Monday, May 1, 2017

We Have FOMO for Our Children and It Needs to Stop

Recently, I was reading a blog post about a family determined to pay off their mortgage early. They decided to postpone a vacation to Disney World, which the mother said was an important sacrifice to make, even though "it kills me to think that my 3-year-old is missing out on that experience."

Never mind that a 3-year-old wouldn't remember a thing about a Disney vacation a year from now.

Never mind that a 3-year-old would be equally delighted to blow bubbles in the driveway and get a pudding pop.

Of course there's nothing wrong with Disney World. But my mother antennae are starting to go up because I'm detecting that we have a serious cultural problem with FOMO.

Except the fear of missing out isn't for us, it's for our kids.

Since when did childhood become a checklist of "experiences"? We're approaching parenting as if it's some sort of accelerated enrichment course, and our grade depends on the number of "experiences" (often elaborate and expensive ones) we've furnished for our children.

We tend to feel a lot of anxiety and mom guilt about providing bucket list-worthy experiences for our kids, but in reality, children don’t have bucket lists. If we’re raising kids that feel safe and loved, nothing else in parenting matters. #momguilt #raising kids #fomo #disney #parentingtips #unremarkablefiles

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.

We are stressing ourselves out and giving ourselves FOMO by making parenting about making sure the kids do all the things, visit all the places, and have all the fun  all before they're old enough to open their own bank account.

But we don't have to try to pack an entire lifetime of experiences into 18 years. Our job, our real job, is to make our kids feel safe and loved. That's it.

We are stressing ourselves out and giving ourselves FOMO by making parenting about making sure the kids do all the things, visit all the places, and have all the fun. And we need to stop.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
If you want to go on fancy vacations and you can afford it, then do it. It'll be fun. But please don't feel like your kid is missing out. There is no official list of things they must do or see in order to have a good childhood.

Remember that you are raising children, not building a résumé.

Orchestrating a series of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for kids in't the goal of parenting. Raising well-rounded, secure, healthy people is the goal, and there are many ways to do that  both ones that do and don't include a trip to Disney World.

Not all of the experiences that develop your child's character can be found on a list of 101 Amazing Things Your Kids Must Do Before They Grow Up.

We are stressing ourselves out and giving ourselves FOMO by making parenting about making sure the kids do all the things, visit all the places, and have all the fun. And we need to stop.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}So maybe the things that end up shaping your kids' lives will be cheaper, closer to home, and in a word, ordinary.

Maybe their "what I did over my summer vacation" essay when they go back to school in the fall will sound less impressive than their classmates'.

That's okay.

Because of money, distance, family circumstances, or a hundred other reasons, your kids are going to "miss out" on a good number of things we wish they could experience.

That really doesn't matter as much as we think it does. Because if your kids know what it feels like to grow up loved, then you're already giving them the most important experience of all.

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Michelle said...

This is one of my favorite things you've ever written! I couldn't agree more. I have a friend who takes his family of 4 to Disney 2-3 times a year. It boggles my mind how they can afford it, not to mention how stressful that would be with young children. I highly doubt we'll be able to afford fancy family vacations, and that's ok. I went on some nice trips as a kid, but my favorite childhood memories are playing outside with my friends and road trips to visit family members. They have the rest of their lives to travel, and those kinds of experiences can be much more meaningful as an adult anyway.

Jenny Evans said...

Not that there's anything wrong with that if it's what you want to do, but the FOMO problem comes in when you start to feel like Disney World (or a doll makeover at the American Girl store, or a trip abroad, or renting the bouncy castle for their birthday) is a required childhood experience and their childhood will somehow be less for not having it.

Unknown said...

When I first read the title of this post, I took it as a lead in to your thoughts on how we, as parents, fear missing out on seeing our children's lives unfold. Instead I was pleased to read your ideas on our cultural standards for a "properly orchestrated" childhood.

Rob and I have needed to routinely insulate ourselves from what others deem as "right" and/or "necessary" for our four American children. The fact that we don't have video games has caused many to gasp in shock. When I add that we also don't have a TV upon which to play those (absent) video games, people look like they're going to pass out.

Ultimately, I think that every parent does his/her best with the information he/she has. But wouldn't it be nice if the predominant message was not "You have to keep up or consider yourself a failure in the realm of parenting"?

Thanks for endorsing the idea that not all that glitters is gold. Sometimes, cheap glitter is just as shiny.

AnneMarie said...

This is fantastic, Jenny! I agree wholeheartedly. Honestly, as I see more and more families get swept up in busyness because parents feel pressured to let or encourage their kids to do so many things and have all of these "vital" experiences, I just have this burning urge to lay down the law and, as our son gets older, to really restrict how many "big experiences" we commit to.

Jenny Evans said...

Absolutely. Knowing when to say "no" to enriching experiences is just as important as knowing when to seek them out, but it's becoming harder and harder to do that. It requires conscious effort.

Marilyn said...

Nicely said. My husband and I were just laughing the other day at how often you start to feel bad as a parent for saying no to something that seems harmless (but it's a pain for you). Like when you're on a walk and your child wants to pick up a stick, but you say no because you know it's going to turn into a hitting-his-sisters stick war and you just don't want to deal with it! But then you think, "But that's one of the joys of childhood! Playing with sticks!" Hahaha. Honestly--I just have to remind myself--if it makes family life run smoother--it's fine. The kids can have a great childhood, even without their darn sticks on a walk or two. ( know...trips to Disney World if that's your worry.)

Mandy Farmer said...

I absolutely get this, especially with having a special needs child. I often feel like he and his siblings are missing out on all of these things. But when I really look at it we as a family make the best of what we can do and I think we make some pretty great memories.

Terra Heck said...

If only all parents could read this article! I'm 40 years old and haven't even been to Disney myself. I see nothing wrong with great experiences, but it's not essential to life. There's so many other things (cheap or free) that a parent can do, and I guarantee the child will remember them as much as the expensive stuff.

Jenny Evans said...

It's hard not to get jealous of someone who is in a different season of family life or has a different situation and think, "If only our family could do ________ like them!" But you are absolutely right. You can make happy memories no matter what you're doing.

Jenny Evans said...

It happens so often that we ask our kids about some elaborate undertaking and the thing they remember most is the simplest and most inexpensive thing about it! I guess that should be a continual lesson to me.

Jenny Evans said...

We don't have a gaming system or a TV either (well, we do have a TV now but no cable, it's only hooked up to the Internet.) I would love to see parents not beating themselves up or going into debt over providing their kids with non-essential things.

Cams said...

I really loved what you wrote. Sometimes us moms just need to step back from all the planning and overcompensating and making sure our kids experience what we didn't when we were young, and just let them be kids and have their own memories that would shape them as adults. Thanks for this inspiration.

PS - I hope you don't mind, I shared your article in one of my blog posts and shared your article to blog's Facebook page.