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L&D Lessons Learned from Being a Parent (Part 3 of 5)

Lessons learned in parenting from a poop emergency can have surprising transferability to the world of instructional design.


I am not sure I can write a mini blog series on lessons I’ve learned in parenting without including a poop story, can I? But don’t worry, thankfully, this blog comes sans smells, and I will leave out most of the gory details.

When our youngest was two months old, we traveled as a family to Southern California for vacation. The trip unfortunately coincided with some constipation for our little one. With little babies, this isn’t necessarily uncommon. However, most caregivers know that after a poop hiatus, when it comes, it’s likely to be EPIC… so we were on high alert.

Day five. The poop came just after we had ordered our favorite double-doubles at a popular burger joint. (Of course it had to happen when we were out and about) So, I scooped up the baby and the diaper bag and headed to the restroom to change him. 

No changing station. 

Hmmm. Could it wait? 

No. Baby was very fussy.

I texted my husband to let him know the status and he offered to take the baby to the car to change him (partner points!!)

I still laugh when I look back at our text exchange. Within seconds, I got three successive texts:

Image of the SOS poop text messages from my husband.



And a poop brain exploding emoji.

Let’s just say, it ended up being a team effort ;-).

So what is the point and how is this connected to work?? 

Here is what this experience reminded me of: unexpected baby poop is much like when a project goes sideways. You have to drop everything and take care of it in order to prevent a bigger mess. It’s also similar to when a learner raises a question or concern in the middle of a training that halts the session. It likely needs to be responded to right away so that credibility and trust are not lost. 

It may not be convenient. 

And it often is not conventional.

But it is important. 

Fixing the project, responding to the question, or addressing the concern can usually prevent a larger mess and often saves time and stress in the long run. And when the unexpected happens, sometimes teamwork makes the dreamwork. It can be very helpful to pull in others to be an extra set of hands or help you think straight. I’ve been known to pull in a SME at the end of a training session to help answer questions live. It makes the learners feel special to have an expert as a guest speaker and it provides an opportunity for robust and engaging discussions.

I’ve also held many eleventh hour working sessions to untangle a mess of triggers, variables, and states to make sure an eLearning is just right. You’ve likely done the same. Things can get off-schedule or not go as planned in the world of Learning and Development. When we take the time to respond with care, even when it’s not convenient, we can often circumvent a larger problem.

An infant’s poop emergency can be a metaphor for our own work, too. Have you ever wondered when you yourself might be the “poop emergency” that made everyone else drop what they were doing to help with your project? A last-minute request for some graphic design help on a slide deck. An oversight on an elearning interaction that should have been QA’d a while ago and now someone else needs to pause their own work to help fix it.

These kinds of things will happen, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to be the poopy baby in this metaphor. I’ve found that learning from these “emergencies” and trying to make sure I’m prepared in advance can help me avoid others looking at me like the poopy baby.

My kids taught me: Take the time to give proper care and attention before you have a bigger mess on your hands. 

Share your experience! Have you ever had a project go sideways and had to stop to take care of things before you had a bigger problem? Or funny baby poop stories? I’m also in for those too 🙂

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