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The Path Towards Thriving | Living Hands Free

Throughout 2014 I'm planning to blog about my One Little Word journey as I investigate what it means for me to thrive. I don't have a set schedule in place but will share as I identify areas, recognize strengths or weaknesses, ask questions, learn lessons, and hopefully make life-affirming choices along the way.

No. 1 | I believe that for me to thrive I need to live a less distracted life.


"You know we're going to have an intervention about that soon right?"

We were sitting on the couch after dinner, chatting and getting ready to play a couple rounds of Mario Bros on the Wii.

Darn it (that's not really the word that came to mind but you get the point). "Yes," I replied and felt a wave of shame wash over myself.

My connection to the phone and the online world is powerful. It's where most of my work-life exists (I'm on the type-A, take-care-of-this-right-this-very-minute, obsessive end of the personality spectrum), where many of my friends exist, and to be honest, sometimes some of my self-worth is mixed in here too.

I put my phone face-down on the couch next to me and turned to face him, "I know."

In my head I could rationalize it. I was waiting for him to get things set up. I was probably checking my email one more time because I'm responsible and I pride myself on being accessible and taking care of stuff immediately or I was peeking at Facebook seeing if any responses were needed or if there was a comment on a photo I'd recently posted on Instagram.

But I knew he was right.

I need a major iphone boundary check.


Another evening we had a discussion about parenting after Anna refused to put her coat away. She was exhausted and defiant. I was exhausted and not ready for battle because it seems like battling is all we do lately. During the discussion he said he thought she was mean to me. He had watched, unsure where to step in and when to step away.

It was a good talk about who we are and who we want to be as parents. I listened carefully, trying hard not to take anything too personally, listening instead for suggestions I could implement the next time an opportunity arose. It was hard and easy at the same time because I know what he was saying was coming from a loving place and that he was right.

As I reflect on how Anna and I have been interacting lately I think so much of it comes down to me being a distracted parent. Distracted by my work, distracted by the dishes in the sink, distracted by the running list in my head, distracted by pressures both real and imagined, distracted by a million other things.

Damn.

I don't want to be this person. I know there are times when I've been less distracted but over the last couple of years I've become that person again and it's definitely time for a re-alignment.

I have lots of excuses for my distractions but really none of them matter more than my relationship with my kids and those closest to me.

It's time to start living that way.


I wrote out the above stories a few days ago as I started working on this post.

Since then I've taken a few steps forward and a few steps back. The simple act of acknowledgement - and for me this has been a growing acknowledgment over the past few months - is starting to result in me actually taking action.

One of the first things I'm doing is reading Rachel Macy Stafford's new book Hands Free Mama. Rachel runs a blog of the same name that you might have seen me mention or link to in the past. She's a wonderful story teller and truth teller and is really inspiring life-changes by encouraging people to get connected to what really matters. I reviewed an advance copy of the book last year but feel like I'm really reading it for the first time now. And PS - this book isn't just about creating meaningful connections with your kids - it's about removing the distractions that keep us from deeply connecting with the people we claim to care about most.

One of the suggestions from Rachel is to go public about your intention to live Hands Free so here I am.

Hi, I'm Ali and I've been living distracted for far too long and I'm ready to let go and make a very meaningful change in my life.

Tonight I started reading a chapter book out loud to both kids in the evening. It's an opportunity for the three of us to do something together that doesn't involve a screen.

We're starting with Charlotte's Web.

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218 thoughts

  1. Jessica @The Mom Creative says…
    01/06/2014

    Love this, Ali. Praying for you during this season and appreciate your vulnerability.

    I wanted to suggest a new series that we have been enjoying - Growly. I think you and your kids will really like them. xo

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Phaedra says…
    01/06/2014

    A wonderful post on something that hits close to my heart. I've already made a commitment to be less distracted myself after following Hands Free Mama (so inspiring!) and I wish you success in making the changes. Baby steps, one at a time! Good Luck!

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Sara Grafton says…
    01/06/2014

    Thank you for sharing! I have a son around Anna's age and oh can I relate to the battles. I find myself more distracted again. I took work email off my phone and iPad before the holidays, and I just deleted Facebook from my phone after reading your post. It is a process, but I also want to work on being less distracted.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Tere says…
    01/06/2014

    I hear you mama, loud and clear. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. pam says…
    01/06/2014

    love you. you and your constant personal push for positive growth always inspires me to do better, try harder. also, love that "tech guy" sounds like he's tech balanced ;). happy thriving ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. June says…
    01/06/2014

    Beautiful and real. Thank you Ali. On a funny note, you know this book is now going to fly out of shelves now. There are already many holds on this in our public library too.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. laura says…
    01/06/2014

    this sounds like something i could have written. i'm trying, too.

    my word this year is focus. focus on the good, focus on the meaningful. focus on my family and friends and cultivating those relationships so i don't let them slip through my fingers. focus on what has real, true meaning and not staring at my phone/tv.

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Peggy says…
    01/06/2014

    So here we all are responding when we should be doing something SO MUCH MORE then this. Reading a book to our children, playing a game, going out for a walk or sledding or ice skating. I am a mom of 3 adult children, just became a grandparent for the first time to twin boys who live WAY TO FAR AWAY and only get to see them once a month if I am lucky. I too, was an at-home-mom without all this technology, a graduate at high school level and married way to young to my best friend and high school sweetheart. This past September married for 35 years! Just from experience, once your children become teenagers, don't write them off as independent. That is when they will need you the most. By that I mean IN THE MOMENT!! You have to be ready at any time of day to listen to them and be there for them. I was, but when I look back at those days, was I really? I now want to be their friend and that just isn't happening for me fast enough. They now live in other states and have their own lives. WOW!! Did that time go way to fast and got away from me!!! LIVING IN THE NOW is the only way to stay connected to the ones that you love and that LOVE YOU!!! STAY CONNECETED OUT THERE FOLKS!!! Best to all of us!

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Kerrie says…
    01/06/2014

    Rachel's post in December, The Bully Too Close to Home, was so touching and honest and raw. I'm not a parent, but it still resonated with me. Loving ourselves and being the person we want and expect ourselves to be will do wonders for ourselves and our children.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Kristina says…
    01/06/2014

    Ali,

    I've been reading your blog for a few months now - and also signed up for your OLW class. Up until a few months ago, I was a single mom (divorced) of a 6 year old - named Anna. She and I have been struggling lately. After reading your post about the blogs you read, I discovered the Hands Free Mama blog. Between it, and some discussion with friends, I've decided to focus on being much more focused on my daughter and the other people in my life (including myself) and to distract myself less with other "stuff" (my word is Present).

    I'm sure it's worth it, but boy is it hard. There is a reason that I distract myself so much, and it's because there are things there, under the surface, that are painful. I know that dealing with them is a requirement if I want to move forward, but I also suspect things will get pretty rough before they get better. No one said it was easy, though, right? It helps to know we're not the only ones struggling with this.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Monnah says…
    01/06/2014

    One of my friends just recently linked to the blog you're referring to in this post. Thank you for sharing your reality and your thoughts. I think a lot of mothers listen to you and I know for a fact that there are way too many of us that need to reconnect to a reality that has nothing to do with screens. It's hard though, especially when you need your computer or phone for work. Good luck with your thriving and your relationships!

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Shannon says…
    01/06/2014

    Just...lovely. Especially the way you choose to remain open to words from loved ones that can have a sting even though they are so kindly said. It's hard to be shown ourselves sometimes, isn't it? And yet you choose to see the gift. May you be blessed by it in the end.

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Beth Holmes says…
    01/06/2014

    I'm glad there were no smart phones when my 14 year old was little. In fact I didn't even have a cell phone until she was in first grade, and no smart phone until she was in 6th grade. As a consequence I was hands free without knowing it and got to spend lots of quality time with her. That said, she still needs me at 14 and I understand all to well the call of my iPhone -- and now the call of her iPhone (she just got one at the beginning of 8th grade). Great post Ali and best wishes for a hands free year in which you thrive.

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Laurel says…
    01/06/2014

    Love this! Coincidentally, I just started reading Charlotte's Web to my two kids a few nights ago. My son is 2 and doesn't really get it, but my daughter is 5 and loving the story. She always has lots of questions at the end of the chapter. :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Ayesha says…
    01/06/2014

    Thank you.
    Thank you for being so honest.
    Thank you for being real.
    Thank you for taking this path.

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Nicky from Okotoks says…
    01/06/2014

    Wonderful way to start your change - best book ever

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Michellejeanne says…
    01/06/2014

    beautiful and loving all the supportive comments.

    I too am easily distracted. Look, I am here on a snow day, and I am trying to enforce certain times when the phones and DS and ipods are in a basket for family time, etc. just as much so it is difficult for ME to "just check" my email when they are setting up a movie, a game, getting the bedtime book as it is for them.

    Although, my excuse is that I read this this morning when they were all still sleeping in and I came back here specifically to post to this, it really isn't an excuse, is it? You have plenty of people saying what I am saying. But I am here...

    I learned to do a LOT of things WITH my kids - like that sink of dishes. It gave them something to do, they learned to do chores, I wasn't rushing through, they weren't waiting or whining... One of my favorite memories of each as a toddler is having someone next to me playing in the bubbles while I washed. It took twice as much time and then I needed to mop up the wet floor, but we had a blast. then we'd dry up and go do something else.

    Now my girls are 8, 13, and 16, and THEY do the dishes. Hey, I drove them around after school, I cooked dinner, I have laundry going and I want to SIT with quiet - those car rides get noisy! But I keep trying to get one of them into the kitchen with me to cook, and I have started helping them with the dishes again. It's good talking time. Or quiet time. Or look at the goofy squirrels outside time. I can sit after the dishes :). (and I LOVE the driving around, even though sometimes I literally drive in circles, dropping one at the house while another climbs in for the next activity. They talk about a LOT of stuff in the car, which is one reason the 16 year doesn't have one yet.).

    We all have our moments, but as long as we keep learning from them... we're doing ok.

    And Michelle from way up there - I've been there, disabled. It might not be what we want for our kids, but I try to remember we aren't the first, the only. From your post it sounds as if you are doing your best, and your kids will be very compassionate and empathetic people. Focus on the positives. I hope you come through this well and whole so you can enjoy your children and their children.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Michelle t. says…
      01/06/2014

      Thank you so much. I feel a little less alone. I wish good health for you. Sounds like you''re on the right track. Michelle t.

  18. Stephanie Howell says…
    01/06/2014

    This is BY FAR my favorite post of yours. Ever. Thank you for your authenticity and vulnerability. I know it's scary to reveal your imperfections...but Ali, it makes me love you even more.

    I struggle with this often. I think so so many mamas do.

    Thank you.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Catharine says…
    01/06/2014

    Beautiful and timely post. It takes effort to focus in our plugged-in society. Love Hands Free...so timely for all of us. It is part of the reason that my word this year is 'ease'. I have huge respect for your choice to behave differently. You and your children will be better for it!

    Catharine
    PS we read charlotte's web as a family this summer-we all love it!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Carole Hepburn says…
    01/06/2014

    I totally get what you are saying - love it and your honesty !!

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Alicia says…
    01/06/2014

    Good post. Love your honesty and poignancy. A lot of us moms need to do the same, and this type of change is part of my intention with my OLW EMBRACE this this year.

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Carmel says…
    01/06/2014

    Thanks Ali - a great post. I have a very precious 15 year old with whom I have a great relationship - lately though she has been calling me out on the fact that I am "glued" to Facebook or something else on my I-Pad when she is trying to speak to me. I really need to put it down and listen. It was easier when she was younger as I didn't have a phone; facebook; ipad; Instagram etc.etc. We talked and we read books a lot - these are precious memories to the two of us and the substance from where our relationship flourished.....but I can't stop now - or ever. Thanks for the push to consciously do something about it.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Cara S says…
    01/06/2014

    Well said Ali - that's why my word is focus this year!!! And what am I doing online right now?!!!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Ana Frazee says…
    01/06/2014

    Great chapter book choice. Although I don't have kids at home anymore, I feel I'm distracted, too. I'm going to check into your new 'read', find some suggestions that work for me. Good luck with yoours.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Cal says…
    01/06/2014

    A wonderful post Ali. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies

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