I’ve been enjoying listening to a book called Willpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy over the last couple months. The basic premise is that in order to make lasting changes in our lives, we have to change our environment; expecting willpower to carry us through to the final destination doesn’t work. Hardy says: “You shape the garden of your mind by planting specific things from your environment, such as the books you read, experiences you have, and people you surround yourself with.”
As I think about this, I see how moving to Spain has enabled me and my family to shift our lives in some big ways. Without consciously deciding to change, our environment has brought us into a new rhythm of life. We don’t have a car, so we walk a lot more. My husband and I both work from home, so we share more about what we are working on and how we are doing internally. Our kids come home for lunch, and our social sphere is smaller, so we spend a lot of time together as a family. Our apartment is dark and cavernous, so we go outside every day and enjoy parks and the seaside. I think it is helpful for families to have this awareness: Having a baby is a BIG shift in the environment. For you new mothers, let your baby’s birth be an invitation to create a new environment that supports your own goals (not just one that accommodates baby). Here are a few ideas for arranging your environment to meet common goals new mothers have:
Goal: Bond with your baby
Choose a place in the house to leave your phone/tablet/computer that is not where you spend most time with your baby. Visit your phone occasionally. You may miss some photo ops, but your baby will have your undivided attention (great for bonding!), and you will feel more present and calm (awesome!).
Don’t try to wear your “normal” clothes for a few more months so that you can be comfortable and almost naked as much as possible, allowing for skin-to skin time with your baby. Keep pjs, bathrobes and loose-fitting dresses handy.
Goal: Get as much sleep as possible
Again, get the electronics out of the room, so that when your baby slips into sleep you can too. Set up a sleeping space for your baby in your room so you don’t have to go far (or even get out of bed) when it is time for a feeding or diaper change.
Delegate housework and cooking, so that you don’t have to think about those things and can focus on rest and recovery.
Make a plan with your partner to take the baby out of the bedroom and care for him/her first thing in the morning to give you a few hours of uninterrupted sleep that you can plan on.
Goal: Breastfeed like a pro
Establish a relationship with a postpartum doula or a lactation consultant who can come to your home for a session should you need support.
Check out kellymom.com and get familiar with some of the common challenges that new breastfeeding moms face and how to find the info you need.
Get a good book about breastfeeding and read up before giving birth. Leave the book near your bed or breastfeeding chair for quick reference while in the act!
Goal: Stay hydrated
Arrange for water bottles or thermoses of tea to be placed within arm’s reach of each place you lounge with your baby – your bed, nursing chair, couch, etc. When you see them nearby, take a sip!
make a big batch of the tea below (or better yet ask your partner or a friend to make it for you) and drink a cup every morning.
Goal: Stretch your body each day
Set a yoga mat or towel on the floor to create a space dedicated to stretching or doing yoga. Make sure it is somewhere you will notice it and use it.
Put on music that you love and move to it.
Goal: Journal about your experience
Keep your journal by your bed, and small notebooks &pens everywhere you have your water bottles. Then when you are resting and want to jot something down, your tools are right there. Alternatively, use the voice recorder or dictation on you phone to capture moments or thoughts (but don't get sucked into Facebook every time you pick it up!).
Goal: Allow others to help
Take my course “3 Secrets to a Happy and Healthy Postpartum” to tease apart your resistance to asking for support and move past it.
Contact a friend right now and ask them to organize meal delivery (mealtrain.com is great)
Create a list of things that visitors can help with so that when they ask if you need anything, you can show them the list and let them choose something to do (take out trash, wash dishes, change bed sheets, put in a load of laundry, sweep floor, hold baby while you bathe, etc.).
I hope these examples serve to get you thinking about how your environment can support the behaviors you want to cultivate. And it isn’t just your physical environment that holds sway over your life; it’s the people that you surround yourself with too: “You should surround yourself with people who love you enough to hold you to a high standard. Sometimes that means you’ll let these people down. But if you can communicate honestly, people are very understanding. There is absolutely nothing more important in life than other people. Nothing. Not even the brilliant and impactful work you will do. Especially with your spouse, children, immediate family, and close friends—those relationships are where your deepest joy and meaning can and should come. Those relationships are what drive you to be and do your best in life. They can serve as an incredible motivator.” ~ Benjamin Hardy
Life Beyond Birth provides support for expectant parents, and new babies & their families, online and in-person. Find a class or contact Molly at www.lifebeyondbirth.com.