This isn’t something I do. Well, not on a regular basis. I’m one of those, no, I got it, kind of people. Pride, foolishness, who knows. I could go deep and examine myself, but I’ll leave that for my future therapist (if I ever go back to one, ha). Let’s just say, for whatever reason it’s never come easily for me.
When my daughter was a baby, a colicky, screaming banshee, I needed help. In retrospect I see that quite clearly. Not with her – because, believe me, she was a handful – but for myself. The realization that I was in too deep came several years later and I wrote an essay about it, which will be published in the forthcoming anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness.
Recently, I found myself in a similar place. A rough patch in my parenting journey. Yes, it’s summer and my patience is wearing thin, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s more than that. My colicky little baby girl is now an artistic, sensitive, curious seven-year-old, and still as stubborn and challenging as she was as an infant. I used to call her my extreme baby, and, well now, she’s my extreme grown child.
The other day I was at my wit’s end. I lost my marbles, to put it mildly, and fell into a familiar cycle of self-loathing and despair. Except this time, I asked for help.
Not out loud, but in a note on my phone, which has become a makeshift journal of sorts.
And then, the very next day, this arrived:
I am a huge fan of Rachel Macy Stafford and the beautiful writing on her blog, Hands Free Mama. She writes so eloquently about parenting. All of it, the messiness, the shame, and the infinite possibility. Her advice always hits a nerve for me. I even bought her bracelet this winter because I hoped seeing the reminder on my wrist, Only Love Today, would help ground me.
Recently, I happened across a Huffington Post article on Facebook that I hadn’t read before called, Manager in My Home, which is about her moment of transformation from manager to nurturer. After reading it, and recognizing my tendency to try to control and rush through the days, I realized that I have yet to put her wisdom into practice.
When Rachel reached out to me on Facebook a couple months ago and asked if I’d consider reviewing her new book, Hands Free Life, I was stunned and moved. YES. Sign me up, I said. The truth is, I haven’t read her first book, Hands Free Mama, though it has been on my to-read list for almost a year.
I think part of me was hesitant to buy another self-help style book. I’ve been through quite a few in the parenting genre. Another part of me was afraid. What if her advice didn’t work? What if I was too far gone?
But after digging a little deeper, I think the real truth is this: what if I had to actually work to make change happen?
It’s one thing to buy a bracelet and admire another’s work, but quite another to change your life.
Well, I’m ready now. I’ve already ordered a copy of Hands Free Mama (which you can get a free ebook of if you preorder her new book), and I’m a third of the way through Hands Free Life.
I’m soaking it up like a sponge. I’m already starting to make changes in my parenting style, in my life. Let me be perfectly clear – I’m a long, long way from shaking off all my bad habits, but I’m finally willing to try.
I’ll be sharing tidbits of knowledge from the book along the way, and also writing a review closer to the September 8th release. Please note that I’m not getting paid in any way to promote this book, though I did receive a free copy. I don’t usually review books at all here, but this book literally arrived at my doorstep at just the right moment in my life.
Are you familiar with Hands Free Mama? If not, let me know what you think if you end up checking out her blog. I also loved her latest moving post about making appreciation jars for her family on the eve of her surgery. I’m definitely going to make them for my kids, maybe even before summer ends…
Speaking of which, I hope you’re enjoying your summer! The school year is right around the corner, which fills me with excitement or dread, depending on the hour. Knowing myself, I will be in full nostalgia mode, despite all the challenges of this summer. Because that’s the way I roll.
My friend, I read this with grateful tears. You feel like my book came into your hands at the precise moment it was needed and I feel the same. The fact that you would share such beautiful, inspiring words about my writing within days of receiving the book is just incredible to me. And it was JUST what I needed to hear. Book release time brings doubt and uncertainty and sleepless nights. But when someone you respect so greatly as a writer, a mother, and a human being says these things about your work, well, doubt gets quieter. I am so grateful.
Thank you so much Rachel! I am grateful for your beautiful, wise words. I hope the doubts dissipate and you can enjoy the sweetness of your new book launch. You’ve already helped so many people, and now with this latest creation, many more.
I honestly didn’t make it past the 8th paragraph so it’s weird to comment but to hell with that. (I’ll go back and read the rest.) It’s just the “extreme baby…now…my extreme grown child.” This hit me. I’ve read posts of yours before about the infant/baby stage but my 8-yr-old seems very similar to your daughter. Extreme is a good word for it. It’s painful to watch, painful to be around…just… That third paragraph–I could have written that. Thanks for sharing this. ❤
Sarah, yes, completely and utterly extreme. As a baby and as a human. I used to call her “crazy,” but my father offered that kinder adjective. It’s SO hard, isn’t it? Many people, many well meaning people (as well as the other kind) don’t get it. They don’t understand that the same rules don’t apply to our kind of children. It IS painful to watch. My heart aches for her, and for me, as her mother and witness. I get it. I really do. And it helps to know that you also get it. Thank you for writing this.
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I, too, find it difficult to ask for help, even if I so desperately need it. But I’ve learned that friends and family often are glad to help. They only need to be asked so they know how to be of assistance. Even knowing that, I still have to work up the courage to ask.
Hope you’re enjoying your summer!
Yes, it’s true, Jackie, many people are just waiting for the word. I know it. But it can be hard to move past my need for perfection and my worry about the utterly false equation that needing help = weakness and/or failure. I am getting better. And you’re so right. It IS about courage.
Thank you for this comment, and I hope you’re enjoying your summer! Mine is tough, as life doesn’t stop with the sun, but beautiful as well.
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I use my notes app on my phone as a journal of sorts, too! And it emails it to me, which is weird, because I get a fresh email every time I edit even one word! One letter!
I’m a bit familiar with Hands Free Mama, and of course, in the positive way.
And the summer is making me impatient and weird.
I knew I couldn’t be the only phone note-journaler! And mine emails me too, odd but maybe good?
I love your description of summer. I’m right there with you.
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I hear you and so glad this book came when it did! I’ll check it out, too. Hope it speaks the words you need to hear right now. xo
Thank you Hallie, it’s really helpful so far!
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I also received a copy of Rachel’s book and beautiful wall-hanging. I can’t wait to read “Hands Free Life.” I can see how receiving that package on a tough day would’ve helped a lot.
How wonderful that you received a copy, too. Yes, it was like a life line!
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Coming late to the discussion, but wanted to add my thoughts. I struggle to ask for help and often think I only need to rely on myself to solve my worst dilemmas. The truth is asking for help is often the best way to show your vulnerability. I am looking forward to your review of Rachel’s book. Thanks for sharing, Dana.
Thank you for this comment, Rudri. I wonder if part of my need to get it right is because I’m the first born daughter, and all those years of setting an example and being “good” creates a need to have an illusion of perfection. Either way, I agree that asking for help is the best way to show vulnerability and there is no shame in that.
Dana I have been in that same place and I have a child that has always pushed the boundaries of parenting. These days I read less about how and just remember to be patient and calm. Two words that help. Sounds like a great book for anyone to read. My library is full of these look forward to your review. Happy days.
Yes, Kath, I know you get it. It’s hard having a child like that. I love her dearly, but she pushes me to the brink. Patient and calm is what I am often urging her to do, but I really must practice that myself. The book, Hands Free Life, is helping, though, not only for my parenting but as a person. Thank you for always being such a supportive presence!
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