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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. Stephanie George says…
    01/07/2014

    THANK YOU ALI. I LOVED this post. I always love when you let us into your world. Thank you for sharing. NOW, stop reading my comment and go hug your kids! ;)

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. glee says…
    01/07/2014

    My son (16!) and I spent 10 min before bed last night before bed outside on a blanket (wrapped in quilts) looking at the stars and talking. Our brains need time away from light and screens to settle down. My 23 yr old had suggested it! Loved it; going to try to do it more often, it would be a great habit. I live in Hawaii, so for us it is doable year round.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Robin Chapa says…
    01/07/2014

    As I read your post, I got..... stressed. I felt my blood pressure rise and my heart race because I RECOGNIZED MYSELF in EVERYTHING you said. Wow. Thanks for being so honest about it and calling it to my attention. I'm going to look into reading that book as well (sounds great). Charlotte's Web is soooo WONDERFUL and you will so enjoy that. I'm going to start a book with my kids tonight, too. For sure. Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Nita K. says…
    01/07/2014

    This might be the best post ever. I'm really surprised at my own reaction to it. I was in tears by the end. Honestly, it's because I could have written this and I saw so much of myself in it. Wow, Ali. I'm not sure I would have the courage to be as honest in the online world where people can be so harsh and judgmental. Thanks for opening yourself up like this to people like me, who just need to read and feel the truth.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Lindsey says…
    01/07/2014

    Reading this, I feel both inspired and ashamed. I need to be less distracted too. Starting now. xo

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Amanda S. says…
    01/07/2014

    So much to say about what you just said, but I'll just say this... THANK YOU. So true. I was just having this discussion with my husband the other day when I realized we were both on our phones, watching Netflix on the couch. There was a time when we wouldn't have been doing either. Now we are consciously working on "unplugging" in order to improve the quality of our time together. The emails? Facebook? The other distractions of technology? They can all wait. Thanks for putting it down into words so eloquently. Good luck to you and thanks for the inspiration :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Laura says…
    01/07/2014

    I hear you! It's hard to do just one thing when there is so much you need and want to do, as a working parent of young children. It does seem like kids do better when they see that we are focusing on them, Which in turn can help bedtime go better so then we actually get some time to ourselves. I say this and it sounds so reasonable, but it's hard.

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Terri Burson says…
    01/07/2014

    I needed to hear this. Thanks Ali.

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Tinka says…
    01/07/2014

    Excellent, and timely, post! I definitely allow myself to be too easily distracted by my phone...checking FB and emails and playing games. I am working to limit the time I spend doing those things and focusing my attention on all the projects on my very long to do list.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Wake Up Call » Team Jaeski says…
    01/08/2014

    […] Free Mama.  I happened upon this blog by chance, having followed a link from Ali Edwards‘ One Little Word post.  I started reading Hands Free Mama and couldn’t look away.  The first post I came […]

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Krista says…
    01/08/2014

    Man, you are awesome! I love that you are clearly and always an evolving person. Recognizing mistakes and missteps and constantly working to remedy them. And at the same time, I think you celebrate what's working well. At least I hope you do. It sucks to have to admit you've not been making the best choices, but good for you for recognizing it, accepting the constructive criticism when given, and taking steps to improve. If only more people in this world could do the same. Thanks for sharing your true self with all of us. You are so inspirational in so very many different ways.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Carolyn HP says…
    01/08/2014

    I think it's way too easy to forget to disconnect from our devices in such a busy world, but so important to remember why we should do this on a regular basis. Thanks for reminding us that life is difficult but oh so rewarding Ali... and for keeping it real! Love your words and I think you are a wonderful person who is always striving to improve your life and relationships. You are such an inspiring lady, take care of you in your journey :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Stop met die afleiding! | Bij voorbaat dank says…
    01/08/2014
    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Jocelyn says…
    01/08/2014

    You are always so inspiring to me. My children are grown but there are many relationships that can fall through the cracks when I let myself get distracted but so much of the "noise" in my life. Keep going Ali! You are strong and you are so inspiring to so many of us! You are thriving and I love that you share it with me.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Addie says…
    01/08/2014

    Love this post! Going to check out that book! You're inspiring me! This is also all very relavent to my olw IMPORTANT! Important right now, Important to my kid, more Important that whatever else I'm doing!:)

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Becky M. says…
    01/09/2014

    You are such an inspiration Ali! I love your honesty and that you want to better yourself for YOU and the loved ones around you. I love reading about your journey and how you encourage all your readers to be active in what matters to them!

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. rowena says…
    01/10/2014

    i'm in tears. this is my favorite post of all time. i, like you, have a little family of 3. you are always RIGHT ON when it comes to being able to put a photo and words together and put your real life in the public eye. you are one of my heros, Ali! xo

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Kimberly C. says…
    01/10/2014

    If this is something you decide to continue...The Tale of Despereaux was a great read-aloud. I read it to my eldest right before it was coming out in the theaters. He was in Kinder at the time. We both enjoyed it very much. My second is almost 7 and it's been on my to-do list to read it to him for far too long.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Ali says…
      01/12/2014

      We have that one too :).

  19. casie says…
    01/10/2014

    Ali,
    Thank you for your honesty and openess to change. I am currently struggling with the exact SAME thing! I use my phone as an escape when life at home with 2 little kids becomes boring and mundane. I am far more distracted with chores and my own goals and projects. I am making this part of my relationship intention in my OLW2014 project. I too have been arguing constently with my 3 year old and this could be a big reason why!
    thank you Ali for continuing to inspire me to make myself better and reflect on my life instead of just going through the motions!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Josephine Bautista says…
    01/13/2014

    Thank you for this. I am definitely distracted too. It's especially hard when my work is connected to my iPhone. And I work for an online company too. So you can imagine I am online most of the time and I go nuts when the internet is down. I sometimes wonder why my son prefers to play with his nanny than he does with me and then I realize she engages with him. She is not just there physically with him but she engages. So with this realization - something I should have known but didn't till recently - and I admit this, even though we are still online - we are playing games together. Our favorite is Papa's Hot Doggeria and we take turns "cooking" the hotdogs. And there are minigames in between and we take turns with that too. I've found a way to actually combine the love of the internet and the need for quality time with my son. Now he plays with me more and I love that.

    I've also tried to do something just offline with him too. Recently, he was being naughty so I took him offline for the night. Which meant I had to be offline for the night too. This includes television by the way. And wow, we did well! All we had to entertain us was a sketchbook, crayons and colored pencils. And he and I went through about an hour an a half, simply drawing, coloring and writing out "quizzes" we had to answer for each other. Though this came because he was being punished, I proved to myself that we can actually be entertained without any electronic devices present. And what's more because we had no distractions as such, he and I were able to bond even more. I loved it! I will definitely have to try that again very soon - and this time just because and not because he is being punished! :-D

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. alexandra says…
    01/13/2014

    Honest, brave and beautiful... this post and you.
    thanks, Ali.
    xo

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Jennifer says…
    01/14/2014

    Ali, we listened to Charlotte's Web in the car during a road trip last summer. It gave us some wonderful memories, and so many things to talk about. Enjoy that time with your children. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Weekend Inspiration | Inspired Life with Jess says…
    01/15/2014

    […] post from Ali Edwards about living hands free. Such an awesome reminder, and something that I have been trying to focus on over the last couple […]

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Anna Aspnes says…
    01/15/2014

    Making some changes too with Eric leaving next week and not knowing when he'll be back...Thanks for the book mention. It might help me too as I try to manage it all alone.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. pamela says…
    01/16/2014

    I found your blog through Lindsey's and I am SO glad I did. My word of the year is "Quiet" but it could also be "Un-distracted." Yes to all you said: dishes, work, friends, etc. I get overwhelmed will the immediacy that everything needs but all of those things take me away from my kids. Thank you SO much for writing this and for your resources.

    Reply 0 Replies

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