RVA Family: FOMO, parenting style

You miss your kid when you’re not around him or her, and you miss the other stuff when you are. Is there a way to have it all?

I never made the conscious decision I was going to work full-time after becoming a parent. It’s just how things happened, and now our lives are wrapped around this choice in myriad ways. This would be fine, except social media throws this huge wrench into the decision pretty much every day for me, and I’ve been trying to figure out and solve the problem. I want to be everywhere doing everything, being an active participant in different circles, and whatdoyaknow, having a kid makes that more of a challenge. So, I find myself becoming more and more married to my social media.

I get text updates about my daughter throughout the day from my mom–these little text-pings fill me with joy and also make me fear I’m missing out on so, so much. I fear I’m missing out on her laughs, missing out on learning to wave, missing out on her first ride in a swing, and I imagine there’s a lot more I’m going to miss in the future, too.

You could call it Fear of Missing Out (“FOMO”), Parenthood Style (“FOMOPS”). I’m  checking my phone periodically because I’m worried I’m going to miss being there for my daughter’s first steps. Of course, it’s not like looking at daily updates is going to change the fact that I’m at work. I can’t rush out from work if I get a text that she took her first steps. First steps will probably be gone and done without me there, and no amount of checking my phone will let me go back in time to not miss out on those, along with other firsts.  Checking the phone does nothing but remind me of this fact. And yet I check. And check.  

There’s no real way around it. I am missing things. I will continue to miss things my daughter does M-F and every other Saturday. I don’t want anybody to sugarcoat it for me and tell me that I’m not missing out on a lot of firsts. I am.

To balance out this sense of loss, I try to maximize the amount of quality time we spend together on the weekends. You’d think it’d be an easy tradeoff, but by the time the weekend hits, I am tired yet feel compelled to be ON 110% for my baby. I owe it to her to be Present and Tuned In all the more because it’s the only time I have with her. But it turns out that between those milestone moments there are a lot of really boring moments. I find myself zoning out and checking my phone to see what other people are doing. I can’t let it go, because what if I miss a FitBit challenge? What if people are doing something somewhere?  What if I’m late to an interesting discussion in one of my Facebook groups? All the stuff I doodle around with on my phone during the rest of my week away from her is the stuff that I have a hard time pulling away from when she’s back with me.

I can’t seem to win–I’m married to my phone when I’m away from her, I’m married to my phone when I’m with her. It’s either fear of missing out on her days without me, or passing the time and the desire to continue participating in “social” activities online during her days with me.  

So what to do? I’ve decided against asking my mom not to send me the text updates, though she offered when she thought they might be making me sad. I like those happy little pings to my inbox. But the constant checking up on my social “elsewheres”–FaceBook, Twitter, Insta–those I’m trying to loosen my grip on.  Will I miss out on some social interactions by backing away? Absolutely. But…I think that’s okay with me at this point. I lived pretty well without FaceBook until college, I’ll probably LIVE if I remove it from my weekending. I’ve taken the babiest of baby steps and have deleted the FaceBook app from my phone. Poof. I have yet to miss it.

For the first time this weekend I sat in my daughter’s nursery while she played quietly by herself in her nook and I read a book. It’s a step away from dwelling on the ever-present Cloud of interactions happening elsewhere. I still fear missing a lot of firsts during the week, and I know I’m missing out on things my friends are doing that they share on social media when I step back, but the reality is, I can’t will things into only happening when I’m available, and I think it’s unhealthy for me to be online and available as often as I am.  I can’t be everywhere experiencing everything.

So firsts happen when they happen. Social stuff happens when it happens. Things are always going to happen without me, and I’m working on being more conscious of when it’s okay to step away and let things float on by without jumping in to participate. I will try not to dwell on my not-there-ness when I’m not there, but when I am around I’m putting in an effort to not be “elsewhere.”  

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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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