family. Thank you so much and keep writing – but also keep that contract! 🙂

  30. 55


    I think Moms in today’s western world do have extra challenges– Just a generation ago when I was raising young children we didn’t have the distractions of the internet, cell phones, etc. Of course, all these things do present new opportunities that can be really beneficial at times . . . but it IS a challenge, even for moms like me who have only older kids, to figure out how to manage our lives and responsibilities– and also to just enjoy our lives and feel in control.

  31. 56


    I went hands-free a while ago but still occasionally have to remind myself to remove my hands from the wheel, so to speak, and let the moment drive itself. When my son had an identity crisis a couple of years ago, the only way to manage it was by looking for those once-in-a-whiles, when he wanted suddenly to download to me. Inevitably, they began at 11 pm (thus the name Eleven O’Clock Mom). And usually, one of my hands was already pulling back the bed covers. But the ‘hands-free’ part of me said, “Don’t check out! He’s ready to TALK.” And so, trusting that the hands-free part of me knew what the much more uptight part of me did not, I stayed up. Always. Sometimes until 2 am. Sometimes until dawn. And those amazing, heartfelt, life-altering conversations–while they were not an immediate fix–nevertheless served to bind my son to me like muscle to bone. One night, during just such a moment, he became reflective and said, “You know how I’m going to pay this back?” and when I asked him what he meant, he declared, with an explanatory sweep of the hand, “By doing this. With my own kids.”

    As a parent of teens, I can tell you from experience: hands-free is the one authentic way to live your talk. And when I take my last breath, it’s the thing I’ll honestly be proudest of.

    Kudos to you, Hands-Free Mom, for giving the best kind of parenting a name.

    • 57


      Wow. This is profoundly moving, Becky. It confirms my commitment to being “Hands Free” … so that someday my own children will “pay it back” to their children and on and on. And as far as your beautiful comment “giving the best kind of parenting a name”–I think that could be the more meaningful compliment I have ever received. THANK YOU. This message is being tucked in my heart. xo

  32. 58


    I’m new to your blog & new to motherhood (im just 22 days into my new role!) and this whole post just totally sums up the kind of mama I want to be. I shall be printing that list myself! Thanks for sharing.

  33. 59

    bethany n says

    what an amazing role model you are for your daughters! they are extremely lucky to be a part of this journey with you and to reap the rewards! an inspiration for me as a new mom to a sweet little girl.

  34. 60


    Can I just say that hands down, I am a new hands free fan :). I love your blog already! This post is packed with all the important things about being a mom. It reminds me of being immersed in each moment I spend with my daughter. I think I’d like to make a contract like that too. Thanks for this 🙂

  35. 63


    This was so lovely to read. I don’t have children, yet, but we spend time with friends kids. And your musing on how to enjoy summer days is great inspiration for grown-up kids too. Thank you!

  36. 64

    Susan says

    I so tried to do this with my children when they were younger (not always successfully, but a lot of the time!). Now that I am employed full time even over the summer (I was a stay at home mom, then went back to teaching, now in a 12 month job), I truly miss having the opportunities I used to have to do fun things with my kids just on a whim. Even thought they are now in their teens (and the oldest recently turned 20), I would love more than anything to have that kind of time again. May have to have a few “sick” days this summer!

  37. 65

    Yvonne Walker says

    I have always struggled with having the house look “good” when someone comes over. But today, I have changed and I realized by reading your blog, I have been trying to more hands free but wasn’t sure what to call it. I said to my daughter yesterday, soon we can have ice cream for breakfast because that is a memory I want them to have when they were out for summer. I don’t do it everyday, obviously, but they are so excited to know that we bend the rules a little to enjoy life a lot!!! Thx for sharing and inspiring!

  38. 67

    Sandi says

    Thank-you so much for this post, and page, it came at a time when I was feeling that the computer, cell phone, technology, were taking away from my relationships with my family, after my 3rd son I had bad post-parfumerie and withdrew into my work, but reading this helped, because this hands free mom is who I use to be, and who I am, I am going to take the hands free pledge, to live life, and enjoy every moment, with my children:)

    • 68


      I have goosebumps from the commitment that is evident in your words. I love this: “… because this hands free mom is who I use to be, and who I am, I am going to take the hands free pledge, to live life, and enjoy every moment, with my children.” BEAUTIFUL! I am so glad you are here, and I am inspired by your presence on this journey! Thank you for taking a moment to share your thoughts.

  39. 69


    I’m new to “Hands Free Mama” after your moving “How to Miss a Childhood” post. So grateful to have found you and am so inspired to be a better mama. I have three girls under 6 and we sat down today to write our summer contract. When I described my goals to be less distracted and more present, my oldest exclaimed, “FINALLY!” and wanted to know if we could start today. And we did! Thanks for the challenging, but needed wake-up call! I know our family will be better off for it!

    • 70


      Oh, Peg! How I LOVE this! I will be smiling all day thinking of your daughter’s words. I am inspired by your commitment and willingness not to put off a “Hands Free” life for one more day! SO happy you found my blog. Welcome to the journey!

  40. 71


    Wow, thank you so very much for reminding me of all of these things that we intrinsically know matter but so easily forget. It is so very easy to get caught-up in the day-to-day grind and to forget what really matters: the personal connections with the ones we love most. I am so guilty of hurrying too much, doing too much at once, trying to squeeze it all in. I absolutely love your idea of creating a goals list of what we hope this summer will mean to our family. This is something my husband and I can do when we are aways for a few days celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary – it sounds like the perfect plan to honor our love and commitment to one-another and our 2 year-old daughter.

    • 72


      Thank you, Lindsay! I love the idea of making a family goal list in honor of your anniversary and commitment to your daughter! That is beautiful. Thank you so much for taking a moment to share!

  41. 73

    Shawnna says

    I am so happy I found your blog. Although, I can’t remember how I found it!!
    Being “present” is something that I desperatly need to work on. Hands Free is a much better fit for me. It all makes much more sense to me now!!
    I have two boys, 3 and 13 months. I had PPD that went undiagnosed with my 3 year old. As a result, I honestly can not remember peices of his life. I’m doing better now, being treated for the past 11 months. It’s like I woke up one day and realized these are moments that I will never get back. Moments I will never get to live again. We have made more messes, left more piles of dirty laundry, played in more water than we ever have before. Funny how you have to hear someone else give the permission to let go and have fun before you can actually do it 🙂

    • 74


      Thank you for sharing, Shawna. I am so thankful to hear that you are doing better and have been able to grasp the moments that matter! It is wonderful to have you along on this journey!

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    I have been enjoying your blog these last couple of weeks after seeing a few of my friends share them on Facebook. I love your “Hands Free” approach to parenting and especially your idea of a Hands Free summer. Thank you for sharing. (I had to mention you in my most recent blog post to pass on your ideas to my friends…hope you don’t mind! I included a link directly to your blog!)

    • 76


      Thank you, Angela! I truly appreciate your kind words and by all means, please share the “Hands Free” message on your blog! My mission is to inspire as many people as possible to “let go of distraction to grasp what matters.” Thank you for helping to grow “The Hands Free Revolution”! I am so glad you are here.

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    Kate says

    I just wanted to let you know what a great blog you have here! I really think you are reaching people and changing lives 🙂 It’s so easy to get caught up in other things and take the important things(people) in your life for granted. This is a great reminder and inspiration. I want my son to have great memories that stick out in his mind from his childhood!! I will always remember one camping trip with my family, there was a ban on campfires so we made a fake fire(my dad’s idea) using construction paper and cardboard and shone a flashlight on it. When the park ranger came around, he came into our campsite and started giving my dad a talking to before he realized the fire was fake. We thought it was so hilarious! It’s funny how such a small thing can become a huge moment.

    • 78


      Thank you, Kate! I am so touched by your heartfelt encouragement about the “Hands Free” message!

      Let me say, you have made me smile with the beautiful (and hilarious) memory you shared of the fake campfire … it truly is the little things that kids remember! I am so happy to know you have gotten a little inspiration for summer here in this space. I really appreciate the comment!

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    Adrienne says

    I just read this article and have tears in my eyes. This is something I struggle with every day. It is SO easy to put my daughters favorite show on (currently Kipper) and let her spend hours watching it while I get “so much done”. I end up feeling like I’ve accomplished so much until I go to tuck her into bed at night and see her sweet little face and remember all the little requests that got put off until “mommy’s done this one message/post/email/text, or this one chore…” and then I wonder why she begins acting out…….. I NEED to do this for the sake of my 2 beautiful children, even though I honestly feel like I will just fail again, and it’s so hard to do!!!

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    Celine says

    That was so absolutely terrific. Wanna laugh? It’s not just this generation and our computers and handheld crap… I saw this very same thing with my own mother, but back then, it was her friends always coming and going and her always on the phone, or her just always being so super involved in her extremely busy, friend and boyfriend filled, life that us kids were just in the way. We all knew it and resented her for it. I swore I would be different and I -am-. I really am. Yet, after reading your blog, I find myself guilty of some of the things you speak of. i.e. Interrupting them to answer the phone, asking them to wait a second while I finish typing something I’m posting on facebook/my mom board/etc., and I’m sure other things, that while probably not as much as some others (because of being hyper aware of “that” feeling from my own childhood and never wanting my children to feel that way), certainly enough to make some changes for the better, NOW.

    Thank you for this. It was perfect timing with summer vacation beginning next week and the wonderful opportunity to not only reconnect with my kids COMPLETELY, but to make sure these little joys of my life know that they are exactly that.. the joy of my existence and center of my universe. Because they absolutely are.

    • 81


      I love your insight, Celine! You are so right that distraction can come in many forms. It is powerful to hear an adult perspective about not feeling you received enough attention as a child–and how awesome that you broke the cycle. You very well could have repeated it. I love hearing your commitment to connecting with your children this summer. It is truly inspiring! Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts!

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    Kate says

    Thank you! I’ve seen a few of your entries and they’re inspiring. My mind is full of things to do this summer — less working, less networking, less worrying, less meal planning and more teaching my daughter to swim, more sandwiches on the patio, more gardening with my mom, more days at the park watching the dog run around and my baby roll on the blanket. I can’t wait.

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    What a blessing to find your blog today! You have done a lovely job outlining such beautiful and simple summer plans.

    This is exactly the kind of thing we love on our website, The Power of Moms. If you would be willing to let us re-post this (linking to you, of course), that would be wonderful.

    Much love,

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    Lauren Cline says

    You are such an inspiration! I have found myself very distracted lately and too scared to do anything about it! Fear of deleting my Facebook app because I don’t want to “miss” some big news, or fear of leaving my phone in my purse because I might miss a text. My 16 month old daughter is growing up before my eyes and I am going to “miss” it if I’m not careful. Thank you for sharing this journey with us, you have definitely converted me to a hands free momma!

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    I truly love this post and the concept of your blog. I can’t wait to read more. I will be sharing your post on our facebook page so I can spread the word.

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    Rita Mohn says

    We have 6 kids. The oldest just came home from her first year of college and talked about all the things she missed. Not the big things, but the little family time things. I call it FFF, forced family fun, all participate fully. I set it up in advance so the teenagers can plan around it and it typically is a no money fun event. A walk, a picnic….just being together in each others worlds for awhile. Hands Free is good stuff

    • 88


      Thank you for sharing, Rita! I really appreciate receiving insight and inspiration from parents further down the parenting path than I am! I love your term “forced family fun” … just being together in each others’ world for awhile … how BEAUTIFUL!!!

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    Katrina says

    Fantastic reminder in today’s crazy techno world. I am now following your blog and will be practicing some hands free myself with my two beautiful girls (2 & 4) and spreading the Hands Free Mama love in Australia 🙂

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    Well – aren’t you the voice in head?! My husband and I are making changes in our life to move towards this. No phones until our daughters are in bed, more dog walking and garden weeding, soccer ball playing and bug catching an so much more.

    Thank you for reinforcing the ideas in my head!

    • 92


      Well, as the saying goes: “Great minds think alike!” 🙂 I love your mention of garden weeding and bug catching. Sounds like beautiful summer memories to me. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts! Keep me posted!

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    Darlene Carrick says

    Don’t forget this is intended for us grandmas as well. I just woke up in the middle of the night after a nightmare that some people were chasing me and I was running trying to find my car.
    It gets scary as you get older, because you are always thinking that there is more to do before you are not here anymore.
    Things you need to get done. Unfinished projects and unfinished business. Things you wish you could have been but did not measure up. Things you always wanted to learn how to do and never found time to do. Always wishing that you were as good as the next lady in your neighborhood.
    The time I felt free was the time I de-junked my house of all things not used or just taking up space and got rid of all my un-finished projects and just freed myself of all the stresses that were pressing me.
    Don’t get me wrong, I work full time same as everyone else, I cook, clean and take care of a husband and worry about 6 grown children and 17 grandchildren.
    But when I threw away all the unfinished quilts, sewing projects, and old nik naks that I thought were important, I found I had time to just spend with my grandkids, going out for lunch, to the park, to the dollar store, or just sitting on the lawn and playing.
    No one will remember the perfect house, the nik naks you had, the projects that you finished or didn’t, the sewing and crafts that you mastered. But, they WILL remember the time you spent with them showing them you cared individually for them.
    They will remember the simple things. The time you spent playing ball or the time you spent making up plays and dressing up from the things you got from the thrift store or dollar store and acting silly.
    I really enjoyed your blog and it made me stop crying and realize that I am still alright and to again, wipe the cob webs away and start again to live, like you said, hands free.
    Thank you. You helped someone that is done raising children but has a whole set of grandchildren that I want to leave a simple legacy to.
    Good night.

    • 94


      Thank you, Darlene, for these powerful words. You speak from the heart and the wisdom you share is priceless. You have touched me with your message and I will remember your words when the choices of life are upon me. You have confirmed my mission to let nothing stand in the way of spending precious TIME loving my family. Thank you, dear one.

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    Aubry says

    Im not sappy but this definantly brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so so so much for reminding me of all things most important. I am a single mom with two jobs and i often times feel guilty that i stress so much over providing for my son..that i forget to do the most important things.l. Which only entail my love and time . Thank you thank you!!

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    Jennifer says

    That’s absolutely beautiful. It’s not very often I see people like you. “free” was my motto last summer, free play, free sports, free music, free everything. Why pay money for things when you can be FREE to do things when you want how you want and with who you want to! The children are no longer in organized activities they play any musical instrument for an hour a week. They play the song in their hearts like you say! The children are much happier.
    XOX to your family.

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    Monique says

    Thank you for writing this!!! I am a mom of 5 boys (soon to be 6!) and I often find myself so overwhelmed by just the daily things like toys and books and clothes and laundry. I am a recovering OCD sufferer, so it’s super hard for me to overlook my work to play! I have been trying harder tho and hope to be more “hands free” in the future!

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    Hoku says

    This is my second year of trying to be a full time stay at home mom and I’m still struggling!! There are times I feel like a horrible mom and feel even worse knowing I should be better now that I’m not working! This helped me to remember that I’m going to NOT have to worry about the details, the order of things, the organization so much and TRULY put my kids first. I want them to have a mom that they know loves them and the time we’re privileged to have! Thank you for inspiring me!

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    Bethany says

    Amazing!!!! I found this on Pinterest today and it was Exactly what I needed to hear today. Can’t wait to read more of your blog – and the follow-up Fall post.

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    You have echoed my own sentiments exactly. I have 3 kids, 10, 14, and 15. I have always put aside some of my adult responsibilities in order to live “hands free”. It has been an important rule of my motherhood years. I often feel horrible that my home is less organized and clean than so many of the ladies in our community, but I also know that my children will only be with me for a very short while. This is my one chance to do all of this with them and I don’t want to miss any of it. I hope that they will remember the time together rather than the small messes. Recently we went on a trip with my younger daughters scout troop. I was bewildered and surprised when only one mom and I swam at the water park with the kids. The most popular excuse was not wanting to put on a bathing suit. I don’t have anything near a perfect body, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let my body image stop me from enjoying the kids and life. Needless to say I had an amazing time with them. Don’t let life and joy pass you by! The children in your life are the key to that great joy. Once you let go and join in you will never regret it or forget it!

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    cecilia says

    Love it! I can’t stop crying! I already do the little note in their lunch box and they love it! As a matter of fact, their friends even ask to see what I wrote.. It’s funny how such little things as this can make a big difference in your childs life! every parent needs to do their part so their/our kids can grow up in a beautiful world!

  61. 104


    I found your blog post through Pinterest and love love love it! I’ve read it a few times and it makes me tear up (although I do have some pregnancy hormones contributing to that). I hope you don’t mind, but I wrote about your post and linked to it on my blog today. Moms need to read this! Thanks so much.

    • 105


      Hi Erin,

      What a true gift to know how my post impacted you in such a positive way! I remember how relieved I was to stumble upon Erin Kurt’s” Top Ten Things Kids Want From Their Parents.” I just had to share it. Never in a million years would I have guessed my post would receive 100,000 views. It is because of dear people like you who feel compelled to share the good news! It is so easy to get caught up in the pressures of our society and lose sight of the fact that the little things matter the most!

      I enjoyed your blog post so much! I love your :30 minute cleaning idea! I, too, stopped spending enormous amounts of time cleaning and stopped worrying that things had to be “perfect.” We also began cleaning as a family, and believe it or not, it can become a great way to connect!

      Thank you for sharing your beautiful story of how you are “letting go to grasp what matters.” Truly an inspiration!

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    Faith Heath says

    Thank you so much for this! Its like you were talking directly to me at the exact moment I needed to hear it! I cant wait to check out the rest of your blog and hope to soon become and “hands free” mom myself!!!

    • 107


      Thank you, Faith! I am so honored by your comment and your interest in following my blog! How inspiring to hear you want to become a “Hands Free” mom! You are in the right place, my friend. So glad to have you join me on this journey!

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    Patty Shomler Kuhnau says

    I can see myself becoming a “hands free grandma”, now that I am blessed to be retired from teaching kindergarten full-time. As working-outside-the-home parents, I think my husband and I managed to do most of the “Top Ten” with our two kids. But it took both of us.

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    Kristin Sumner says

    Thank you for this post! I have 6 children and I have been “hands free” for awhile now and my mother will never understand why I don’t finish what I start. I drop everything for my children, even if it means to leave dinner on the table to lay with them in bed or have piles of laundry sit for a couple days. My kids will always be first, and I won’t be a slave to my home 🙂

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    Sarah says

    “Isn’t it simple? Isn’t it beautiful?” ISN’T IT WRONG
    This is delusional. You’re telling parents what they want to hear, that the kids ACTUALLY love this. WAKE UP! This isn’t it at all, stop sucking up and be real…

  66. 111

    Annisong80 says

    Just came across this post this morning. I so appreciate your words and thoughts! As a mom to two boys 8 and 7 I can often be distracted or get too caught up trying to do everything perfectly instead of just relaxing and living life to the fullest with my boys in the moment…messy or perfect or not(usually not)!
    Thanks for your wise words and wonderful reminders. It was a pleasure to read your post.

  67. 113

    Megan says

    Thank you for this post! This is just the thing I need playing in my head when I get home from work… I am a first grade teacher and coming home to an 18 month old can be challenging after a rough day, but this is a great reminder to be more present and focused when I am with him! Wonderfully written… Thank you, I will be sharing it with my husband too!

  68. 114

    Jes Grace says

    Thank you so much for this post. I was about to go to bed feeling really defeated after a bad day. I try so hard to be and do everything for my 4 year old and 6 month old. I thought I had failed today because I hadn’t finished folding the washing and I didn’t have time to play and build with my son like he wanted me to. I hadn’t done anything creative or inventive with them like so many posts on pinterest and facebook. Then I read you post and it brought tears to my eyes. I do all ten on the list. I realize that my children will know I love them not because of the things I try to do but simply because I love them so much that it comes out in everything I do. It is mid summer here in Australia and I can’t wait to be hands free tomorrow.

    • 115


      Thank you, Jes. Your words are so moving. I know I can relate to what you have said about feeling defeated. But what you say here is so true: “I realize that my children will know I love them not because of the things I try to do but simply because I love them so much that it comes out in everything I do.” I am so thankful my post came into your life at the right moment. And thank you for inspiring me in return.

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    Chelsea Krysko says

    Well I am at work, (yes work) reading your blog and crying over my keyborad. You couldn’t have said it better. I am going to print these out and hang where I see them every day. It is way to easy to get lost in work, laundry, cooking, ect…This is definitely for my husband to read too! Thanks so much!


  70. 119

    Jill says

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been very sick after some complications with my second daughter and have felt guilty on the days I couldn’t leave home. I am so happy to see a list of things that I can “achieve”. I can do all those things 🙂

  71. 121


    Thank you for sharing this. I found this article via pinterest and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

    We need some help with our family – we are happy, we are healthy – but as parents we realize we could be doing so much more than letting the kids do things as we facebook about it.

    Our oldest son is going to be a Junior in High School next year; our youngest son is in first grade and we’re got 4 girls in the middle. Time passes so quickly and I want to enjoy every minute alongside them.

    Thank you.

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    Erin says

    Thank you SO much for posting this! I gave up Facebook for Lent, and it has been amazing how much time I am actually PAYING ATTENTION to my kids! It seems so small and insignificant, but you are SO right! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  73. 124

    Cindy says

    It was not by accident that I arrived on your site! This was yet another “confirmation” of what God has been doing in my life. I was a stay at home Mom to our 6 children (homeschooled) who are now all grown and some have made me Grandma. I have to be careful to not allow guilt or frustration get me down that I allowed my perfectionistic tendency and depression rule my activities as well as the lack of not truly being “free”.

    Recently I ‘retired’ from my 9 year job outside of the home, but to which I was tied even while at home. Stress built up in part due to changes in every area of my life (building a new home, moving, church, increased job changes, guilt over not doing things for family and home, etc.). My husband had been wanting me to quit and finally I cooperated!

    I will never restore the years I missed being the Mom and Grandma I wish I could have been, but I can start now to try to be “FREE” (I do realize it takes work to be more than just a concept of both hands free). I have been collecting some simple things to do but will need to launch past the collection stage! I am excited about creating memories…

    Your blog was such a great inspiration. Thank you for being real.

    • 125


      Oh Cindy! Your words bring tears to my eyes! One of the most beautiful things about being “Hands Free” is that it is about TODAY–not the past. Through the grace of God, I was able to forgive myself for missing out on the moments that matter while I lived distracted. I began grasping as many moments as I could in each precious day. My life has changed and my relationships have strengthened. I pray you are able to let go of the past and collect all the beautiful moments life has to offer. Thank you for letting me know that you are here sharing this journey with me.

      • 126

        Cindy says

        Thank you for your reply and concern. I was not very clear that I am trying to choose to live “TODAY” and not in past regrets. I have been trying to take more opportunities in the last day or so to ‘practice’ my focus as “Hands Free” and be there whole heartedly. Thank you for the reminder. (Oh where would I be if it were not for the grace of God?)

        I’ve begun an exciting new life chapter and with it a renewed awareness to watch for and take opportunities that can strengthen my relationships by fully being there in the moment!

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    Jennifer says

    this.is.amazing…. and an incredible reminder of what life is really about.. thank you for reminding me… every busy mama needs to read this. xo

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    I held my breath when I started reading. I was expecting to hear how I was monumentally failing my children. Turns out I’m not doing a bad job at all! Lovely blog x

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    Shannon Herbstrith says

    I love this! My kids are grown & now I am a grandma. I have told my best friend that I think young mother’s have so much more to be distracted by. We had cable with much fewer channels. We had telephones that were limited to how far you could stretch the cord. There was no internet to daydream & loose yourself in for hours. There were no cell phones or text to look at all day. We had books & no e-readers (you went to the library). There were no ipods or ipads. If your 5 years old, you have to compete with ALL that to get your mommy’s attention. :o(

  77. 132

    Nature Milligan says

    I came across you blog just now, while wasting time at my last week of my full time job. I have been missing my children, the oldest which graduates in two weeks, one 16, one 13 and the youngest which is five, something terribly. I feel like when I am home, i have to focus on the dinner, the house and the laundry. So, I decided recently that enough is enough and I am quitting my full time job and taking a part time, way more flexible position. I will have to learn to budget and save better, but I know my rewards will be so much greater than money could ever be! I will take your words with me into this new journey! Thank You!

  78. 133


    Great article! I’m a mom of 4 little girls and a big believer of getting out and actually spending the time to explore the world together as a family. I actually have a photobook series to motivate parents to get out and explore the world from A to Z with their children. Check it out at: http://www.abcphotobooks.com Each book gives you 250+ ideas of things to do from A to Z and then the book holds all your photos so you can re-live your memories over and over. Think of it as a scavenger hunt meets a photo album. I’ve been doing it with my kids for years and we have gotten “unplugged” and out of the house because of it.

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    Kathy says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. As a Grammy, your post has given me some ideas for summer fun with my grandsons. They will be in daycare situations, but I will them up or have them not go once a week or so, so that we can do something special together. Their ages are 9 and 1 1/2. It will be great to have one on one time with the big brother. Not something we have much of at all! Again thank you for the ideas.

  80. 135

    Terri says

    This is exactly how I have been feeling lately! As a homeschooling Mom of 3 I tend to be too serious & try to use up our days learning instead of living. I have the perfect opportunity to take advantage of those spontaneous moments to bond with my children. Thank you!

  81. 136

    Tressa Blevins says

    This made me sad and hopeful at the same time. Sad, because my own sons are now grown and I regret with every ounce of my being not being more “present” when they were young. Hopeful, because I’ve now got a beautiful granddaughter that is almost a year old. With her, I’m completely, utterly present. We lay on the grass under a tree and play for hours, or sit and read, or just tickle and hug. Your words could not be more true, and you are very wise, and blessed, to make a conscious decision with your little ones while they are still young.

  82. 137

    Sherry Curington says

    Hi Rachel, I love this article and your blog. I have always tried to live my life like this, and raise my children (Girl 24 and Boy 16) like this. I have been blessed to be able to be a stay at home Mom and have loved every moment. I would like to use a portion of your writing to paint on a canvas. The quote is from the right of your page……”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, disconnection, and perfection to live a life that simply, so very simply, consists of what really matters.” Would you mind if I used this? I will put your name at the bottom. Thanks so much, Sherry Curington

  83. 140

    Carolyn Harper says

    I know you are writing as a mother but we grandma’s are still working, looking after ageing parents and/or spouse’s and still craving time with our grandbabies. Our ‘sandwich generation’ needs your wonderful reminders as well. Thank you.

  84. 141


    Thank you for this post! I know I’m a year late, but the timing is perfect for us. As our family is preparing to move, I’m staring down a crazy long to-do list. I was forgetting to include family activities on that list. Again, thank you, and I’m so glad to have found your blog!

  85. 142


    I just stumbled upon your blog by accident actually…on pintrest! I was unexpectedly moved by the list of what children remember and want most frm their parents. I spend time with my two boys every night to ‘chat’ and was happy to see a few similar things on the list. Thank you for posting and just trying to give us all a little perspective.

  86. 143


    Love this! What a glorious summer this will be if I can follow all you suggest!

    I will be adding it to my blog’s bucket list next week. Thank you!!

    PS For some reason, this post made me cry with the thought of such quality time with my children.

  87. 144

    Carla says

    This got me to thinking about my own childhood. My parents were both really hard workers, but I still have so many memories of them spending time with me alone — Dad taking me fishing or horseback riding, or working in the garden, Mom teaching me to sew, cook, print my name so I could have my own library card, sitting on my swing, fingers curled around a coffee cup, watching me roll around in the grass with my little dog. She also took me along when she nursed her sister who had cancer, and later when she looked after her father in his depression following the loss of his first-born. Through the ups and downs of life, we were all connected, right up to Mom’s last words, less than a year ago: “I love you, too”.

  88. 146

    Amy says

    Thank you for giving us such an important reminder of what our priorities should be and foe the inspiration as well!!!

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    Veronica says

    I just found this today and I felt as if I was writing it. This is and has been my parenting technique since I became a Mom. I know it isn’t possible for all parents, but my husband is very like minded and we both insist that time with our family beats out dishes, laundry and housework always! I am a full time stay at home mom. Last year when my youngest was starting kindergarten, I didn’t like the choice of schools we were given by the district, so with encouragement from my hubby- I became a homeschool mom! The best decision of my life! Making science lessons based on her current interest of the day, using math during our baking lesson, writing letters to family over seas as writing lessons…..not to mention boing so outside in the fresh air!
    Homeschooling just added to our current lifestyle. Family time is not a special moment once in a while……but a special moment every day!
    I love your statement on how 10 years from now – what will matter? Because that’s my motto!
    Yeah, my house is messy but my family’s greatest memories will never be “Remember when the house was spotless, the laundry was all done and every piece if paper in the house was organized?”.
    No, it will be the camping, card nights, butterfly hunting, fishing, board games, summer snowball fights, arts and crafts, and countless other family memories.
    Thank you for validating t parenting technique. Not that I needed validation, because my kids smiles, hoots, and memories are plenty validation, but its nice to see other parents with like minds,

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    Georgie says

    I just found this blog today and felt moved to let you know how awesome if feels to hear you youngsters all doing the absolute best thing for your children “hands free”. I am a grandmother and mostly did not have the “smartphone” problem, but as a woman with children, and a fully employed person of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s era, trying to “get it all”, I struggled with the same distractions. Took me a pretty long time to wise up, and I hope that my kids did finally get the full attention thing ( I think I’ll ask them what they remember most one day). Hubby and I did things like, take them out of school one day a year in the spring and just do stuff with them, ride the elevator in the tallest building in the near by “big city”. Go to the Airport & park at a runway and watch the planes land and take off. Let the kids pick out a new color for their rooms and we all painted..We also coached ball, did girl/boy scouts, baked the cookies for school and all the other stuff that the kids were into. They were lucky enough to grow up in a small town environment that they (now) recognize is unique. When we sold that home in the 90’s – we had to have a key to the front door made as we lost it many years before and never locked the front door anyway..(not possible anymore).I always called my decorating style “early american childhood”. Messy and cluttered. Anyway – Thanks ladies for raising the next generation with wise parenting.

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    Joellene says

    I guess I have been a hands free parent for a long time. One of the hard things about it is my mother she is always judging the cleanliness of my house ,not all my dishes are done all the time I have dirty spots on my walls and all of the time I have mail and paperwork piled that I need to take care of. I vacuum 2-3 week I do dishes everyday clean bathroom once a week. She has always had a spotless house.

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    Desiree says

    The thing that appreciated the most about this the most is that even though it was all about your kids, you choose photos that don’t show their faces directly. It is so nice to see someone speaking about their family life but not exploiting their kids in the process. Snaps for you and thanks for a “hands free” reminder!

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    Brittany says

    I am a new mom and this list brought me to tears. So simple…I can’t wait to do these things with my girls. Thank you for sharing.

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    Kat says

    Oh Hello there from Canada! Literally just stumbled onto your website, while I was actually looking for something else that was completely unrelated 🙂
    After reading what kids want from their parents, I felt the feeling of a hug. A silent hug from my grown kids 🙂 I answered “did that” on every single one noted. I was a single parent to 3 boys since they were 3, 5, and 9. I did not want the divorce or negativity of their father to mar their little minds in even the smallest ways. I wanted them to grow up having no regrets there was just Mom in the picture. So I vowed that I’d provide them the best (educational and fun) experience of growing up that I could possibly give. Rainy days meant crafts and/or food experiments-always different unless they loved one so much they wanted to do it again. Literally did every kid friendly craft out there! Went to every playground in the city, hikes, animal parks, jogging..many times. At the park, I always played a grumpy monster and chased them -never heard so much laughing ever and had all the other kids wanting to participate too!..and they did 🙂 Collected garbage together when we went for walks. Baked every cookie recipe together and made frozen pops all summer. Got a dog, taught them to care for him, take him for walks..all of it. Rented 7 movies every second weekend, we’d pile onto my bed and watch them while eating popcorn and milkshakes I made. I had Crazy Night every payday. They could have whatever they wanted for dinner. Usually it was pizza or icecream sundaes. When they did they’re required chores, I did mine along with them, music on loud, singing all the way. Never missed a night reading or singing to them and vice versa. They had no problem doing their homework and all 3 did it together, having their own conversations in between. Friends slept over LOTS….all through to their teens. Lots more stuff… but now? My awesome sons are 25-30, super kids, educated, kind and humble, with a sense of humor and never sweat the small stuff. Their memories along with mine are joy joy joy. Best time of my life. They agree. They had a blast and learned all the right stuff along the way. No was always No, not no..no..yes. Consistency is key. Don’t wrap their little minds into your adult junk ever. I always figured that if I were ever to become a mother, I’d really be a mother. Full-time…even though I worked 🙂 The boys continually reminisce to their girlfriends, friends, etc about growing up with Mom (who doubled as Dad). Their friends do too..they always got a milkshake when they came over, and all got to play their guitars loud when they jammed, and I didn’t mind. Loved listening to them. And making them milkshakes whenever they were over. Now when they drop by, I still make one for them 🙂
    What I want to really impart is that it is not difficult filling the role of mother or father. It’s putting your kids in first place. All the time. Teaching them right from wrong and educating them along the way without them really knowing your “teaching” them. Go to all of their practices, their games. Not just some. Attend all their school events. When most of the parents I chat with along life’s way complain of their day with their kids or reminisce about negative things when the kids were young, or complain that now that as young adults they’re lazy or mouthy or or or…, I think of how much fun I had with my kids. If there were bad days, I can’t even remember them. Really.

    Hope everyone has a blast with their kids as much as they can, because time sure does fly by. And you’ll never regret it. Ever.
    Happy Day to all 🙂

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    I love that “data” the teacher collected. Such a wonderful reminder and it takes me right back to being a child myself and what I needed/wanted. Thank you for posting this. I’m pinning it so that I can remind myself of it as my daughter grows. (She turns one in two weeks!)

  96. 156

    Shelley says

    I just want to say thank you for your insight. I have felt for a long time I need to do better. I sort of wish you were my neighbor and could be my BFF and coach! I, like you, am a type A perfectionistic personality and although I have secretly basked in the knowledge that I can multi-task and get more done then most humans on the planet, I have also had a pit in my stomach about what I am missing and what I will regret. I currently have to work a lot due to financial issues. I have four kids that I am not there for as much as I would like to be. Most of my kids are quite busy with activities and at times I wonder if they should just not be in their activities but that doesn’t seem like the right thing to do so far. I have to remind myself that even when I am working I am serving my family because the bills do have to get paid. Just this morning I was at the allergist with three of my kids and I was feeling terribly guilty that I was on the phone making other needed appointments for them instead of visiting with them in the waiting room. It truly seems I have too much to get done and not even hours. Sleeping seems necessary or I would skip it and get more done while the kids sleep LOL! Anyway I have decided to recommit and to stop touching my phone while I am in the car and to visit or sing with them. I love your contract idea and want to to that! I am going to try to do WHAT A HANDS FREE CHRISTMAS BREAK LOOKS LIKE! I have found that Facebook is my stress reliever and my escape but takes too much time away from getting other things done so I am going to try to limit it. Thank you for being a good example. Are you sure you can’t move next door to me?

  97. 158

    Adriana says

    Hello Rachel, I just want to say that this is the first time I read your blog and since I read about NOT YELLING to our kids I couldn’t stop reading all your blog. I’m a 35years old mom. Mother of three boys (6,3 and Cero years). And after having my little one (Sept. 2013). I’ve been thinking a lot in every single thing you have written. I’ve found very interesting your blog. Also, I’m Mexican and I have shared your blog with my friends, so bad that not all of them speak english. I’ll try to share your thoughts with them.

  98. 159

    Valerie says

    what’s the gooey green lumpy stuff you’re making in your picture? It looks deliciously messy.

  99. 161


    This spoke to me! Thank you for taking the time to share and reminding everyone how important it is to connect with loved ones and to live in the moment! Absolutely inspiring – I’ve share this on my Facebook page and will share it more on my personal blog: http://www.capturinginspirations.com !

    Thank you!



  1. […] As I was finishing up our list, a blog I follow came across my email. It is another poignant reminder to focus on the things that truly matter to our children. I encourage you to take a few minutes and look it over, it is such a wonderful message and so doable! What a Hands-Free Summer Looks Like. […]

  2. […]  “Exactly two years ago, I had an epiphany. I wanted summer to be different than it had in the past. I wanted to use that time wisely, doing things that mattered with the people who mattered most. As I was figuring out how to go about it, I discovered a powerful list based on 16 years of research that revealed what kids most loved their parents to do…” (read full post here) […]

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