Conversations: What Keeps You Up at Night as a Parent?

October 30, 2018
People Talking

Parents gather in all kinds of communities to talk about things that matter most to them. Here we asked two moms and a dad what keeps them up at night as they think about their families.

Jane:

My kids, so far, are pretty confident and self-possessed, so my biggest fear isn’t that they’re heading toward some cataclysmic meltdown, or whatever else typically ranks high on the lists of parent fears. My anxiety is much more mundane and basic. It’s really just about money. Not crazy amounts, mind you. My concern is about having enough to cover just really basic things. That’s a concern that has yet to go away. And to see the rich parents around me every day, (none of you lovely people, of course…) but to see them in their expensive highlights and handbags…from the signals they’re putting out, I’m not sure it ever does go away—for any of us. I’m talking about moms with crazy resources at their disposal but from the look of their clenched jaws and nervous eyes, it doesn’t look to me like they have any more peace of mind than I do. I would guess that behind many of those manicured, boxwood hedges there is plenty of stress too. Not from personal experience mind you…but I think money creates about as many problems as it solves. So give me my middle class family and middle class problems any day, because I know how to handle them. …But I do still worry.

Melissa:

Oh: I know waaaay more rich people buying up lottery tickets for that big $1.6 billion payday than people who actually need money. There is never enough. Never. So you go through life knowing that and eventually you just lean into it: I-will-never-feel-totally-financially-secure. The trick is to not telegraph that to our kids. They need to have real childhoods, where their worries are about kid things—getting good grades, making friends, having the cool new haircut. So I just need to stay really smart about how to stretch a dollar. My favorite money mom hack is Costco on Saturday, food prep on Sunday. Six days worth of sliced, diced, semi-cooked food organized and packed away in the fridge gets me ready for a week that include zero expensive trips to fast food chains or restaurants.

Jane:

OK, so if you’re financially fearless in any tax bracket, then what does scare you as a mom?

Melissa:

Oh, that’s easy. That my kids will see right through me and realize I’m not nearly the person that I’m trying to raise.

Jane:

So…hypocrisy?

Melissa:

Sure, that works.

Jane:

Damon, you’re being awfully quiet over there…

Damon:

Sorry, I was just soaking up all the knowledge here today. (Laughs) OK, Costco, Sunday food prep, authenticity with my kids, no expensive highlights…got it.

Melissa:

Ha, ha. OK, Let’s hear a dad’s take on this. Fearless fathers, right? “Catch them on the first bounce?” Isn’t that your gender’s go-to position on setting our kids loose in the world? So what things keep you up at night tossing and turning?

Damon:

Oh, I think I know too much about technology not to be worried about where it’s taking us in terms of our quality of life. It’s like Jane said earlier about money creating nearly as many problems as it solves. Technology has that same potential to make our lives simultaneously better and worse. I mean, I love drones, and when they first hit the market I was out there flying them with my son. But it didn’t take long before I did the math and figured out that privacy is disappearing really fast, and drone technology is only one of those front lines. I just filed a patent for generating counter-measures against invasive drones in private airspace, and it might help a few people a little bit, but it’s really just bringing a spoon to bail out the ocean. It’s not enough that I have my Alexa unplugged most of the time, or that I encrypt my emails. This week I read about the thousands of people in Sweden who voluntarily had chips embedded into their hands so they can communicate their data to gyms, banks, offices, the doors on their cars and homes. It’s the size of a rice grain and costs $180. Pretty low barrier to entry for all the convenience it brings, right? But when you step back, it just seems a little too much like an episode of Black Mirror on Netflix.

Jane:

Oh I watch Black Mirror as research, not entertainment. Those episodes are scary accurate, and only getting more so. I tune in to get a handle on what’s coming down the pike a year or two from now. And you realize that with all of these fears we’ve discussed, we haven’t even touched on how we think our kids are going to turn out.

Melissa:

Or how we’re actively ensuring they don’t turn out based on our own issues!

Damon:

OK, so how do we keep our own fears in check as we try to be good role models to our kids who are hopefully not worrying about all of these same things?

Jane:

I think we only bite off as much as we know we can chew. We take turns vexing on big issues like technology or terrorism on behalf of all other parents and kids, but at the end of the day, we’re likely to have more demonstrable impact on small things and small moments inside our homes.

Damon:

OK, so if I set aside my work and patents for a minute and bring this down to my household and the people in it, here’s what worries me: the immediate impact tech and social engagement are having on our kids. So much of what they’re reading and interacting with is cloaked by an anonymous internet wall—and all the implications that brings with it: emotional desensitization, false personas, isolation, talking trash, voyeurism, tribalism, impatience. These are not attributes I want my kids adopting. They’re good kids, so happily they’re resisting most of these slippery slopes. But how well are their peers doing with all of this?

Melissa:

Maybe reinforcing kindness is how we counter almost everything we’ve brought up today. Listening to our kids like we’re actually going to learn something from them, not just listening to react to them. So they can go out into the world and listen that same way. Tech has a lot of people talking at each other. Maybe we can dial that down a little by showing them what real listening looks like, face-to-face. What real kindness looks like. I stay up at night worrying that my kids will end up jerks if I don’t try really hard to model non-jerk behavior at home.

Jane:

I like that. No matter how much money or tech you have in your life, if you’re raising kids who aren’t jerks, I think that sounds like a good start.

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