The stories that we tell and repeat to ourselves can have an impact on how we retrieve memories. Recently, while in conversation with other mothers, we got into the topic of motherhood in the first year of our babies. As I talked with them, I started remembering that, although challenging, caring for my baby felt like a very natural, organic, and without major anxiety type of experience. Contrary to what I had been told, being a mother and taking care of my baby was an extremely pleasurable and rewarding experience, especially considering that I did not have support from extended family. If I had hadn't that conversation, I would have forgotten about such sense of satisfaction, calmness and knowing-where-you-are-heading-type of feeling. Reflecting on it, I recalled the concept of flow or being in the zone described by the positive psychologist Csikszentmihalyi. He believes that happiness is an intentional act that can be lived during these moments of flow. So, flow "is a mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity" (Wikipedia).
Based on my experience and the findings of Csikszentmihalyi, here are a few tips that seemed to help me attain that state of flow:
1. Have overall goals or expectations for you and your baby, but let life take care of the rest.
I read a lot about babies in that first year. It really helped me when I had questions or concerns, but I never aimed for perfection, from me or from my baby. Have a vision of where you want to go and that will be enough to guide you. You do not have to map out every single thing about your child's development. Soon you will learn that routines are an ever-changing thing to which you will have to adapt constantly! Things will fall in its place if you let it be.
2. Tune in to your baby's rhythm (go with the flow!):
In sequence of the above point, don't have huge hopes regarding when and how the baby should eat, sleep, and how s/he should behave, especially in the first 6 months. Observe your baby's natural rhythm and temperament, and create an environment that encourages him/her natural flow.
3. Have low expectations about the status of organization in your house
Cleaning and cooking might not always be accomplished tasks. If you are a stay-at-home, you most probably will pressure yourself to clean and cook. This is not to say that you should neglected these tasks completely, just don't be disappointed if you are not able to do it all.
4. When you are with your baby, just be.
Don't think of the work you have to do and the dishes you did not wash, or what type of mother you should be. When you are with your baby, give him/her your undivided attention: look her in the eyes, talk to him/her, sing to him/her, tell him/her about things you see, etc. Your baby is wired to want connection with you, so take advantage of that!