I read an article recently about how parents have FOMO—or fear of missing out—when it comes to their children. The article bemoans the push towards making kids have every experience under the sun before they leave for college.
“I know we came to this place out of love for our kids, but it’s got to stop. The goal of parenting is not to produce 18-year-olds with a fully checked-off bucket list.” Amen!
I blame social media for this. Social comparison isn’t new. In fact, it’s a healthy and normal part of life. After all, we’ve all heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”, but what happens when we’re constantly assaulted by picture perfect, filtered images of incredible family vacations and staged photo shoots and happy, smiling faces on Instagram and Facebook?
It makes me lose my mind.
I recently started a new Instagram account for “bookstagram”. I totally thought I found my people: all of these women who adore books, warm sweaters and coffee. But I seriously can’t keep up with the gorgeous pictures they post of the books they are reading, adorned with holiday lights against some fabulous background.
Seriously. I tried to set up a Flatlay for a “bookstagram” challenge. I was wracking my brain, trying to come up with the perfect combination of things to go in the picture, while I was sweeping up a huge mess of Cheerios from my floor. Suddenly, I thought to myself: my Flatlay should simply be all these Cheerios scattered all over my hardwood floor, with the dustpan and broom laid close by.
That is my reality. That’s probably most of our realities, but is that what we see on social media? No, of course not. All of us are so determined to share only the best and brightest pictures that we’re literally making ourselves insane trying to keep up.
Pinterest is what gets me the most, or rather the moms I snarkily refer to as “Pinterest Moms”. These are the moms who leave every kid a cute beach bucket filled with sand toys and sunglasses at the end of the year. Really? This is a thing now? A gift for every kid in the class?
Valentine’s Day made me feel awful. My daughter came home with gorgeous handmade cards, generous displays of candy and in one case, a little bag filled with marshmallows, mini chocolate chips and pretzels and instructions on how to make your own snowman.
I was totally unprepared for this and my daughter was only in the two year old class last year.
When does it end?
Actually, it ends with each of us.
A Psychology Today article talked about “good enough mothering”, a term that came from psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott.
“A good enough parent is committed to parenting, pays attention to the child, provides a sense of security, knows she is going to screw up and knows that, just as the sun rises each day, she will keep trying.”
“A good enough mother is not always blissful; she feels stress and strain, runs out of patience and wishes she had more of lots of resources at her disposal—psychological and material. She worries about doing too much, not doing enough and keeps trying anyway. The perfect parent isn’t guided by FOMO Parenting, nor is she aiming for perfection. (When you know what that is, tell me.) The perfect parent is good enough, guided by the knowledge that he or she keeps showing up and trying. What the rest of them do is their problem.”
Our responsibility as parents is to make our children feel loved and safe.
It’s easy to get caught up in social media, especially because sometimes our only connection with the outside world is through Facebook. Online support groups or social groups have become such integral parts of our everyday life that it’s hard to remove ourselves from them.
However, there are ways to make sure that we don’t get caught up in FOMO.
Walk away from social media. Take a small hiatus or delete the social media apps from your phone so your only connection is through a computer.
Unfollow people who you constantly compare yourself to. Leave a group whose members make you feel bad about yourself and your parenting.
I’ve said it before, but find your tribe. This can totally be an online group or an in person group, but it has to be filled with people who do not make you doubt your every move as a parent and who offer you love and support, even when your opinions differ. The moms I spend the most time with have similar values, goals and ideas about what parenting means to them.
Be realistic about what works for your family.
Your children may be too young to enjoy an expensive outing or vacation. You might need to focus your finances on paying off debt or fixing something in your home without buying a large toy for your child.
Also, don’t judge people if they do things differently than you do. Those Pinterest moms? It’s not my place to get annoyed at their craftiness. Maybe crafting or cute creations bring them joy in the way a good book gives me joy.
What it comes down to is that your kids want to spend time with you, doing what they’re interested in. My older daughter and I recently started snuggling on our couch and reading holiday books every afternoon before her quiet time. That means more to both of us than some big experience or ambitious craft.
I’ll leave you with the wise words of freelance writer Mathew Lajoie.
“It is essential to rely on your own compass to guide parenting decisions. Filter out the urges to FOMO parent… take in what’s useful and consciously make your decisions for your family… a successful parent is one who is present and makes an honest effort.”