What a “Hands Free” Fall Looks Like

It all started with an innocent glass jar filled with heavy cream.

I watched as my 9-year-old daughter shook and shook with excitement until … ta-da! Real butter! She even made a batch of toast so the whole family could try her succulent creation.

“It has no chemicals, no fake ingredients. This is not processed food; this is called REAL food,” she declared as if taping an infomercial for “The Butter Shaker 5000.”

My 6-year-old daughter needed no persuasion; her small hand, which happened to fit perfectly inside the jar, went in for another heaping spoonful. Toast was completely unnecessary.

As I watched my children enjoy the natural goodness of this simple culinary treat, I felt a tinge of discomfort. However, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why I felt such unease.

A few hours later, I discovered my open lap top computer. Posted on the screen was a PowerPoint slide show the kids had created. The title was: “How to Make Halloween Costumes For Kids.” With each click, I watched my youngest child transform from a fairy to a witch, from a “cheer girl” to a scary monster—all with a few stitches of fabric and a whole lot of creativity.

There it was again—that uncomfortable feeling. When I should have been marveling, I felt like crying.

Shouldn’t I be the one making homemade butter?

Shouldn’t I be the one making handmade costumes?

I know, I know. It is so wrong. I’m the one who just weeks ago was declaring the fabulous freedom to raise a child.

But I am human. And I live in the same world you live in—the one where afternoon snacks can resemble palm trees if you arrange the apple slices and carrot sticks just so on the colorful plate … the world where back-to-school means coordinated outfits in earthy tones with unsmudged eye glasses sitting perfectly on bright, shiny faces … the world where organizational cork boards align kitchen walls so you don’t forget the easily forgettable letter sack containing an object that starts with “C.” (Which consequently, I have discovered is an object that is virtually impossible to find at seven o’clock in the morning.)

For some reason, these unnecessary comparisons and unrealistic pressures I was learning to let go of have suddenly been voicing themselves again. See, I had a “Hands Free” Summer. With the help of a “Hands Free Summer Contract” and two little girls who hold PhDs in fun and spontaneity, I let a lot of stuff “go.” While this lovely freedom made for an incredibly memorable summer, it made for a lot of catching up to do once school resumed. The productivity monster that I managed to keep at bay for two months has been breathing down my neck, insisting it’s time to get back down to business.

So in the past 25 days, I have written three chapters of a book I have dreamed about writing for a very long time. But in order to make 19,247 words appear on paper, other things must slide.

As the saying goes, “Something’s gotta give.”

My hair has been in a ponytail for 25 consecutive days and the number of times it has been washed … well, let’s just not even go there.  Thank goodness daily temperatures remain warm because this has allowed our family to continue rotating our favorite summer t-shirts and shorts. Breakfast involves the tipping of a box, and lunch is a good old-fashioned PB & J. I do break out the crock-pot for dinner but only if the recipe has less than two ingredients. As the porches in my neighborhood are being adorned with potted orange mums and festive autumn décor, I am lucky if I get the wet stack of advertisements peeled off the driveway.

And as I walk past my empty flowerpots that look pretty darn pathetic, I’m left wondering.

And feeling a little inadequate.

But I have discovered that along this journey, there are periods of rain—when thoughts of uncertainty and doubt creep in. But if you keep going, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you are bound to bump into a rainbow. And once in awhile, if you keep your eyes wide open, these unexpected rainbows bear a pot of gold. And what you are about to read, my friends, is gold.

“What I do remember was that she could curse like a truck driver sometimes, that she fed me some frozen turkey covered in a purple sauce that was definitely not for human consumption, that she ate a bowl of chips in front of the TV in her bathrobe almost every night, and that she let me watch Dallas when I was in Kindergarten. Let’s face it people – it was Dallas – that’s no Nick, Jr. She wasn’t perfect and I loved that about her. She was real and in my memories she makes it okay for me to be that real with my own children. Because I think about how much I loved her and our time together, and realize it’s not about any of those things. It’s about who she was, not what she did on any one day. She was a lifetime of love and compassion and good humor and kindness. She was in it for the long haul. As parents, we all are. So stop judging and love yourself. Because today was just today. And really by most standards including mine, really not a very bad one at all.” -JennM, “Keeping It Real

Seriously. If you could hug words, wouldn’t you want to hug them? Actually, if I could, I would carry these words to bed with me every night—and I would hold them next to my cheek like the most comforting worn-out blanket that smells just like home. And soon all the weird dreams I have been having lately would be replaced with sunshine and Oreo truffles.

Reading Jennifer’s hopeful words unleashed the same feelings I had when I read Erin Kurt’s “Top 10 Things Kids Really Want Their Parents To Do With Them.” First, there was a burst of hope—then, an inspirational splash of “Hands Free” reality.  And from there, I was back in the game. I got my head on straight. For goodness sake, I know what really matters to me! Heck, I’ve been writing about it every day of my life for two years now. I had simply lost my focus. I took my eye off the ball—that glowing ball of what really matters.

And let’s face it, getting distracted from what truly matters is an easy thing to do in this high-resolution, high-standard, high-pressured, picture-perfect world we live in. And with each new season, we are bombarded with a whole new gaggle of fabulous ideas that we gotta try … a whole new slew of gorgeous images of what our home, our children, and our waistline could look like if we do these easy steps. And right now, pretty pumpkins and foliage trimmed doors, succulent chili with thick slices of cornbread, award-winning tailgate parties, and super cute boots paired with super skinny jeans are crowding our line of vision. And while there is nothing wrong with any of these things, they are not the necessary ingredients of a happy life.

So in order to maintain my focus, I will be making another contract. After all, I have the power to determine what a “Hands Free” fall will look like in my family’s life based on the choices I make. And my theme for Fall 2012 is simple … Happiness.

‘Tis the season of gathering. So I am gathering me some Happy.

What a “Hands Free” Fall looks like:

Less guilt, more guts

 Less jumping through hoops, and more jumping in leaves

Fewer hurried moments, more do-nothing moments

 Less about looking put together, more about simply being together

Less retail chains, more Mom and Pop

 Less parent-perfected school projects more student-made pizzazz

Less consumerism, more giving

 Less nit-picking, more acorn picking

Less grumbling about minor inconveniences, more gratitude for life’s simple joys

Less feeding the inner critic, more feeding the soul

Less close quarters, more open air

Less effort spent decorating the mantel, and more time spent warming by the fire

 Less pushing our limits, more peddling our cares away

Less getting lost on the Internet, more discovering uncharted paths


And as I create the fall season I want to see in my life, not the one social media air-brushes for me, I can’t help but think this “Hands Free” approach will reflect in my daughters’ future lives—in the way they connect, love, and create their own family traditions.  Part of me hopes that one crisp fall night, my daughters will call their children to the porch where a big fat pumpkin will sit waiting to be carved. As everyone ponders what expression this pumpkin shall wear, my oldest daughter will say, “I think the pumpkin should be happy. Mom always said fall is about gathering as much happiness as you can.”

And then, I pray, she will smile and continue with something like this:

“My mom let me cook a lot—mostly so she wouldn’t have to. She always wore her hair in a ponytail and went days without showering—but somehow she managed to smell good when she cuddled up next to me, and we talked each night. Mom didn’t have time to decorate the house or make cutesy foods, but she always had time to listen. She wasn’t much into Monopoly or puzzles, but she’d get really excited about taking bike rides and going for walks. She’d always beg me to do my British accent, and then she would laugh until she had to run to the bathroom. When Dad wasn’t home, Mom sat on the couch between my sister and me, and we’d watch recordings of ‘Glee.’ She’d make us close our eyes as she’d fast forward through the inappropriate parts, and then we’d watch the musical performances. Mom wasn’t the most punctual at signing and returning school papers, but she often placed sticky notes in our lunch box and love notes on our pillow. One fall, Mom wrote a book about living a present and joy-filled life. I remember her saying, ‘I don’t care if anyone buys the book. I wrote this for you and your sister. You are the ones teaching me how to grasp what really matters in life.’ And when she said it, her eyes got all teary, but she still managed to smile. My mom definitely wasn’t perfect, but she sure did smile a lot. ‘Happiness trumps perfection’—that was Mom’s motto for life.”

And this, my friends, is where I thought today’s post would end. But like I said, this journey has unexpected rainbows if you just keep your eyes open.

As I headed out for my weekly fetching of the advertisements that littered the drive, I walked by an empty flowerpot.

The same flowerpot that once represented an inadequacy in me was now a beautiful confirmation … a divine sign that I am on the right path towards grasping what matters … even if I stumble along the way.

The pot that once looked so glum because it boasted no colorful mums suddenly had become a priceless pot of gold.

our family kitten “Banjo” who we rescued a few months ago

Fall 2012. We didn’t grow brilliant orange mums, but we grew love.

And by the grace of God, we gathered as much happiness as we could to sustain us in the days and years ahead.



What will Fall 2012 look like in your life? What a momentous day it is when you recognize that you have the power to determine what your life will look like based on where you place your time, energy, focus, and heart. Thank you, friends of  The Hands Free Revolution, for sharing your thoughts about the ways you are striving to create a life based on what really matters to you. Through your supportive and insightful comments, we can learn so much from each other! 



  1. 1

    Karen says

    Love this! And, I can’t wait to read your book. :0) I just celebrated my son’s second birthday and although I had plans to prepare a truck themed party I came down with a cold and lost my energy. I could feel guilt creeping in which bothered me because all I had really been looking forward to was holding him on my lap and watching him smile from ear to ear as our family sang happy birthday to him. I am happy to say I have that moment locked in my heart and I hope that I have learned a lesson from this experience and another beautiful post from you. Thank you!!!

    • 2


      That is just lovely, Karen! And I would venture to guess that the part your son will remember is sitting on your lap–your presence–as the family celebrated his birth. How beautiful to hear you say you “locked” that memory in your heart. When I am fluttering around trying to make parties or events “perfect,” I am unable to do any “locking” or absorbing of those precious expressions or those memorable feelings … and just be in the moment. I am so inspired by you. Thanks!!!!

  2. 3

    Sara says

    I just love your posts. They always make me cry because I feel such a relief and a weight lifted after reading them. As I lay here with my 1.5 year old son, napping in my arms and comfort nursing (I know, I know), your post made me feel ok about the fact that i haven’t showered in many days, my hair probably smells like dead skin and I’m glad it’s on top of my head, and that we too have empty flower pots and wet circulars in our driveway. I will probably let the guilt creep back in soon enough, but for now, I feel so so blessed to have this awesome moment. (although not hands free because I’m reading this and now replying on my phone:)!!! Oops.

    • 4


      Oh thank you, Sara!!!! I needed this. I will admit, some posts are harder than others to click “publish.” I really struggled to publish this one. It is difficult to let your insecurities be known. But as I hesitated to click “publish,” I reminded myself why I began sharing my journey … to touch one life … to let someone else know she or he is not alone in their struggles. Thank you for being that very special ONE today. Thank you for allowing me to know I am not alone, either. You have made all the difference today.

  3. 5

    bekah says

    I’m going to have my 3rd child in the Fall. November 20 the be exact. i’m stressed over her perfect nursery, keeping the house clean and my 4 and 2 year old boys entertained. I have little “joy” these days with back pain and moving a lot slower than my 2 year old. Things seem to be falling apart all around me, its getting out of my control. But reading this i realize that if i fight this season of letting things get “out of my control” i will miss the lesson it has for me. I am encouraged to spend this season of my life letting it get out of control and seeing how happy i can be in it.

    • 6


      Thank you, Bekah. I can relate so much to what you are saying. I have always been one that likes to be in control. I like to have everything planned out. But you are so right when you say that by fighting rather than simply “letting go”, we miss the lesson, the joy, the growth that happens when we allow things to just BE. And it is amazing that the more I allow things to BE, the more unexpected joy I feel. I think some of the most amazing experiences have happened from the unplanned. I send love and peace your way, Bekah.

  4. 7


    An air-brushed reality. You said it sister. And beware of the people who are becoming the people they are pretending to be. After I finished the food drive, I looked around the house and my only word was “disgusting”. It was worth every last missed chore. I even sent Sara to a slumber party at the wrong time! And God only knows what she packed. I know we fed 620 families. I can live with the chaos that drive created. I taught my girls that some things are more important than perfect outfits, mopped floors, and perfect dinners. Oh yes girl! I did Drive-Thrus!!!

    • 8


      Oh Lori, this is awesome. 620 families fed by the food drive!!!! And I love that you mentioned the example you have set for your children. I don’t think there is a greater use of time and effort than to reach out a loving hand to a fellow human being. Thank you for the beautiful and inspiring comment. P.S. Just imagining my Organic, Made-From-Scratch, Cook with Color Friend named Lori in the drive-thru (with 2 very excited girls in the back seat) will have me smiling ALL day!!!!

  5. 9


    Another lovely post, Rachel. You are such an inspiration. I often wonder though, what I am supposed to do if my boys rarely ask me to play with them. My 5 yo son and 7 to step-son are inseparable, and tend to keep themselves busy.
    I read your posts and want to take action because I am so inspired, but the boys aren’t interested. Am I doing something wrong?
    Of course, on the rare occasion that one of them does ask me to play or to do something with them, I do it. I guess maybe it’s different with boys.
    Thanks again for writing and sharing your life with us. xoxo

    • 10


      This is such a great question, Karin. And I can relate to what you are saying. My daughters love to play together, too. I have noticed as they get older, they don’t need me for entertainment–which is GREAT! I love that the two of them can play for hours in their “world.” But I do feel that having time together either one on one, adult and both kids, or as a family is extremely important. I was just reading a book that discussed the regrets of the elderly. The biggest regret was not spending enough time with their children. And it wasn’t the big, momentous occasions, it was the every day, mundane time–even doing household chores together. And it was interesting because the elderly that did not have regrets about time spent with their kids had made sacrifices in order spend time with their kids–meaning they did things their kids liked to do even though they didn’t really enjoy those activities. I think about that when my girls are doing something I have no interest in. I make that sacrifice so I can BE THERE. Because when you are there, you at least have a chance at conversing or making a memory. I also read an article about how parents thought their teens did not want to spend time with them, when in reality, the teens just didn’t want to do what their parents were suggesting they do together. Here is a quote from the article, that I think can apply to children, not just teens:

      “A child may not, especially a teenager, may not come right out and say ‘mom, dad, I want to spend more time with you.’ But what we’ve seen as far as numbers and research goes, kids do want it and parents may just need to approach the children and say, ‘let’s do something together’.” – Kindell Schoffner, PsyD, licensed psychologist Here is the whole article:

      On the weekends, my husband and I often have tell the kids we’re going to do something as a family. Last weekend, we suggested walking around the farmer’s market. The girls were not interested. We went anyway. And guess what? It was one of the best days! We petted dogs, smelled flowers, sampled delicious foods, etc. It was a memorable experience. But we had to make it happen.

      Thank you so much for this question! As I wrote my response to you now, I realize you have inspired me to write a post about this. This is such an important topic you brought up!!! THANK YOU!!!!

      • 11


        Thank YOU for addressing it. We’ve been trying to implement special time with the kids. Just me and Lucas sometimes, and then Chris and Simon have special time together, too. It’s too soon to know if it makes any difference, but I’m inclined to think it does, and that it means a lot to them.
        Today is a dreary, rainy day and they have no school. They’ve spent their day playing with LEGOs, watching cartoons, and now they’re playing their Nintendo DSs. If I stepped in and said “Let’s do something together.” They’d resent me for taking them away from their video game time. LOL!

  6. 12


    The art teacher in me wants to comment on your daughter’s artwork. It is impressive! The colors, and the perspective are amazing.
    I often think about what I hope my son will say about me later in life. It is never “Our house was immaculate. She did every project on Pinterest. She always looked fabulous…” It is “when I walked in the room, my mom’s eyes always lit up, and she always took the time to really listen to me. She made me feel special”.
    I hope those weird dreams leave you alone, and I am eager to read your book! Have an awesome, love filled fall.

    • 13


      Thank you for the lovely comment about my daughter’s artwork, Jen! It definitely looks beautiful to a mother’s eye!

      This part of your comment really resonates with me: “When I walked in the room, my mom’s eyes always lit up, and she always took the time to really listen to me. She made me feel special”.

      I wish that feeling for ever child in the world. How grateful I am to know your son receives this kind of love!

  7. 14

    Sara says

    Wow, another post bringing me to tears, in the waiting room at the doctors no less! I have unsubscribed to almost every blog I was receiving posts from in order to stop spending so much time reading email every day and more time w/my kids. But there’s no way I’m unsubscribing to yours! Every post keeps me going. Thank you.

  8. 16

    WiscoMom says

    Bravo! I have been reading your blog for a few months now and I happened to have read that post on ‘my jenn-eration’ a while back (I don’t remember how I ended up there that day) – anyway, I just want to say that thanks to your blog the little voice in the back of my head that used to chastise me for not ‘getting it all done’ has now taken a back seat to the little voice in my head that says: what are my sons REALLY going to remember about this day? and if the day has gone especially crazy with lots of me stressing out and not enough ‘hands free’ time…my one act to save the day (well, before bedtime stories – which are a MUST in my house and something I dearly hope they look back on fondly when they are grown) – my one deliberate “I remember when my mom…” act for some of these harried days is this: I put my son’s pjs in the dryer as he is taking his nightly shower and when he is done he gets to hop out of the shower and run to the laundry room to retrieve warm cozy pjs fresh from the dryer. The response is always the same, always pure joy and amazement. thank you for giving me perspective on what really matters.

  9. 18

    Tanya Offerdahl says

    you always hit the right spot with your posts…I LOVE your blog. Somehow by the grace of God I found “you ” at the beginning of summer. I appreciate the depth of your honesty and your amazing writing. The guilt never goes away, I have learned that. Sometimes it’s just an easier way to look at things. I loved your reference to the porches decorated with halloween and flower pots with mums in them, as I was JUST thinking that yesterday and piled that onto my guilt list, how do I not have time for that? Thanks to you, it’s off my list:) You are amazing!

    • 19


      Oh, doesn’t it feel good to just let something go? I love it when I realize a task or a pressure that I thought I had is not going to be a part of my day or my life. Thank you for your KIND words about my writing, Tanya. Truly, truly made my day!

  10. 20

    Paula says

    Love this!! I have totally been feeling the “back to school I stink as a mom because I can’t get it all done” EC came home just yesterday “MOM you forgot to send my field trip form back to school” Yes, my hair is always up, and sometimes there are no cute hair accessories in my girls hair when they go to school, but we always xoxo before we go and we did kick a soccer ball around in the backyard yesterday, and cuddle up to read before bed, thank you for reminding me that these are the things that matter! Fall is about gatherng happiness……I think I may print that and post it on one of those cork boards I have 🙂

  11. 22

    Katie says

    I love, love, LOVE your beautiful posts. Your words always help me get my head and priorities back on straight. Thank you for taking the time to share with all of us. And I’ll buy your book. 🙂

  12. 25


    I love your reflections on “the necessary ingredients of a happy life.” It’s all too easy to throw events, clothing, and careers into the mix and expect the finished product to satisfy the soul. You always remind me to focus on the most important ingredient: people.

  13. 26

    Jackie says

    Thank you for your wisdom. I always look forward to reading your posts! They keep me tethered to the base. Again, you have left me feeling inspired to strive for simplicity and avoid “perfection” in my everyday world. Keep writing! I can’t wait get your book when it’s ready.

  14. 27


    You don’t need to have kids to truly understand your journey. Thank goodness! 🙂
    My favorite season has always been autumn. I don’t see the ending of the year, I see the beginning of a new one. Continue on your writing journey as well.

    • 28


      Thank you, Nathasha. That really means a lot to me.

      I enjoyed reading your blog. You are quite an amazing teacher, and your posts are loaded with valuable information for parents and educators. Thank you for your lovely work!

  15. 29


    I love this! As I love all of your words. They bring me encouragement, hope and inspiration. I hope my son can describe me like this, too, one day – “My mom definitely wasn’t perfect, but she sure did smile a lot.” Another comment was right on as well. I struggle with “how” I spend time with my son. Not really how much, we’re together all of the time outside of school, but I don’t want to regret not enjoying the little things that he enjoys with him, I want to share every smile. Sometimes, in the moment, it’s hard, and I definitely feel guilty. I don’t want to play ninja again, or legos, or ….., but I like to see him smile. So my goal is to spend more time really “playing” with him, on his level, not mine. And to hear him one day say – “my mom wasn’t perfect, but she played with me, she loved me and she thought LIFE was about gathering love and happiness.”
    Thanks Rachel!

  16. 30


    Hi Rachel – I have no idea how you stumbled upon my humble little blog, but am filled with such humility and gratitude. Thank you for taking the time to read, to share – somewhat ironically on this rainy chilly day, it is your words that I am wrapped in like a warm comfy blanket. Thank you so much!

    • 31


      Oh YAY! I am SO grateful I could return a tiny bit of the love that your message gave me–exactly when I most needed it. I can’t remember how I found it, but I know it was meant to be. You are a lovely writer with such beautiful authenticity. Thank you for “keeping it real.” The world needs more of that good stuff. xo

  17. 32


    WOW! I am all sorts of teary-eyed over here!!! Mostly because I feel like this is what we did today. On a whim I suggested (while everyone was still in pjs) this morning that we go to the zoo. No, not the one 10 min away… the big one over an hour away. I had SOOOO much else that could have been accomplished today. But I feel like thats all we have been doing. We are getting ready for our final Army move. Its the scariest one yet with lots to get done in a very short amount of time. Something was missing. THIS was missing! This hands free attitude. So today we spent the afternoon watching the elephants, waiting for the lion to yawn for that perfect photo, and eating ice cream cones that my kids arent normally allowed to have. Just cause we could. And it was a beautiful day that I just wanted to enjoy with my family. Thank you for making me realize what a true gift this is and that we NEED to do it more. I believe you just found a new full-time follower.

  18. 33


    My children are adults, and I have the divine privilege of grand-parenting seven little ones. It’s an interesting time , as many of the decisions and feelings of thirty years ago are recycling through my life. I give thanks every day for the wisdom to slow down and enjoy the precious children in my family. Lovely post !

  19. 34

    serene kolaski says

    I know the lord led me to your sight. I work full time in management retail. I have often felt guilt, anxious and over whelmed to get the house work done,a gourmet dinner, get out side to play with my 2 year old boy, get to the 100s of artsy fartsy projects.
    I’ve been paying for balance and to know I am human. When I read this it just made me feel alive and know that its ok to step aside and play cars with my son, and have mac and cheese for dinner. The letter that u hope ur children would write about u is were I cried. That is all I want my children to say is that no matter what they know and new they were listened to, respected, and truly felt loved!! Thank u!

  20. 36


    A friend shared your blog on facebook, so I’m a first time visitor, but loved the post! Sounds like this “hands free” parenting philosophy is exactly up my alley, though I still get caught up cleaning the house and blogging away sometimes.

    Anyways, I was going to suggest reading a book called “Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting” by Amy-Lou Jenkins. I read and reviewed it on my blog once, but I think you would enjoy it as it deals with taking your child into nature and just really being present with them.

    I look forward to more posts! Glad I found this site.

    • 37


      Thank you, Katelyn!I am always looking for a good book that supports the “Hands Free” philosophy–not to mention, my favorite place to be “Hands Free” is outside. “Every Natural Fact” sounds like it would be so enlightening. I am so glad you came by for a visit and liked what you read! Thank you for the suggestion and the kind words.

  21. 38

    Michele says

    I am not an avid follower, but I come here sometimes to get inspired… and you know what? I always do! What I love most about your writing is that you tap real life, you are not trying to be someone you are not, you’re not pretending to be something else…. And you show what real life looks like. I am tired of feeling inadequate because I see so many “perfect” moms out there, when in reality, no one is perfect. And why can’t we all be perfect moms to our children? just the way we are?
    thank youuuu!

  22. 39

    Sarah says

    I really enjoyed this post. You had me in tears. We’re moving in a few days and I’ve been stressing about everything under the sun, making lists and plans on how to be the perfect mom once we get everything settled. This was an awakening for me. Not my first one, but a very powerful one. Thank you for being willing to share. I love the words you hope your daughter will say. My kids will not be able to match up memories of me with June Cleaver, Martha Stewart, or Stacy London. I hope they too, will remember other important kinds of things.

    • 40


      Oh Sarah! I feel for you. I have moved several times with young children. It is so very challenging to stay present and not feel like you need to get 1 million things accomplished! It’s been 4 years since my last move, and I really hope if I have to move again I would let more things go … that I would not get so caught up in the details that I miss taking in the new sights and the children’s excitement (and apprehensions). I will be sending LOTS of positive thoughts your way, my friend! GOOD LUCK!

  23. 41


    You all worry too much about doing everything right. What is right is what works. Are your kids healthy, happy, loved, and feeling good about life? If so, then enjoy the moment and stop stressing. So says this woman older than dirt who is soon expecting a great grandchild to be born and grace her home.

  24. 42

    Lynn Anne says

    I love this post! It absolutely hit home with me, as I have spent the past few weekends making it perfectly decorated for Fall and having our home smell like Fall after I baked many apple pies and pumpkin goodies. I threw the most perfect tailgate party, but every Sunday evening I still felt empty, realizing that while I was creating the perfect home, I missed out on so much quality time with my 2 year old, Charlie. Then Monday morning, I wake up and head off to work, sad because my weekend is my only time to get to know my son, and I wasted trying to make things perfect for him and my husband. When all Charlie really wants is to be with his mama. Thank you for writing this and opening my eyes to what is important in life.

    • 43


      Thank you for being so open and real, Lynn Anne. I think it is so wonderful that you took that hard look inward and asked yourself why you were feeling empty. There was a time in my life when I powered through those thoughts. I denied that something was missing. Although I missed 2 years of meaningful moments due to my pursuits of perfection and striving to “do it all,” I wouldn’t trade those years. I never would have realized what I wanted my life to look like had I not experienced those times of over-committment and pursuits of perfection.

      Thank you for sharing. May you enjoy many “Hands Free” weekends with your precious little Charlie.

  25. 44

    Dena D. says

    You have touched my life. Thank you for sharing your journey and your insecurities — we all have them!

  26. 46

    Emily Q says

    Hello, I wanted to take a moment to let you know I just stumbled upon your blog this evening and it touched me. My family and I are in our second year of homeschool and I’m expecting my fifth baby. I struggled many years with “doing it all”. Having the seasonally decorated home that was spotless even with the kids trying to actually live in it. I just recently have figured out none of that matters. It’s more important to enjoy my children, let them play and be happy and yes messy. Thank you for your encouraging posts that challenge me to reevaluate how my days are spent.

  27. 47

    Chelsea Ward says

    I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I am so grateful to have found your blog, Rachel. I am a wife, a mother of 3 (8,3, &2 yrs old), and a full-time L&D nurse (night-shift). I am pouring over your posts and just so amazed at your ability to put motherhood into perspective. I cannot tell you the number of days I throw myself down on the couch after putting my last kiddo to bed and just lay there with regret…. my kitchen is clean, but I said no to my 8 yr. old son when he asked me to go outside to throw the ball…. all of the laundry is folded, but I said no to my 3 yr. old daughter when she asked me to play hide-n-seek…. all of the toys are picked up, but I said no to my 2 yr. old son when he asked me to chase him.
    ….Is this it? Is this what really matters? A clean house?.?.? I struggle with regret daily. You put it perfectly. I don’t want to watch my children walk across the stage at their graduation and not know who they REALLY are.
    I know my children love me and believe that I am a great mother. However, I don’t always feel that I am. I often tell myself that perfection=a great mother. I have been learning, in fact, that a great mother= admitting that you can’t do it all! None of us are perfect!
    I have started praying that the Lord would help me change from the inside out. When I run through my day on my own strength, I always feel like I have failed. God has shown me recently that if I would just start my day asking for a daily dose of His strength, then I would still be “full” at the end of the day. I have to extend myself grace. I cannot stay in the same cycle of broken self-promises and guilt.
    After reading for the past 2 hours, I have decided to go to my husband and children and ask for accountability. I want my children to remember me as a mother who loved being a mother. I have decided on my first baby-step…. to live “hands free” from 3-6pm. This will give me time with the little ones before my son gets home from school. Then, I can sit with my 8 yr. old and help him with homework. When my husband gets home at 5:15, we can all sit together for a family dinner before I leave for work. If you don’t mind, I would like to borrow your motto?!? I want to stencil it somewhere in my home where I can be reminded every day that perfection is not a measure of my success as a mother.
    Thank you so much, Rachel, for your very real and trasparent words. I absolutely believe that God used your blog to speak to me.
    –Proverbs 31:28 Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her.

    • 48


      Hi Chelsea,

      Thank you for sharing your struggles and feelings of inadequacy here. I call these honest admissions “stepping into the light of realness.” And I truly believe that when we meet each other there, that is half the battle. Thank you for stepping into the light and meeting me here. We are not alone in our struggles. My friend, there is hope. There is hope because you have taken that difficult look inward and said, “This is not how I want to live.” I pushed that little voice away for years. Thank God, one day I listened and asked God to help me take that first step. I knew I could not change without His help. I started with a mere 10 minutes of giving each child my undivided attention. The peace and connection that came in those ten minutes fueled me; I was reminded of what true living (not managing) life was all about. My time increments of being fully present grew, as did my relationships with the most important people in my life. I love that you have a plan already. I love that you are willing to “go public” with your family as tell them of your intentions. These are huge steps, actually, and I feel such promise when I read your commitment. Please use my motto and anything else you need to remind you of the life that you want to live and the relationship you want to have now and in the future with your children and your spouse. My hand is reaching out to yours. We will walk together through this journey. And remember, on days that you stumble, remind yourself how far you have come. Remind yourself that being “Hands Free” is not about yesterday, it is about today … and the choices you make today.

      I feel compelled to share a few posts with you if you haven’t already read them. May they fuel your journey. So thankful you are here.

      Hope for the Imperfect Parent: http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/04/04/hope-for-the-imperfect-parent/

      The Distracted Person I Was and Still Am http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/07/17/the-distracted-person-i-was-and-still-am/

      You Deserve a Day http://www.handsfreemama.com/2011/05/06/you-deserve-a-day/

      The Hero Inside You http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/03/12/the-hero-inside-you/

  28. 49

    Kirsten says

    This was just exactly what I needed to read today. I was sitting on the couch next to my 5 year old thinking about the baskets of dirty clothes and long to do list and feeling guilty and inadequate. Then I read this and instead of getting up and getting to work like was going to I grabbed my beautiful son and plopped him on my lap. I told him I loved him and he hugged me and told me he loved me as big as all the planets and the sky. So as I type this I’ve got a silly, HAPPY, wonderful boy on my lap- where he belongs- and I’m so grateful I didn’t miss this moment. The laundry and dishes and other demands on my time can wait, I’m snuggling with my boy. Thank you.

  29. 51

    Amber says

    love this post, thank you. I’m here in tears, because trying to be perfect is my life right now. My Halloween decorations have to be up, the mums must be planted and my two boys costumes have to be beautifully hand made. However, last night as I’m sitting at my sewing machine working like a mad woman to finish costumes my oldest (7) is asking my tons of questions about how a sewing machine works. I seriously snapped
    At him to leave me alone to finish. I hate this person, why does she have to be so perfect? Who is it for anyway? So, thank you again, you may have changed my life.

  30. 52


    I am so glad your blog was pointed out to me, what beautiful words. We are in our tenth year of homeschooling, I am a writer, struggle with chronic illness, and get bogged down sometimes. This reminds me of what matters. God bless you

  31. 53

    Lisa says

    I am new to your blog, and stumbled here off Pinterest. I love “Happiness over perfection”. A long time ago I realized that I had to prioritize what was truly important, and I realized that dirty dishes can wait, my kids will not. However, like you and many other I’ve struggled over the years with the idea that “good” mom’s have palm tree after school snacks, and perfectly organized pantries. I can keep it perfect, but, it makes me miserable, I feel like I miss out on so much of the “good” stuff.
    Thanks for the encouragement today!

  32. 54

    Jen says

    Thank you for your honest thoughts and feelings. My husband & I lost our oldest daughter in a tragic accident 3 years ago (2 months before our 2nd & now only living child was born). I struggle not just daily, but hour by hour & minute by minute with being the perfect mom-I want so much for my 3 year old baby girl to grow up and KNOW & FEEL true happiness. I can’t honestly say that I will ever feel true happiness again…my broken heart doesn’t allow it. But my baby girl is teaching me how to smile and enjoy her & the love she gives unconditionally!

    • 55


      Jen, my heart goes out to you. I am deeply sorry for your loss. I am thankful that something in this piece resonated with you and offered you a reprieve from the pressure of being perfect. Your daughter is very blessed that you are aware of these pressures on yourself and are striving to let go. How wonderful that you have figured out your best teacher for grasping joy is your precious girl. We can all learn so much from our children. Love and peace be with you, dear one.

  33. 56

    Charlene says

    Rachel – I just found your blog. What a breath of fresh air! It’s exactly what I needed TODAY (and not a minute later!). I am a wife, step-mom to my husband’s 15-year-old daughter, pregnant with our first child together, and a recovering perfectionist – wondering how in the world I’m going to add a baby to this already strung-out, crazy life we lead (notice I didn’t say live, because I don’t think we’re truly living). We have decided as a family to take my step-daughter out of her high school marching band program next year (we are committed to the end of this school year) because all we do is work, eat, sleep, fundraise and volunteer. And, sometimes, if we’re not too stinkin’ tired, we drag ourselves to church on Sundays. Bless you for living (and sharing) this hands-free lifestyle. I just pre-ordered your book!

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