If You Really, Really Knew Me

"I don't care where you've been. I'm just glad you're here now." -Rachel Macy Stafford

“I don’t care where you’ve been. I’m just glad you’re here now.” -Rachel Macy Stafford

I recently had the honor of speaking on a parenting panel with two experts in the field of living with intention and gratitude. Mike Robbins was the panel mediator who posed thoughtful questions to Michelle Gale and myself.

As we took our seats in the chairs positioned at the front of the room, I realized this would be the first time I was seated while speaking to an audience. My eyes were immediately drawn to the people in the front row. As I responded to Mike’s questions, I soon realized I was talking directly to them. I forgot I was holding a microphone. I forgot I was talking to a large group of people. I forgot all the things I had prepared to say and spoke from my heart, just like I do when I write.

One man in a red sweater nodded encouragingly, just like a friend would sitting across from me at a coffee shop. One man clapped enthusiastically after one of my responses. One woman, whose beautiful, dark hair swooped over her left cheek, could not stop her tears. I was speaking to those people, literally and figuratively. I could feel it, and it made me want to share more of my heart with them.

That’s when Mike invited the audience to participate in a group exercise. He instructed them to answer the following sentence with a partner:

If you really knew me, you would know …

After each person took a turn, he or she would go a little deeper:

If you really, really knew me, you would know …

The partners were instructed to continue exchanging their truths until time was up.

Although Mike checked with Michelle and me ahead of time, I felt a pang of discomfort when I heard Mike say that the panelists would go first, illustrating how the exercise would work.

Part of me hoped my microphone would malfunction or I would suddenly lose my voice. Part of me wanted to think of something light and easy that would make people laugh. Part of me wanted get up and run away.

But instead I took a deep breath and looked at my new friends seated in the front row. Their loving gazes indicated I would be safe, supported, and encouraged, no matter what I said.

And what came out of my mouth was unexpected, but it was truth. I said:

If you really knew me, you would know I have trouble forgiving myself for the mistakes of my past. You see, I missed a lot of important moments in my children’s lives due to my distracted, perfectionistic, hurried ways. And when my readers write to me and say, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Is it too late for me?” I tell them, “It’s never too late. Today is a new day. This journey is not about yesterday. It is about today and the critical choices you make today.” That is what I tell my readers. That is what I believe with all my heart. But yet, I cannot offer those same forgiving words to myself.

And then I took it one step further:

If you really, really knew me, you would know that I’ve apologized to my daughters for the impatient, unhappy, perfectionistic drill sergeant I once was and for the hurt that I caused … but when they wrap their arms around my neck and say, “I forgive you Mama,” I can’t quite allow myself to accept or embrace their forgiveness. I must keep punishing myself.

As I set down the microphone, I felt a tear slide down my face. I’d never said those things to myself, much less an entire room full of people, but I did not feel embarrassed or ashamed. In fact I felt lighter, as if a heavy burden had been lifted simply by letting the truth out.

As audience members paired up and began doing the exercise, I watched their faces. I noticed the way people locked eyes. I saw some lean forward. I saw nodding heads and compassionate expressions.  In tears and smiles, I saw hope and maybe even a little healing. I watched as weights were lifted.

Was anyone “fixed” in this five-minute conversation? No, probably not. I know I didn’t experience a momentous revelation that provided an instant answer to my inner struggles, but that was okay. Because what I did feel was a little more hopeful and more empowered. The act of speaking those truths allowed me to really hear them and question their validity.

Afterwards, a young woman who’d volunteered at the conference for several years approached me. “The way you and your colleagues openly shared your hearts changed the atmosphere of the entire room. Your willingness to be vulnerable touched lives here today, and it will affect the entire conference, maybe even the world,” she said hopefully.

Like me, this young lady hoped that authenticity, openness, and honesty would become the way of the world. Oh yes. Me too.

When we see each other’s scars, we love each other more,” is what I believe.

Two days later, I arrived home from the conference quite anxious to hold my daughters. I’d been gone for six days because the conference coincided with a book-signing event. Throughout the week, my husband had let me know that my older daughter had trouble sleeping. And about three nights after my arrival home, my daughter told me herself.

“I couldn’t fall asleep when you were gone. I missed you tucking me in,” she whispered in the sanctity of her darkened room. “It helps me calm down to talk to you,” she added.

This admission didn’t take me by surprise. I knew my daughter cherished our nightly Talk Time. But what she said next took me by surprise.

“I finally went downstairs and got a pair of your pajamas pants and slept with them,” she admitted. “When I could smell your smell, I felt better. It helped me sleep. Then I was okay.”

That is what my daughter said. But this, my friends, is what my heart heard:

I don’t care where you’ve been; I am just glad you are here now.

I don’t keep track of your failings; I am just glad you are here now.

I don’t remember your mistakes; I am just glad you are here now.

Because you know what comforts me? You – not what you did do or didn’t do last week, two month ago, or two years ago. You – the mere smell of your presence comforts me.

I don’t care where you’ve been; I am just glad you are here now.

And like my daughter clung to those pajamas pants while I was away, I am now clinging to two powerful revelations this experience has given me:

Let us not be so consumed with the past that we forget we are here now.

Let us not be so ashamed of our inner hurts that we never let them out.

Speaking one’s deepest struggles does not “fix” the problem—it does something far greater.

Speaking one’s deepest truths spreads hope to the person sitting across from you … and possibly his family … her community … their cities … our world.

But it doesn’t end there.

That hope you offered by sharing your pain has a way of finding its way back to you when you need it the most.

And suddenly, unexpectedly, you have something to cling to in the darkest part of the night …

Reminding you that you are not alone.

pj 3


**A note of apology, June 9, 2014 – I am sorry for the random old posts like this one that have been emailed to my blog subscribers over the  past few days. I am trying to get to the bottom of it. Thanks for your patience!

Since today’s post was about vulnerability, I leave you with one of the bravest blog posts I have ever read. A brilliant writer that I adore courageously shared her struggle with weight and body image that I believe is a life-changer and possibly a life-saver for many adults and their children. I would love for you to read “Enough” and support the bravery exhibited by Katrina by sharing it. Spread hope. 

Thank you for walking beside me on this journey. For those who are new here, you can read about the steps I took to transform my distracted, hurried, perfectionistic life in my book, HANDS FREE MAMA, a New York Times Bestseller. 



  1. 3

    Tamara says

    Thank again for a heart touching story. I recently purchased your “live hands free” bracelet. When I got it, I explained it to my oldest daughter (she is 6 yr) and my husband. I told both of them that this bracelet represented my precious time with them and at any point throughout the day, if they were talking to me and I was on my phone or distracted, they could ask me to stop and focus on them or just say “live hands free.” While my 6 year old just smiled and went on her way, my husband utilized this many times over the last week or two. It seems that not only do I let my “other” things distract me from my kids but also my spouse. It has been an amazing couple of weeks. Just having something on my wrist to help me remember what is important has changed my behavior. Thank you.

    • 4


      Thank you so much for sharing this, Tamara. It is so inspiring to read that you openly shared with your family your struggle and what you are trying to do about it. You also offered them a way to help you and support you. I think it is beautiful that you chose “live hands free” as their reminder phrase because it is not judgmental or condemning. It is supportive. I cannot help but think your daughter will remember this phrase as she grows and very well might say this to herself when she needs to put down the device. What a gift! Thank you for sharing the impact this phrase/bracelet is having on your marital relationship. I am certain others will read this and it will bring a light bulb moment.

      For anyone wondering about the LIVE HANDS FREE bracelet that Tamara is talking about, here is the link. We will also be offering non-leather alternatives and should be able to get them on the site sometime today or tomorrow. There are also ONLY LOVE TODAY bracelets. http://shop.handsfreemama.com

    • 5

      Debra E says

      Inspiring Tamara! What a great way to “use” the bracelets! I’m going to follow your example.

      Secondly I have a question for Rachel. I’m intrigued by the “Talk Time” you have with your girls and I need to do that with mine (ages 7 & 5). Their beds are in the same room and they go to bed at the same time with my husband and I taking turns reading to them and putting them to bed. I homeschool so the 3 of us girls are all together all day long and I can see the value in doing one-on-one talk time with each…especially at the end of the day when their little minds are racing with the events and emotions of the day (doesn’t this happen to us adults as well when we actually stop and slow down when we go to bed). The time when they might have questions or just want to share something. Can you think of any practical suggestions on how I could implement this with my girls given their sleeping arrangement?

  2. 6


    The depths to which you will allow your soul to go inspire and humble me. We are all on our own journeys toward joy, but, sometimes we walk the path with others. When I look over and see you traveling along with me, I am comforted, graced and blessed. Thank you for being on the road with me, and so, so many others.

  3. 9

    Ingrid says

    Wow. Inspirational. I am trying to let go of my phone and accompanying work obligations to be more present. Your continued reminders are a huge help. Thank you.

  4. 11

    Carol Koskyn says

    This is me, this is me to a ‘T’. I forgive my children all the time, I apologize all the time but I just can’t quite leave behind the thought of the pain I may have caused my children during one of my angry, hurried episodes. I worry about them ‘remembering’ what mom was like, I close my eyes and see the look on their faces in when they were hurt or scared because I was angry for something. I cannot forgive myself. And I, too, cannot let myself be forgiven even after they have hugged me a 100 times telling me, ‘it’s ok, mom, we love you, we know you are good mom’. This is going to take a lot of work.

    • 12


      Hi Carol, thank you for sharing the truths of your heart and walking beside me on this journey. While I was in Austin, TX for my book signing, I was able to meet face-to-face with an award-winning author, speaker, and parenting coach who has helped many people and families work through challenging moments and emotions. Each week she takes helps me respond to my readers who request practical tips and strategies for overcoming issues. Her expertise and experience is so vast and wise and she charges nothing! She just truly loves helping families. I am going to ask her to share her thoughts and suggestions on self-forgiveness on this comment so that we can all learn from her wisdom. Check back tomorrow for her response. Thank you for taking time to share your heart.

      If anyone would like to personally contact Sandy with a question , click here for her contact page.

      • 13


        Rachel, Carol and all,

        Self-forgiveness can be one of the hardest things for any of us to do as you can see in all of the “me, too” comments that follow. Rachel, I think your statement, “I can’t quite allow myself to accept or embrace their forgiveness. I must keep punishing myself,” is a good place to start.

        Consider why we use punishment at all. It’s been handed down to us as a tool for behavior management/modification. Thank goodness there are better options available today for helping children manage themselves (which is what I teach), but if you are using punishment on yourself, it’s highly likely that it was used on you when you were a child. You are simply doing what you were taught.

        While punishment can stop a behavior in the moment, one problem is that it only stops it for as long as the threat of punishment remains. The second problem is much worse – it sends the message to children that they have to be punished to do the right thing. When they believe that, they latch onto punishment and cement it in their brains in the form of a guilt button to use as a self-management tool. Because they also learned the other message that the “wrong” behavior only stops for as long as the threat of punishment remains, they can’t give it up. That’s why so many of us still have it now.

        In a nutshell, why self-forgiveness is so hard is that as long as you believe that you need punishment/guilt to do the right thing, you will not be able to let it go. LETTING GUILT GO REQUIRES YOU TO UNDO THE BELIEF THAT YOU NEED IT.

        This is where the importance of understanding your true intentions comes in. In my comment to Zoe in Rachel’s previous post: http://www.handsfreemama.com/2014/03/03/the-ten-minutes-that-changed-my-distracted-life/#comment-101598 , I discussed the role that recognizing your children’s true intentions plays in staying calm when they do things you don’t like. The same thing is true of your own intentions. Understanding the true intention behind your actions can completely change the way you see yourself. It’s the key to seeing yourself through loving eyes as your children and I see you.

        At the risk of running a bit long here, let me see if I can get you started:

        Changing how you see yourself usually takes some work and outside guidance because it involves finding your own blind spots. For example, if my short explanation above helped you better understand your childhood intention for installing the guilt button (to make sure you did the right thing) and you hadn’t been aware of that before, it may already be easier to forgive yourself for doing it. Even if your button is still active and you hate it, this understanding could give you a start at self-forgiveness.

        If you keep going, you may even be able to see that given your childhood beliefs about self, it was actually a SMART choice to put that guilt button there. If so, that may help you take the self-forgiveness even deeper. I mean, if you were sure you needed punishment to do the right thing, how else would you have been able to do anything right all these years? That kind of realization can even take you to the point of thanking that little version of yourself! Then, to take it even further, when you see how long you have clung to this self-management strategy of guilt, despite the mental anguish it caused you, you can begin to see who you really are in the sacrifice you were willing to make in order to keep yourself in line, especially if you can see that you’ve been holding onto that painful guilt to be a better person for your children and spouse.

        This is what I hear in many comments, and Rachel in your writing, over and over:
        YOU WANT TO DO THE RIGHT THING NOW, AND YOU ALWAYS HAVE!!! That’s why you keep trying.

        When that really sinks in you will see that you would keep trying even without the guilt button, because it’s what you want, not because some punishment is making you. You can believe it because when you read it, you can feel it in your heart. That’s who you really are. The only thing telling you otherwise is a little leftover voice in your head that was put there when your childhood intentions were misunderstood.

        Imagine if in your childhood when you did something wrong, your parents had pointed out your intention to do the right thing rather than assuming you meant to do the wrong thing and punishing you for it. What voice would be in your head then? With some work you can switch those voices now for yourself.

        Take yelling for example. Why do you yell? To be mean (guilt), because there’s something wrong with you (guilt), because you don’t love the person you are yelling at (guilt), etc.? No. My guess is that you yell to make sure your children do the right thing! Imagine that! And check yourself on this one – I’ll even bet that on some level you are trying to save them from a punishment they would hate! That’s a pretty big deal especially if you hold the unconscious belief that they need to be punished to do the right thing.

        There’s a second reason, too. It has to do with your needs as a human being. I talk about this in my book in reference to children, but it holds true for us, too: whatever we do in some way or another is meeting our unconscious needs. The big need at a moment of perceived resistance is power, particularly if you have the thought that you can’t make a child do something he/she needs to do like hurry. That’s the moment you start to feel helpless. The more the child resists, the greater your need for power.

        Watch yourself, and you will probably see that you start off with small actions and raised tones that make you look and sound more powerful, then escalate to yelling and even more powerful moves and sounds. That’s you naturally and unconsciously trying to meet your need for power. You don’t like how you’re meeting that need, but it’s really hard to stop when you don’t know what else to do and when on some level it actually works to fill your need for power and gets the kids hurry. Our children escalate to fill their need for power, too, but we call theirs tantrums.

        So basically, the work that needs to be done to forgive yourself begins with understanding your true intentions and learning to recognize that they are who you really are. Your intentions are what your children love about you, and why they can forgive your missteps of the past. They have been telling you with those 100+ hugs, that as long as you keep trying, they will be right there for you. They know who you really are, and it’s time you did, too.

        For me, coming from that same perspective, I would have to say to everyone reading this that if you added one more really to the speaker Mike’s inquiry, “If you really, really, REALLY knew you, you would know…” that each of you has a truly loving heart and is parenting with the best of intentions, because that love is clearly the source of who you want to be for your children, and who you are in providing support for each other. I’ve never seen so much love poured into one blog! For that I credit you the readers and you Rachel and the inspiring hands free movement that you have created.

        PS Rachel, thank you for your gracious introduction and recognizing my intentions here. I do love helping families, and I charge nothing to help the readers here on the blog, or when they contact me and I am able to respond with a short call or email. There are a lot of free resources on my website as well, but I do charge for other things like classes, private coaching, speaking engagements, etc. Just didn’t want anyone to be surprised when they visit me there. <3


    • 14


      oh yes, carol…i hear you on this. that’s what i worry about, too…is she gonna remember how i made them feel in those moments that i’m not happy with myself in how reacted…even thought i apologize and i explain why i did what i did….i still walk away hoping i didn’t scar her for life. but this message that rachel wrote her from her daughter has really showed me what it truly is about!!! i’m SO grateful for this and i just know, you’re not alone…i feel that same way!!

  5. 15

    Erin says

    This. Love this. I wish the world would be more open. Instead, people get uncomfortable, run away or just ignore when real feelings are involved. Sigh. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability.
    I see a lot of myself in your first posts, as a fellow type A list maker, HOW do you do this? I always feel a pull to something else when I am trying to be hands free. Where do you draw the line, where are the limits, HOW do you do it???!!! This mama needs help…

    • 16


      Hi Erin, thank you for the supportive words. About your question regarding a pull to do something else when you are trying to be hands free … When I first began, I set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes. My pull to my distractions, my productivity-driven nature, my inability to slow down were fierce. When I set the timer, it was like I was giving myself permission to simply BE … to be available to GIVE LOVE and BE LOVED. My children drew to me like magnets in that time because I was always such a moving target. In those 10 mins, something special, memorable, tender, or silly happened. This response I got from my family was so reinforcing. My time increments grew over time, but I those initial 10 minutes helped me see that that other STUFF was still there, that it could WAIT and that my human connections were too important to keep missing.

      Please remember this is a PROCESS and it takes time to transform yourself and begin to let go of the need to constantly check something off a list. It also goes into the internal distractions that must be dealt with. The “WHY” we feel the need to accomplish things and have things look a certain way. This is all addressed in my book. I included every step, every strategy I used so people could see there was a lot to addressing a distracted nature–way more than putting away a phone or a to-do list. I think you will find the guide very helpful. http://www.amazon.com/Hands-Free-Mama-Putting-Perfection/dp/0310338131

      • 17

        Erin says

        Thank you Rachel. That’s the encouragement that I needed. With such a “do” nature I often fail at the journey part BC I just want to BE there already! And I know logically that is silly. Book is bought. Thank you. Now to work through it and the journey without rushing. My family deserves it.

  6. 18

    ellen says

    I’m struggling with letting go > of past hurts and disappointments, both that I’ve given and received. I have been unemployed for 9 months, and this experience has shaken my faith in myself as well as everything that I thought to be “true” about my life. I had an “ah-ha” moment where I realized that NOTHING is ever permanent and everything is subject to change. It was then I started to believe that right now, this moment, is the most precious and most powerful I will have … over and over and over again! It takes practice, to believe, but the outcome is worth the effort!

  7. 20

    Elizabeth says

    I came across your blog via facebook almost a year ago and have been an avid follower ever since. I’ve bought your book and am slowly working through it. “Thank you” doesn’t quite seem enough, to say to you, but its what we have. Thank you for sharing this struggle and thereby helping me face and go through my own struggle. You are truly changing peoples lives, in the gentlest and kindest way possible. This week I have got up half an hour earlier each day so that I can sepnd time with my daughter, aged 5, before we part ways for the day. Just this small step has meant so much to us all. We’re all happier. I don’t know if I can get the guilt to ever go away. I see now that not accepting the guilt is a first step. Thank you – again!

    • 21


      “Thank you” is more than enough, Elizabeth. Just knowing you have been here walking beside me for a year now means more than I could ever express in words. And thank you for letting me know my words have inspired action — time together with your precious five-year-old. Just thinking of her happy face, being with mom, well … that makes me smile too.

  8. 22

    Johanna says

    The love and hope you are spreading and installing in people is a blessing. Thank you for using words to share what I cannot seem to express.
    You are being guided in a most wonderful way and in return, you are guiding us. Blessings and love

  9. 23

    Rachel says

    I am speechless, overwhelmed, in awe, humbled, challenged, provoked, reminded, encouraged…loved.
    Thank you for being so transparent, and obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Truly your purpose on Earth is great & the treasures you are laying up in Heaven are even greater.
    I wish I knew you personally so I could give you a hug! I know that one day in Heaven I will meet you & know you are the one God used to save my hurting heart & give me a breath of fresh air.
    Much love to you…

    • 24

      Casie says

      Amen! God has truly given you an amazing spiritual gift of encouragement. I pray that you will be strengthened by His love and continue to share your journey with us readers.

  10. 25


    WOW Rachel! You amaze me every post you write and share with us. Your heart is so open and you are so strong. God put you here to do EXACTLY what you are doing. For the better of yourself, your family, and the ones lucky enough(and smart enough) to follow along with you! I share your blog with anyone that I can think of when it comes up at the appropriate times. God Bless You! Oh, and your writing is exceptional–it still amazes me!

  11. 26


    Hi Rachel: I work with kids and parents in a trauma group. How we help heal these traumatized kids is for them to be able to get a coherent narrative of their trauma story, be able to tell it and have safe people around to witness it. This is how they are able to move on, mind body and soul. We also help to strengthen thier attachment to their new “forever” parent(s), these kids have a lot of trouble sleeping at night so we suggest that the parent give the child an old t-shirt to use a pillow case, so that even though the parent isn’t always able to be there, they are still with them. You don’t always have to be present to be present in a child’s mind. Your daughter figured that out all by herself. Another thing I tell the parents in our other parenting groups is: “You do the best you know how, and when you learn better you do better.” Guilt won’t make you a better parent, forgviving yourself will.

  12. 27

    Paige says

    In all my years of wandering on the Internet, I don’t think I have ever yet left a comment on a single blog I’ve read..I’m lurker that way I guess. But something happened yesterday that almost brought me to my knees, and my need to share it with others who understand is so great, I simply can’t suppress it.

    My nine year old daughter was dropped off yesterday by her sitter, as she is every Monday. I was waiting for her at the top of our stairs, and as she climbed up them she said to me “Why are you so happy today?” I asked her what she meant, and she said “You’re just standing there smiling at me. Usually you’re like..” and she proceeds to let out a big, long, loud, annoyed sigh and rolls her eyes. And my heart shatters into a million tiny pieces because I know it’s true. My ugly truth, laid out plainly before me by my beautiful only child, whom I love more than anything in this world.

    I’ve been trying so very hard, and we have made strides. But that moment sent me reeling back, choked with guilt.. wondering if it IS too late, if the damage has been done, if that is how she will always think of me. My heart knows it’s never too late, but my head says “you blew it.”

    I really appreciated your post today, it gives me some strength to listen to my heart.

  13. 28


    Hi Rachel,

    I like thinking about sharing those moments as lighting a match in the darkness. The light illuminates those dark, scary corners. It allows others to see our cobwebs. When no one runs away, we find some much relief in knowing we can handle them, and others can, too. After that, we just might find the courage to light another match and clean up the cowwebs. Or to walk away from them, to a different corner in the light. Sometimes it’s both.

    Thank you again for all your work. It is definitely light to me!

  14. 30

    GG says

    As always, this post came to me at the most perfect time. I truly needed to read these words and let them wash over me. Thank you ever so much for sharing!!! You really do have a profound effect on the world, just by doing what you do and recording it here for others to read. You have a way with words that seems to flow so effortlessly and always hits home with the most profound message, delivered at the perfect time. I look to you for inspiration each and every day. Thank you!!!

  15. 31


    Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your journey with the world…by speaking up at that conference, you didn’t just change the atmosphere in the room. You shared it with us, your readers, and you touched even more lives. You have a gift for spreading gratitude and awareness. I keep coming back to Hands-Free Mama as my road map on my own journey to be more patient with myself, more forgiving with myself, and more loving with myself…so that I can be more patient, forgiving, and loving with my family, the people I LOVE. You are always so good at reminding us that it starts with forgiving ourselves. And that it is journey. A journey that can begin at any time. A journey that is ongoing. And that that beautiful journey is worth it, no matter where we are on it.

  16. 32


    I love your blog and your message. I’ve been following you for about 6 months now; some days I let your message come pouring in, some days I feel like I can’t go there yet. Those are the days I need your message the most, the days when I am having the hardest time disconnecting so I can really connect with my kids.

    Regarding forgiving yourself: constitutional homeopathic treatment can really help with that feeling of being stuck and not able to forgive yourself for things in the past. It can help with releasing past emotions and memories that we feel “stuck” with and allow us to move forward free of guilt and remorse. I felt torn about telling you this information; maybe you’d feel like I was saying there was something wrong (which I’m not saying at all), so please just know that my intentions are only good in telling you this. Let me know if you want more information.

  17. 33

    Lloyd Neale says

    Your message was so timely and a perfect reminder of the love in your heart you continue to share with all your readers allowing us to become stronger individuals. I met a young lady for the first time today and after hearing the struggles she was facing in her life I immediately said I had a power story for her to read. I printed out your message and said, “This will bring comfort to your journey. Please make sure you join Rachel’s incredible website. She has a vision that will help change the course in your life’s journey.” Bless you my friend – like me, you’ve changed another person’s life!!!!!

  18. 34

    Terri Torrez says

    I need to remember not to read these posts in the office; the tears are flowing now. My 11-year old left this morning on a 4-day retreat. Makes me glad I got up early this morning for extra cuddle time. Thanks for sharing.

  19. 35

    Carina says

    Thank you for sharing your story- I always find inspiration in your writing and this one really hit home.

  20. 36

    Jen says

    Dear Rachel,
    Your posts give me hope whenever I read them.. I am discovering that the biggest boulder in my path is that I really battle to forgive myself, which is making a busy life with 2 children under 2 even harder. The assurance and peace that your story about daughter brings me is huge. I feel like every part of my life is in upheaval right now, and so finding peace, hope and joy are paramount; for me but really importantly for my babes. I desperately want them to thrive, and so pressurise myself to ‘perform’ for them… I never reach my expectations.. Thank you for reshaping my view of me and my kiddies and the little community we form. They want a ‘present’ mummy. And I can best do that by being kind and loving to myself, and realising how they see me.

    Blessing and so much thanks! x

  21. 37

    mary says

    Please please please know how much i needed to read this today. how humbly this brought me to tears. I read this only thinking of my experiences and my struggle with motherhood. Thank you for sharing and although every day, I may struggle with my good enoughs, my persistence and my inner battles, I will hear this, read this and embrace it. Thank you.

  22. 38

    Cynthia Welch says

    Dear Rachel,
    A friend sent this blog to me today and it made me sit back and think deeply. My 4 children are all grown, all over 25. I was a stay at home mom for too many years to count and raised them all before electronics took over our lives. But last week my daughter gave birth to the most miraculous twin girls. Your blog makes me stop sending everyone pictures and videos and just want to sit and hold them. To let them know their Grandma will always be there to love them.
    Thank you.

  23. 39

    Lina says

    I talked to you a bit at your signing in Atlanta. I wanted to say more but wasn’t sure what to say. After I wished I had at least told you how much I love your blog. I am pretty sure I read every post. I don’t usually comment because I try to limit my time online. Because I limit my time online I have stopped following a lot of blogs online, but I keep reading yours :) Thanks. I wish I could comment more, but I suppose you understand.

  24. 40

    Christi says

    Beautiful words, as always. This makes me think of Brene Brown’s words about shame and being vulnerable. I’m reading ‘Daring Greatly’ now and it’s awesome. Shame seems to paralyze and keep us down, and we must remember that being vulnerable isn’t a sign of weakness. Great illustrations of both in this blog. Again, lovely post today. I always look forward to getting your updates and reading your work. It always inspires me to be better and to encourages me more than I’ll ever be able to articulate!

  25. 41


    Oh, I love this. Thank you. It’s never too late. And our scars just make us who we are. I believe this so deeply, but it’s wonderfully affirming to see it written here.

  26. 42


    I am sitting here in the coffee shop, tears welling. Aren’t we lucky to have such hearts? Wide open, full of joy, or peace, or even sorrow. Oh, to feel all of that and to recognize the tender care in a strangers eyes. Thanks for putting words to it. Graceful and true.

  27. 43

    Jen says

    I am inspired by your blog and trying to be better. I breathe, I speak instead of yell, I look for the good instead of the bad. I am improving, but know this takes time. I need to teach my husband these habits. How can I help him? How can I help others?

    • 44



      Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers. What I want to say to you is this: no wonder you want to share that with your husband! Breathing first, speaking and looking for the good is changing your life with kids, even if just a little at a time. As you said, it is a habit which means that day by day, with practice, it will grow stronger. And of course you will want to share it! As Rachel is constantly showing us, you don’t have to be perfect to be inspiring.

      The most powerful thing you can do for anyone, including your husband and your children, is model the behavior you want to whenever you can, and not beat yourself up about it when you can’t. Each moment can be a fresh start. Modeling is powerful because people notice what works, especially husbands.

      If your husband is not around to see one of your successful moments, share the difference it made for you (even the little ones count) and your wish for him to have the relationship with your child(ren) that he wants, too. Apply the same “only love today” Hands Free Mama principle to him that you are applying to yourself and your children, and acknowledge his intentions. You can always find the good in another person’s intentions if you dig deep enough (see my long reply to Carol above).

      If and when you see signs of interest or curiosity, invite him (or anyone) to read Rachel’s book (see sidebar) and mine: SAY WHAT YOU SEE for Parents & Teachers. Rachel’s is inspiring, motivational and full of tips for stopping and connecting; mine offers a simple three-step approach for connective parenting. It’s short, practical and just makes sense. Most dads love it.

  28. 45

    Melissa says

    Thank you for sharing this story! Being vulnerable and truthful is scary, but we all need to share this side of us to heal, share our scars, show support and to know that none of us our perfect. I use to think all of my girlfriends were better moms then me. I thought they had it all figured out and I would be the one with the “crazy mannered” kids. I use to be my worst bully and was comparing myself to others a lot! I found Hands Free Mama, No Regrets Parenting Book and started some other positive changes and am grateful everyday that I am changing for the better. I can forgive myself and let go of the past. Celebrate today, be truly present for 5 minutes with your kids or write three things you are grateful for. I didn’t yell today, I gladly accepted my son’s invitation to walk with him to the school yard and I let my other son fold his own blankets without criticism! Thank you Rachel for being a beacon of light, love and acceptance.

  29. 46

    AJ says

    I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today…after several weeks of work pressures and months of at least one of the kids always being sick I lost it on Sunday. I lost it all over my 3.5 year old, whose only fault was being a stubborn 3.5 year old. After I calmed down I went and crawled in bed with her. Even though I told her Mommy was sorry and that sometimes even Mommy can make mistakes, that it wasn’t her fault and that I know I should use my words better I still feel terrible. In that moment I was everything I never want my children to see in me and god forbid they ever think that’s how to handle frustration. She has already moved well past it and even in that instant immediately after was so loving and kind without a second thought. Forgiving my faults as a parent, and Lord does it feel like they are numerous, is not something I excel at. I appreciate your honesty and clarity. I worked so hard and went through so much to have my children that I often think I set myself up for failure in an attempt to make sure its all so “prefect”. Finding the space to move through my failures is the challenge I suppose. Thank you again, for reminding me that we are all human, even in and possibly in large part because of our not so shining moments. How amazing the grace of children to love us in spite of ourselves.

  30. 48


    Ah…answers are often shown to us through the purest of hearts. You, like almost all of us, may have veered of track, but you righted your path. Love this entire story, but especially the end.

  31. 49


    Thanks for identifying what I have been lacking. My grown strong-willed daughter is having to deal with my strong-willed 2 1/2 year old grandson. I coach her, when appropriate, with some tips I wish I had known, but it brings up such disappointing memories of how I messed up with handling her. I confess my shortcomings and ask her to be a better mother than I was, but I don’t let go and forgive myself. She is very forgiving and understanding. I was a wreck back then, and my regrets are still unearthed each time I remember those times. The blood of Jesus covers my sins, so I need to be free of my self-condemnation. Thanks again for the reminder!

  32. 50

    Tammy says

    Thank you for opening your heart and your experiences to us. I am always touched and moved by your words and it has led me to stop many times and take note of how I am interacting with my own children. I work as a counselor and see such a need for us all to reconnect with those we love, especially our sweet children that need our touches, our words and just our presence daily. Thank you for reminding me to put down my own distractions and take in each of the small moments, the ones that can linger for a life time!

  33. 51

    Shaya says

    If you really really knew ME (a stay at home mom to a three and one year old) you would see a frazzled mom consumed with guilt for losing her patience tonight with her oldest daughter because it took her too long to choose her bedtime stories (after taking 40 mins just to put her pjs on and brush her teeth). I realize this may sound trivial and yet I feel like a terrible mom for not keeping it together. But here I am writing this post and already I feel better like you did, Rachel. I must thank you for your brilliant honesty which is inspiring so many of us and helping me see the light when I’m stuck in cycles of guilt. Thank you. Thank you.

  34. 52

    Daniel Farrow says

    I felt tears in my eyes reading this too Rachel. I’ve striven for authenticity and honesty before the Lord, but I haven’t always felt safe expressing that before other people. Thank you for your example in that place of vulnerability. May God bless you in this ‘Hands Free’ journey. Shalom!

  35. 53

    Jeanne Johnson says

    Thank you. Your vulnerability and your writing is refreshing. You ARE changing the world…one person at a time. God Bless you!

  36. 54


    Ah, Dearest Rachel. You got me again! Thank you for sharing from your heart your deepest fears, thoughts, hopes and inner strife. Thank you for facilitating an open, honest sharing of our own vulnerabilities. For only in voicing these may we open our arms to embrace the Love and life-giving Beauty within ourselves. In so doing, we open the doors to sharing our sincere, deepest Love with those whom we love. Blessings and heartfelt thanks to you, my friend. xxoo

  37. 55


    This – THIS is writing that matters, and that can change people. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. We ALL need to be reminded that there is forgiveness, and more importantly, forgetfulness!! And that our kids are often the people who are quickest to forgive and forget. Thank goodness because we do them wrong so often.

    Thanks for giving me a perfect read to start my day with today. I’ll be a better mom for stopping by your post :)

  38. 56

    Aileen says

    Beautiful and brave! Your words and ideas stay with me long after reading them. I will not forget the image of your daughter snuggling with your pajama pants. Thank you, again!

  39. 57


    This is a beautiful post.
    Your willingness to share such a personal feeling in person is something I admire. I respect the courage it took. It is even more impressive than doing it here on the blog.
    The exchange between you and your daughter is touching. The love she has for her mom comes through clearly.

  40. 58


    Sounds like a great event, Rachel. And what I also hear your daughter saying is that even when you are away, she knows you love her and are with her in her heart, that you have taught her to cope with insecure feelings, and that those coping skills are due to the deep trust that you are always there for her, near or far; that “suffering” moments in life are just that – moments, always temporary, and always with some deeper lesson to help us live with gratitude. For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing great, Mama. Much love.

  41. 59


    One of my greatest thrills is when my daughter (who lives many miles away) calls and says, “I just wanted to hear your voice.” I raised 2 daughters as a single parent. I have worked many years in three different churches (three different towns) and I love people. I am so blessed – especially with 3 grandchildren. Life is full of opportunities to love, share and care about others. I plan to purchase your book. Thank you.

  42. 60


    As usual, this post came at the perfect time for me — thank you, Rachel! Yesterday, I was beating myself up over a perceived failure in the recent past — I didn’t feel I’d billed appropriately, and I was angry with myself for undervaluing my time, for not asking for an appropriate amount. But all that stress was only taking away more of my time, more of my energy. And it was leading me away from the real reasons I do what I do in the first place! As you write, “Let us not be so consumed with the past that we forget we are here now.” And so I’m going to learn from my mistake, even as I give my best to this project … because who knows what may come of it?!

  43. 61


    Thank you for this post!!! There are 2 deepest truths I struggle with. One is that I am not enough of a mom for my boys. Similar to your thoughts in your post above! Here is my other deepest truth:

    A year & a half ago my brother, my only sibling & tie to my childhood memories, died. No long term illness, no warning, no goodbyes. He was late to Pickles 2nd birthday party. I was irritated that he wasn’t there yet. I sent a frustrated text saying “where r u?” A few minutes later my phone rang and my world crashed on top of me. He was gone. He was gone forever. He left me in this world to navigate without a sibling, without a family tie, without my friend. In the first hour without him, raw emotions flowing so freely, I told my hubby “I wish I would have been nicer to him!”
    In the previous two years we had become first time parents within weeks of each other. His baby was easy going & slept great. Mine was a colic mess & woke every two hours. I was jealous. He bonded instantly with his little girl, my beautiful niece, taking to being a father so naturally that we were in awe. I struggled to like my little man & just felt like I was going through the motions of every day. I didn’t take Baby Pickles many places because I was afraid. Afraid he would cry & people would think I wasn’t a good mom. That they would clearly see, I had no idea what I was doing!
    JT made me laugh. He made me laugh because he was goofy. He made me laugh by making fun of dad, mom & Nancy. He made me laugh the hardest when he made fun of me! He told me to “drop my quarter”, a joke my dad often told about someone being so uptight & tense that they could hold a quarter between their “bottom” cheeks.
    He was encouraging. He was compassionate. He was honest and loving.
    I miss him so deeply that, at times, I can’t breathe.
    I want to feel that I am moving through the process of grieving “properly” but in the meantime, I will TRY to drop my quarter and write. Write it down to process my feelings. Write it down to remember all I can. Write it down to be able to tell my boys & my niece all the good that lived inside of my brother. My only sibling. My very dear friend!

    Thank you for allowing me to share my deepest truth!

  44. 62

    Jennifer Lovingood says

    My close friend posted this to my wall. Long story but divorce custody and mistakes have all but destroyed my ability to maintain a health relationship with my children. Your words and perspective in your situation moved me… not an easy task…. you have given me hope for our future. Thank you.

  45. 63

    Katie says

    I came across your blog by accident and am so glad I did, you are a constant reminder in this online world of pinterest perfectionist to keep things in perspective and that what I have and who I am as a mom, wife and woman is enough and to not take for granted all the blessings I have been given. Thank you for that

  46. 64


    oh, once again, you have written something that has touched my heart SO SO much!! this is why i LOVE what you do here!! this post brought me tears…it was SO great to hear this message from your daughter, because, yeah, it’s SO easy to think that we’re doing so many wrong things…and after reading this…so these we mama’s can hang on to…that i can hang on to…like raising my voice because it was the evening…and it had been a long day and i had lost it b/c i was so tired and in major need of alone time…that, really, apologizing to her and letting it go is all that matters and now, i’m gonna remember this message….all that matters is that i’m there for her!! by her side!! just BEing there for her.

    and now, when i lay down in bed with her every night…because she only wants me to lay with her, not her daddy, i’m not gonna look at this differently….instead of me counting the minutes so i can finally get some ME time…i’m gonna see this now as her just needing me by her as she falls to sleep. :):) again, you’ve touched me so…like always!! i’m SO thankful that i’ve found you and your blog and that you’re here sharing all these wonderful messages that i SO need to hear!! thank you!! :)

  47. 65

    Leslie H says

    I love you!! You have really blessed me with your blog. It was meant for me to find you when I did. Thank you and your loving family for sharing your truths with us all.

    I don’t have a close family. I’m a single mother and my Mom lived with me and my son. She passed when he was one years old. He is now five. Your words fill that void I have with no one to talk to.

    It brings tears to my eyes. I miss my Mom, but I’m not sad. I’m thankful that the Good Lord has blessed you with encouragement and good sence. You are a blessing.

  48. 66

    Trudy says

    Wow…thank you more than you can possibly know for this post and all the others! As always, I had the “aha” moment, the epiphany, the revelation…and tears streamed down my face as I felt the bittersweet release. It was the release of knowing I’m not the only one…that there’s still hope for me…that it can be done…and most importantly that you’re so right! My mind immediately flashed to what seemed like millions of times that I had screamed at my son for simply being a child, the tears and cries that followed, but then the moment of complete forgiveness from him that was sometimes almost instantaneous! I realized he never kept tally like I did. He never held on to the grudge…the anger or hurt. He always let it go as soon as I apologized or hugged him…and even when I didn’t! If he can forgive me and love me so easily…why can’t I? I beat myself up repeatedly for every tally mark, sometimes for hours, days, months, and even years. And while I wallow in my misery, I’m not living and loving as I should be…no, want and need to be. Thank you again for all of the enlightenment!

  49. 67


    Rachel, Thank you for sharing this with us. I am always grateful to speakers who share their problems with a group rather than trying to pretend they have everything together, while telling the group how to put their lives right.
    I am linking to you website in my blog throughout Lent as I have given up time to spend with my boys and put aside the gadgets and distractions during this time. They grow so fast that we have to cherish the moments we have when they want to spend time with us.
    Take care x

  50. 68

    Eliza says


    Thank you for this blog. It is helping me. How do I know? My seven year old daughter asked if I kidnapped her and her brother and was pretending to be her mom. I asked no, why? You seem MUCH nicer lately…not like yourself! Best. Compliment. Ever. :).

  51. 69


    Thanks Hand Free Mama!

    My daughter always liked to keep one of my stinky shirts with her. She would bury her face into it and take in a big whiff of her daddy.

    My first wife and I divorced when my daughter was 2.3 years old. The best thing I ever did as a human being was to always share quality time (undivided attention) with her when we were together. I also made a vow to never criticize her mom and I’ve stuck to that for the past 25 years, too.

    I’ve made and continue to make many mistakes in life. However, the one other vow to myself that I have kept has been to always be positive with my current (second) wife. Our relationship is so good. We are child-free, but share the joy my daughter and we have together. Human relations will always be most important.

    I’m going to go now, and smell my wife’s shoulder as she naps.

  52. 70


    What a wonderful gift to sit with you on that small panel of new friends and speak our truths.
    The world is better with your vulnerability in it sweet one……


  53. 71


    Your blog is a wonderful thing. Thank you for sharing. I feel ashamed sometimes for the various insecurities I have, too, especially because rationally and compassionately I know they aren’t important. Still doesn’t make them go away. Better to share them when I can.

  54. 72


    I recently posted on my Chinese blog (@Laini的袋鼠妈妈) about our “jammy packages”. My 5yr daughter sleeps with them when one of us is out of town… And sometimes when we’re right here! I love your writing, authenticity and spirit. And share your passion. Just in Chinese :)

  55. 73

    d says

    I am thankful that this article reposted itself! It has blessed me more than I have the ability to express in this moment! LOVE when GOD has His way, grace and peace!

    • 74


      Thank you so much for re-framing this “mistake” in such a beautiful way! I felt badly about cluttering up everyone’s email boxes with random posts until I read your loving words.

  56. 75


    Just beautiful!!!! I was lucky enough to be raised by loving patient present parents (even Though they worked full time)! And have been this way with my 4 kids;) but don’t often see this in others. I had a hard time convincing my husband this was the way to be. He’s the perfectionist in our family. But it has paid off. My kids are 16, 14, 11 and 6 and are still as loving and sweet and thoughtful and kind to me as they’ve always been. No drama and we have so much fun together. Being a patient, slower, present mom pays off!!!! Thank you for spreading the word!

  57. 76

    Melinda Hull says

    Your words today are as relevant to me as they were the first time. I needed to hear it again. So the accidental post is God’s providence.

  58. 77

    Laurie says

    No apologies necessary…
    This may have been an old post, but I had not seen it and it was just what I needed TODAY

  59. 78

    Sally Atwater says

    Just an honest question and please don’t take offense…clearly running this blog and business takes up a massive massive amount of time. Book deals, press, etc. I totally get the message about being present and taking time for the kids but while you are advocating hands free, you are also pretty tied in to technology with the work you are doing to spread that message. There’s no doubt that you are ignoring your children to pursue this life’s work? Can’t help but think you know that too.

  60. 79

    Sonia says

    I am a single mom of two boys 9 and 2, reading all of your stories it makes me feel NORMAL. I may not be perfect, I may lose my temper, I may get frustrated but I know that i am not alone in my feelings.


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