Is ev­ery­one hav­ing more fun than you?

So­cial me­dia would have you be­lieve they are... but it might be an il­lu­sion Is ev­ery­one hav­ing

Your Baby & Toddler - - Front Page - BY MARGOT BER­TELS­MANN

Ditch the FOMO for good

It’s the end of year hol­i­day and ev­ery­one you know is on a beach hav­ing sun­down­ers – ex­cept you, that is, be­cause you’ve re­cently pushed a baby out of your nether bits and now you’ve traded in your exlife for set­tling down ev­ery evening to three hours of rock­ing, burp­ing, feed­ing, swad­dling and cud­dling a scream­ing, colic rid­dled in­fant in­stead.

But that’s not all. We’re not quite there yet. Oh no, the true in­ner cir­cle of the pit of despair comes after sui­cide hour has fi­nally abated, when, with their last few calo­ries of en­ergy for the day, new par­ents flop onto their couches and reach for their smart­phones (know­ing full well they shouldn’t), start scrolling, and are con­fronted with the News Feed of Awesomenes­s. “Ri­ley turned 12 weeks old to­day and is FI­NALLY sleep­ing through the night #sob­lessed” on Twit­ter. “Shout out to my aw­sum hub­ster for sur­pris­ing me and the Snowflake with a trip to Mau­ri­tius EEEK” (a gem from gram­mar-free zone Face­book).

And In­sta­gram’s no bet­ter. You’re still soaking max­i­pads like a beet­root red Highveld thun­der­storm but your friend has “fi­nally” lost all her baby weight eight weeks post­par­tum – pic­ture proof pro­vided, #nofil­ter, natch.



So­cial me­dia, huh? When it’s good, it’s great but when it’s bad, it’s ter­ri­ble. Sure, reach­ing out to other bleary eyed breast­feed­ers on Twit­ter at 4am can keep you sane. But stuck in the drudgery of clean­ing poo off bums, not sleep­ing nearly enough, and the to­tal evis­cer­a­tion of your so­cial life, you can suc­cumb to a se­ri­ous case of the en­vies. You see those so­cial snaps of your usual Fri­day night crowd on their third bot­tle of cham­pagne at your favourite lit­tle bistro bar, and FOMO (fear of miss­ing out) strikes hard. So hard, you con­ve­niently for­get the de­pressed, hun­gover, self loathing morn­ing after they’re all hav­ing, which you’ve re­placed with in­hal­ing the scent of your sweetly sleep­ing baby’s head. Sure, it’s 5.30am, and your bud­dies will even­tu­ally emerge into sun­light at noon, but let’s keep fo­cus­ing on that sil­ver lin­ing, peo­ple.



If it looks like ev­ery­one is hav­ing a bet­ter time than you, they prob­a­bly are. At that mo­ment. After all, the first rule of so­cial me­dia is you don’t talk about the bad stuff. Every­body shares only their high­lights reel. Con­versely, even the woe ad­dict with her patho­log­i­cal need to share her sad-sack sto­ries is out­do­ing her­self by never hav­ing a merely mid­dlingly bad ex­pe­ri­ence. Ev­ery­thing is hor­ren­dous!

But parenting is more of a fil­ter su­per­im­posed over your life, long term, than a thrill-a-minute ride right now. Stud­ies that at­tempt to find out who is hap­pier – par­ents or non-par­ents, mar­ried peo­ple vs sin­gle­tons, and so on, are all the rage, and their 51/49

sorts of re­sults con­firm what we know in­tu­itively: th­ese life sta­tuses are not a re­li­able in­di­ca­tor of hap­pi­ness lev­els. So no, be­ing a par­ent doesn’t make you more un­happy. You wouldn’t undo the ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing your child for any­thing in the world. But sec­ond by sec­ond, es­pe­cially in the first few months of your baby’s life, you’re strug­gling more. Re­mind­ing your­self of that sim­ple fact can help you make it through the night. It’s go­ing to get eas­ier.



FOMO hits you harder when you’re down. It’s eas­ier to re­cover from child­free friends’ post­ings about long lie-ins on their beach is­land par­adise hol­i­day when you have one or two “I wouldn’t trade this for the world” parenting mo­ments your­self in a day. Ac­tively seek those mo­ments out. Recog­nise them when they come. Pick up the gem from the sand­pit and look at it – and yes, ab­so­lutely do post your Fomo-wor­thy mo­ment on Face­book.

If it feels mean­spir­ited to in­spire in your friends ex­actly the envy you might be feel­ing, re­mind your­self you are not re­spon­si­ble for any­body’s re­ac­tions to what you post – they are free to un­fol­low, mute, block or un­friend you.

And se­condly, cul­ti­vat­ing and prac­tis­ing grat­i­tude may seem very “Oprah” to you at first but it has been proven to in­crease hap­pi­ness lev­els by 25 per­cent, as re­ported in the book Thanks!: How the New Sci­ence of Grat­i­tude Can Make You Hap­pier by Robert Em­mons. Ac­knowl­edg­ing the good stuff in your life is good for you. Of course, there’s no law say­ing that it has to hap­pen on so­cial me­dia – a Word doc­u­ment on your desk­top works just as well as Twit­ter, a photo of your smil­ing kid will make you smile whether it’s on your phone or on In­sta­gram. If FOMO makes you de­velop one habit, let it be kind­ness – to your­self. Ev­ery day, an­swer th­ese ques­tions about your life with your child: “What did I get right to­day? What worked well to­day?”



Those parenting brag­garts on so­cial me­dia – isn’t there a touch of des­per­a­tion to their con­stant af­fir­ma­tions that ei­ther their lives haven’t changed all that much, or that they’ve changed for the in­fin­itely bet­ter? If some­one’s spread­ing the schmaltz a lit­tle too thickly on their so­cial me­dia sarmies, look un­der the lay­ers for the real mes­sage: “I’m lonely; I’m in­se­cure; I’m afraid I am not good enough. Parenting is only fun in tiny in­stal­ments.” There, be­tween the brown bread­crumbs and the sen­ti­ment, em­pa­thy lies.

Another – fun­nier – way of deal­ing with the in­se­cu­rity we all feel as par­ents is to poke fun at it. Do your mood a favour and look on Pin­ter­est un­der the topic Nailed It – a col­lec­tion of par­ents’ hi­lar­i­ous at­tempts to copy fancy bak­ing and arts and crafts projects from on­line ex­am­ples. Change your Face­book pro­file pic­ture to a cof­fee mug with “World’s Okayest Mom” on it. When you are able to laugh at your­self, you are on the road to more con­fi­dent, hap­pier parenting.

And lastly, if a sense of her-life’sbet­ter-than-mine is still get­ting you down, ask your­self: What’s worse than FOMO? Not hav­ing FOMO! The lat­est so­cial ill ap­par­ently is MOMO, AKA the mys­tery of miss­ing out – that des­o­late, neu­rotic, all-alone feel­ing you get when your friends run silent and deep, cut­ting all on­line comms – and you sus­pect they are all off do­ing fun things with­out you! Thank your lucky stars, in other words, that you can still feel FOMO. YB



JOIN THE BACK­LASH Find a Face­book group ded­i­cated to spot­ting the parental hum­ble­brag­ger, the sanc­ti­mo­nious, the per­pet­u­ally de­pressed and over­whelmed. Name and shame those at­tempts to drag oth­ers down – in a safe, pri­vate en­vi­ron­ment where you won’t hurt any­one, of course. LAUGH AT YOUR­SELF What you post isn’t a 100 per­cent ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of your life ei­ther. Recog­nise that your posts can cause FOMO, too. Then be nice about it. GO REAL LIFE A chat with a friendly face (a real hu­man) can ease your sense of de­tach­ment from the rest of the world – whether you end up gossiping about mu­tual FB friends’ posts or not. There’s a real world out there – spend as much of your time as you can spare ac­tu­ally liv­ing in it.

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