We can all be guilty of comparing ourselves and our lives to others on occasion, but rather than succumbing to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), let's try embrace JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) instead.
When my daughter was a baby I couldn't believe my luck - she ate when she was supposed to eat, burped when she was supposed to burp and slept when she was supposed to sleep. By six weeks old, she was already sleeping through the night. A "dream baby." I'd have play dates with mum friends and their babies of a similar age and when my daughter was tired, she'd just fall asleep - no jiggling about, no patting her on the back, no tears or fuss, she'd just drop off! My friends couldn't believe it and would comment on how lucky I was - I felt proud and, in all honesty, pretty smug! That was until all of my friend's babies began to crawl and my daughter didn't.
I began to question why my daughter wasn't crawling. Was she slow in developing? Is there a problem? I'd look online for the answers - “what age were children meant to crawl?” Although deep down I knew there wasn't a set time, “babies develop at different stages”, blah blah blah, but it didn't make me worry or compare my daughter any less. I didn't want my daughter to be behind, or feel that I wasn't good enough in some way at helping my child develop.
Is it Competitiveness or for Reassurance?
It's natural for parents to be proud of their child's smallest accomplishments, but as a first-time parent, despite my pride, I also felt unsure of myself and looked at other families to see if I was doing things correctly. Observations often and easily turned into comparisons. My friend's little boy started clapping, my daughter couldn't clap. A little girl, who was born 2 months after my daughter, had started to pull herself up onto her feet, my daughter didn't even want to stand when I held her hands. Was I doing something wrong? Should I be encouraging her more? Was I being competitive or did I just need reassurance?
“Every child is different”, “They all develop at different stages” were phrases I would hear a lot during paly dates. But as much as I wanted to refrain from comparison, I couldn't seem to help it. I enjoyed the feeling of having the “dream baby”, and yes, maybe I was a little smug, but it's also about having that seeming confirmation that you're doing something right. At the end of the day, we all just want to feel like we are succeeding at parenting – no matter what stage our little ones are at, we want to feel as though we are doing the right things to encourage their development. It's natural to look to others for advice and reassurance, but we also need to learn to have confidence in ourselves and trust that we are doing it right. (Whatever right is!)
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
The Fear of Missing Out describes that feeling of anxiety, regret and fear that comes with seeing what others are up to, where they've been, who they've been hanging out with and so on. Social media is considered to be one of the leading causes of FOMO and it's easy to see why.
My brother doesn't have children yet, but he often says how fed up he is of seeing all his friends posting pictures of their babies online. He recently said to me: “I couldn't care less if their baby sleeps through the night or if they liked the taste of sweet potato!” and quite rightly so – what does it matter to him. But, whether it matters or not, posts like those can manage to instil the feeling of being behind in life somehow, making him question whether he should be settling down. Just because life can move faster, doesn't mean that life should move faster though. And that's where JOMO comes in…
Joy of Missing Out
Just as The Fear of Missing Out is a relatively new phenomenon, it is already being replaced by a trendier and healthier version of itself: The Joy of Missing Out. JOMO is the perfect antidote to the speed of modern life. We all feel the pressure to live up to expectations and be at our best all of the time. So in order to make the most of JOMO, it's encouraged to forget what is happening out in the world and bring yourself back to your own world. And also to enjoy it. Enjoy what your children are doing rather than looking at what other people's children are up to.
Don't let the Joy of Missing Out be misinterpreted though. It may sound deceiving because it makes it seem like you are withdrawing from something amazing in exchange for doing something less exciting or worse, boring. JOMO doesn't mean that at all, it means choosing to live a slower, less competitive life, being present, and focusing on your family and your life instead.
Older and Wiser
My daughter is 9 now and by all means, she isn't perfect, but I am incredibly proud of her. In all honesty, I do still sometimes look at those same friend's children and compare their achievements to mine. My friend's daughter is amazing at gymnastics, and although my daughter spent two years going to classes, she still can't do a handstand or a cartwheel! But does that really matter? My daughter loves watching her friend cartwheel round the garden and they count together how many she can do in a row! That makes me proud and also reassures me that I am doing something right – she might not be able to cartwheel and she might be frustrated that she can't do them, but she is still able to find joy in her friend's achievement.
I am constantly learning and ‘winging' parenting. I do still look to friends for reassurance sometimes and often have to remind myself to refrain from comparison, but I guess I am only human! I try to learn from my daughter, to take joy in what she can do and try to not focus or worry about what she can't. By embracing our differences we are teaching our children that it's a good thing we aren't all the same. Those differences make us unique and interesting, and that's definitely something to be proud about.
Work + Family Content Team, Bright Horizons