Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford
I completely agree with Rachel's message, which is to "put down the phone, burn the to-do list, and let go of perfection to grasp what really matters." But as someone who has already discovered the boundaries I need to keep my online life balanced, I wasn't sure the message would be new to me.
It's been at least a year since I took Facebook--and even email--off my iPhone (best decision ever, for me) and I have fairly regular hours for when I am online and offline. I also use the app Self Control for Mac (highly recommended!) and that has helped me concentrate during writing times.
Of course I have days and weeks when these virtual boundaries of mine get blurred and slightly out of focus, but I usually recognize the signs and get back on course when that happens.
Yet even though online addiction isn't a huge problem for me, I still found that Rachel's book (which I was sent to review) got me thinking. I love that she shares her story candidly and vulnerably, instead of just throwing out a list of how-tos and steps to follow.
She weaves snippets of practical advice in between personal snapshots of the ways her life has improved since she had a wake-up call that her real life was passing her by. I also appreciate how she includes her Christian faith and perspective without isolating readers who may have different beliefs.
I began reading Hands Free Mama at a time when I had gotten a little off course with my online time. As a blogger who works from home, it's an occupational hazard I guess!
I was trying to do little snippets of work here and there--a quick response to a Facebook question or a blog comment in between lessons with the kids or before lunch, etc. It was never out of control, but the back and forth disconnected me from the real world and made me feel like I was online more than I actually was.
A couple of days ago I had an epiphany about what was happening: I actually needed a longer block of time in which to work. By trying to fit things into quick checks here, 15 minutes there, I frustrated myself since I could never finish the real work that needs to get done.
So yesterday after being offline with the kids from 7:30am - 2pm (my main writing time each day is from 6am-7:30am) I told them that from 2:15-3:15 Mommy would be working. They could play outside or inside, but I would need to concentrate...because I was doing work that blesses our family and others.
It was heavenly! At ages 10, 9, and 8, my kids are old enough to handle an hour of time without needing my focused attention every other moment. They are also old enough to understand the concept of work and how it benefits our family.
My biggest epiphany was this: After devoting most of my entire day and attention to them, I shouldn't feel guilty for doing the other important work I need to do.
For the first time in a long time, I actually got all my mid-day work done and my emails answered. When I closed my laptop it was with a happy sigh of satisfaction, and I returned my focus to my sweet little people without the frustration of wishing for "more time."
My takeaway from Rachel's book: Question the places in my day that feel off, like they're not working, especially when it comes to my relationship with the online world.
Keep looking for a solution that works for the whole family...and don't feel guilty for doing what I truly need to do online. I rarely do book reviews anymore, but this title is changing the way I think for the better and I wanted to share it with you!
The online world is not bad unless we put it ahead of the things that really matter--that's what Rachel's writing is helping me realize.
"To see the beauty and the goodness before I see
the flaws and imperfections...
To see the opportunities before I notice the inconveniences...
To see the promises of each day before I notice the challenges...
This is how I want to live.
To notice the good--always the good--before anything
else...and above all else."
~ Rachel Macy Stafford, Hands Free Mama