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Lessons from 3 Men and a Baby


Three Men and a Baby is a 1987 American movie starring Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson. It follows three bachelors as they attempt to adapt their lives to de facto fatherhood with the arrival of the love child of one of the guys. I am a huge 80's film fan, and this is perhaps one of my very favourites, next to Dirty Dancing of course, because, let's face it...'nobody puts baby in a corner.' I digress...

I hadn't seen this heart warming film in years until this week. I felt like I was seeing it with new eyes. Not only do I love watching how they 3 adjust to this sudden new found identity as dads, but the arrival of baby Mary seems to awaken in them something they had never experienced before. They only realise how much they have come to love this little one after Mary's mother unexpectedly comes back to get her and take her back to the UK. 

After the scene where the mother and baby drive away in a taxi, the three men return to their loft apartment and Jack, the biological father (spoiler alert!), seems to try to convince himself that it's best if Mary is with his her mother, and that its 'good' things are back to normal. 

He then pauses and says, 'So, how come I feel so bad? I've got this pain in my chest...I wish it would go away.' The two others say maybe it's something he ate, or he might not be getting enough sleep, subtly diverting the topic but almost silently admitting that they also feel the same way.

Despite a massive interruption in their their lives, where they need to develop new coping strategies and suddenly ask for help from others around them, the three come to know themselves in an entirely new and transformative way. So much so that they know they cannot go back to life without Mary, because she has become their new reality.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

Interruptions are our teachers. Experience changes us. With the current pandemic still having a firm grip on the world (something we all were DEFINITELY not expecting, am I right?)...are we, as adult educators and practitioners, coping with our new reality or are we still trying to fight against it and stick to how we have always done things?

In the field of workplace learning, for example, COVID has been a seemingly massive disruption and the way we do things has needed to change. It has been somewhat of a awake up call for educators and organisations to do things differently, especially in how they handle learning needs. New knowledge, skills and attitudes are required with a focus on changing views on how business tasks are accomplished including new, innovative strategies for utilizing and retaining staff. 

Our very expectations about the world of work have also shifted, in terms of where and how we work and what actually constitutes 'productivity'. Employees have had the opportunity to step away from their regular patterns and routines and have the precious chance to reflect on what motivates them, what helps them feel connected, how they best learn and what strategies work for them or not. This, coupled with balancing family commitments, exercise, grocery shopping and deciding who does the chores might seem like a recipe for chaos, but perhaps there is some beauty in taking a step back and looking at our lives to say, 'What is really important here? What do I want to value or honour today? And, what can wait until tomorrow?'

This has further emphasised the notion that learning in adulthood does not just formally 'happen' while we attend a training session or take an online course. It is interwoven into how well we solve problems, achieve objectives, integrate into a new world of work, how we relate to and maintain relationships with one another, and how we grow our businesses as well.

Today, those who are tasked with adult learning (either in a workplace setting, academic environment, the corporate sector, or otherwise) are required to be highly creative in their approach, given the current world context. As we float between our work and personal lives more than ever (or maybe more between our bed and the kitchen), it's important for adult educators to take the time to consider:

  • Who are my learners? What are their immediate needs today? What might their needs be tomorrow?
  • What barriers exist for learning to take place? What is 1 step I can take to remove that today for someone or a group of people?
  • Is a formal training always the answer, or can I build in informal learning opportunities through discussions or self-directed tasks, to better suit the needs of learners, but also still making an impact? 
  • What skills/knowledge/attitudes are vital for the short term, and what can wait? Do I make this decision for learners or how I am I empowering them to do so?

As educators and practitioners take time to make better decisions about their approach to helping learners navigate change in their lives (both personal and professional) from a learning perspective, this is where adults can experience transformation. While these times are challenging, I do believe we have the potential to grow, change and adapt in a profound way.

Thanks for stopping by.



Jane Erickson

Founder of The Adult Learning Hub, a community for adult educators and practitioners.


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