When you hear the term FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – you might think it only applies to social-media-addicted teens and tweens, stressing over what their pals show and tell online. But the fact is, plenty of us parents experience it now that many adults are taking to social media to share their photos, often of their best selves, living their best and highly-edited lives.
And that can be tough for others to see and not feel envious. Posts of beach vacations, neighbours enjoying amazing block parties, families joining up for special events with a gaggle of kids in tow. It can spark a feeling of nervous unease in the onlookers – shouldn’t I be doing all these things as well? Why doesn’t my street have a block party? I’d love to go on a vacation without my kids! Or even – why wasn’t I invited, or why was my kid excluded?
Yes, parents, families and friends can still form cliques and post all about their exploits just as well as their tween and teen brethren. And reading such posts can sometimes elicit feelings of envy, or FOMO.
But rather than allowing this to be a negative association, there are ways to treat it as a positive – to allow it to be the kick in the behind that might be required to help you achieve some of your goals – think of it as a vision board channelled through social media!
Here are some ways to get control of FOMO and make it work for you:
1. Volunteer: If you’re feeling FOMO because you don’t yet have a network of parent friends in your neighbourhood, volunteer at the school or attend parent council meetings. It can be a great way to connect with the parents of your kids’ friends and classmates, plus you’ll learn more about what’s going on at the school. And then when it comes times for school events, you’ll know a lot more people. Good for you, great for the kids.
2. Be the Organizer: Let’s face it – sometimes, if you want to live on the type of block that has an awesome street party every year, you may have to be the one to organize it. Hopefully, this will inspire others to help and take turns, but that’s not the reason to do it – and don’t expect that to be the case. Volunteering to do something like this should come from a desire to do it, not from feelings of guilt. If you want a tradition, start one and enjoy the process. And then enjoy the event for what it is, not for the photo opportunities it provides.
3. Suggest Something: I was feeling blue this winter looking at social media posts of online friends heading off on trips with friends, sans kids. I was down in the dumps and desperately wanted to do something with my friends, just like in my 20s. I don’t have a friend group in my neighbourhood with whom I could go on such a trip – we aren’t close enough, and schedules just don’t allow. But I do have awesome friends from high school, and I reached out to them to see if we could organize a weekend getaway. Understandably, two could not work in a weekend away without kids, but two others were open to the idea and we’ve started to discuss plans. They might not develop into anything, but the mere fact that it is a possibility is glorious.
4. Remember All the Things You Do Have: Fear of Missing Out is often about focusing on what you don’t have, or aren’t experiencing. But what about all of the things you do have? In my case, I get to go away with my mom and sisters every December for an overnight to a spa or village. I have a super supportive yoga community. Wonderful cottage neighbours. Just because my “haves” look different than what I see on social media, doesn’t mean they are any less valuable. When you start to look at the wealth of relationships and experiences you have or have had, social media starts to seem fairly irrelevant.
5. Do the Next Thing: Introverts, this may apply to you. With hectic schedules and horrible weather, it’s super easy to only do things with our immediate family or to cocoon up. And that’s fine – most of the time. But it’s also important to do things without the kids in tow, or even your partner. So do the next thing. Go to book club, or yoga, or CrossFit. Flex your logistics muscles and get kid coverage to head to the spa or beach with friends. Make it to the next Paint Night or potluck. Being with different people without our kids may energize us in ways that help fill our patience tanks and stoke our energy levels, even though at the outset it may seem as though this event is an obligation or hassle to plan for.
6. Check Your Goals: Finally, return to what your actual goals, values and desires are. If spending time with your immediate family is most important to you, then don’t worry about what you see on social media – do what is right for you. Or if you believe in building a strong, connected neighbourhood, then work on that. Support the clubs, organizations and outings that are aligned with your own personal interests and values, not just because everyone else is doing it. When you notice people, events or groups that you look up to, or that fill you with positive energy, attach yourself to those endeavours – no matter what it looks like on social media.
By testing out what we value, we can abandon FOMO and instead set goals and dedicate our time and energy to events and people that we feel good about. And that can turn FOMO into JOMO – a joy of missing out.