If 'FOMO' Is Derailing You As a Mom, 'COMO' Will Set You Free

On this National Working Moms Day I must start by acknowledging that all mothers work, whether you have a paid or unpaid job, inside or outside of your home. Parents and caregivers of all genders provide and deeply care for our families with the gravity (and joy) of responsibility and the tension of balance. And as my friend and founder of Mother Untitled Neha Ruch often shares, there is power in not delineating them — embracing more gray than black and white.

In fact, in this window coming from last week’s International Women’s Day to today, all the way through May as the Month of mothers, let’s think about how we can all flip the script to one that is empowering and inclusive while celebrating our differences and superpowers. Our success as caregivers ultimately will be because we support each other. We need less guilt and judgment, more community, and maybe some new vocabulary. So, while my lens is as a working outside of the home mom perspective (and transparently, this is written on a train commute) know that everything I’m sharing, I’m sure you’ve all felt too — wherever you are on your journey, even pre-pregnancy, to working parenthood.

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January feels like a month of eight years that leads into February for five minutes. The last part of the year moves at a clip with celebrations and must-dos that culminate in the most awkward week of the year before New Year’s and “let’s circle back in January”. Then — just like the flip of the calendar — the ramping up happens again. It’s enough to give everyone FOMO.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is ubiquitous for parents. There’s so much you don’t want to miss out on, layered with how much you must do, in a complex Jenga that resets constantly, but for some reason always to the point when the tower is on the brink. As a working mom, I had to learn to better assess my FOMO. Striving for an unattainable work-life balance every day was just not going to cut it. While I do get a boost from making the early train, sometimes (often) with a jog through Grand Central, there are two things that have set me free.

First: embracing COMO (Certainty of Missing Out). In my book, Carry Strong: An Empowered Approach to Navigating Pregnancy and Work, I write that COMO allows you to better delineate what (and who) matters most, with certainty that it’s impossible to be in two (or more) places at the same time, mentally and physically.  This certainty enables me to better anticipate — and to also appreciate — where I am solidly, over-time, or even doing unnecessary over-time.  With less fear comes better follow-through. This helps me prioritize what matters most, with a little less guilt and a little more gratitude.

This leads me to the second idea: work-life fluidity. On this Working Moms Day, recalibrate your balance. Balance takes tremendous effort, and it’s important to find it for our mental and physical health — but your life is not yoga, or a seesaw with work on one side and life on the other; it’s a sliding scale. There are days, weeks, months, but also moments where we slide from much more “work” than “mom”, but that doesn’t mean that sliding is a permanent report card of our character. Thinking about work-life fluidity means that there is movement that creates momentum, but also recognizes the ephemeral nature of both the good and bad parts of our days — one sparking joy, the other letting go.

Last but not least, listen for loud FOMO. While COMO can be freeing, it doesn’t mean that your gut isn’t telling you something to listen to. Especially as a parent, recognize when to throw out the perfectly orchestrated schedule, deliberately knock over the Jenga, and say yes to those spontaneous moments you can’t get back. Last weekend my sons woke up on a very rainy Saturday and said they were craving popovers … while an intense work week meant I was toast and Sunday’s to-do list was looming, I made the popovers, watched three episodes of Great British Baking Show Kids, and ended up with a kitchen full of frosting for a “Showstopper”.

This was something different: the joy of missing out (JOMO), which might just be what we all need to reset the clock, even in March. Remember, it isn’t about making time for what matters most, it’s who — and that includes you.

Stephanie Kramer is the author of “Carry Strong: An Empowered Approach to Navigating Pregnancy and Work”, the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of L’Oreal USA, and mother of two young sons.

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