Hands On or Hands Free Parenting: Your Choice


Good parents show up for their children on a daily basis. They meet and exceed their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs and offer unconditional love. Jumping into a ball pit with them not required, but certainly feel free.

I finished reading a snarky blog about ‘hands on mamas’ this morning. Here’s the thing: I am a hands on mama, but it’s not what you think. I can’t get on the snarky bus about interacting 24/7 with my son and never, ever looking at my phone while he’s in my presence. In fact, he’s looking at his iPad while I type this in the kitchen. That’s right, I’m likely to miss 16 minutes of magic today. I get it. I get both sides and I’m here to tell you they are both awesome and they are both hard. Here’s why we shouldn’t judge either way:

Independent Vs. Dependent Kids Ah, the independent toddler. Listen, no child is entirely independent and most go through phases. My son was extremely independent until he was a bout 3 and a half. All of the sudden, Klingon. He became aware of ‘real dangers’ and started picking up on scary themes (even in Frozen, fml, he was so sad that the parents got washed away). So my free time at the park became null and void. Your kids will pass through phases, like it or not, and the only thing that actually matters is how you handle their changes. If you’re currently huffing about how your child is just ‘naturally independent’ then be grateful. If you have a Klingon like me, be grateful. It will all change before you can even adjust, so hang tight. No one should be telling anyone that a toddler phase will last a lifetime, and if you’re hearing that, change your company.

IMG_4218 copyIntroverted Vs. Extroverted Mamas Honestly, I prefer the kids. I know, that sounds like I’m high horsing about childhood again. I’m not. But I also don’t love awkward adult conversations or small talk, so kids are just cooler. They want to play and get dirty, and that works for me. I also think that we should be responsive when our kids actually ask us to play with them, but that’s coming from a soft spot that is rejection. It hurts their feelings. Outside of that, chat with friends, talk on your phone, do whatever you can in the brief time you have to be free. I will be in the ball pit, because, just me. And don’t worry, I don’t mind playing with your kids. Unlike the snarky blog mom, I enjoy interacting and teaching the kids how to get along. If you are an extroverted mama and this ball pit thing ain’t for you, send your kids my way. It takes a village and I’m happy to fulfill my role.

Model Mamas Vs. Pajama Mamas People have a misconception that the model-looking mama just naturally looks amazing. This mama is not me. BUT, I’m here to defend this mama. She doesn’t wake up that way. She chooses to spend some time on herself each morning and that’s her prerogative. I prefer coffee and blogging to makeup and clothing, which is obvious at morning drop off, and that’s fine by me. She can have some hands-free time in the morning. Her children are fed, loved, happy. It’s okay that she looks amazing and is decked out in J.Crew and I’m wearing my pj’s. If you are the model mama, good for you. You DO look amazing and if taking time for yourself each morning makes you happy then that’s exactly what you should do. No judgement here.

Honestly, even our kids need us to leave them to play unrestricted. They can take a sip of juice without guidance. At the same time, of course they need us to be available. Why stay home with them or take them to the park on a Saturday just to drop them and ignore them? I’ve had the luxury of having both an independent child, and a more cautious child. I see both sides. Surely there’s a balance. So get your model look on and get messy at the park. Or show up in you pj’s and have an hour long convo with a friend. At the end of the day, showing up is all that matters. Ignore snarky mommies that can’t figure out what they want. People who love the way they parent don’t slam other parents, there’s just no need. If we try to honor our differences and see life from other perspectives, we just might get along. And at the end of the day, it’s about the kids. Don’t judge hands-on mama, her son might be going through a cautious phase. Don’t judge hands-free mama, it might be her only break that week.

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Celeste is a mother, wife, and photographer who describes herself a student of life. She has a deep love for world travel, books, and photos. Being an avid reader led her to the more tedious outlet of writing, especially after the life change of becoming a mom. Celeste studied Holisitic Nutrition and Psychology at Indiana University. She enjoys a healthy lifestyle and takes a holistic approach to raising her 4-year-old son, Memphis. After living in both London and Austin, she moved back home to Indiana to raise her son near his tribe and Midwestern values. She now works as a photographer here, capturing natural light lifestyle photos with an emphasis on children and the magic of being little.