They say that speaking your issues out loud is the first step toward a successful recovery, so here goes: I have deeply-rooted FOMO.
In case that acronym is foreign to you, it means Fear Of Missing Out and it’s a very real social anxiety. I’ve struggled with it for years, but perhaps not as badly as in the past three. Why? After leaving my full-time job to stay at home with my children, I sometimes feel like I’m watching the world spin outside the windows of my home, while I’m inside wiping noses, cleaning bathrooms, and preparing supper.
I’m sure a lot of you mamas can relate, right? It’s such a blessing to be home with my kids, but it can also feel terribly isolating and lonely if I sit and think about it long enough.
As soon as my husband comes home from work, he begins to tell me all about his day. He discusses who he talked to, where he went for lunch, and any sort of workplace drama he’s experiencing. For other women, these tiny details might seem insignificant, but to me, they’re as interesting as any novel. He interacted with other adults all day! Tell me what that’s like!
On the other hand, I usually don’t have much to report besides a trip to the library or local children’s museum. I do, however, have a gazillion pictures of our precious babies I snapped throughout the day and that fills my soul up so much.
Yet, I can’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy as I watch others move forward in life all around me, while I often feel as though I’m stuck at a standstill or frozen in a time machine.
One example? My sister recently landed her dream job as the librarian at our local elementary school. This was her first job ever, and it’s everything she’s ever wanted. She gets tons of (well-deserved) praise for her performance and everywhere I go, someone tells me what an incredible job she’s doing.
I love her and my brother more than life itself, but I can’t pretend those comments don’t sting just a little. It wasn’t too long ago that I too was rocking a pencil skirt and heels in my office, earning praise from my superiors and climbing the corporate ladder. Yet, when my daughter was born in 2014, I didn’t think twice about abandoning the job. And though there are definitely hard days, I don’t regret that decision one bit.
My sister is simply at a stage in her life where she has a lot more flexibility and freedom than I do. She’s also starting the process of moving out of our family rental home and purchasing a spot of her own. As first time buyers, she and her husband have gone on many open house showings around the neighborhood, each spot a little bigger and better than the next. Will it hurt to see her move into somewhere brand-new, while I’m still making repairs on our tiny fixer-upper? Sure. But I have to remember that someone else’s gains are not my loss. That’s the first way to tame this little green monster that threatens to poke his head out at every turn.
I can stare at the walls all day and wonder what everyone else is doing, or I can become an active participant in my own life, and savor every minute of it. I’ve learned there are a few ways I can avoid feeling the heavy burden of FOMO, and taking these steps intentionally has done wonders for my mental health. Here are a few tricks that work for me.
1. Remember the filters. Sure, you can hop on Instagram and see thousands of pictures of mamas with spotless, white farmhouse kitchens. You know what’s probably lurking right out of sight? A giant mess of dishes moved just to capture that “perfect” moment. I have to remind myself, especially when I get on social media, that I’m looking at someone’s highlight reel, not the full movie of their life. There are enough filters and settings to make anything look ideal and out-of-reach.
2. Make a nightly gratitude list. I’ve read about the importance of making a gratitude list for years now, but I’ve always written it off as something I didn’t necessarily need to do. Yet, after a particularly difficult night of feeling left out, I sat down on my bed and scribbled a few things that I’m incredibly grateful for. That first list was short and read, “Finger painting outside, a warm muffin for breakfast, and a hot bath.” Yet, seeing those blessings tangibly written out re-centered my focus and helped me remember everything I have.
3. Get out and explore. It’s easy to leave my leggings on all day and sit around doing virtually nothing with the kids. Yet, when my parents stop by in the afternoon and tell me all about the things they’ve done, I feel just a little behind. This fall, I decided to do something about it. I joined a few local community groups on Facebook and I now have access to every new event that’s happening around town. I pay especially close attention to the family-friendly ones and it’s made a world of difference. I’ve taken the kids to the zoo, a few fall festivals, and more than one new restaurant in recent months. It’s helped me feel more plugged in and connected, and the kids have really enjoyed it as well.
At the end of the day, staying at home doesn’t have to feel like seclusion, and FOMO doesn’t have to be a part of my vocabulary anymore. I’m vowing today to quit comparing and ease up just a bit on the pity party. I’ve got two babies who look up at me with sky blue eyes, reaching their arms up just to be close to me. So I might not be acing the corporate world anymore, and entire days might go by when I speak primarily in baby talk, but I honestly couldn’t ask for anything more. Here’s to embracing the right-now, the messy, the tiring, and the beautiful – and not missing out on the incredible lives we’re already leading.