Hands Free Mama
Podcast #51 — Aired January 15, 2015

Are you living your life hands free? This week on BetterWorldians Radio we’re discussing simple strategies to live hands free by letting go of meaningless distractions and truly connecting with the ones you love. Our guest this week is Rachel Macy Stafford, author of the New York Times best-selling book, Hands Free Mama. Rachel will discuss how living hands free changed her life and how she’s inspiring others to do the same.

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Rachel Macy Stafford
Author, Hands Free Mama

Rachel Macy Stafford is a certified special education teacher with a Master’s Degree in education and ten years of experience working with parents and children. In December 2010, this life-long writer felt compelled to share her journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really matters by creating the blog “Hands Free Mama.” Rachel provides readers with simple, non-intimidating, and motivating methods to let go of distraction and connect with their loved ones. Rachel’s work has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Global News, USA Today, TIME.com, MSN.com, The Huffington Post, and Reader's Digest. Rachel’s first book, HANDS FREE MAMA, is a New York Times Bestseller. Her second book, HANDS FREE LIFE, hits bookstores on September 8th, 2015. You can join Rachel on her journey to overcome distraction, live better, and love more at www.handsfreemama.com or The Hands Free Revolution on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheHandsFreeRevolution.

 

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
This week on BetterWorldians Radio we're talking with Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Hands Free Mama. Rachel is a certified special education teacher with a master's degree in education and ten years of experience working with parents and children. In December 2010 this lifelong writer felt compelled to share her journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really matters in the world by creating the blog "Hands Free Mama." Rachel provides readers with simple, non-intimidating, motivating methods to let go of distraction and connect with their loved ones. Rachel's work has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America and The Huffington Post. Rachel's first book, Hands Free Mama is a New York Times best seller. Rachel, thanks so much for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio. Welcome aboard.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Thanks you for having me. I'm excited to talk to you.

Raymond Hansell
So we are too. We very much are so and I'd like to start by asking you what does it mean for our listeners to be hands free?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well living hands free means making a conscious effort to temporarily let go of the hundreds of daily distractions that we have and just be fully present with someone or something meaningful in your life. And those distractions can be external, like the phone, the computer, the over-committed schedule, and those distractions can also be internal like wanting things to be perfect or beating yourself up over the past. But all of those distractions can pull us away from what really matters and living hands free just helps us maximize the time that we spend with the people we love and the passions that mean the most to us.

Raymond Hansell
Why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about the moment in your life when you realized you needed to go hands free?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well, I was out for a morning run. It was 2010 and I had this question going around in my head that had been a compliment to me for many years which was how do you do it all Rachel. And for the first time in my life I saw that question not as a compliment but more as a problem, a very serious problem and it was time to answer it honestly. And so with no justifications, no excuses I admitted I miss out on life. That is how I do it all. I miss out on what truly matters and what I miss I cannot get back, and that was my breakdown, breakthrough moment and the moment I knew I wanted to change the way I was living or perhaps I should say the way I was not living.

Raymond Hansell
Now you had a blog post that went viral very early on about how you wanted to stop telling your kids to hurry up. Can you share that story with us?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Sure. So my younger daughter, Avery, has always just lived life at her own slow pace and for years I tried to change her into being more like me, the type A driven, always in a hurry. But one day when she was getting out of the car my older daughter said to her you are so slow, and she crossed her arms across her chest and looked so exasperated and in that moment I saw myself and it was really a gut-wrenching site. And so I realized I said hurry up probably more than the words 'I love you' and that was a painful realization but I needed to admit that truth to be able to have motivation to change. And so part of my quest for being hands free was to let Avery set my pace when I could and suddenly I realized she's pointing out beautiful miracles in nature. She's taking time to hug the waitress and she's checking on her classmate that fell down on a field trip, and I think to myself she is a noticer and the noticers of the world are beautiful rare gifts and I want to be more like her. And so that was the story I shared on The Huffington Post that made an international splash and just really got the word out to people that were like me who were just basically missing their life because they were in a rush all the time.

Raymond Hansell
It did have an impact. How many views roughly do you recall that blog --

Rachel Macy Stafford
I believe it was around eight million, something like that. I know on Huff Post parents it was the second highest viewed post of all time so they were quite impressed and I got to meet Arianna Huffington one day at a conference and she was just so encouraging. She said she likes to share that story when she talks to people so it's amazing how it just reached much further than just parents. This reached everyone because of the culture that we live in.

Raymond Hansell
Right, I can see that. Now let's talk a little bit about the hands free pledge. What is that?

Rachel Macy Stafford
So the hands free pledge, its really one of the very first pieces I ever wrote when I began this journey. I knew I didn't want to keep putting off living in the someday but I wanted to live now. So I made this goal or a promise to myself and I made it very specific because I think if you know what you're aiming for you're going to have a better chance of reaching that goal. And so my pledge has things like I want to make memories instead of to-do lists. I want to feel the squeeze of my child's arms, not the pressure of over-commitment. I want to get lost in conversation with the people I love, not consumed in the sea of important emails. And so when I think to myself, I still use this pledge to this day five years later because it gives me a goal for really each hour, each minute. When I'm in the company of someone I love, I think to myself I want to make memories. I don't want to be checking off things just because okay I got that accomplished and so my pledge is something that really keeps me focused. And I know a lot of my readers have adopted that pledge and it hangs in their house now and that just really makes me feel good about sharing that pledge with others.

Raymond Hansell
Now your book is entitled Hands Free Mama but reading it, it seems there are important take away for all kinds of people from all walks of life. Can you say a little bit about that?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Absolutely. Well, as we all know we live in just a hyper-connected world and our life revolves around tight schedules, text messages, extracurricular activities and errands and to-do lists. We just have so much pressure on us constantly. And so my goal is just to help people keep the most important aspects of life on the priority list, which is the living, the breathing, the laughing, the loving, the listening. All people it doesn't matter what your age, your background, your religion. It doesn't matter. Everybody wants that connection in their life and they want to know how do I get it because I have so much going on. Well how do I do this? And so by me sharing the little steps that I take each day, it resonates with people from different walks of life. Just to give you peace at the way that you're living your life and to have no regrets. That's just something everybody wants.

Raymond Hansell
No regrets, like no worries as they say.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Yes.

Raymond Hansell
There's a quote in the book that reminded me of something I come across conversationally with people from time to time that says "Someday is nowhere to live your life." I guess what it meant to me was I see people who often begin conversations by saying I'll be happy when. They condition their happiness upon when I graduate or when I accomplish this or when I clean the house or when I organize this and so they're not happy right now. This kind of sort of resonated with me that way. What does that mean to you? "Someday is nowhere to live your life."

Rachel Macy Stafford
Yes, well really at the height of my distracted life I became an expert on putting off living. Like you said, I was like well when I drop a pant size then I'll get on my bathing suit and swim with my kids. Or when things slow down at work, we'll do something fun on the weekend. And even down to the minutes, like well when mommy gets this done, I'll play with you. And so placing these conditions on myself prevented me from ever taking a break. I mean I couldn't remember the last time I had sat on the couch and just rested because I was constantly saying well when I get this done. It prevented me from having fun. It prevented me from connecting to my family. And it dawned on me as I began my journey that this procrastination that we do, I know I'm not the only one, it comes at a very great cost and that is the opportunities of today are lost in that delay of truly living.

Raymond Hansell
Tell our listeners a little bit about the stream of consciousness that you wrote on the back of the envelope early in your journey what that stream of consciousness journey meant to you.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well this was just I think it was like one or two days into my realization, the how do I do it all? I miss out on life. I really just was looking and searching and praying for how do I start this change that I want to make in myself. For some reason I had these words jumbling through my head and they were so powerful that I grabbed an envelope and I started jotting down these questions. Questions like what if you missed hearing the best part of your child's day because you were on the phone. What if you missed a chance to listen to your husband's worries because of your to-do list? What if you missed hearing a childhood memory from your dad because you were too busy to call? I didn't really know what I was supposed to do with these questions or why I was writing it but I knew it was important and it was really roughly an hour later the envelope was still sitting there on the counter. I was making lunch for my daughter, Avery who was watching the Lion King. I had my computer open. My phone was buzzing. I was thinking about all the things I needed to get done that day. And for some reason I looked up and really noticed her. I felt this urgency like oh time is really running out. I did something very unusual for my productivity driven nature and I just left the sandwich on the counter and I went to my child. She scooted up next to me, picked up my hand and kissed the inside of my palm. That was it. That was my confirmation to stop barely managing life and start living life and to be hands free.

Raymond Hansell
Now you took some time before you told your family about this effort, this whole hands free effort. Why did you delay doing that?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Yes, I had been distracted for so long, so addicted to doing and checking. I honestly didn't know if I could stop being that person. I didn't want my loved ones to see me fail and I didn't want to see myself fail. So as I explained in the book, I really wish I hadn't waited to share my commitment because when I did the support I received from my family was so helpful. In fact, sharing what I was working on inspired my husband to become more aware of how he could better connect and be less distracted. Whenever a reader asks me well what should I do to start? What's the best first step to take? I honestly think making a public declaration, going public is what I call it. It might sound like honey, I'm making an effort to not use the phone when I'm driving. Could you maybe give me gentle reminders or help me in some way. Or you might tell your family hey I'm not going to be on my phone from six to nine every night. How about we do device free on Wednesday. This would help me with my goal. Or I'm trying not to yell when it's time to get out the door. Could you give me a sign? Put your hand on your heart when I'm yelling and hurting you with my words. Just vocalizing that goal and putting it out there, you're going to have a better chance of staying accountable.

Raymond Hansell
That's great. Great advice for our listeners to go public, to really make that declaration as you read this wonderful book and see all the suggestions. We're going to take a short break right now but we'll talk more with Rachel Macy Stafford about living hands free when we come back. In the meantime I'd like to tell you about our Indiegogo Campaign that's now funding at ABetterWorld.com/kidsgame. A Better World for kids let's children have fun and make a difference through good deeds that they do and positive thinking both in their online virtual world game itself and in the real world. Additionally, A Better World for Kids has promised to pledge 10% of its post-campaign net profits to charities that help children. There are only a few days left to support A Better World for Kids so please go to ABetterWorld.com/kidsgame to learn more and to help fund a better world for kids. We'll be right back.

Raymond Hansell
You're listening to BetterWorldians Radio. We're speaking with Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Hands Free Mama. And now let's welcome back Rachel and MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Rachel.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Hi MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Would you tell our listeners what the sunset moments are that you mention in your book?

Rachel Macy Stafford
I sure will. So hands free means your hands are open but also your ears and your eyes so that you can realize life is going on behind the screen. So what I like to call sunset moments are those beautiful moments in life that happen when we're possibly not paying attention because we're distracted. So I'm very motivated by thinking about what sunset moments I might be missing. So like if I hear my daughter, Natalie, getting out baking pans or I hear Avery practicing her guitar, or Scott saying hey let's go throw the football, I think to myself what am I missing and the answer is usually I'm missing a sunset moment. A moment that is beautiful to behold but if I'm distracted I will miss it. So that has really helped me maintain my tech-life boundaries and I find it interesting because my daughter, Natalie, is 11 and me vocalizing not wanting to miss the moments has also started to impact her with her technology. Last spring she was working on her homework and she told me that the cat came in and wanted to play and she said well I shut my computer because I know the computer will be here forever but Banjo is only going to be playful for so long. So I thought well that's good. Something is starting to get through to her about real life is more important than what's going on on the screen.

MarySue Hansell
That's a beautiful example. You can see that your children are reflecting now what you're doing.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Yes.

MarySue Hansell
It's so nice to visualize those scenes; those sunset moments and you can go back, reflect on them finally. I know I have. I have grandchildren and it's just so wonderful to take the time with them. Now you say consistently choosing connection over distraction is the key to a joy filled life. Tell us more about that.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well all day long we have choices on how we spend our time. When you begin to develop a hands free mentality or way of thinking you become mindful of all these choices that you have. So for example, you might ask yourself well could this phone call or this Facebook status update be done later. You could ask yourself could this laundry folding or this house cleaning be done as a family. Sometimes the answer will be no because that's life and adults have things that we need to do but other times you might find yourself saying hum, right now there is an opportunity to connect to my child or my loved one and that is the most important thing I must do right now. And so whether someone is able to let go of distraction for ten minutes, two hours, an entire day, meaningful connection can happen in that time if we choose it.

MarySue Hansell
It almost sounds like a mindfulness meditation. That's a big stuck meditation that most people --

Rachel Macy Stafford
Exactly.

MarySue Hansell
Its so nice to be present and enjoy all that with the children, all those moments, and with your husband and family too for that matter.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Absolutely. I definitely call those the moments of life that make it worth living. If you miss those, you're pretty miserable.

MarySue Hansell
Its true. They're so heartwarming. It'd be a shame to miss them.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Yes.

MarySue Hansell
Taking the time for connections can be simple like you mentioned. Involving the kids in the household tasks. There's a funny story about my grandson was over the other day and I went to the pantry and he wanted a treat. I said oh well I want to check to make sure it's not expired. I said to him oh if I had the time I would just reorganize the closets and throw out anything that's expired. He said I can help you, Mimi. He calls me Mimi. He's only five years old. It was so cute to see how he enjoyed this.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Oh yes. Well that's kind of like a big person activity and the fact that you engaged him in that, kids love to be involved. Sometimes people think oh I have to think up something exciting to play with them. I mean you can say let's organize the spices and put them in alphabetical order and they're going to think its fun because they're doing it with you.

MarySue Hansell
It was funny. My daughter told me when he went home he said if I'm really good do you think Mimi will let me do another closet another time. (Laughter)

Rachel Macy Stafford
I like how you think. I'm going to steal that idea.

MarySue Hansell
Now you stress the importance of creating family traditions. What are some things that you suggest? What are the benefits that you found?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well, in my family my children and I we love to bake together and we do that on a regular basis. I say that is one of our most meaningful traditions. When my oldest daughter was two and could hold a spoon that's when we started. She's 11 now so you can imagine how many memories and shared conversations we've had baking together. But what was really neat about this tradition, how it evolved is it quickly became our favorite way to express kindness and appreciation for people in our lives. We'll give them to teachers and neighbors but we also realized to touch people outside of our inner circle is very powerful. I'll never forget the first time we decided to leave baked goods out for the trash collector. We watched from the window as this man got out and he couldn't figure out why this colorful bag of goodies was sitting there with his name on it, Mr. Trash Collector. You would have thought he had never seen anything like it in his life. We didn't even -- we couldn't hear what he was saying but you could tell he was just touched deeply by this gesture. I watched my girl's faces in the moment and they were like four and seven. They realized those little hands held great power, great power to touch someone else's life in such a simple way. And so really for our family, our traditions are really about helping others. Every November we pack shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and that's something that are involved in from shopping for the items to packing it, to teaching other people about packing shoe boxes. Every Christmas Eve the girls decorate envelopes and we put cash inside them and just walk up to people who look like they could use a smile. My daughters look forward to that gesture of kindness really more than I think opening gifts. Every Christmas they say are we going to do the envelopes. And so I just think if you can make giving and touching other people's lives a tradition in your family the benefits of that just really the ripple effect that's going to cause is endless. Not only to the people who you touch but your children to learn that at a young age.

MarySue Hansell
That's a great story. It reminds me of when my kids were little we used to get letters from the post office from kids that wrote Santa and say the gifts that they want. And so we used to actually get them gift cards, put them in the envelope and send them to these people from Santa. So I miss that. It was really a nice thing to do. I love the story that you told about the trash man. So kind. I love that idea that you mention in the book about sun delay. Could you tell us more about what is a sun delay?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Sure. Well I lived in Florida for about six years and I became familiar with the word 'sun delay' and the traffic reporters would use it when the glare of the sun was so strong that the drivers couldn't see the road. And so of course the traffic slowed because the sun was so bright. So when I decided early on in my hands free journey that I didn't want my children to grow up without a loving hello when we had been separated. I wanted to make sure they knew that I missed them. I thought of the term 'sun delay'. It was kind of like I thought to myself no matter what I'm in the middle of doing, no matter how inconvenient it is to look up, no matter how busy I am, when my children and I are reunited I am going to make the world stop for a moment so I can just shine all my love and all my care and my presence into their hearts.

MarySue Hansell
That's really nice.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Thank you.

MarySue Hansell
Let's talk a little bit about the inclination to say yes to everything everybody asks you. Can you tell us about that, how you got into it and how you got out of it?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well I definitely am a people pleasure. I have been all my life and saying no is very hard for me. When I was going through my hands free journey and I had really worked on quieting the external distractions I kind of started to feel like there was a pressure coming from outside my home and it was because I had really over-committed myself. I was spread too thin and that was causing me to really be a very grumpy person, someone you don't want to be with at home. And so I realized this inclination to say yes to everything was really causing a damaging cycle of busyness and it was really hurting my relationships, my own health and my happiness. And so I just decided that I needed to start eliminating unnecessary commitments so I could invest my time, attention and talents to what truly mattered. And so one of the key factors for me for helping me do that, well first of all I love David Allen's quote "You can do anything but you can't do everything." And so that one has really spoke volumes to me and so when I was trying to scale back my extracurricular commitments I made a life mission statement, which we hear about businesses making mission statements but we can make them for our own life. I called mine my life list. What is it that I wanted to accomplish in my life? It was funny because I thought it would be this long list but it ended up being just two things. I want to know who my children and my spouse are as individuals by being a constant presence and source of love in their life. And two, I want to use my God given gifts as a teacher, a writer and an encourager to write and speak words that help people grasp what really matters. So there it was. Those were the two things I wanted to do before I died and so whenever I got asked to do something I held it against my life list. Are those things being asked of me going to help me accomplish what I have on my life list? And so by the end of a year, I really had scaled down my activities to one or two yearly projects that I was passionate about and/or directly involved my family.

MarySue Hansell
That's really good advice because I know so many people, especially women have a hard time saying no to things.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Yes.

MarySue Hansell
I think by having that life list and a set of goals to measure against it may give them the courage to say no.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Absolutely.

MarySue Hansell
I love the story in your book where you say your daughter said you were the mom she always wanted. Could you tell us about that and what that moment meant to you?

Rachel Macy Stafford
I sure will. So that moment happened early on in the journey when I decided not to take a stack of work and devices and other distractions with me to my older daughter's swim meet. And so my younger daughter was sitting there with me and for once my lap was open and available because I hadn't brought all these distractions. She sat there for almost the entire meet, so as you can imagine my legs were starting to get a little numb and she turned around, put her hand on my face and said this is the kind of mom I always wanted. I knew exactly what she meant. She meant present and fully available to love her. For so long I had thought love was in the doing. I'm doing this for you because I love you but love is also maybe even more importantly in the being, just being. One of my very favorite realizations from the day that Avery kissed my hand was that no matter how much she wants to, needs to or would like to, she cannot kiss a moving target. This goes for our spouses, our parents, our friends. I mean how can we really be there for them. How can we receive love and give love if we are constantly busy and doing?

MarySue Hansell
That's great. Once you quieted down those external distractions as you mentioned, you began to notice that there were internal distractions. What were those and how did you quiet them down?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well my major internal distractions were worry, guilt, inadequacy, perfection and pressure, pressure to look or act a certain way. All of those internal distractions seemed to have a voice through my little inner critic, that voice inside you that likes to point out all your flaws and all your mistakes. I realized that my inner critic was sabotaging more moments in my life than my phone ever did. That is when I knew I needed to come back with kind of a like a come back to my inner critic, something to say when it started berating me. I started saying only love today. I would just say it well probably at first I was saying it maybe a hundred times a day. I mean my inner critic was so loud and so fierce and so ugly and if I didn't like how I looked as my inner critic would say, you can't go out looking like that. I would say only love today. Only love today. That helped me quiet that inner bully and begin to love myself as is.

MarySue Hansell
That's great advice too. I guess it helped you let go of perfection too.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Absolutely.

MarySue Hansell
I'll have to try that one. Another thing you mentioned is called the moment of impact. I think we could all benefit by hearing about what that was and how you used that to make things better for children.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well when I became aware of how my distraction and my feeling of overwhelm was just really making me kind of a bitter, angry person I began to sense when a collision was about to happen. When the kids were bickering, I had to be somewhere on time and I had not gotten a good night of sleep. I knew all those things were about to collide. I could kind of sense that so that was like a potential moment of impact. So just like a driver whose anticipating a damaging collision, I learned to kind of let off the gas, pull back, pause for just a few minutes to avoid permanent damage to the people I love. So in those moments when I feel like I'm about to yell or explode, I learned to remain silent just long enough for those angry, ugly words to dissolve. Just holding those words under my tongue for just a moment it just helps me think more rationally about what I'm about to say. That moment of impact, thinking of my words like a car collision has really helped me in just being a more peaceful, kind, compassionate person.

Raymond Hansell
Well, that's wonderful advice for our listeners to take to break. We are going to do that right now. Before we go on the break I'd like to just once again a quick reminder our Indiegogo Campaign is currently funding at ABetterWorld.com/kidsgame. This is a game for kids that lets them have fun and make a difference through good deeds and positive thinking both in the online virtual world game and in the real world. Once again additionally A Better World for Kids has promised to pledge 10% of its post-campaign net profits to charities that help children. Please go to ABetterWorld.com/kidsgame to learn more and help fund A Better World for Kids. We'll be right back. (Music)

Raymond Hansell
Hi, we're back now with Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Hands Free Mama.

Gregory Hansell
Hi Rachel, this is Greg.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Hi Greg.

Gregory Hansell
I was telling you before the show how much I loved the book. There's so much we could talk about but one thing that really jumped out at me, I want to quote from the book. You wrote, "As I celebrate an authentic life, which includes a messy house, a realistic body and realistic standards, I see the life I want to live. Not the one society airbrushes for me. I can't help but think this hands free approach will be reflected in my daughters' future lives in the way they connect, love and build their own memories and traditions." I was hoping you could talk about authenticity and what you call the come as you are approach.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well, one of the most healing aspects of living hands free is accepting your humanness and stop trying to be perfect and stop trying to plaster on a smile when you feel sad inside. Once I began to embrace my imperfect self, I realized what a gift this was to my children and to everyone around me. My humanness allowed them to be human. My courage to get up after I fell down gave them courage to get up after they fell down. Loving myself despite my failures, flaws and imperfections just gave the people in my life permission to love themselves as is too. Really that was a game changer for me and so much pressure just lifted when I realized I can just be me and that is how I want my children to grow up. I don't want them to have that inner critic berating them in their head all the time. I want them to say I made a mistake. I'm human. Its okay. I'm going to get up and I'm going to try again.

Gregory Hansell
Sure. You of course wrote the book on living hands free but you say you aren't even perfect all the time. I was hoping you'd give some advice on how people can let go of that guilt of imperfection.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well I realized that if I just lowered the bar, like I would always try to do things at like 110% and honestly I realized that was just me expecting that standard. I was putting myself up to this unrealistic standard. So lowering the bar, I use a phrase good enough for today. My little daughter, Avery, had said that to me when I said I was going to be doing a Skype interview and I was wearing sweat pants and my hair was in a ponytail. She said well you look good enough mama. I thought gosh, good enough for today because if you tell yourself well I really need to keep working on this report before I turn it in. If you say well its good enough for today then that frees you, that frees your day, that frees your time to really invest in what really matters instead of thinking no, I need to keep working on this house until it shines. But if it's good enough for today then you have the time to spend with the people that you love rather than things that don't really matter.

Gregory Hansell
I think that's true. I mentioned also during the break that I have two kids at home. Tabby who is almost four and my son, Griffin who is actually two months old today.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Awe!

Gregory Hansell
Thanks. I found that when I'm really paying attention to them, when I'm present with especially with Tabby now that she's getting older and what she's doing, I can really get to know who she is, a feel for who she's becoming and what she's like as a person and that's so exciting to be part of that. I know that you mentioned that this hands free journey has helped you to really know your kids. I wanted to ask what it means to you.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well, really what solidified my vow to live a hands free life was reflecting on the future relationship that I wanted to have with my children. In order to really let go of my distractions I had to face some really difficult truths and one of them was to realize if I continue to live distracted, my children would be strangers to me. On the day of my youngest daughter's preschool graduation I was really just a wreck. Not because she was going to kindergarten but because I had been hands free for a year and when I looked at her on that stage I knew her. I knew what she liked. I knew what she didn't like. I knew what her dreams were. I thought to myself gosh when she crosses that high school graduation I'm going to be so proud because I'm going to know even more about her because I am investing in her life and taking time to know her each day.

Gregory Hansell
Yah, its interesting you say in the book the truth hurts but the truth heals. How did facing the truth about yourself change all of this?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well I honestly believe the first step toward change and toward transforming your life is to take that painful look in word and to see what really does need repair. What do you need to work on? Some people say well guilt, there's no purpose for guilt. Well honestly for me guilt and regret those were huge motivators for me because I was tired of feeling guilt and regret because another day goes by and I didn't even connect or make eye contact or talk to my children or my husband. That can be a very heavy burden and I didn't want to live like that anymore. Those words, 'I don't want to live this way anymore' those words fueled me to make small changes. We all know change doesn't happen overnight. You have to take small changes, small steps. That's what fueled me to do things, to be more present, more patient, more loving to myself and to the people I love.

Gregory Hansell
I'm glad you mentioned your husband. We spent so much time today on the show talking about kids and the importance of your kids in the hands free journey. Of course I feel that the same way. You talk so much about how your relationship with your spouse changed. You talked about the appreciation journey to say thank you notes to him and things you appreciate and even attending more to each other. You realized things you both didn't know about each other that you'd never even shared despite your many years of marriage. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Sure. Well it was interesting because one of the pivotal moments of me realizing that I really did need to change was Scott was a huge factor in that. One day when we were pulling out to go on vacation, which of course you think oh vacation. We should be happy. I was upset about silly, trivial, minor things as a distracted person would be. He turned to me and said you're never happy anymore. I thought to myself wow, I really can't even justify this. I can't defend it. I can't excuse it because he is absolutely right. And so my relationship with him I knew was also in a fragile state because well who wants to be around someone who is unhappy and completely checked out. And so together I talked about going public earlier and I went public with Scott about three months into my journey saying okay I'm doing something. It's really working. He said you know I noticed something different about you but I couldn't put my finger on it. It was interesting because I felt like we were happier. We were talking more and getting back to that feeling when we first met when I was trying to find out things about him. It just really added a spark back to our relationship for me to be present in my life again.

Gregory Hansell
I love that. I think that's so great. I told you before we started the show that my wife and I -- I live and work in the same town and we so rarely take the time, we're both so busy to even have lunch together so we're having lunch this week so thank you for that, Rachel.

Rachel Macy Stafford
You're welcome. I'm happy to hear that.

Gregory Hansell
Sure. So with the success of your book and the popularity of your website, I have to imagine that it's difficult to be hands free these days. How do you keep the balance?

Rachel Macy Stafford
Well I have definitely used many of the strategies that I first started out with. I still use them today almost five years later. Having designated hands free times. That's critical. Refraining from using the phone in the car. Giving undistracted goodbyes. Wearing hats to let go for affection. And my favorite one is to use the daily rituals and have dinner time or bedtime or cuddle time in the morning. I believe in daily rituals and how important they are to preserve this time of connection. It was interesting because the day before my first book was due to the publisher, my parents had come in from Florida to help with the girls and my mom was coming downstairs and I was typing away trying to meet my deadline and she said I put Natalie to bed and I told her you were very busy tonight and you probably couldn't come for talk time. My mom said Natalie looked at her and said Grandma, mama always comes. And so that to me was just to know that amongst the challenges that I was facing with the book and life that I could -- she knew that I had changed and I would always be there for that talk time every night no matter what. To me that gave hope to so many people that write to me and say well I'm homeless. How can I be hands free? Or I travel or we just got a divorce. If your life circumstances are challenging, you still can be there in those moments that you're together to be fully present. That is what it means to be hands free, to maximize that time that you have together and make the most of it.

Gregory Hansell
Yah I think that's great. There's so much more I wanted to cover with you today actually. It always goes so quickly, this hour, and you know actually the talk time I love that. Every night after I read my daughter stories I turn off the light and then we have a couple minutes where we just talk in the dark. I think that's my favorite time with her.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Absolutely.

Gregory Hansell
She always asks amazing questions or something.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Yes, I love that time. Yes.

Gregory Hansell
We only have a minute left. Every week I ask our guests the same question. Here's how I want to ask it to you. How do you hope that your book and the hands free journey can help make the world a better place for all of us? We have about a minute.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Okay well my favorite quote is by Mother Teresa and it's "What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." I believe one small daily gesture of love and presence can make a difference in our relationships, our happiness, our health, but it does not end there. If we all offered one small gesture of love and kindness to someone we love today, there would be ripples. These ripples could make the world a better place.

Raymond Hansell
That's amazing advice. This has been an amazing show. I think all of our listeners out there would love to hear those three words anytime, more than once or just once. Those words that come back to me from the section with Greg is mama always comes.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Yes.

Raymond Hansell
Those are the words that you want to hear. You know you've done well when you hear that from the person who matters the most. So thank you for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio, Rachel. This has been an amazing show.

Rachel Macy Stafford
Thank you. It's been my pleasure.

Raymond Hansell
For our listeners you can find out more about Rachel Macy Stafford and the Hands Free movement by going to HandsFreeMama.com. Before we go once again please continue to keep our Indiegogo Campaign for A Better World for Kids in mind. Now is the time. It lets kids have fun and make a difference through good deeds and through positive thinking both in the online virtual world and in the real world. Additionally we will pledge 10% of post-campaign net profits to charities that help children. So go to ABetterWorld.com/kidsgame to learn more and to help fund a better world for kids. Time runs out this Saturday night January 17th. So this has been a wonderful show for all of our listeners out there. As I say, every specific week this really matters to us. Until next time, please be a BetterWorldian. (Music)