From the comments I am receiving from my readers, many of you are experiencing feelings of shock, disappointment, and tremendous sorrow when you fully realize the valuable cost of daily distraction in your life.
You have told me of your tears. You have told me of your anger. Someone even told me that it was so painful to face that she had to look away.
But through my own experience, I have found that the Breakdown is necessary for the Breakthrough.
I still vividly recall the moment I fully realized how much “living” I had missed by focusing on the wrong things.
At the time of that realization, I was running. And if you have read the “About Hands Free” page you will know that my Breakdown-Breakthrough moment came when I finally allowed myself the REAL answer to the question I was asked over and over again: “How do you do it all, Rachel?” The painful three-word answer circled round and round in my head at the same pace as my feet hit the pavement. I. Miss. Out. I. Miss. Out. I. Miss. Out. After three rounds, the tears were coming so hard and so fast that I couldn’t see the road ahead of me. I stopped running, and in a disheartened voice, I spoke these words out loud: I Miss Out…on life.
That was six months ago. Since then I have realized that in order to truly be Hands Free, I must forgive myself for what could have been. By the grace of God, I have realized that without those mistakes, I would not be where I am today.
In conjunction with self-forgiveness is to recognize the positives. As a teacher, I always strived to see the strengths in each of my students. I always pointed out what they were doing right before I ever made a suggestion for improvement. This strategy produced tremendous results; therefore, I have tried to apply it to myself.
It might surprise you to know that this Hands Free process for me is about acknowledging some of the things I have been doing right. And today I am going to tell you about one of those things.
It very much pleases me to tell you about “talk time.” I have tried to create clever, catchy phrases for each of the categories of my Hands Free narratives and tactics, but not this one. You see, I am not the one who came up with this phrase, and I am not about to change something so right.
When my oldest daughter was three, I turned out the lights after our nightly bedtime story and she asked, “Can we have a little talk time?” Not really sure what that would entail, I said, “Sure.” Since then, we have been having “talk time” every night for the past four years.
What is talk time? It is softness in the glow of a nightlight. It is hushed whispers and muffled giggles. It is blankets and warmth. It is cozy and safe. It is human connection at its purest and most beautiful form.
It is where she voices her dreams of being a teacher…in a classroom with me as her assistant.
It is where we laugh about her extraordinary baby talents like being able to color pictures at age two while the other babies ate their crayons.
It is where I found out she was being bullied.
It is where she told me she wanted to live in my house with me forever…would that be alright?
It is where she asked if parents still see their kids after they go to college.
It is where her heart does its talking.
It is where I feel most at peace.
It is where time stands still.
I may have just recently discovered the Hands Free way of life. But thank God I wasn’t too distracted to realize that the closest thing I have to paradise is a full-size bed with a flower comforter and a little girl in her fuzzy pajamas ready to have “talk time.”
What is one thing you have been doing “right” all along? What is something special you do that makes your heart happy? Claim it as your own. Give it a name. Then do it. And then keep on doing it.
An older mother’s perspective~~I raised my daughter in the 70’s and 80’s which was a much different time. Can you believe that I actually was able to function without a cell phone?!! But still, there were always things to distract me–places to go, people to talk to, shopping to do. But I made the conscious decision to be home and fully available when she came from school. We almost always talked–some days not, but I was there and she knew I would be. Today, my daught is my best friend and we “almost always talk” every day which is the bright spot in my life.
Love you, Rachel
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Carol, I love to hear your perspective. It is refreshing to know that before even before cell phones and hand held communication devices, there were still distractions that parents had to overcome. I know you always made your daughter your priority and that shows in the amazing relationship you have now. Thank you for sharing your bright spot! I love you!
I’m so happy that I knew Natalie at that time. I know exactly what you mean because I really loved listening to her. I think my bright spot is similar to yours because, although I am not yet a mother myself, I feel happiest just being around the children in my life. Lately, I’ve been spending time with twin boys who were in my preschool class last year and their little sister so that their parents can go on dates. I’m so glad that we’ve kept in touch after I spent so much time with them almost every day for a year. I noticed early on that I was one of the few people in their lives that always knew who was who and it made me feel really special and close to them. I love spending time with them and noticing how they’re so alike yet so very different. I treasured my time with your family and I was sad when you guys moved but I know that all I have to do is be myself and be open and the people that matter will continue to find their way into my heart. I’m really enjoying your writing. Keep it up!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Ashley, you have made my day. Such a treat to hear from you and know you are reading my blog. You have one of the most compassionate and thoughtful hearts of anyone I have ever met. Those little boys are blessed to have you in their life. We know first hand how well you bond with the children you care for. You were my angel during a difficult time for me. It was hard to leave my family in Florida. But you came into our lives when we needed you. I will never forget that time we all had together.
Deb Griffith says
I always tell my husband, my children and my grandchildren “I love you “everytime I see them. They all get a hug also. I just don’t know how much time I have on this earth and I always want them to know how I feel. I have lost loved ones who never expressed those feeling and it always left me wondering.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
That is just beautiful, Deb! Thank you for sharing. This is truly a bright spot!
Kristin Shaw says
I love this idea and look forward to implementing it with my son. I hope he loves it as much as your girls do!
As my youngest son naps (11 months) I am on my phone, I’m always on my phone. I found you, I’m not a very religious person but I believe God lead me to . My oldest is almost 8, and I am sobbing add I come to the realization that I don’t even know him. He is outside playing in the leaves right now, and I’m on my phone. I tell him “not tonight” when he asks me for a story so that I can answer emails. He is this wonderful little person that I made and he gets my scraps. I’m mourning the last eight years I have let slip by and praying I can make it right again. Because as of right now, I don’t even think I deserve to be his mother.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Dear Amber, I am so thankful that you found me and that you were courageous in leaving me this message. You are not alone. I was once experiencing the same feelings as you have described. My phone and computer gripped me and I was consumed by my devices and my other distractions. The day I took an honest look inward and realized the cost of my distractions, was a momentous day. I realized if I kept this up, my children would be strangers to me. Knowing my children is my main motivation each day for taking time to let go of my distractions and connect to what matters. I began with 10 minutes–10 minutes to be fully present and interact with each of my daughters. Even in that small amount of time, I felt the benefits of this connection. The time increments increased slowly and the grip distraction had on my life did, too. I hope you will keep coming back and reading here. I think you will find that you CAN do this. You can live the life you want to live. It doesn’t have to be perfect–you don’t have to be perfect–you just have to give a little effort each day to be fully present with the people you love. I am so glad you found me. You are not alone.
you are not alone here….we got this. it’s not too late. i’m right there with you.
The truth hurts, and here it comes…That evening, after I commented to you, I asked my husband if he thought I was a good mother. (oh boy) He looked me in the eye and said what I dreaded hearing. “yeah, when you’re not doing everything else, For everyone else”. It pretty much wiped me out.
So, he was also feeling like he gets my left overs. Oh man, it’s so hard to face the truth isn’t it? Thankfully, I am so excited to change my life! I started the no”distractions” from the time my oldest gets off the bus, until he goes to bed at 8:30. So for four and a half hours it’s just us. Let me tell you, I have gotten more hugs, more stories about his life at school and more I love you moms than I have in a long time. So thank you, thank you for telling your story to help me change mine.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Hi Amber, I am so inspired by your courage and commitment.You are so right, the truth hurts … BUT the truth heals. I have found these places of difficult, painful truths are the spring boards into beautiful change and better choices. It sounds like you are on your way to a Hands Free life. I love the choices you are making and the rewards you are experiencing because of them. You have blessed me by sharing your story. So thankful we are on this journey together, my friend.
Oh, I have the same trouble. When dd was born 15 months ago I realized that we had to cut out the distractions. We turned off the cable and no iPhone or Blackberry or iPad while she is awake. 15 months later I still need this reminder as it is so easy to do it “for just a second” and end up 15 minutes later. I also appreciate Amber’s story as I know that I do it to my DH when DD goes to bed and must work on this (he and I both must).
I’ve been reading your posts for several months and there is not one I finish reading with my eyes dry. I have tears of joy, or sadness, or regret, or gratitude, or bliss, or enlightenment, every post.
Thank you for your insight. It is good not to feel alone in the journey.
Congratulations on your life and inspiration!
Reading this post, it comes to my mind something that troubles me each night that my children sleep on each of their beds.
I totally relate to you since I have a 9 yr old daughter and a 5 yr old son. On weekends, it is not unusual that they sleep in the same bed. When this happens, we say our prayers, and share the “best and the worst of our day”, a story, a guided meditation and some “talk time”.
However, on school nights, we do all of the above together, and then each one goes to their one bed. And this is where my heart tears in two. My son, who has trouble sleeping, who usually needs his chest rubbed, who longs to talk to me about his nightly fears, asks that I stay with him “5 little minutes”.
And my daughter wants me just to talk and stay until she falls asleep.
I usually am solomonic: I stay with neither of them. Because “it-is-time-to-go-to-bed, it-is-late, you-have-to-get-up-early, I-can’t-be-with-both-of-you-at-the-same-time, I-am-having-dinner-with-daddy, or-whatever”.
Sometimes, when my daughter falls asleep, I go to my son.
But I missed this precious time with my daughter.
When she was an only daughter, we used to have this time for ourselves. Now we share it as a family, since my husband usually is home by that time.
How do you, readers who have more than one child, put your children to bed and manage a situation like this? I want to be there for both of them, to have a special “talk time” one on one… But we are three…
Thank you, again, Rachel, for your beautiful way of living life and marvelous way of sharing it.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Hi Ilena, thank you for your kind words. I am honored to know you have been reading my blog for sometime. That makes me feel so good.
I appreciate you taking time to share your concerns and feelings. I think there are some situations where having 1:1 talk time with all your children is nearly impossible. My children have gotten to the age where they can read independently while the other one has talk time with me but before this point it was definitely challenging. I think if you are striving to make meaningful connection with each of your child consistently — maybe this means you alternate “talk time” nights — then you are creating an open line of communication and haven for them. And there are times when you will simply be too tired or you want to be alone or spend time with your spouse and you will say, “Not tonight.” I would not feel guilty about that. There are times when it’s important to put our needs first. Here is a great article that I think you will find helpful. The author illustrates beautifully how there are many occasions to build trust/communication with our children — not just at bedtime. Good luck!!!
“Will It Be You?” http://powerofmoms.com/2012/10/will-it-be-you/
Sheila B says
Can your husband take turns with you in doing this with each child?
It would help him develop a new closeness with the kids as well.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Absolutely, Sheila! My husband loves having “Talk Time” with the children too. Thanks for mentioning it.
My husband is ALWAYS on his phone. I think my relationship with him is beyond repair. But I wish he saw at least what is going on with the kids. But he does not listen to me.
What I wanted to ask here is …. I believe that when people have this habit, it is (a lot of the time) because they are subconsciously taking refuge. Do you agree? If so, how to make them realize?
Thank you for taking the time to create such an eloquent description of what so many mothers must experience. I know I have not been truly present in life for too many years. I just tonight told my daughter she could cuddle with me, but only for a few minutes because I needed to fix, well, my phone. I bookmarked your site some time ago and stumbled across it again tonight in my distraction during phone backups, etc. While I’m not proud of how I got here tonight originally…putting a time limit on close, quiet time with my daughter, I am certainly happy that I took time to read through your posts. I feel shame and disappointment in how much I have let technology and work rule my life as a mother to a beautiful 9-year-old girl. I have a challenge now to find that quiet again in my life so that my focus is her. Thank you.
Hi Rachel, this is seriously such a heart warming post .. i have a good open relationship with my kids, but i wud love to follow ur lead and make “talk time” more ritualistic. Can u suggest ways to make it work when u have multiple small kids though? i have 4 kids, (6yrs, 4.5yrs, 3.5yrs and 1yr) … how do u suggest i can go about this with the older three kids at the same time?
[…] world in its truest state. Starting when she was very small, the recurring question at our nightlyTalk Time was always: “Mama, tell me something bad that happened in the news […]