Are You a Mom with FOMO?

My daughter was about to crash and burn, and we both knew it. It was her first semester of college, midterms were approaching, and she’d been away from home for a few weeks, which meant she was sleep deprived. The genes she inherited from both her parents require sleep. Lots of sleep.

It was Thursday, and she couldn’t decide if she wanted to come home for the weekend or stay at college with her friends. Home meant her own bed in a quiet room, snuggling with her cat, and fifteen hours of undisturbed sleep before waking to study for mid-terms. I could hear the fatigue in her voice as she battled with her options.

“Why don’t you just come home?” I wanted her make her own decision…as long as it agreed with mine.

“Mom…” she whined. “I have FOMO.”

FOMO? Should I be worried?

“You know…” she said. “Fear of missing out.”

With that explanation I got FOMO, too–fear of my daughter missing out on sleep, missing out on passing midterm grades, missing out on a scholarship renewal. I picked her up Friday afternoon.

I’ve thought about that term–FOMO–many times since my daughter added it to my vocabulary. Because, before my nest was empty, I think I had FOMO and didn’t know it. If you’re a mom with children still under your roof, you may have it, too. But the condition looks a little different for us than it does for young adults.

Do you recognize any of these symptoms?

When karate ends, you rush from the dojo and speed across town, hoping you’re only five minutes late to gymnastics. Tomorrow you’ll do it again, except it’s guitar lessons followed by piano.

When you stop to fill your gas tank, you clean out a week’s worth of fast food bags from the back seat.

Your kids play a school sport for all seasons–a fall sport, a winter sport, a spring sport. Outside of school, they play on club teams in the “off season.”

The Friday night dance recital is followed by Saturday’s volleyball tournament, so the family skips church to sleep in Sunday morning.

Your summer schedule is packed with back-to-back camps, so you don’t have time for a relaxing family vacation.

Or you follow a traveling sports team all summer, so you don’t have money for a family vacation (and convince yourself this is relaxing).

Now, check your pulse. If you are on the verge of an anxiety attack after reading this list of symptoms, you might have FOMO. (Simply remembering my version of this craziness makes my chest tight!)

So, how does the fear of missing out drive us to pack our schedules with endless activities? The answer sounds like a bad 2:00 a.m. infomercial.

Spots Are Limited

What mom didn’t hold her newborn baby and know…just know…that he was a star quarterback destined for the NFL or she would be the next American Idol success story? Okay, maybe we don’t dream that big, but most moms want their kids to be part of something good, something we can enjoy and take pride in. But the competition is fierce, and there’s only so much room for greatness. So we get our kids involved in too many things, giving them all the opportunities we can, hoping they can snag one of those limited spots of greatness before they are all gone.

For a Limited Time Only

Achieving stardom takes time, but time waits for no mom, so we feel a sense of urgency. We start piano lessons now, at age 5 even though the teacher prefers age 7 when little hands are a little bigger, but starting younger means our daughter will become a musical prodigy sooner. And if our son doesn’t join the kindergarten soccer league now, how will he ever make it to the World Cup? We buy into the “early bird special” because we want our kids to be special.

A Limited Edition

If we can guarantee our kid gets one of those limited spots, and if we can start now and take advantage of the limited time, maybe, just maybe, our kid will become a limited edition–a VIP, an MVP, the best…the star. And then surely all the time and travel and money will have been worth it, right? Because colleges will call and professional teams will recruit and the New York Ballet Company will send a special invitation to audition. Um…probably not.

A Money-back Guarantee

Please don’t misunderstand me. Karate and gymnastics and music lessons and school sports and traveling teams and camps and dance are all wonderful activities. Absolutely valuable and wonderful. My girls learned skills, gained confidence, had fun, made friends, and were shaped by these experiences. I just wish I hadn’t let FOMO drive my decisions.

I distinctly remember the early years and signing up my girls for gymnastics, soccer, t-ball, basketball, volleyball, and piano, believing it was too much but fearing they wouldn’t find their niche’ if they didn’t try many things. Turns out, now that they’re 19 and 21, none of those things were their niche’…and it wasn’t the niche’ for most of the other kids either. Those “limited edition” kids really are limited…and looking back, it was evident who those kids were in second grade.

Years ago I heard some advice that I admired then and admire now, but I didn’t take it because…FOMO. A couple at church limited their son and daughter to one activity each. Period. It could be band or football or theater or martial arts, whatever the child chose. But it was one thing.

I often thought about that family and wondered what their weekend looked like when I was heading out of town for a two-day volleyball tournament, or what their summer looked like when we left camp on one side of the state to check in at another camp on the other side of the state, or what their evenings looked like when I was rushing from here to there and swinging through a drive-thru between.

If I could do it all over again, I would recognize my FOMO and rebrand it. Instead, I would fear missing out on peaceful evenings and slow weekends–because now I truly understand that precious family time is for a limited time only.

Do you have FOMO? What are you most afraid of missing? If you don’t have FOMO, tell us your secret!


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  1. Chelsey Rubino says:

    This is Perfect! Just what I needed to read🙂

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Chesley, you are at the stage where it’s time to sign the little ones up for ev-er-y-thing! I hope you find the perfect fit for each child and for your sweet family!

  2. Sharee says:

    Karen, this is so accurate!! I’ve struggled with FOMO and it definitely results in over commitment and stress!

  3. linda wilson says:

    I think I have FOMO you know I want to know what my girls are doing and where there are and I don’t know anything, horrible to get old

  4. Laurie Wood says:

    We also limited our kids to one thing per week. They have cousins who are exhausted because they’re constantly going from one activity to the other – the more exotic the better – and all I see are behaviour problems and unhappiness. We need to teach our kids how to amuse themselves and how to do creative things that give them pleasure like hobbies. Team sports are fine but kids need to learn how to live with themselves as well. Anyway, it worked for us. And I’m glad we have the kind of stress-free weekends we do!

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Smart mom! I used to wonder what we were teaching our kids by packing their schedules, if they’d ever know that wasn’t “normal.”

  5. Pat Wahler says:

    So very, very true, Karen. Thanks for being the voice of reason is this crazy-busy world.

  6. Sandy Slusher says:

    What a great post. I think we all fall into these FOMO traps. Life is to short we need to learn to slow down and just enjoy each other.

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