Taking Away My Daughter’s Smile

taking my daughter's smile #handsfreemama.com

My life contained everything I’d ever wished for—a loving husband, two beautiful children, a healthy mind and body, and a safe and comfortable home.

Given such desirable circumstances, one would have thought I’d wake up every morning feeling grateful, happy, and content.

But that was not the case.

I woke up feeling the same way I did when I went to bed the night before—unhappy, annoyed, and irritable.

Mentally, I could acknowledge my life’s abundant blessings, but I didn’t really see them or feel them because I was too focused on my life’s abundant distractions. Too many commitments. Too many screens.  Too many self-induced pressures to be all and do all. Too many unachievable standards. Too many to-do’s and never enough time.

And when you’re overbooked, hurried, and clinging to the electronic device, there’s very little time to laugh, rest, play, and simply BE. And that’s when the smile on your face tends to disappear.

Although I managed to plaster on a smile in public, my face wore a frown in the privacy of my home. You see, when you are living a highly distracted life, nothing—not even the beautiful faces of your loving family—can bring you joy.

The truth hurts but the truth heals … and brings me closer to the parent and person I want to be.

My outward discontent seemed to peak when it was time to leave the house. My children, then ages four and seven, knew I got a little crazy when I was trying to get everyone ready and out the door. My older daughter tried to help any way she could. Of course, her attempts to help made it take longer and were never good enough. I didn’t try to hide my exasperation or annoyance.

I vividly remember getting in the car after one stressful departure. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw my daughter picking her top lip nervously. As she pinched that tiny piece of fragile skin on her upper lip with wide eyes, I swear I could read her mind:

Mommy’s mad.

Mommy’s tired.

Mommy’s stressed.

But there was more. I could practically hear how a young child would interpret her mother’s unhappiness.

Mommy’s mad at me.

Mommy’s tired because of me.

Mommy’s stressed because of something I did.

My older daughter’s lip picking became the new routine when we got in the car to go anywhere. And much to my dismay, the habit slowly moved to other areas of her life. I attributed it to school worries, being shy, her daddy’s work travels, and sibling jealousy. I read everything I could about this harmful behavior while hoping it was just a phase that would soon pass. But the lip picking didn’t stop. At times, the tender skin on her upper lip would even bleed.

Around the time I felt we should seek medical attention for this problem, a light was shed on the issue—a light that was more like a beacon of truth from which I could not hide.

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

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

I wanted to defend.
I wanted to excuse.
I wanted to deny.

But I couldn’t.

Because I knew he was right.

Where had that happy woman gone? The one who smiled at people she passed on the street just because. The one whose friends often spoke of her positive outlook on life. The one who felt happy simply because she heard her favorite song or had a pack of strawberry Twizzlers in her purse. The one who could laugh off mistakes because mistakes happen, and they are certainly not the end of the world.

Where had she gone?

And that’s when I glanced to the backseat to see if my children had heard my husband’s words. Staring back at me was my daughter picking her lip with worry the size of a small boulder weighing down her small shoulders.

And that’s when an even more painful question hit me.

Where had my happy little girl gone? The one who woke up with the most gorgeous bedhead and good morning smile. The one who beamed at the words “sprinkler,” “cotton candy,” and “pet store.” The one who laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. The one who licked beaters with sheer pleasure and danced happily to any song with a beat.

Where had she gone?

I knew.

I knew.

While choosing to make my own blessed life miserable, I had funneled my unhappiness straight into my daughter’s once joyful heart and spirit.  Her pain was a direct reflection of the expression I wore on my face.

This difficult truth was one of several powerful admissions that lead to my Hands Free breakdown-breakthrough.  I wasn’t sure how, but I was determined to bring a smile back to my daughter’s face; I knew I must bring it back to my own.

I began with one small step: looking for what was going right instead of what was going wrong. I called it: Seeing the flowers instead of the weeds.

Yes, there was a messy room (weeds), but it was because my children had played quietly and cooperatively with each other (flowers).

Yes, her shoes were splattered with mud (weeds), but the joy on her face as she splashed in puddles was unforgettable (flowers).

Yes, she was out of bed again (weeds), but it was to give me one more goodnight kiss (flowers).

Yes, she had gotten out every pair of shorts she owned (weeds), but she’d dressed herself independently (flowers).

When I started looking for “flowers” instead of “weeds” in our daily life, the positives became more obvious, and I quickly gained a new perspective. I realized much of what aggravated me was trivial. Much of what was supposedly “ruined” were things that could be fixed or cleaned up.  What mattered—that we were safe, healthy, and alive were thoughts that began to overpower the negatives.

My eager-to-please, helpful older child looked different too. I saw her for who she was, not an annoyance or a bother, but a loving child with clever thoughts and ideas. For once, I could see all the things she was capable of doing—not perfectly, but good enough for today. The tightness in my face relaxed and the smiles came more easily for both of us.

And now here I am three years into my Hands Free journey. Like any normal human being, I have moments of frustration, sadness, anger, and overwhelm … but these feelings are temporary, they are no longer the norm. I don’t smile every minute of the day, but I smile a lot.

My older daughter is not so little anymore. One of her favorite activities is giving me a makeover. I sit crossed-legged in front of her and as she gently applies blush to my face. My daughter’s perfectly plump lip is in my direct line of vision.

She doesn’t remember picking her lip. That habit died soon after my new life perspective was born. But I won’t forget.  In fact, I don’t want to forget the cost of distraction. It can pick your life apart until it bleeds you dry. And it can take the ones you love with you in the process.

But by letting go of the distractions that take your focus off what really matters, you begin to see clearly. You begin to see flowers instead of weeds.

By making it a daily practice to notice all that is good in your life, the joy in your heart has the tendency to overflow. And when it does, you are able to funnel that excess love and happiness straight into the hearts of those you most want to see smile.

 

smiles #handsfreemama.com

 

***************************************

Truth be told, I’d completely forgotten about the lip picking experience until something recently triggered it. As some pretty difficult memories resurfaced, I knew I could either keep this story to myself or I could share it in hopes it would reach one person suffering in silence today. To that person I say, “You’re not alone.” I also say, “There is hope.” I look forward to the day I can share the entire story of how I transformed my distracted life–it is just not possible to do in a single blog post. Thank you to who those who have pre-ordered my book which tells that story. 

In the meantime, here are some valuable insights that I wish I’d had several years ago:

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experience in the comment section. This community is a valuable resource and incredible support system. Thanks for being part of The Hands Free Revolution—letting go to grasp what really matters.

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Comments

  1. 1

    says

    How can you give so much of your heart to us?
    This morning my son, I’m not sure which son, kicked a ball and broke a fluorescent bulb in the garage as we were waiting for the bus. I wanted to blow up, but, thanks to an awareness shaped here and in my own heart, I laughed and theirs fearful tears stopped as we marveled at the sound and the magnificent mess only a light tube can make. You only get to see a fluorescent bulb break for the first time once.
    If we could all see the way our actions shape our children’s we’d change. As always, thanks, Rachel, you never fail to inspire. I mean that.

      • 3

        Melanie says

        Tears here too, Rachel. I’m struggling through the chaos right now, desiring to not be the mad/tired/stressed mom that my kids so often have to deal with. You are unbelievably gifted and have no idea what a blessing it is that you share. Thank you.

  2. 4

    Jacki Aguirre says

    Hello.
    thank you for this post. I yelled at my daughter this morning. A trend that has grown over the last several months. She talks to my son, her younger brother, in a way that makes him cry and I feel that I have to intervene. She doesn’t stop, so I yell at her, make her cry and then I cry and everything just falls apart. It’s all of the reasons you wrote about, with my only personal twists and turns. She said last night that she doesn’t like herself because she is mean. I died inside. I’ve made her feel bad about herself. I’m so angry lately that it’s tearing me apart. Thank you for sharing, not that I needed to cry again, but I am searching so hard for the way to change and I appreciate knowing that I’m not alone. I want to wax poetic about all the things I do right, but I know that these moments that I handle poorly have far too much more weight to them. Thanks again.

    • 5

      says

      Thank you for sharing your own story, Jacki. I know it is not easy to admit these things, let alone put them in writing. But honestly, I feel like you have taken the first step–and maybe the hardest one–which is admitting these hard truths which provides the gift of awareness. For many years, I was not even aware that my behaviors were affecting my children. Well, it is impossible to change if you are not aware there’s something that needs to be changed. Please know I began with small steps. I fell down along the way, but I apologized and got back up. This process took time–it did not happen overnight. But you are starting. And that is significant. Maybe this is something you and your daughter could work on together. Did you see my Warm Fuzzy Jar idea? I know some of my readers used it to stop yelling–both the parent and the child had a jar. Here is the link. http://www.handsfreemama.com/2013/05/29/how-to-fill-up-a-child/. There is hope, my friend.

  3. 6

    Teressa says

    Bawling my eyes out!! I am that woman, that mom that wife.
    Praying- today begins a change. Courage! I am praying for courage to do what has to be done!!
    Thank you for sharing, because I have felt so alone in this, and beating myself up because I see it.

    • 7

      says

      Thank you for your courage, Teressa. Today stands before you with open arms. Let the past be gone. Living in guilt and regret only prevents you from living the way you want to live now. There is hope in today. Let us begin.

  4. 10

    says

    Hi, Rachel!
    Your blog is a fountain of inspiration to my life as a mother of 3. I too have a blog about the experiences of motherhood (it’s in Portuguese) and I’d like to have your permission to translate this post and post it in my blog with due credit, of course. I think it will inspire many other mothers who can’t read in English.
    Best regards, Marina.

  5. 11

    says

    From the beginning of the post I thought “uh oh, me”. As I already woke with a migraine I tried to hold back the emotion to not get a worse migraine. This is/has been me. The joke (in many homes I imagine) is “if mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy”. The worst example was so recent. I had arrived home from my brothers wedding involving intense family dynamics–some torn, some weak, some healed a bit. My father had left me at the terminal in tears as I tried to express my concerns to him about his pushing family away over political differences. (He only recently started being kind again when he was sure I had voted Republican. A whole other story…) So I had arrived to my wedding destination exhausted from a week of migraines, no time to rest up for the family “reunion”. I left the visit mostly pleased but exhaused still–physically and emotionally. So…all I wanted to do was see my girls, hug them, tell them I loved them–my precious family who I can always count on through good times and bad. I rarely leave home–like never! But instead I greeted the girls and my husband in a tirade. I was out of control, angry, spent…because I came to the wrong exit and my husband called asking where I was. I didn’t know–I went to the exit sign–for departures. I sat fuming, not talking to my girls for fear of saying something bad, then breaking down because I was horrible, SO VERY HORRIBLE. To greet my angels God had blessed me with, with such anger, rudeness, silence. I cried out I was a horrible mom, person, had a meltdown. It was the worst. I like to think I am happy most of the time. I know my blessings and see them! I love to watch my daughter skate, see the joy in her face when she is on the ice. And the daughter who is taking on volleyball with such confidence and a positive attitude…this makes me smile. The little things do make me smile. I see the small blessings and the large…great family unit of four, great home and schools, opportuniities for my girls like I never imagined, our health. I am not sure if this is going anywhere but in essence I too have been there, felt exactly what you felt, and still have those horrible moments that I hope I can learn from. God, please let me learn from those hurtful times. I want my family, and myself, to be blessed in all ways you have provided to us!
    Thank you for this outlet Rachel :)
    Kristin

  6. 12

    Christy says

    I NEEDED to read this. This describes me to a “T”. It breaks my heart but by reading this today I realized I am the reason my child stutters. She is your lip picker. I want to learn EVERTHING I can from you to help me to change. My husband has even said to me “you are never happy” or ” I can’t even get a smile out of you”. Thank you for sharing this! I will continue to read and follow you on facebook. THANK YOU

  7. 14

    Shannan says

    Your posts never cease to touch my heart. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better mommy. I have four kids under five. I can completely relate to the stress of leaving the house. It is the time I am the most irritable and angry too. I hate myself during those times but yet find it so hard not to stress when my two year old insists on going back inside for her stuffed animal or my three year old insists on changing clothes yet again. Trying hard to change my perspective. It is okay if I am late. It is okay if they make a mess. It is okay to let my daughter get her stuffed animal rather than seeing her cry her eyes out because I tell her again that we are running late. Thank you for your posts. You are one of the most inspiring moms and you are changing lives. God bless you!

  8. 16

    Carla says

    You are so brave, and what you’re doing with these posts is so valuable. Even if the readers who have responded here are the only ones helped, that is huge, for them, their children, their relationships. Imagine how many more benefit, who haven’t responded here, but quietly move on into their day on a more positive note than they might have.

    • 17

      Beth CG says

      Carla said it perfectly. I see myself so much in this post and it makes me sad but I also know I am much more aware and I am changing. I leave my phone at home for instance if we are going out and I don’t need it. I am taking more time, listening and the years of regret sting a little less knowing others have been here. I slipped yesterday when my son started dowloading an update on my phone before I had backed up contacts. Really, who cares but I made him feel so ashamed by my reaction and he was just trying to help. I turned it around immediately and apologized and wiped his tears. I don’t want to ever make him feel that way again. Those knee jerk responses are so harmful and they come from a place of no capacity for one more thing. That tells me things need to go because the people in my life are what matter, especially my sweet innocent 8 yr old. Thanks for making it OK to start from right now. I LOVE your posts.

      • 18

        says

        I appreciate your honesty & openness, Beth. I appreciate knowing we are not alone in our struggles. Thank you for sharing your story. My favorite part: “Thanks for making it OK to start from right now.” :)

  9. 19

    says

    Tears on this one. Thank you for sharing part of your story. Stories are meant to be shared. I can’t wait to read your book!

    My daughter went missing after school yesterday. Scary mother moment, but put things into perspective for me. All I wanted was for her to return safely. The messy room, un-made bed, and dawdling didn’t matter. I simply wanted HER. When she was finally found, we spent the afternoon snuggling on the couch with her favorite stuffed animal–just enjoying each other. I should have more moments like that, where we are just together and happy.

  10. 21

    Kelly says

    Thank you so much for all your stories and helpful tips to see the flowers! I am not a blogger or a blog reader, at most I will get a recipe here and there. But I came across your “Hands Free Parenting” and have been hooked. I often read your blogs now and share your stories and insights to other moms in my circle. You have helped us all to just slow down and smile. My family and I thank you very much!

  11. 23

    Rosa says

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I cried because this was my experience too. I had worked myself into a serious depression, I am a single mother, my parents who were my only support went into nursing homes within months of each other, never to come out, my fiance pulled out of our engagement, I lost my job and my church disbanded within the same month. My daughter became lost in my internal battle. I slept all day and let my neighbor watch her so I wouldn’t have to, I bought easy to prepare microwaveable food so I wouldn’t have to cook, while a part of me still took care that she ate, I couldn’t muster up the strength on my own to prepare food for her. Grades plummeted, I was ignorant of severe bullying in her school, we were a family going down for the count. I would lose my temper, one day she said through tears, “mommy you looked like a monster”. Like a knife through my heart. I had to let her go so I could get well, she spent two years with her father’s family while I sought help redirecting my life. TWO YEARS! While she was gone I joined an amazing church, I started the Celebrate Recovery program, I worked hard because I needed to have my baby back. She came home last year with severe social issues from the bullying and the separation but we are working together with a therapist, I am the strong one as it should be and now I pick my battles, my 13 yr old wants blue hair, I don’t care, hair grows back thank God, she wants to cut up a tshirt, I think about the times she wasn’t with me and I appreciate her creativity. She SINGS all the time, it’s her passion, I rejoice in the fact she loves to worship (although she enjoys that christian metal stuff a little too much LOL!)She is active in her youth group and those connections are helping her as well. We began homeschooling and that has brought us closer as we work through her studies. We have amassed a small zoo, 2 Yorkies, a chinese dwarf hamster and a cat, which is more work for me but it makes us both happy; she doesn’t always help with the animals but I count my blessings; no more not going out because the house isn’t just so, wow, there will be days for that, I try to keep sanitary but there’s a whole world out there for me to show her! I know how hard it is to live with the knowledge that I am responsible for her current issues but I am not condemned, every day we smile, thank God, and get to living.

      • 25

        Rosa says

        Thanks for a safe place to share, Rachel! These stories today have opened doors and avenues for discussion and ultimately to saving families. You may have been the catalyst to renewal for quite a few just with this post. Btw, I don’t respond much but I love your blog and share it all the time.

  12. 26

    says

    Thank you so much for this honest and heartfelt post. Taking responsibility for the impact you have on your little one’s can be one of the hardest things to do. It takes courage to admit that you have had a negative impact, it also takes love – for your children, their future and for yourself.
    “The words you use with your children become their inner voice”
    Thank you again, I have shared this post on my page and know that others will feel supported and encouraged by your words as I did. Clare

  13. 28

    Barbara says

    Thank you for this post. I think I try to let the little things slide most of the time, but then, in that moment, they all come rushing in and I explode. My daughter is a lip picker, always has been even as a baby. I never would have put two and two together until today, after reading this. Looking back, it’s always when she is most nervous (first day of school, etc) that she picks, but it saddens me that she also does this in her own home. This is supposed to be her safe place. I was astounded at the “get out the door” comments….exactly what it’s like for me….until today. Thank you for pointing out what I’ve not been able to see myself. My little girl and husband will be thankful for your words!

  14. 30

    Dale says

    It’s not just moms that go through this. I have been through it myself. Every little thing that would go wrong around the house ended up being a huge ordeal. Notice that I said “every little thing”. I am still learning to let things go and be thankful for what I have….a loving wife and two great kids (who won’t be kids much longer). It hurts when your daughter tells you that she feels that you don’t love her and don’t understand her. Then she tells me that her younger brother was beginning to feel the same. That was an eye opener. Things have definitely gotten better, but it is still a struggle sometimes, and I expect it will always be a struggle to some degree. It is how we choose to look at life and how we handle the struggles that come along that will make or break us. Thanks again pouring your heart and soul into your posts for the rest of us to see and gain some perspective that just might help in our own lives. God bless you and your home…

    • 31

      says

      Thank you, Dale, for sharing your powerful story. This part really resonated with me: “It is how we choose to look at life and how we handle the struggles that come along that will make or break us.”

      Changing my perspective of what was truly important in my life was a game-changer for me. And like you said, there will still be struggles, but how we respond to them can make all the difference. I am trying to respond with understanding, love, and patience–with my family members and myself. It is helping immensely. I appreciate you taking time to share your insight.

  15. 32

    jules says

    Wow. This hit way to close to home. Your words stung. My husband has been trying to get me to relax as well. I don’t deal well with too many activities and too many places to go. I so overbooked this Fall. Your description of your running head thoughts in the car—omg–that is me. I’m trying and I will try harder. Btw, my older son has a little corner next to his nose that he picks when stressed. Thanks for the wake up call.

  16. 33

    Kim Prevo says

    I read your blog every time that you post. I preordered your book too. Your message speaks directly to my heart and I need to make some changes in my own actions and behavior. I am not sure what it will look like in a practical way, but I am seeking God to show me how I can be more present and less distracted; how I can love my children in the moment I have and not be worried about “the next thing”. As a mom who works outside the home, I feel distracted all the time by the amount on my plate and the number of “hats” I must wear in order to get through my day. My children are very aware of this and I have a sensitive son who picks up on my mental stress and emotional state. He regularly checks in with me “mom, are you ok?” “mom, did you have a bad day”. “mom, are you tired”. I need to do a better job at acknowledge his tender spirit and his concern for me. Thank you for reminding me of what is most important and to not let life pass me by. I am excited to read your book too.

  17. 34

    Cindy says

    I love how God loves me so much that He always has something for me in perfect timing. Your sharing of this and me reading it came at a perfect time to remind me to slow down. I am a Grandma of 2 beautiful children, 5 yr old boy, 8 yr old girl, each belonging to each of my single parent children and we all live together because of what life has handed out. It is not forever, but something which needs to be done for this time. Anyway with work schedules and such, I am the one who gets to get the children ready for school and dropped off there. I like my quiet mornings, which I have not been getting and this morning I was over the edge because they had gotten up too early and were way too cheery. my goodness, I need to get a grip instead of a gripe.
    thanks for the reminder to stop at look at the blessing instead of nagging about what is wrong, barking out orders to get out the door on time. Margins, I need to create more margins.

  18. 35

    bebrave andtry says

    so many times I read something and think ‘oh those poor kids how can ‘they’ do that to them, they are just kids’. Today I read this blog and thought ‘oh my poor kids. how can i continue to do this to them?’. I realized I was doing this to my kids. My older one sucked her finger for years. I have started my transformation to try to spend more time finding the ‘flowers’ from the weeds. There are days like this morning, when I only see weeds. I cried reading this as I screamed at all my kids this morning trying to get to school. I realized in the car what I had done. I tried to make up for it once at school with some jokes and lots and lots of hugs. Some day I will get to where I only see the flowers. But it wasn’t today. Like I tell my six year old, ‘be brave and try your best, that is all I ask.’ Same goes to me. Thank you for sharing.

  19. 36

    Venestina says

    Rachel, Thank you for being so open, for teaching us that the only one to learn from our mistakes is to realize we made them. The only way we can change is realizing we are not living the life we want to live. I have told you numerous time that your posts stay with me for the times in need, every time my daughter makes me want to run/yell/get mad I remember your post, ever time Im upset and shouldnt be yelling, I remember your post. You just remind me with your posts, the parent that I want to be and the things I can do to change. Thanks again for such a beautiful post.

  20. 38

    Suzie says

    Thank you for your words. I feel as if I was reading about myself. My 10 yr old son is special needs and a bit of a handful. My 12 year old son is much like your daughter. Walking on egg shells because “mom is mad because my brother did…” I have been trying each day to take a deep breath and not over react about the little things. I use to be so angry I was given a SN child.” I’d say to myself, God, whoever was listening “All I wanted was 2 normal kids and a normal family” I have now discovered that there is no one normal. This is our normal, our perfect family. Crazy as every other “normal” family. I struggle and strive each day to see the flowers not the weeds and I slowly am doing better.
    My older brother, who was killed in an accident 2 1/2 yrs ago keeps me striving to be better. He was an amazing dad and big brother (10 yrs older then me) I think of him each day and want to be more like him (endless patience with his children and everyone really) and make him proud.
    Sorry to be rambling, thank you for your words, inspiration, and letting us know we are not alone.

  21. 39

    Ivy says

    Thank you for this post. It was a timely word from the Lord for me. In my heart I knew I was being too distracted and “annoyed” with my kids, but everything I have been placing a priority sticker on was being elevated above what was actually important…showing grace and kindness in my highest ministry in life-my kids! I say your article was timely, because just last night in our family prayer time (which was initiated by my 7 year old daughter), she prayed “God please help mom to finish her work in only 4 hours so maybe we can play together.” Ugh. Making some changes.

    • 40

      Dawn says

      Ivy, God has a beautiful way of reaching out to us. My family has just moved 1/2 way across the country and we’ve been (putting off) looking for a new church. This past Sunday, we committed to attending on to start the journey to find a new church. The sermon was about the distractions in life. The biggest thing that I too from that is that distractions in themselves are not bad, but it’s the priority we put on those distractions that take us from our relationships – with God, with our family, with our purpose.

  22. 41

    Michele T says

    Oh my goodness, this is me and I didn’t even realize it until I read your post. My husband has told me the same thing in those exact words. My oldest carries my heavy burdens around with him everyday and has such a negative outlook on life and it’s because of me and my reactions to the little everyday inconveniences. I’m sitting here in tears knowing that I need to change not only for my children but for myself. I’m praying for the strength, courage and knowledge to start the process and help him (and me) find his childlike happiness again, to see his face light up and to see him truly laughing again at all of the crazy things this life hands us. Thank you for opening my eyes and I will try to look for the flowers instead of always fussing and fuming over the weeds!

  23. 43

    Dawn says

    Thank you for having what it took to recognize what your life was becoming, the courage to change it and the wisdom to share the journey with the rest of us. I am a distracted mom. I am a worrier and it is affecting not only myself, but my loving family too. I just don’t know how to change it. Somewhere along the way I liked your fan page. Today though, is the first time that I actually sat down and read your post. Why today and why this post – I guess God really is in control and is working hard to get me to hear his message. There are a million “really good excuses” that I could give for why things are they way they are, but I am more and more distracted and less and less engaged with my daughter. I constantly catch myself saying “in a minute, love” and realizing that the minute rarely comes. For me, the hardest thing to put down is the laptop – how am I supposed to stay on top of the comings and goings of my friends and family if I am not spending every waking minute refreshing my screen to see the latest news feeds? Today I will put down my laptop more and engage with my beautiful girl that was gifted to me, not that long ago. Thank you and I look forward to reading more of your journey!

    • 44

      says

      This means a great deal to me, Dawn. I will be smiling today thinking about you and the new choices you are making to be present with your precious one. I am so glad today is the day you decided to come here and read. My day is better because of you.

  24. 45

    Stacey says

    Wow! This truly touched my heart! I was that mom and that wife! Unfortunately for me and my precious family, I was not able to correct it in time. My, now, ex-husband looked for love and comfort outside of the marriage. I found out he was having an affair and he ended up leaving me for the other woman. I now have my children only 50% of the time and it breaks my heart! I live my life with so many “if only”s and “should have”s. Reading your story has taught me that it is never too late to show my children that mommy can be happy. I want them to be happy and to live without the stress the divorce has caused. It has been a lesson at great cost! I strive to appreciate the time I have with them because I know that it is now limited. It just hurts so much to think that it took losing my family to figure that out!

  25. 49

    Marvin says

    You’re a woman……of course you were not happy with what you had. And when you get what you “want” there will be no happiness then either.

  26. 52

    Chrissy says

    What a beautiful and poignant, not to mention courageous post. I read so much of myself in what you shared…we probably all did. I can’t decide if it’s an innate determination to feel and be “perfect” that society has plagued me with or just insecurities that cause me to “lose it” in much the same way as you’ve described, when things don’t go the way I want or need. I will vow to see more flowers and let go of the weeds and thank you for sharing so tenderly and honestly. I really appreciate your words so much.

  27. 53

    Sara says

    Wow.

    I only just discovered your blog today. Like two hours ago. A friend had posted this entry on her Facebook, and I clicked for two reasons. One, I’m a little bored on my lunch break and thought “this friend always posts fun blogs” and two, because I’m 5 months pregnant with my first daughter.

    This entry made me cry. I don’t have my own child yet, but I do have a sister who is 16 years younger than I am. She’s now 12, and I often hear her tell me “Mom didn’t make supper tonight. No it’s fine, I’m heating up a pizza pocket”. Before I used to laugh and say “oh that’s Mom” because that’s how I grew up as well. Mom worked three jobs.. always. Not because she needed to, because she felt she had to in order to give us the best in life. And I appreciate it because it taught me hard work and it taught me sacrifice for the ones you love. But I missed a lot with her, and we aren’t overly close now. I see in my sister the things you talk about. My sister didn’t want to have a birthday party this year, because “Mommy’s too busy to organize it”. So I organized it, and I complained at one point that it took so much effort, next year someone else can do it. I said that to HER. And I didn’t notice it then, but looking back.. I saw in her eyes. Broke her heart a little, because here I was, complaining about something I had chosen to do for her. Something simple like planning a party for her.

    I can’t change my Mom and make things better for her. But I can change me. I can learn to not complain to her. I can go over to see her and not take my iPhone and not be texting while I hang out with her. And I can keep from making the same mistakes when my daughter is born.

    FYI. I have been reading for two hours now, every post of yours I can find, seeing so much of my current self in them, and just crying at them all. And I mean that as the most sincere compliment I can give you.

    • 54

      says

      Thank you, Sara. Your words mean more than I could ever tell you. Sending love to you, your sister, and your baby that will soon be here. Thank you for your story and your sharing your newfound commitment. I am thankful we connected today.

  28. 56

    says

    Great piece, sister :) Brutal truth–but as the line says about, truth hurts, but truth also heals. So happy you found your smile again. xo

  29. 58

    Melissa says

    Thank you so much for posting this!!! I read it through tears. Love what you said about too many distractions and trying to be all and do all. Busyness is overrated.
    Striving for perfection is too. God bless you and your family!!

  30. 61

    Leonor says

    Dear Rachel,
    I read your blog everyday. I need to read your wise words and your experiences so I can change myself. I realisedvI needed to change when my 3 year old girl looked at me one morning and said: “calm down, I’m just a kid”. I’m not kidding she said this word by word (well, what she said was “calma, sou so uma menina” because we’re portuguese…). I discovered your blog soon after and since then I come here to read what you write to learn how to embrace the Hands free revolution… Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • 62

      says

      “Calm down, I’m just a kid.” Oh Leonor, you have an angel that teaches you how to live just like me! Thank you for sharing this. I will remember your daughter’s words when I am frustrated and overwhelmed and they will make a difference. Please give her a hug and tell her she is quite remarkable. xo

  31. 64

    Paula says

    My heart is heavy with the stresses on it and this is so what I needed to read today. I will be sitting down with the whole family to talk about this. With my teens and tweens constant fighting it has taken a toll on the whole family. My husband finally blew his top last night and it is time for a big shake up for all of us. Courage and strength will be needed, but this HAS to work!

    • 65

      says

      I will be thinking of you tonight, Paula. I love your idea of bringing the whole family into the discussion. If I am working on changing something, I have learned to tell my family. We can all support each other this way.

  32. 67

    erica says

    I cried when I read this. Not only am I proud of you for seeing your mistakes and how it affected your children but because it is the truth for my own life too. I am always overwhelmed trying to be the best mom and the perfect wife with a clean house and going to school. But my pastor did this one sermon about how if your focus is in one spot you tend to fail else where. well that is the case because I am trying so hard I am failing at everything. the house is a mess and my husband pressures me to have it maid spotless, I am seeing jelousey in my 5 yr old daughter over her 4 month old brother because mommy is to busy to play. then I am not doing so great at school and I feel as though I am failing with my son because im not there for him like I should be. I want to blame some of it on my husband for stressing me out to be super mom and have the perfect house and teach and play with my kids and be a 4.0 student; but I know that it’s not all him. I want to be the super mom and all I end up doing is stressing out and taking it out on my daughter. All she does is want to help; but when she does it takes twice as long and I have to redue everything anyway. But I know as a mother it’s not about that it is about the time and her doing it with me teaching her. I have a long way to go to be like you and overcome all the negative. I really need to learn to be more positive for the benefit of my children and my marriage!

  33. 68

    Jenny says

    Reading my screen through tear-filled eyes and a lump in my throat. I have been aware of how my behavior and intolerance trickles throughout the family–and sometimes it isn’t a trickle, but a tsunami. I have 3 beautiful children and amazing husband, and have always been one to find the positive in any situation. I have turned into a distracted, unhappy, grouch who is making everyone in the home miserable. I had to take a break several times while reading your post because I realized that when I got to the end, it would be time to do something about it. Thank you for sharing this. You have given me hope that I can restore the happiness, joyfulness, silliness and quirkiness to my beloved family.

    • 69

      says

      Thank you for your courage, Jenny. As much as it hurt to read your words, I felt promise—promise that today is a new day for you and your eyes have been opened. I am here is you need any encouragement along the way.

  34. 70

    Lisa says

    Thank you for opening your parenting life up to us and sharing the way you do. I have my ups and downs with “letting things go” but I am trying so hard. My reward is seeing my daughter’s happy, confident, sweet, funny, sassy self shine! My reminder that I need to re-focus is when she is withdrawn, nervous, quiet, and insecure. Last week, I had a major “mommy fail” and I felt so blessed when I was able to immediately step back, apologize, and receive my daughter’s forgiveness. I love your blog and cannot wait to read your book. Thank you again.

  35. 71

    Judy says

    Tears overflowing right now but I need to thank you for sharing. I needed the reminder that no matter what other “stuff” is going on in my life, my girls are more important. This message has been coming at me from several directions/sources lately. Your post was the pin that pricked my balloon of denial/ignorance. My kids are not unhappy because of school, or friends, or things. They’re unhappy because I’m unhappy. There, I said it. Now to finish my good cry and focus on making positive steps to change things. I’m printing out in bold visual reminders of your statement to look for flowers instead of the weeds. Thank you for sharing and helping me to acknowledge this.

  36. 74

    Kristin says

    Thank you so much for sharing this story! After yelling in exasperation yet again the other day, I sat thinking, I wonder if my children would would ever use the word “happy” to describe me. The constant redirection to listen the first time, the lecture when they don’t all in an attempt to raise respectful children seems to result in a Mommy who is usually frustrated. It breaks my heart to think that I am making my children think they have disappointed me or that they are not “good.”. It is so helpful to read your insightful story. I per-ordered your book and can’twait until January. In the meantime I am going to work on looking for more flowers :)

  37. 75

    Lisa Martin says

    Thanks so much for this post. Last night, my 6 year old son wanted to “do science”. From previous experiences, I knew that meant oil, water, and other kitchen stuff being pulled out, spilled on the floor, dripped and smeared across the counters, etc. My face scrunched and “no” was on the tip of my tongue. He and I made eye contact and instead “yes” came out. He had the best time, and there were minimal spills. He started hypothesizing and forming theories about what he was doing. It was pretty amazing. Then his 10 year sister got in on the action and they played together, with no thought of TV or computer, and NO ARGUING for about 30 minutes while I got dinner ready.
    If I had said “no” I wonder what the night would have been like (I don’t think I want to know!)
    Thank you for your inspiring posts. You’ve really caused me to look at the way I treat and react to my children because of the way I feel.
    Thank you!

    • 76

      says

      This is such an awesome story, Lisa. I am grateful you shared it so we can all be inspired to pause just for a moment before we respond–because sometimes a YES can turn into a gift, not just for our kids but for us too. xo

  38. 77

    Lorilynn says

    Thank you for sharing this story, Rachel. This one will stick in my memory right up there with the “Hurry up” one and the “What do I want my children to remember me holding in my hands”. This was a look in the mirror for me.

  39. 78

    Sara says

    I was the little girl who picked. I picked my scalp until it bled. I remember being 8 years old and embarrassed to get a haircut because of the scabs on my head. I picked my fingers too. I still, to this day, when I feel stressed do these things. They are a coping mechanism from so many years ago that I still go to.

    Now I’m the Mom. Now I’m you, in this post. On our way out the door – yelling at everyone, frustrated, angry. Seeing the lower lips tremble on the children I begged God for, because what, things are disorganized and I’m tired and stressed. It’s enough already. The cycle stops here. Pre-ordered your book. Thank you. <3

  40. 79

    Heather says

    Thank you thank you thank you. My oldest has been getting this utterly defeated look on her face every time she is corrected, told she can’t do something, ect and it has made me so infuriated since it started. My youngest has incontinence issues and constipation issues and she struggling in school. I also have a new baby at home and am fighting like crazy not to be swallowed by PPD again.
    Your story has me in tears over realizing what’s going so wrong in my home. Happiness is not abundant and it should be. I am going to share this with my husband in hopes that he sees what I see and that we can change our home for the better. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for impacting my life so dramatically. Thank you for being honest and open and sincere. Thank you for changing my world.

  41. 81

    Kali says

    OMG – out of all of your posts that I have read (and they all speak the words my soul is to afraid to speak itself), this one hit me with the power of a sharp shooter between the eyes.

    My mother was/is fairly disconnected. I picked my lips until they bled. I picked my lips until I would have a huge crater in the middle of them. I still do sometimes.

    My daughter started doing it around the time I felt myself going under the wave of doing/being/creating it all. I have told myself that it’s hereditary, how funny that she has my bad habit. I have told myself it’s because she doesn’t get enough fluids and so her lips get dry.

    But it’s because all I see are weeds. Even worse, I work endlessly on the weeds and don’t nurture the flowers.

    Right now it is my time for a breakdown-breakthrough. I am so grateful to have found this blog to hold on to while I fall and get back up. I cry every time I read one here or on FB – they are posted all over my house. I cannot tell you the comfort you have given to someone you don’t even know.

    (PS: January is WAY to far away!!)

  42. 82

    Heather says

    Tears* I’m sitting on my couch crying at how your story is identical to how I am currently. On top of my son doing the lip picking as well! I’m heart broken at how I act and try (obviously not so hard) to be different. We live far from family so I never get that break to collect myself and feel like I am unraveling at every end.
    Either way, I needed to read this. I needed to know I’m not a lone and other moms have been there. I cried myself to sleep the last 4 nights. Thinking that I am failing my kids by my actions and so much more.
    Thank you, I WILL be getting your book!!

  43. 83

    kathleen says

    mascara running down my cheeks: weeds
    knowing i am not alone and new valuable insights i know have: flowers.
    I see myself in your words and I do not want to be that miserable woman/wife any longer today or ever again. Thank you for sharing so much in all your posts. I especially needed this today!

  44. 86

    Jen says

    i love all your posts, but this one spoke so directly to me. i do the very same thing- especially when leaving the house and my husband has said the very same words to me. your posts always inspire me toward change, help me to try to stop and take a breath when i’m getting overwhelmed and help me to try to “freeze” the great moments with my kids to keep those memories more prominently in mind than all of the garbage. Thank you!

  45. 87

    KC says

    This article couldn’t have come at a better time.
    I have an 8 year old that has had behavioral problems since she was a toddler.
    I always feel horrible for constantantly being angry, irritable and for some of the things i say to her in the heat of the moment.
    To add to it…… she’s very jealous over the bond I have with her sister that is 4.
    The younger one and I laugh together, snuggle together, play together ect…
    Anyways, thank you for the article , i saw myself in it.

  46. 88

    Heidi Z says

    Rachel, again your posts move me. I cry everytime. I feel lately like I have not been the happy mommy and I beat myself up when I yell at our daughters. I want to be the mom that says it’s ok or the mom that says yes we can do that I don’t want to be the mommy that yells about spills or messes or acting crazy trying to get out the door to the bus. I have tried to change but sometimes when i read your posts I think you did good on that day but its not everyday!! I want to make the daily change and have the power to let things go! I can’t wait to get your book and be able to ready your daily passages. I think you should come up with a daily calendar or book to help moms out there take each day at a time with your moving, powerful, loving and strong words. How long did it take you to get to the point where you said ahhh I’m here yes I got here! I know we don’t know you but have helped us moms more than you will ever know. XOXOX

  47. 89

    Tracie says

    As always, you bring me to tears and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s as if you are writing about my life. I have recently made changes myself as far as getting rid of the social networking distractions, but I always feel grumpy and short with my kids. I feel like I need you sitting on my shoulder all day pointing out that I need to RELAX. It’s so hard sometimes since I have a stressful type A personality. Kids definitely are NOT that, and therefore I need to just let so many things go and find the “flowers in the weeds”. What a terrific analogy. I look forward to your posts and I am always humbled by them.

    • 90

      Tracie says

      Oh and btw, I preordered your book the second I read your post about it!!!!!! I can’t WAIT to read your entire journey. I am sure I will be inspired beyond belief.

  48. 91

    Marga says

    What can I write that hasn’t already been written: that’s me, I can’t believe I’m doing this, where did I get off track? Thanks for the reminder–my kids are coming home in 30 minutes and I can try and get it right today. It’s a start right? I once heard a metaphor used that described the messages we get from people as little pieces of paper in our pockets. Some times, you pull out those papers and read the negative, nasty things and they break you apart even as an adult. Sometimes, you have little pieces of paper with true words of love and support–these are the ones that you go back to time and again and sustain you in life. It’s my goal to fill my son and daughter’s pockets with the happy sweet affirmations so that there is no room for the awful ones I have authored in the past. Thanks for helping me be mindful of every day I have with them!

    • 92

      Heidi says

      That’s so sweet, Marga (“to fill my son and daughter’s pockets with the happy sweet affirmations so that there is no room for the awful ones”)! It gives me encouragement as I try to do that for my own self in recovering from severe child abuse and trauma as an adult, also.

      • 93

        Marga says

        Heidi,
        I have some more imagery for you. This one was from my mother–herself the child of a cold and difficult childhood. She used to tell me to treat myself as I were my own child, whisper sweet comforting words, and hug myself hard…it’s amazing how it’s helped over the years. My thoughts and heart go out to you as you work to heal the little one inside who needs to know how special she is!

  49. 95

    Stacy says

    Your blog, more than any other, is helping mold me and shape me into the mom and wife I want to be. Thank you for being so open and honest. I feel a connection to you…I am an elementary teacher and the things you write about touch me in profound ways-as a mom, a teacher and a wife.

    I read this recently and it is changing my mothering. It is from
    http://powerofmoms.com/2013/06/mini-podcast-three-unbelievably-simple-ideas/

    Brief synopsis of the podcast:

    (1) Children need a minimum of 8 touches during a day to feel connected to a parent.

    If they’re going through a particularly challenging time, it’s a minimum of 12 a day. This doesn’t have to be a big deal–it could be the straightening of a collar, a pat on the shoulder, or a simple hug.

    (2) Each day, children need one meaningful eye-to-eye conversation with a parent.

    It is especially important for babies to have that eye contact, but children of all ages need us to slow down and look them in the eyes.

    (3) There are nine minutes during the day that can have the greatest impact on a child.
    •the first three minutes–right after they wake up
    •the three minutes after they come home from school, and
    •the last three minutes of the day–before they go to bed.

    We need to make those moments special and help our children feel loved.

    These are simple, right? Nothing really earth-shattering here.

    But try it. For a month. And then I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. I honestly didn’t realize how much I could improve in this area, and though I still have lots of room for improvement, I can see myself becoming a better mom.

    • 96

      says

      This is so powerful and so helpful, Stacy! I will be listening to the podcast tonight! Thank you for taking the time to share. I will be sure to thank the Power of Moms–I have had the privilege of writing for them. Their site is so informative and uplifting!

  50. 98

    Terri M says

    Your words have impact, and are inspiring. By sharing your story in such a way that others can see themselves, that is truly a gift. I look forward to following alongside the path of a parent who shares truth and words of wisdom. Thank you.

  51. 99

    Anonymous says

    This is my life, with my daughter who sucks her fingers when shouted at and she’s of course having problems at school, she just turned 6. Except, my partner is an depressive alcholoic who spends all the money we’ve got and tells me he wants to die everyday. I’m at my whits and I try to keep the children out of it, but I am angry all the time and snap at the kids just like you did when rushing off to school. Thanks for sharing, I’m going to see if I calm down and put it all in perspective.

  52. 100

    says

    This is a great post that I can wholeheartedly relate to. Our kids are gifts in so many ways, especially in the many things they teach us about ourselves on our journey. I am so grateful for their resilience as they weather the storms we, as parents, go through along the way towards being our best selves and living our best lives. Thank you for sharing this and making those of us who have been there not feel so alone like we are “the only ones” who have done that. It helps with the guilt a little and also gives us permission to forgive and do better.

  53. 102

    Lori says

    Thank you for sharing what we feel but are all too often afraid to share. Just knowing that I am not alone is a great ease to my soul.

  54. 104

    Hannah says

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us in such a raw, inspiring way. Your posts have truly changed the way I react to my children. I am certainly a work in progress, but I find myself being reminded of your words and putting them into practice more and more often. The other morning, I was making scrambled eggs for my kids and my two oldest asked if they could crack an egg into the pan. One of them, accidentally, cracked the egg open onto the stovetop and it made a big mess. Normally, I would have probably made a big deal about it but instead just told her that it was just an accident and that it was no big deal. It felt so good to handle the situation in a calm way.

  55. 105

    Ivette says

    I almost did not subscribe to your blog because I thought it was silly to add one more email post to my crazy hectic life. Something told me to do it and I am glad I did. You spoke straight to my heart, I can’t wait to hear more on how you let go of all the distractions. Because my husband says the same about me. Our mops theme is year is “Beautiful Mess” and this is so perfect. Can I get your permission to add to our newsletter?

  56. 106

    Daddy says

    Thank you for telling my wife all that I have wanted her to know. She is so much the glue that holds our family together. She is so willing to be that, and so willing to work herself to exhaustion to be that. However, for some reason, she thinks she has to be perfect at it. I hope that she will hear your words, for they are her family’s words if we could have been so articulate. What we need so much more than “perfect” glue, is just happy Mom. I also realize from reading your story that I need to rededicate myself to making flowers bloom. Thank you.

  57. 108

    Kim says

    As I read your blog I broke into tears because I too have that question going on for me. How do I smile again? I know that my husband has not verbally said anything but I know what he is thinking it is written all over his face. The stress of the my teenager and school and my other kids and the constant running after them. It makes me wonder when do I get time for me? Does anyone care about what Mom wants? Nobody wants to hear what mom complains about when chores are not done! Or when I’m ignored. But if good old mom is not there to run someone to practice, or a meeting or some article of clothing is not clean. Or if a project is not done on time!
    I am stressed and I need direction — what do I do?

  58. 109

    Kristy says

    Thank you for sharing something so difficult. I truly believe the best way we learn to change & have courage is when those around us are real and willing to share their challenges. No one is without struggles & we can all learn so much from each other. Your posts make my day, thank you Rachel!!

  59. 110

    Nicole Eldridge says

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s what I needed to hear. I’m going to try to see the flowers instead of the weeds in my life.

  60. 111

    Juli says

    Rachel,
    I look forward to your post and save it to read when it’s quiet at home and I can focus on your words. You are truly better for me than any therapist. Like many who posted before me, I saw myself in so much of what you wrote. I have asked myself more than once what in the world I’m so angry/grumpy/stressed out about. The answers are always so unimportant…I’m up 7 lbs from my skinniest weight, will we ever move out of this condo and into a “real” house, what do I want to do when I grow up (I’m 42), I have nothing. I turn it all around and remind myself that I’m healthy as a horse (as my mom and sister are both battling cancer), that my well-worn condo is a home we can afford that allows for fun elsewhere and that I’m working on raising the two most amazing little girls (6 and 8 yr olds who are sunshine from their noses to their toes). It stops the demons, but they always come back. You provide me with the desire to continue to battle back all the stuff that takes me away from my girls…gadgets, worries, etc.

    Thank you, Rachel. A million times thank you.

    • 112

      CathyS says

      I love your description of your daughters–sunshine from their noses to their toes. Although I can relate to the original post, I am a bit concerned that most of the responses are women tearing themselves down even more. Most of us are doing some things right and some things wrong, and if you are describing your girls that way, you must be doing quite a bit right. So give yourself some credit!

      • 113

        says

        Thank you, Cathy. I loved that description of Juli’s too. It is never my intention to make people feel more guilt when I share my stories. I write about experiences from my distracted life so other people who are feeling overwhelmed, sad, and angry can realize that life does not have to go on like that. I do believe it takes a painful look inward to produce the motivation to change. I went through it myself. But from that difficult place, I found the light and my entire life has changed as well as my family’s life. I try to write often about letting go of guilt and regret because it is so important to live in today. I dedicated an entire chapter to it in my book. I am just trying to help other people find meaningful connection in a distracted and pressure-filled world. That is my intention for sharing my own experiences.

  61. 114

    says

    Oh my heart. I’ve cried so hard after reading this. So much truth, like a mirror… but the truth heals right? I actually sent it to my husband who, to my surprise, actually read it and simply responded: “I promise to focus on the flowers instead of the weeds”. That made my day, no forget that, my year. It’s truly life changing and I thank you.

    You might think I am crazy but I need to offer this: I am a fine art photographer. If you need/want images for your book, pretty flowers, uplifting sunrises, you name it, I would love to give them to you for free. I mean it. My heart tells me to offer this so I am doing it, I want to be part of it. Please look at my website and shoot me an e-mail if you are interested.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • 115

      says

      Thank you!!! You don’t know what this means to me. I would love the opportunity to share your gorgeous pictures when I post inspirational words on The Hands Free Revolution facebook page. This is such a tremendous help to me in helping to spread my message. I just sent you an email. Thank you!!!!

  62. 116

    says

    Thank you so much for this post. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in my life. I know see how my feelings and actions have affected my daughter and changed her. I am going to read more through your site to learn more. Hopefully I can get my bright, loving, carefree child back again.

  63. 117

    J says

    Thank you! Thank you so much. This was the wake up call I needed, my tears are flowing, finally, finally I can see a light in this darkness, and I’ll fight for it!

    Thank you <3

  64. 118

    Katherine says

    Your inspirational story came at a time I truly needed to hear it. My child is grown and gone, but I know I have been negatively affecting the people around me lately. I guess I need to try harder to see the flowers through the weeds. Thank you.

  65. 120

    Melissa says

    I am a life long lip picker. After growing up in a home where nothing I did was ever good enough or right, I have carried this habit into adulthood. Even though I do not have children I can apply these same principles to my daily life. My prayer is when I have children, this habit stops with me and I can find the flowers rather than weeds.

  66. 121

    Tamara says

    I woke at 5am and read your blog.
    Thankyou for your stories and for opening your heart in such a way that you impact lives around you.
    I am a 34 year old mum of 3 and I do strive to be that fun loving happy mum. Most days I achieve this and on other days, a big cloud hangs over me. If that cloud hangs over me, then it kind of spirals and hangs above the family….. Like a rippled effect.
    Your blogs send clarity to my day, and help me to start the day with a different perspective.
    I have learnt to let go of expectations and just BE…
    I do have a question I’d like to ask…
    When I was a little girl… I began biting my top lip too. And yes, it would bleed.
    I’m now a 34 year old woman and I STILL bite my top lip.
    Do you have any suggestions that may help me to finally overcome this habit. A habit, alongside severe nailbiting and skin picking around my nails. It’s been 30 years now and looking back, all I remember is the constant scolding and anger that came from my parents whenever they saw me do it. They tried many remedies from various places in the hope I’d stop. But never really got to the root of the problem.
    My daughter now tells me to stop and of course, I know I should, but it makes me mad because it’s like I have a flash back to when I was a child and the constant telling off I would encounter…
    My husband says nothing but I know what he is thinking. He often says that “for such a beautiful woman, you have this terrible habit that is giving you unnattractive hands.
    If you have any suggestions of how I can help myself in this area, I would be grateful. I know my children watch my every move and I’ve now seen my children pick their nails and it makes me very upset.

    Thankyou for all that you give…

    Thankyou for your warmth….

  67. 122

    Allison says

    I see myself so much in this post. Way more than I care to admit. My oldest child (my only daughter)… I have pushed her away. I have focused more on the small insignificant things that she does and made her grouchy and now almost unrecognizable. I hope that it isn’t too late to change my behavior and help her. She’s only 10 but has the sassy mouth of a teenager. Which I blame myself for because I am a grouch most of the time. Distracted as you were by things that do not matter. Picking at things that do not matter. Yelling or talking down to her over things that don’t matter. I am a first time commenter but I’ve been reading for a while. This post really hit me. Thank you for sharing. I pray I can be better and in turn help her. She is the most important thing in my life. I need to start acting that way. Because the old saying is true, actions do speak louder than words.

    • 123

      says

      Sending strength your way, Allison. I do not think it is ever too late to live and love the way you wish you had in the past. I apologized to my daughter when I was trying to change my ways. I told them a few ways that I was going to act differently when I got upset. They responded to my sharing this with them very positively. It helped me stay accountable. I wish you all the best. Come back anytime for encouragement.

  68. 124

    Vikki says

    Oh where were blogs when I was raising my sweet family. There are so many things I would do differently, so many words spoken in anger I would suppress. So many more long walks I would have taken and tickles I would have shared. Now I do these things with my grandchildren, but I will always have regrets with being too impatient with my sweet little ones. They grow up way too fast. “The days are long but the years are short.” I wish I knew then what I knew then. It does help though to know others struggle with what I struggled with for years. You are doing a great service for us all.

  69. 125

    TheAnyKey says

    I’m holding back tears right now. I had gotten caught up in the weeds, too. I’m bookmarking this to re-read and buying your book. Thank you. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  70. 126

    Sue says

    I wish I had read this about 22 years ago. As a mother whose children are now grown up, this would have been very helpful for me when I was starting my family. My own mom had screamed at and hit all her children, and I grew up to be almost as bad as her. My own daughter had ADHD when she was younger and the stress of living away from my family and friends, and not having any kind of support system, was too much to bear at times. I took my frustration out on my daughter until she was about 7 or 8, and then one day I finally realized that I had to change because I had indeed become my mother.

    My daughter is now 21 and earlier this year, on a shopping trip to the mall, she asked me if I was happy. I told her that I was content, but that I felt a tremendous amount of guilt about the way I treated her when she was small. Even though I had apologized to her over the years, I’ve always carried the guilt and shame of being a bad mother in her younger years. My daughter said that I had nothing to feel guilty about and that she has always loved and admired me. At that point I cried and asked for her forgiveness, which she readily gave and told me I didn’t need it. I can’t begin to tell you the relief it gave me. We’ve never spoken of it again, but it will always be with me.

    To anyone out there who treats their child/children the same way I treated my daughter, take note of the words written in this blog. You will suffer tremendously later in life if you don’t change. Your kids will eventually grow up and leave to make their own lives, let them take with them happy, content memories of their childhood. Guilt is an extremely heavy burden to bear and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s within your power to make the change, little by little, so that when your children are older, they will remember you as you would want them to.

    • 127

      Kristen says

      Sue, thank you for that comment, as my daughter, who is 9, also has ADHD, and I feel so overwhelmed at times, I do tend to take my frustration out on her, it’s very hard to change, but after reading Rachel’s post and then seeing this…I’m going to start to change my ways…today! Thank you!!!

      • 128

        Krisma says

        Thankyou so much Sue. I’m going through the same thing as you did. It’s so hard. This gives me hope. I have twin girls, age 5. I’m raising them alone and one has ADHD-ish behaviour/special needs. I worry about the effect of my meltdowns on her. I always apologise and I always try again, but you worry about that potentially ‘irreversible damage’. Thanks for sharing! I feel hopeful

  71. 129

    Andrea says

    I’m sitting here completely stunned. You just wrote…my life…now. I have changed so much since the birth of my son…and not for the better. I need to read this again…and again…and maybe I’ll be able to change like you did.

  72. 130

    Shellie says

    Thank you for shining light on the shadows we believe no one else has. Knowing I’m not the only one who sees weeds where there are actually flowers is helpful. It’s even more encouraging to know it is possible to see those flowers in the same situation with some work on my disposition.

    This past weekend was pretty rough. Suffice it to say, we had a similar scenario trying to get out the door to go to the aquarium. We’d never been there and we’re looking forward to it. After my husband and I argued in the driveway and then in the car leaving, I finally broke down and screamed that he take me back home that I was not going anywhere. He happily dropped me back in the driveway and the family left. I was so mad I couldn’t even begin to mourn how badly I’d behaved or felt to be left out. Then, my husband came back with the kids. My 3-yr old son rung the doorbell, and when I answered he said, “Mommy, do you want to go with us to the ‘querum’ now?” Without thinking and still seething, I said, “No, I’m not going. You go without me.” He said, “Oh” and his shoulders slumped into his chest as he turned back to the car. I almost burst into tears. I’d broken his heart.

    I need to change. I need to see the flowers.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  73. 131

    Denise says

    Rachel:

    I cannot believe the timing of my finding your link on my facebook page. I was on a path that was destroying my family. The pressures seem to accumulate until you don’t even realize your whole personality has changed. I haven’t been happy for a long time and have taken it out on my family. I was never like this. I had the attitude of mistakes will happen, it will be okay. But I now realize that attitude has escaped me. My husband told me I was acting crazy just the other night. Then, today, after having heart palpitations due to anger, I find your link. It really opened my eyes. None of my so called problems are that major, I am the one making them that way.

    Thank you so much for opening my eyes. I need to buy your book to help me through the transformation I hope will happen soon. Please let me when when it will be published. Thank you again.

    Sincerely,

    Denise

  74. 134

    Leah says

    Thank you for writing this. This is my life EXACTLY! I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one that sees weeds when I should see flowers.

    I’m going to print this out and post it as a reminder to be happy with my wonderfully abundant and messy life.

  75. 135

    Sara from NZ says

    Good grief, that woman is me! I just “happened” upon your blog today and I am so glad I did! I am going to try super hard to see flowers and not weeds, I really am. Thank you for your brutal honesty in saying what so many of us women out there feel each and every day. It is so so hard sometimes and we all have but one life to live. Cheers from New Zealand

  76. 136

    says

    Thank you for this! When I read the sentence “I saw her for who she was, not an annoyance or a bother, but a loving child with clever thoughts and ideas”, it makes me think of myself… I’m so ashamed to say this, but so often I do act as if my daughter is more a bother than a person I love so dearly… And actions speak louder than words… I really need to find a way to make sure my daughter doesn’t feel like a bother! That’s just so not what I want her to get from me…

  77. 137

    says

    By the way, while reading your text, I was biting my lips so hard that they’re hurting right now… I’ve never found a way to stop this bad habit!

  78. 138

    says

    I struggled to read this post. It hit home so hard. So very, very hard. My son is anxious all the time. He picks the skin on his fingers. He picks more when I am sad, mad, anxious. I haven’t been happy for a few months and I know it is impacting my kiddos and it breaks my heart. Thanks for linking to the Power of Perspective. I needed to read it tonight. And now off to pick some flowers instead of the weeds. Thank you, as always!

  79. 139

    says

    Oh no… I just tried to pre-order your book, but Amazon says the item can’t be ordered to my address… I thought you were in Canada? I’m not sure what’s wrong with my address…

    • 140

      says

      Some other Canadian readers asked a few weeks ago and the Amazon reps in Canada said this:

      ISBN 9780310338130 is indeed available for preorder on Amazon.ca – the on sale date is 1/7/2014 (same On Sale Date in CA and US).

  80. 142

    Michele says

    Wow…..your story brought me to tears as well as I sat reading it thought of my own family. I know I have not been happy for a while. Even though I got a second chance at happiness after divorce, life is stressful with a a teenager and 2 small children and working full time. I often wonder how my children view me as I feel I am always yelling and expecting them to behave. I know in my head the things I should do but in the moment of frustration it is not so easy to make the right choice. I know I need to change because I do want to be happy and want to preserve and grow my relation with my husband and kids in a healthy way.!!!!

  81. 143

    says

    I know this is another comment among hundreds, but this is what I needed today. I have alwyas been more of a “weeds” person, but once I start to see the flowers, man, there are so many that I can’t see the weeds anymore. Thanks for this! Thanks for being real. Thanks for sharing your struggle and accomplishments.

  82. 144

    Jennifer says

    Wow I am that mother. I needed this story more than I thought today. It was an especially rough day as a working mother of 3 young children. I needed to be reminded of the flowers that are all over my house. Thank you for your words that always seem to inspire me to be not only a better mother, but a present mother.
    My prettiest flowers tonight, my 7 year old cleaned a path to his bed, my 5 year old told me I was already a better mommy, and my 2 year old reminded me of how much I still need to teach them. He didn’t know the words as he sees the tears of realization streaming down my face. He simply says, “Mommy what are… Oh mommy they are dripping.”
    Thank you for reminding me that God has placed these special angels in my care and not only do I need to mold them the way he would want, but I need to simply enjoy them.

  83. 147

    Tara says

    I hope it’s not too late for my girls – or me I suppose. Both my daughters have nervous habits that I am nagging them about far too often. I know I was/am a contributing factor to them even having them, then I make it worse when I bring attention to it. I wish there was a “reset” button on life sometimes. Thank you for sharing your struggles – even the past ones – especially the past ones. It helps me remember that you didn’t come to this contented, hands free moment in your life overnight, and that there may just be hope for me…for my girls.

  84. 150

    Ansley says

    I’m a lurker and a huge fan of your inspiration. You are able to touch my being, Rachel! Thank you so much for this post. I just had a big discussion about what I need to cut back on in life… reaching my limit is doing no good for our family. I realize it and want to make the adjustments necessary… thank you for this!
    (BTW, I feel extra-connected to you, as I consider your sweet, amazing, talented, caring sister a good friend. R and I are friends from back in the world of Indianapolis. I really love your family!)

  85. 152

    Lisa says

    I am new to Hands Free, about a couple of months. Every post I’ve read so far has had me in tears and inspired. I swear I feel like you’ve written from daily observations in my own household. I am experiencing the same thing with my 9 yr old son right now. He is beginning to sweat the small stuff more and more each day. My 3 yr old daughter is beginning to ask “are you mad mommy?” more and more. Flowers not weeds! Thank you so much for the wisdom! Thank you for the inspiration! I look forward to blogs.

  86. 156

    Aistar says

    I love reading your blogs, I can’t remember how I came across them but I look forward to them! Today’s could not have come at a better moment except it wasn’t with my boys this time it was my husband. I was being very irritable, anything he said was irritating me the thing is I have a wonderful husband he cooks, cleans, does laundry, works hard, and is a very hands on dad. I could not have made him better if I tried. so while I was sitting in the car mad for no real reason I clicked on my e mail and read this, let me tell you it made me rethink my nasty attitude that my husband was receiving. Thank you for all your blogs it makes me slow down and love my growing boys. I took a moment to enjoy some of there crazy memories from our old house tonight at dinner,I think I would have hurried them up after dinner before because “there is always do much to do” but instead I listened to there story about the hit wheels car left in the snow, and the bunk bed they slept in! Thank you for showing me thatslowing down is ok anytime when your kids want your attention! :-) – Sincerely Aistar O:-)

  87. 158

    Ling says

    Hi!

    I am a mummy living in Geneva Switzerland now with my husband and two young children. We have relocated here from Asia a year ago. I am handling the household and children by myself and my husband travels for work. It’s taxing at times to handle them and their tantrums and I am also trying to be more ” hands free”. Your blog has been most inspiring to me and it really reminds me from Time to time to stop and let go of distractions and to enjoy our children.
    I lost my temper too when things are overwhelming and I am so glad to read about your experience and your advice to fellow mummies.thank you so much for sharing.

  88. 159

    Lisa says

    Wow! This post of yours is so meant for me today! Thanks for helping me see further than my clogged up “goggles” caused by my daily rush

  89. 160

    Suze says

    I am the daughter whose mother takes away my smile. The pain never goes away. She blames her daughter. Her daughter never gets it right…whatever it is…and is always met with the blame for things going pear-shaped. This mother has never grown up from being a two year old tantrum thrower who has to have her own way, be in control of word thought and deed in other, to the point of accusatory statements stultifying the relationship. This daughter has sought therapy, counselling and the like and come out with strategies. The mother still considers all fault and blame to be at the feet of ‘other’. Sometimes the weeds grow in the daughter’s mind, while the mother cuts the flowers before they even bloom….mostly they are destroyed by bugs anyway, and when they grow in unexpected places they are pulled out by the root and discarded in the bin….how old is this daughter…how old is this mother…old enough to say a lifetime of heartache….

    • 161

      says

      My heart goes out to you, Suze. I am grateful you shared your story so we can learn from you and strive to make choices that will help, not hurt, our children. Sending you peace and strength and hope today.

  90. 162

    Sally says

    I had my hormones checked and found they were so out of wack, hence caused irritability, tired and flat. So I started taking LAMININE, a natural supplement which balances all your hormones. Guess what, pretty much immediately after taking I have changed, completely. I feel like I did when I was in my 20’s…balanced, happy and relaxed enjoying my life and my family. Small Things that used to bother me, I don’t care any more as it doesn’t stress me out. Laminine lowers and balances cortisol and raises serotonin, hence I feel sooooooo fantastic now.

  91. 164

    Kimberly says

    Thank you for this post! I am this woman and so want to break out of this vicious cycle. I am tired of being the grumpy, no fun, always complaining mom. I incessantly complain. Thank you for your transparency as well as abiliy to change.

  92. 165

    says

    We laugh at the phrase, “if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”, but it’s true in a rather painful way as well. We lead the mood of the house, and for me, it was simply the realization of that fact that changed the mood around here (and help from the parenting CD set from Celebrate Calm). I love this post. It’s direct and well-written. We overschedule and push until we break, and we don’t even see it, and I think the morning is a great barometer. If I don’t have the emotional capacity to get us out the door calmly in the morning, I’ve already overscheduled the day. Godspeed, my friend!

  93. 166

    says

    I was your little girl, including the picking the lip. I am 50 years old now, with a grandson, and yet reading your post brought back the feelings as if it were only yesterday. My parents were in a terrible marriage, and my mom was miserable. She never really did get a new life perspective. I can remember being the little girl in the backseat, picking my lip, and having her yell at me to stop. I was stressed out every day, all day long. I am so thankful for you, and your family, that you had such an awakening. What a precious gift you gave them at that moment. Thank you SO much for sharing. It means a LOT!

  94. 167

    Kristen says

    Once again Rachel, thank you for sharing this experience, and not leaving anything out. I’m so guilty of this, I think life has gotten me down, I have alot of things going on and I tend to take it out on my girls, getting upset if my daughter pokes around in the morning for school, then on the way there, making her nervous by thinking she might be late (I have a nail bitter you see) I have been looking at all the things going wrong and I wasn’t sure how to turn this around, it’s not going to be easy, I know that, but it’s important. I can easily tell other people to think positive, enjoy the little things in your life, but why do I have such a hard time following my own advice? I should have known by now, I have a daughter that just turned 18, and I took away her smile…by trying to make her be this perfect person all the time, there were no messes or stained clothing, she wanted to make Momma happy. This time around I promised things would be different with my other child, but it’s so easy to fall into the same habits. My youngest daughter has ADD, and ya see, perfection just doesn’t exist with that. She has taught me that getting dirty, being a tomboy, and being absolutely terrible in Math is okay….I hope I don’t take my youngest daughter’s smile away. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • 168

      says

      Thank you for your beautiful honesty, Kristen. I can read the newfound commitment in your words. I can hear the promise in your voice. I think today begins a new chapter of letting go in order to bring on the smiles. I have so much hope in my heart for you and your children.

  95. 169

    jess says

    Bawling. Was meant to read this. THANK you for being so honest. You just told my story. My daughter just turned 8, i have twin 4 yr old boys and a baby due in 6 weeks. I know that my whole like changed in regard to attention to children and a happier more positive attitude when I got my iphone, 4 years ago. Blasted technology. Thank you for sharing.

  96. 170

    Monica McCowan says

    Thank you for laying bare the truths that we try so hard to ignore as distracted parents striving to be the perfect everything for everyone. You hit the nail on the head with precise accuracy. I never considered myself distracted, but the term fits perfectly. I’ve allowed myself to become distracted from the awesome gifts God has given me, in my life and family, by the things that are of little importance. I find myself always looking at the negative everyone does instead of being grateful for the good we all contribute to daily life. I notice that my husband gets up and just leaves the room when I start my thing. My oldest son, 16, says I think he does nothing to contribute when, in fact he does so much to help out with our large family. Getting ready for church and every outing feels so taxing that when we finally get there I want to hide under a rock. I didn’t know so many people could relate to my self induced chaos. Always get compliments for the job I do as a full time mom of, soon to be 8, and wife. I work, sing in the choir and have a few boys in sports. At home, I’m so diff. Thanks again for identifying what’s been wrong all this time. Time to notice a few flowers. =)

  97. 172

    tiffany says

    Hi Rachel,
    this is only the second post of yours I have read but I so appreciate your deep honesty and generosity in sharing your experiences. I am curious, its obvious you had a shift in perspective but what other life changes did you have to make to get to the better place you are now? Job change? Disconnecting from devices after 3pm? Would love some insight – I have two little boys and I want to make sure I am not missing an opportunity to make the best of their childhood. Thank you – Tiffany

  98. 173

    says

    Not long ago I got mad at my three year old. Really mad. He was playing with a plastic sword as I tried to buckle his seatbelt and after getting poked in the face, I grabbed it out of his hand, threw it on the floor of the car and slammed the door. “You have to understand, a sword, even a toy is a weapon and you hurt me with it” I said angrily above the wails from the backseat.
    “I can´t do things like you,” he said tearfully “I don´t know how, I´m just a little guy. I´m not a grown-up, Mommy”. His words cut me to the quick. I had to pull the car over, walk around to the back and unbuckle his seatbelt and hug him tight. Truer words have never been spoken, he is a little guy and because I expect so much of him and treat him like as if he were older doesn´t mean that he is. The transferral of my frustrations and expectations to him is unforgiveable and I feel so grateful that he has the linguistic ability to make me see that. I loved your post and am going to start following you as it sounds like the inspiring changes you have made have worked for your family and I hope to learn from your experience. Thank you!

    • 174

      says

      Wow. That brings me to tears. I celebrate this reminder that we can ALL learn from–even my children who are not babies anymore are still learning–I must remember they are not adults. I love how you handled this situation. I think you are pretty wonderful. And I love that you courageously shared something we can all relate to. Hugs to you and your very special boy.

      • 175

        says

        I was so touched by your kind reply that I have chosen to repost your post and talk about the positive impact our exchange has had on my day. You seem quite successful, so this might not make any difference, but in case you like to keep track of reposts for your stats, etc. I thought you should know. thanks again for your words of encouragement and we´ll be in touch, Olivia (no need to post this, just an FYI)

  99. 177

    Krisma says

    THANK YOU for sharing this. I always appreciate people who admit to how hard it can be sometimes. It makes moms feel less alone. What did they do before the internet??! I am raising twin 5 year old girls on my own, and have finally recently, admitted and accepted, that the younger of the two has some sort of special needs going on. We are at the beginning of the testing process.
    We are ALWAYS late. Getting out the door is REDONKS all. the. time.
    My house is NEVER completely clean. Ugh.
    They are in SK this year, and all three of us are getting hammered with the constant sickness involved with those few years. (Last year was a NIGHTMARE because I wasn’t prepared for that, and I was starting my own business teaching private singing lessons, and my mom had a nervous breakdown, AND broke her knee and arm).
    Going through all of that brought me to the brink of insanity by the end of the school year, but I had the good fortune to connect with one of my special needs students brain injury therapist/nutritionist. She’s a goddess and a GODSEND.
    My prayers were answered, and someone was finally able to help me unscramble my brain and inspire me to get back on track.
    Basically the gist of it was “you have to BE what you want HER to be”-as in Ghandi’s “Be the change you want to see”, which already fits with my Buddhist outlook. DUH! Why do we miss such obvious truths!? lol. Truths about life are truths about parenting! There are no separate categories!!
    Anyway, I am on a much better path now, and when I take care of myself, I’m able to take care of my girls much better. The whole ‘put your gas mask on first’ analogy I guess!
    This has been such a good reminder today, as this year’s kindergarten sicknesses have already kicked in, and we have already gotten a bit off track from our good start to this year. We just need to keep getting back up and at it. And always apologise. And forgive ourselves when our kids forgive us. And try to fit in time to connect to other moms!
    Reading this post, as well as everyone else’s comments has really injected me with inspiration and compassion for myself, my kids and other moms and all that we do!
    Thank you thank you thank you! I love your whole philosophy. I’m new to your blog and blogs in general. You rock! Thank you for following your calling sister!

    • 178

      says

      You are truly a breath of fresh air! I have a name for being open and honest about the struggles we endure — I call it “stepping into the light of realness.” You have not only stepped into the light of realness with me, but you bring an additional shining light that bring hope and healing! I am grateful for your message and the other kind remarks to left to other readers. You have blessed me today! Big hugs!

      • 179

        Krisma says

        ‘Stepping I to the light of realness’- I LOVE that! Thankyou as well for connecting me to the Orange Rhino. I laughed SO hard reading the 100 alternatives to yelling today. Like, DYING laughing, tears rolling down my cheeks. And I reeeeally needed that laugh today. So the combo of your post and hers really reset my brain today. I have been looking for help in this area for SO LONG. Today I finally found it from you guys. Often I’m always looking for a little mantra in my head, or some kind of pre-decided script to say in those moments of ‘psycho mummy’, as I like to call it. Now I finally have it. Thankyou! I’m totally sharing both your sites to ALL my friends, in the hopes that they too can stop feeling like they’re alone, failing, and feeling embarrassed to admit these difficult truths about motherhood!

  100. 180

    Connie says

    I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story. Each time I see your new post pop into my inbox, I know I will find it uplifting and inspiring. But more than that, I know it will remind me that this is a journey we’re all on. I can relate 100% to what you’ve written here – feeling unhappy and irritable, always seeing the negative, losing my patience over small, meaningless things. But your posts give me hope that, little by little, I can change that and that there is a way to wake up feeling blessed each day rather than burdened.

  101. 181

    Shandra says

    I cannot thank you enough for this post. I have always considered myself a happy person who finds the good in most situations, but lately I have been harried and stressed. My almost 5 year old son, Brody has a mild form of cerebral palsy. He has limited use of the right side of his body due to a series of strokes before his birth. He started walking without help a few months ago, but EVERYTHING he does takes longer than the average kid. I also have a 14 month old daughter, Mira, who is quite spirited and busy. At times, leaving the house is crazy….I turn into this wild woman and feel completely out of control.

    A few months ago, Brody started asking, “Mama, are you nice?” with a worried look on his face before we would leave or if he noticed that I was getting stressed. I hadn’t noticed how much it was affecting his day or how much I was limiting his independence by hurrying my sweet boy along and just doing things for him for the sake of convenience. I have to always keep in mind that he is a gift, we could have lost him at birth. He is alive and well and my priority is to help him reach his potential.

    Thank you for the reminder to focus on the flowers (Brody put his coat on by himself!!), instead of the weeds (it took him 20 minutes). I have followed your blog for several months now and you always inspire me to see my beautiful children for who they are, and to let go of all of the unimportant distractions.

    You are a gift.

  102. 182

    Megan says

    Thanks for sharing! I have been on a journey for the last couple of months to find my “happy me”. Some times I can see a peek of her and when I do it is usually through the laughter of my children.

  103. 183

    says

    Dear Rachel / Hands Free Mama,
    I don’t even know slightly where to begin to thank you for your transparency, so I will sum it up and thank God for you and for finding this site and your approach!!! Wow!!! Love your perspective and thanks for being so willing to share and help others and letting your light shine!!! You are a gem!!!

    Chaitra @ http://www.mtnuniversal.com/mtn-universal-blog/

  104. 184

    Katherine says

    Wow, clearly I am not alone as much as I feel I am at times. THANK YOU. I hope you dont mind but I have printed this out to give to my husband as I am unable to explain whats going on with me and I hope this gives him some insight.

  105. 185

    Gina says

    Your topics always seem to relate to the trials I am currently facing. Just this morning, my daughter and I were having a rough start. Once she pushed that certain button, I was on a downhill spiral of negativity and sadly, I turned into a mean, mean mommy. My poor son and daughter has seen this side of me one too many times. Thank you for being transparent and sharing your experiences of how you’ve managed to change your attitude and outlook on life. You are an inspiration to many with your beautiful words of encouragement. I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a new me!

  106. 186

    Lisa says

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    I have been thinking about my oldest daughter lately. She is what i consider “high anxiety”! She started biting her nails at 18 months, when her sister was born, and started stuttering at 2 1/2 When we moved into a new home. BUT…. she has the absolute most beautiful smile anyone has ever seen. It lights up her whole being, and makes others smile. I was commenting to my husband recently, that I don’t want her to ever lose that! I don’t want it to be stolen from her. Through your writing, I see, that I could be the very person to do that. I definitely need to change my attitude, daily!
    Thank you again!

  107. 187

    Athena says

    This too made me cry.
    I am a wreck inside and try not to show it on the outside to my family. I am not very successful at keeping it in. I feel like I am dying inside.
    I want to be the best mom, wife, friend I can be, but there are times I want to lock myself away and not let anyone in.

  108. 188

    Karoline says

    I just wanted to say thank you. I have been thinking about this post for the past two days. It must have been hard for you to write it, but I’m so glad you did. I too have been guilty of seeing the bad in a situation more easily than the good. Two years ago, we underwent a major change in our lives when my husband was laid off from his job. He got a new one fairly quickly, but there were some permanent changes to our lifestyle as a result, and I have been carrying around a lot of resentment about that. Your post really hit home for me, and I had a sudden realization that I need to let go of that and appreciate all that is good in my life, so I can concentrate on loving and cherishing my girls every day. Holding on to the resentment is not productive in any way, and it’s not doing anything positive for my marriage or my parenting. It’s time to “build a bridge and get over it” as they say. Yesterday I made a conscious effort to stay positive and focus on the good things. By bath time, which can be a stressful time with two tired kids and two tired parents, we were laughing and singing. My husband looked over at me and said “things are pretty good for us, right?” and I had to agree. They really are. Thank you so much for your beautiful writing.

  109. 190

    Jennifer says

    Wow! Your post sounds exactly like me… I mean all of it! The only difference is I have two boys. I wish I could change this about myself. I know it makes me a horrible person to be around. I feel bad for my boys. I’m not even sure where to start or how to do this.

  110. 191

    m says

    What are the chances that I came across this bookmarked site that I obviously wanted to keep in a special place – on this night. I take a Breath in…….. and wipe the tears….
    My children are now grown…. daughter is 19- son is 23. None of the GUILT has left my heart for my years as a sad, “I notice everything mom…and let nothing GO…..” parent. I am also a teacher….of many years… able to deal with ANYTHING during the day…. maintaining the patience of a saint in my classroom…. yet not having one ounce of reserved for my own children when I made my way home. The guilt is unbearable at times. If I could do it all over again…. you know what I would do. I would force myself to your site every day and use it as a wake up call. Blessing to you…… for letting me heal a bit.

    • 192

      says

      My heart is with you tonight, my friend. Thank you for the courage, the openness in which you share your story so that others can remember it tomorrow morning we when have our small children standing in front of us wanting to be loved. I will remember your words, and I will thank you. I wish you healing, peace, and self-forgiveness tonight and this day forward. Don’t forget all the things you did right. I know there were many. I just know it.

  111. 196

    Susan says

    Thank you for your posts! I don’t know how I came across your blog, but I’m so glad I did. Your post that I read this morning was me. I know I need to change my perspective and get a hold of my anger, unhappiness, and frustration – because when I stand back, there are (flowers) everywhere! Years from now, I don’t want to look back and say “Why didn’t you enjoy this time? What was so worrisome?” I got a wake-up call about a year ago from my husband when he said “you’re not happy anymore,” and I’ve been working on it since then. I know hormones are playing a big part for me, but the expressions on my children’s faces just tear my heart out. I’m frustrated that I’m not consciously aware more and that my change in attitude is not happening quicker. I feel like I’m losing time and losing my children’s faith in me. So, thank you for your posts – they steer me back on course.

  112. 197

    Ruth says

    WOW, even a 65 year old grandma needed this today! Thank you for your most inspiring, thoughtful message. This is only the second blog posting I have read (just heard about you) – want to go back and read all your postings. You indeed have a gift to share with all of us.

  113. 199

    says

    I am that one person today. I am the one who needed these words. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I had a big ugly cry this morning over my confusion and doubt about being a mother. I uttered many, many “I can’t do this”es to the empty house (all of my children are school-age). I am emotionally spent. Utterly and completely.

    I have not seen your blog before, but your “six words” post was posted on my local newspaper’s website. From there I linked to your blog. Thank you for your honesty, which inspires me to keep going. Your daughters are so lucky.

    • 200

      says

      Hi Jennifer, I am touched to know that my story found you when you most needed it. I remember that day the pain in my heart was unbearable. But through the difficult look inward, I found the motivation to take one step toward the person I wanted to be and the life I wanted to live. I hope you find the strength to take one small step today. I am here for encouragement if you need it anytime.

  114. 201

    Michelle Sokolich says

    Wow, I completely and utterly identify with every single blog post you write. Thanks for your amazing inspiration x

  115. 202

    Joselyn says

    wow–your blog sure is an eye-opener for me!
    Thanks so much for being so honest with your experiences. You have touched my heart and I want to be a MUCH Better mom today because of you!
    I see myself turning into a mom that my children are afraid of…and I just want to LOVE them so much!

  116. 203

    says

    I sort of stumbled onto your post through another friend. Your writing made me tear up, because I could see myself in your story. Thank you for your words and your perspective change…..I am so glad I read this. A great reminder of what is really important…..and what a difference we each can make when counting blessings on a regular basis!

  117. 204

    Janice says

    Wow. I just read this via Huff Post and nearly started to cry. This is me. Thankfully, my child is young but has already started to verbalize emotions like angry and disappointed. In reading all the comments I have to ask, why is this all of us? What makes us, as mothers, feel like this? I continue to tell myself all the wonderful things I have in my life and how blessed we are to be comfortable. Yet I keep asking myself why I am never truly happy.
    I am going to take your sage advice and apply it to my life…weeds and flowers. The reality is that the only person who cares about the dishes, the laundry, the groceries…etc….is me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and struggles with us.

  118. 205

    Smilingmommy4 says

    This blog post changed my life right after reading it–it was that powerful. All of my children are smiling and happy again because I had the courage to identify what I needed to change–and did. The minute they got home from school today, the dynamic was different, the tone more calm, happy, energetic, and peaceful. No more feeling inconvenienced, tired, and annoyed. It’s called pure joy and happiness. My children’s reactions validated everything. Thank you for writing this post. As a writer myself, I can tell this poured off your fingertips from your heart.

  119. 207

    Valerie Martin says

    I KNOW I should be so grateful for having everything that I ever wanted…A wonderful husband, and 3 beautiful daughter. That is all I ever wanted as a little girl, and wife and a momma!

    My girls hate me! I am never happy anymore…I actually feel like I am living in hell. I do not know how to see the flowers b/c the weeds are SO big.

    It is so hard to see the flowers through being lied to, stolen from (we had to call the police,) disrespected, cursed out and being screamed at, “I hate you!”

    This is not what I bargained for. I often think that they would be better off if I was gone. I have lost every friend I have ever had b/c I have been brave enough to open and share my heart and heartbreak. It is shocking to hear a mother admit these feeling.

    I guess I have managed to take the smile away from everyone including my own. It is 12:30 in the am and everyone is asleep and I am just hear sobbing as I read your post and see SO MUCH of me. I am a bit relieved that I am not as alone as I feel.

    Thanks for sharing your heart b/c I may be the one person who is suffering in silence.

    Valerie

    • 208

      says

      Valerie, my heart breaks as I read this message from you. I am glad you feel comforting in knowing you are not the only one who feels this way. I have received many messages from people who feel so desolate that they don’t even know where to begin. My advice is to just start with one single step. What is your heart urging you to do to set yourself in the direction you want to live? Listen to that little voice inside you that is urging you to take action. If you cannot make others happy, do something that makes YOU happy. You deserve happiness no matter what mistakes you have made in the past. Today is a new day and you can make new choices. It make take time to mend relationships but it first you must make an attempt. Do it for yourself. Wishing you all the best.

      • 209

        Valerie says

        Oh boy, this is going to be a VERY LONG road. It is very hard for me to take the 1st step when I am bombarded with lies, anger, hatred, disrespect, intentional destruction of personal belongings and our home.

        I made a very intentional effort to see flowers when I went to pick my younger ones up from school. As soon as the door swung open…I was being yelled at by my middle about how I did not pack her lunch the way she likes! On and on she went about how she is starving b/c I messed it up.

        It really does not seem fair for me to think that I deserve happiness when I have robbed them of theirs.

        • 210

          says

          One thing I did to get past the guilt I felt for the mistakes I made was to apologize to my children and ask for their forgiveness. I told them what I was trying to do (see the positives, complain less, stop trying to control everything). I explained this in words they could understand. I think it would be reasonable for you to do this but also ask the same kindness from them–something you could all work on together. I taught children with severe behavior issues for 10 years. They were used to yelling at their parents and being disobedient and angry with all authority figures. I made a personal connection with each of them through expectations, mutual respect, and love. Their parents couldn’t believe how well the children were behaving in a short time. I truly believe if yu extend love and positivity to another person, you are more likely to get it in return. I wish you all the best.

  120. 211

    NewHope says

    As an unmarried 20 something without children, I still saw parts of myself in the stress and distraction you described but, what more than anything I saw my mom. I only see my mom once or twice a year now. It is in part because of the expense of traveling back home (about half way across the country), but it is in larger part because I can’t stand to be around her constant stress and discontent. Even without kids in the house now, she finds the littlest things to be stressed out about. I have tried to talk to her about how her attitude hurts the whole family, but she simply blames us for ‘making’ her that way.

    I have struggled with anxiety my whole life and am currently undergoing treatment for social anxiety. One of the things they tell us in treatment is to let go of the past and not try to find the reason for the anxiety, as thinking about past grievances only strengthens anxiety. The moment I read this article however, I knew, THIS is why. THIS is the root of my anxiety. So for all of the wonderful mothers out there who are posting in these comments about how committed they are to changing, I ask that you please, please please DO. No matter how hard or how insurmountable your feelings of frustration may be, your behavior now will truly shape your child’s outlook on life. I am determined to overcome my anxiety and have made great strides in the last year of treatment, but I would be lying if I said that it hadn’t stood in the way of everything from being in a healthy relationships, maintaining meaningful friendships and pursuing my professional dreams. Thank you HFM, THIS is so important.

  121. 213

    LJsMom says

    I thank you with my all my heart for sharing your thoughts and heart. I can only say how timely it is for me to read your story. After all these while, your words made me feel that it is actually okay to feel what I feel and I can do something about it. I keep telling myself to not let out my frustration especially in front of my kid. But I am only human. And today…… being frustrated with all the things I was trying to set right the whole morning, grumbling under my breath all the time, repeatedly telling my kid how he is not helping by doing this and that….. suddenly my kid told me in a calm voice…. “Mummy, let me tell you a word…forgive. Forgive means stop being sad with the person for doing what they shouldn’t do.” He smiled and hug me. He is three plus. My heart shattered into pieces at that moment and didn’t want to let go of the hug. And my kid is a ‘lip picker’ till it bleeds and sore. I used to think it is a habit that he does when he is tired. It saddens me to know that it could be out of anxiousness and stress caused by me. Thank you again. I am looking forward for all the flowers that I will see…..

  122. 215

    says

    I so appreciate your recognizing how fragile the psyche of children is. What you do and say today may forever shape a mentally fragile adult. You now get this & advocate making many changes to benefit your love one. When your daughter leaves you one day, you want her to be confident and prepared. Hopefully, she will reflect your values and character and perhaps become a Hands Free Mama. How proud you would be!

  123. 216

    Syd says

    Oh, how I wish you were writing your words of wisdom 25 years ago. I know, you were probably about 8 25 years ago? I may be well past the child bearing and rearing stages but I love reading your insight. You are a great mom!!! Merry Christmas!

  124. 217

    says

    Thank you for opening your heart to is all and sharing this. It is so refreshing to know there are fellow mamas out there facing and tackling the same issues. My dreams came true in the last 2 years with the best relationship of my life and birth of our daughter. But I struggle with the daily stresses and distractions and find myself pausing – A LOT – to count my blessings. They out number the stress and bad but it’s very easy to forget that. Sun, sand & waves calm me but your posts touch me & remind me to let myself love life right now!

  125. 218

    says

    Thank you. That touched a deep place in me tonight as I read it. I have felt this way for awhile. I used to be such a happy person. I smiled all the time. When did it end? I know exactly when it did. But it’s so unacceptable by society if I say it out loud. I like the weeds and flower analogy. My house definitely is growing lots of weeds.

  126. 219

    says

    I was the lip picker in my childhood (literally) and I am the one who causes the lip picking (metaphorically) in my two younger stepkids today. I am not proud; I am very ashamed. I have followed your blog and also read The Orange Rhino blog and her Love More Yell Less Challenge….I so badly want to stop the momentum I seem to have in yanking my family down into this pit with me. I’ve tried so hard, but the same things keep happening. I’m going to preorder your book and keep trying. Thank you for this post. Rachel. I’m not sure why I was a lip-picker (yes, until it bled) as a child….I remember my mother very fondly….but I know it came from something. And thinking my stepkids feel this way hurts my very core.

  127. 220

    Christine says

    Your story is my story. I am completely and totally overwhelmed in every day life and for some reason I take it all out on my 8-year-old daughter (but not my husband or 3 year old son, and I don’t know why). My daughter is a miracle baby, a preemie born in the days right before hurricane Katrina, who almost didn’t make it. I should be down on my knees every day thanking God for her, and although I am acutely aware of how blessed I am to have my family, especially HER, in the heat of the moment I cannot seem to stop my anger. We have very different personalities and a lot of my frustration comes from her lack of focus (she was diagnosed with ADHD last summer). She’s such an upbeat, bubbly, genuinely happy girl, but I can see her visibly deflate every time MY stress becomes too much for me to handle. I live with the guilt EVERY DAY. Thankfully she is very forgiving and bounces right back, but I’m sure that won’t always be the case. The other day she was putting some dishes away and knocked over a huge box of straws. As I watched hundreds of straws roll across the floor my very first thought was about your reaction when your daughter spilled the rice. Previously I would have yelled and freaked out and probably punished her. I wouldn’t have even helped her pick them up. But this time I immediately looked at her and laughed. Instead of seeing her visibly deflate this time, I watched as her tense face eased, and her eyes went from wide in fear to squinted in laughter. It was the absolute best feeling I had felt in quite a while. But then 30 minutes later I was right back fussing at her for something else insignificant. I need to make a change ASAP – but a consistent change. I just found your blog last week and I am hoping that reading your stories will help me make that change. They sure have given me hope so far.

    • 221

      says

      THank you, Christine. There is a lot of hope in your message. Just the NEW reaction you had to the straw incident shows that the awareness you now have is going to help you make different choices. It’s not going to be perfect (who is?) but it can be better — baby steps make a huge difference on this journey toward being a more calm and positive parent. I am so glad you found my blog. Thank you for sharing your difficult truths — there is so much hope when we reveal our struggles and commit to making changes. You have already made great progress!

  128. 222

    Amy says

    I am so glad this was sent to me by email again… I know you said it was a mistake, but I needed to re-read it. I love your blog! It has been so helpful to me. I can’t wait to buy your book and start reading it. :)

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