Your Biggest Fear

So I joined this group of senior women, most of them involved in small tech companies you may have heard of like Google, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Adobe, and Twitter. Yeah, tiny start up types.

And when I say "senior" I don't mean old. I mean "at the top of the food chain." 

I sort of volunteered my way in to represent the media contingent and I'm glad I passed the initiation rites. It involved a lot of coding.

These are the women I'm not--they manage people, they're serious, they're bosses (not just bossy, otherwise I'd be right at home.) 

We meet quarterly and usually the conversation starts with an icebreaker or thought-provoking question. This one may not be new to you, but for some reason it really made me think hard: "Aside from losing your kids or spouse, what do you fear most?"

I had to think long and hard about that one. Some said they feared not being able to work--it would be like losing a big part of who they are. Others said they feared being diagnosed with a terminal illness and feeling like, "Oh my goodness, I haven't lived my life the way I wanted to." 

I think my biggest fear is being a bad parent. And I measure that by how my daughters turn out. If they're happy, successful, independent, financially secure, confident, nice, productive people, then I will feel pretty good about how things turned out. If they're not, I will have failed. 

Being a bad parent is so easy. You don't have an instruction manual. You don't have a formula that says "Do things this way and the results will be X." And even if you're a good parent in the traditional sense--you love your children, you provide for them, you set an example for them--you still have no guarantees on how they'll turn out. And if you're measuring yourself against that yardstick, which I am, then there's just so many variables and things you can't control. Hence the fear factor. 

I also think being a parent is probably the single most important thing I'm supposed to be doing. Yes trying to win a duPont or Peabody would be nice and doing public service through my work is rewarding, but at the end of the day, my biggest responsibility is to equip the two small people I brought into this world with everything they need to go forth and be amazing and to contribute and not be ineffective losers.

I'm just worried all the time that I'm not doing it well or doing it right or buttoning up all the loose ends. What if they're not tough enough? What if they get mixed up with a bad crowd? What if I don't teach them everything they need to know? What if they make bad, life altering decisions that they can't recover from? 

Not only can't I control everything, I wouldn't know what to do if I could. It's frustrating that the most important thing I should be doing comes with no recipe for solid results. 

Obviously I'm being really results-obsessed but that's sort of how I'm programmed. I'm all about outcome. And if there's not a positive outcome with my little people, it will be no one else's fault but my own. 

So yeah, that's enough to scare the bejesus out of me.

Funny, I don't think that's the biggest fear for most people who are parents. Because they know even if you 'do everything right,' how your kids turn out is always a little out of your control. But still, I fear being a bad parent. It's so hard, it's so variable, it's so subjective, it's so easy to compare yourself to other people in the hyper competitive Bay Area, and it's so unpredictable and there's so many ways to do it wrong.

Luckily the Good Doctor is supremely confident in his parenting skills. He should be. He's a natural. He doesn't give it a second thought. At least my girls have one parent who's not a complete scaredy cat. 

What about you--what's your biggest fear?