Worrying about our children is the default mode for many parents these days. And there’s no end to the things that trouble us as we strive to raise kids in this uncertain world.
Then, just as we’re adjusting to the fact that, actually, we’re not bad parents after all, parental FOMO blips onto the radar. Are we doing enough to entertain and enlighten our children? Did we miss important events and thereby deprive our youngsters of experiences they should have had? Are other people having more family fun than us? Before having children, FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – usually equated to a frenzy of multi-device screen refreshing in order to get hold of Glastonbury tickets. But now FOMO seems to be creeping into parenthood.
In the days before the Internet, vicarious oneupmanship through one’s children simply didn’t happen. The closest most people got to FOMO was ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ – trying to emulate or not be outdone by one’s neighbours. But times have changed and the emphasis today is more on experiences rather than on possessions. Increasingly, parents from all walks of life are more involved and take a greater interest in what their children see and do (if they can get them away from screens) than ever before. Today we are fortunate to live in a time when there’s more happening for children ‘out there’ than at any time in the past, and not all of it carries a hefty price tag. Our digital world can connect us to wonderful experiences, events and activities for our children. We just need to know how and where to find them.
But here’s the dilemma. With so much going on, how can we, as individuals, find what’s exactly right for our own children and our budget? And what about those feelings of guilt because (according to social media) others are doing ‘amazing’ things, and we’re not. Why do we experience twinges of parental FOMO because others are taking their kids to archery, baby ballet or bushcraft? Or going geocaching together, or cycling and picnicing, or loving family-friendly festivals or having a birthday treat at Peppa Pig World – even if we don’t want to take our kids to these sorts of things? And isn’t it galling to learn that we missed a family outing to a local FREE airshow, which everyone raved about, simply because we didn’t know it was on?
So what can be done for overwhelmed, time-poor, smartphone-wielding parents who want their children to see and do great things at weekends and during the holidays? Kids have an annoying habit of growing up fast, so things that were ideal last year quickly lose their appeal this year. And we’ve all been there – struggling with our work/life balance whilst trawling the internet for inspiration at 11:30 pm, when we haven’t the foggiest idea what we’re looking for. We may also have reasons for not wanting to burn a hole in our wallets. In the background we’re conscious of the boredom factor setting in, and our kids’ unhealthy obsessions with screen-based activities. And it’s only day three of the holidays!