Maren Donata Urschel

While we are busy teaching our children how to grow, they are quietly reminding us how to live and work

When I was pregnant with our first child, Aaron, I took a year’s break from my CPD. I assumed I would not get round to it. Little did I know that I had signed up for a series of master classes held by my son. They would have a deep impact on my work. Here are a few insights from the past 18 months:

Failure and repetition are integral to learning When Aaron wanted to feed himself with a spoon, I was fascinated at how his focus on the task got him through countless failures and repetitions. Instead of dwelling on how many times he missed his mouth, he seemed absorbed by the process of learning and the joy of success.

What would be possible in the workplace if failure and repetition were seen as integral to learning?

Emotional agility facilitates new beginnings

I don’t bear grudges, but seeing my son change from a tantrum to happiness and back in a short time challenged me. I noticed how resentment and thoughts about my ego were getting in the way of being fully present with him. Increasing my emotional agility has enabled me to be present with Aaron’s emotions and to watch for the possibility of a new beginning.

How much does resentment get in the way of new beginnings at work? What if it didn’t?

Words are a fraction of what makes up meaning Aaron does not speak yet, so every day is a training camp in interpreting his facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice. And I understand him! Often, we forget that words constitute only a fraction of what is meaning. How many misunderstandings at work could be avoided if we assigned the same value to non-verbal communication that we assign to words?

People carry an innate wisdom of what is right for them We make a lot of decisions on behalf of our son. From deciding which toys to offer him to which nursery to go to. While it is not always possible to let Aaron choose, most of the time, it is. I was fascinated by how he seems to carry an innate wisdom of knowing what is right for him. In enabling him to live that, I needed to learn to step back and stop making assumptions. It has opened up a huge amount of possibility – both for him and for us as parents.

What if we did not make assumptions about what is good for others? How much would we learn if we could let others surprise us with their choices?

There is no other than systemic thinking When Aaron started copying my gestures, tone of voice and how I approach certain things, I saw conditioning in action. What a responsibility for a parent. And what a rich learning in how any system we encounter contributes to who we are and who we become.

What if we started seeing people in the context of the systems they come from? What if we paid respect to what was there before us and enabled proper endings and beginnings?

So often, parental leave is seen as a phase in which parents put their career on hold. Well, in some ways they do, yet in many other ways they grow immensely as a person. This is a huge asset to how they will operate as professionals when they return to work. Where could we get to if organisations became interested in what parents learn from their children? What if we only integrated one of these learnings into our work? I am grateful for all the things my son has taught me, about myself, life and how to become a more rounded human being.


Maren Donata Urschel is an experienced coach and supervisor