My toddler and I were at the park the other day, enjoying the last days of our beautiful Portland summer. He loves to swing and the delight on his face as he flies through the air reminds me of the importance of simple pleasure. He can swing for an hour without getting bored or thinking there is something else he should be doing.

How many hours do I pass in such perfect presence?

There was a woman pushing her grandson on the swing next to us. The mother of the toddler stood nearby with her brand new 11-day-old baby in a stroller. As mothers do, our conversation turned to the realities of mothering. The grandmother said she is a pediatric nurse whose job is to answer the call line at a busy clinic. I was fascinated by this.

What do mothers call to ask about the most?

She said, you wouldn’t believe the pressure women feel these days to breastfeed. It is ridiculous. There are many, many women who just can’t. I mean really, what’s the difference? You feed your baby either way, bottle or breast. 

I paused.

I care a lot about breastfeeding and believe that while some women just can’t due to a variety of challenges, many women who are struggling just need more resources and support (from someone who believes in them).

In coaching, we often use this tool: connect with the storyteller not the story. This nurse had a very strong story about women and breastfeeding, based on her own beliefs and experiences. And I have my own story, based on my experiences. I could, of course, argue with her. But, I also had the opportunity to really hear her words and connect to the feelings and needs behind them. I took a deep breath.

Are you concerned about how stressed new mothers feel and guilty when they feel that are not successful as moms?

Yes! Other women are so critical of each other. And there are all these books out there claiming the right way to do things. Women need to trust their own bodies.

I feel the same way! In this moment I realized our conversation went an entirely different direction than it would have if we had focused on an issue or ideology. Now we were talking about how much we cared about women and both had a need for them to trust themselves.

Moments like these are so powerful. When I was younger, I was a passionate activist and would argue with anyone about issues I cared about like bicycle commuting, natural childbirth, protecting the environment and more… But often the conversations would be frustrating and end with no one really listening. Lately, I am learning how listening to people with different opinions than mine and finding a way to connect to their feelings and needs is much more productive.

The truth is we all have similar needs. We just have very different strategies for meeting them. And being heard is one of our primary needs as human beings. If you can meet that need, often miracles can happen in understanding and change.


This post was taken from my blog for mamas at