FOMO and mum guilt – how to combat unnecessary feelings of self-doubt

Do you suffer from FOMO and mum guilt? Here’s how to combat unnecessary feelings of self-doubt, whether you’re a working mum or a stay-at-home-mum. 

In a survey I conducted for my book, a large majority of women reported Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) across the various roles they play. And the most notable FOMO role is that of a mother.

As Arianna Huffington points out: “I think while all mothers deal with feelings of guilt, working mothers are plagued by guilt on steroids.” 

Was this surprising? No. As a mum myself, I know that ‘mum guilt’ is an undeniable yet incredibly powerful feeling that affects both working mums and stay-at-home mums alike. Mums with FOMO often lose vital perspective and feel forced into decisions.

Many working mums are consumed by guilt

A friend of mine told me that whether or not she is making the right choices for her children is a question that crosses her mind at least once a day!

This is not an uncommon feeling – many working mums are consumed with guilt, often second-guess the choices they are making for themselves and their children and constantly feel as if they are missing out on one thing or another.

Mum guilt, the feeling that whatever you are doing is not enough or right for your children, is intertwined with FOMO. You are constantly under pressure to balance the duties, the fun, and the responsibilities of being a perfect mum with that of being a perfect working professional.

When at work, you worry missing out on time with your children, partner and or other family members. Similarly, at home or if you leave work early, strong feelings of guilt engulf you and you fear that you are missing important assignments or deadlines at work. This leads to a vicious cycle of guilt and self-doubt.

How to cope with FOMO and mum guilt

There are however, several strategies working mothers can deploy to help them cope with both FOMO and mum guilt. Here are eight strategies that I recommend.

1) It’s quite okay to not have it all at once

There are only a certain number of hours in the day, so trade-offs are going to be inevitable, and we need to be able to accept that. Sometimes you will have to make compromises, but make sure you are crystal clear about why you are making these compromises- this will greatly help to stave off future guilt.

The idealistic notion that everything is achievable at the same time often places unrealistic expectations on mums. These impractical fantasies and comparisons make millions of women blame themselves if they cannot climb the corporate ladder as fast as men or fellow women, as well as sustain a balanced and healthy home life, on top of looking thin and beautiful!

While all this may be possible for some people, no one should feel pressured to fit in this ideal scenario. In truth, you will always be missing out on something and that’s okay. No one can have it all, not even men.

2) There is value playgroups and day care

The care and education most kids receive in childcare centres is top-notch. I was primarily a stay-at-home mum, yet my son joined a playgroup at 18 months.

Given the confidence he acquired as result of this, an early send-off is not a decision I regret at all. He socialised, went on trips and did a wide range of activities that I wouldn’t have been able to provide at home. So don’t feel ashamed of sending your children to playgroups and day care. Instead feel good about the wide spectrum of rich sensory experiences they are benefitting from.

3) Remember to share parenting responsibilities

Spouses/partners, grandparents or friends can be of great help when time is tight. Remember there is nothing wrong with seeking out the support of whomever you can count on. Moreover, the more people your child interacts with, the more confidence and social skills they will develop.

4) Seek out working mum networks

The support from other people with similar challenges as yourself can be invaluable. Sometimes all you need is a gang of your own to vent out to and bond with. Knowing that you are not alone in your struggles and that many others experience the exact same feelings and dilemmas as you, can be surprisingly comforting.

5) Learn to let go

Many women are inherently perfectionists, but there is no right way when it comes to bringing up children. This perfectionist streak can bleed into all areas of our lives.

For example, when our child’s school project doesn’t meet our own ridiculously high standards it is hard not to feel dissatisfied. However, it’s important to remember that ‘perfectionism’ is often an unknown dimension for your kids, so don’t be too harsh on yourself if you don’t get it right every single time.

We’re human and sometimes we are forgetful but that doesn’t make us bad parents. Most women are working very hard to balance motherhood with their professional lives and that deserves encouragement, appreciation and support.

6) Aim for quality over quantity

Being with our kids 24/7 doesn’t actually have any bearing on the quality of that time, so making the most of the time you do have is key. The amount of time available does not automatically make you a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ mother. Being present in every moment that you do manage to spend together is way more important.

7) Avoid comparison

Every family is different, so ultimately the choices of other mothers should not impact your decisions. What works for one mother, may not work for another, which is why you should avoid comparing your life to someone else’s.

As long as the decision feels right for your family, be comfortable about it. Distancing yourself from other people’s decisions will ensure your attention is fully and solely focused on your own family and looking after the latter in the best possible way you can.

8) Take time out often

If you require a break, then you can always press the pause button and breathe. Step back and consider what needs to be done against what you can completely forego. Remind yourself that it’s okay to slow down and detach yourself from your to-do list.

When you nourish yourself, you have more energy and mental capacity to give to others. So don’t consider taking some  ‘me time’ as a selfish act, instead see it as a necessity and beneficial for your entire family. You may even find yourself gaining more clarity after these well deserved breaks.

You are not alone

I am well aware of the pain that stings the heart of a working mom when she feels she is missing out on valuable moments with her children. But know that you are doing a great job.

Also know, that whether you are working out of necessity or owing to a desire to pursue your passion, in either case, you are not alone. Your hard work and sacrifice is fact setting a good example for your children to follow and that in itself makes you a great mum!

Read more tips to help you ditch mum guilt

You can read more tips to help you nurture yourself and ditch mum guilt in these articles:

Hira Ali is an author, executive career coach, leadership trainer and keynote speaker. She is Chief Executive Officer at Advancing Your Potential and Founding Director of The Career Excel and International Women Empowerment Events-IWEE.

She is also the author of new, revolutionary book Her Way To The Top (Panoma Press, £14.99) designed to empower women across the world to work together towards success.

Photo by Riccardo Mion