I confess: I didn’t know what “FOMO” meant until a few months ago, when Lisa used it in a blog post and informed me during the editing process that, no, she wouldn’t spell it out as I had suggested because it actually was a thing. (For those of you who still don’t know, this is a judgment-free zone: It means “fear of missing out.”) And honestly, I don’t think I really knew how the fear of missing out can affect your life until a few months ago. Mercifully, indecision hasn’t been one of my major struggles; I don’t usually agonize over making choices in order to avoid missing out on the “best” one. I’ve also been lucky enough able to experience a lot of bucket-list type things in my life. But lately, something has been triggering major FOMO: the thought of having kids in the relatively near future.
(NOTE: I AM NOT PREGNANT. I AM NOT PREGNANT. I AM NOT PREGNANT.)
Maybe it’s because I’ve heard people talk about their “baby bucket lists.” Maybe it’s because people always joke about how once you have kids, your life is over. Maybe it’s because parenting these days appears to have become so all-consuming that Mom and Dad’s lives really are over (or the implication is that they should be, if they’re good parents). But as that theoretical “when we have kids someday” gets closer and closer to reality, I kind of freak out sometimes that I have to do EVERYTHING that I want to do with my life NOW, or it will be too late once there’s a Lil’ Lates in the picture.
(NOTE: Did I mention that I’m NOT pregnant?)
I totally set myself up for this, I admit. When I married Dave and moved to New York, my life plan was as follows: 1) Get a job in publishing (my dream field at the time). 2) Excel and blow everyone’s mind in said field. 3) Leave said field when I had my first child, demonstrating to the world that raising my family is more important to me than career success, even though I would have killed it in that career.
Well, that didn’t really happen, as most of you probably know. It was more like 1) Get a job in publishing. 2) Become stressed out of my mind. 3) Leave job in publishing and struggle to figure things out.
I’m seeing very clearly now that this was quite messed up. Not only was it mostly about catering to other people’s expectations, but it was completely based on a major assumption I’m now questioning: your life really is over, in a sense, once you have kids, so you have to accomplish everything you wanted to beforehand. My plan was to achieve enough career success/impress enough people before having kids that I would feel satisfied and okay with leaving it. It was all about feeling complete and like I’d “made it,” which, as I’ve discussed before, will probably never really happen.
The truth is that having kids doesn’t mean that it’s the ending of your story. It is the end of parts of that story, but it’s the beginning of so many others. Becoming a parent just adds another facet and dimension to your life; it isn’t the trump card, as much as some people in our society want to think it is. And I’ve heard and read about a lot of people who say that becoming a parent actually gave them a clarity and focus to their lives and what they wanted to do with them that I find very encouraging.
I imagine it’s probably just a more extreme version of the changes that come when you get married. It was the end of some parts of my life; I did lose the freedom to have complete say over my time and money, for example. But being married to Dave has added way more to my life than it’s taken away, and I wouldn’t go back to being single for anything. As it says in the article that has probably subconsciously influenced everything I’ve written here, "I have never surrendered anything that was really good that didn't come back later on in a fuller and richer way."
So when I feel panicky about not figuring my whole life out or doing all the wild and crazy things everyone thinks a childless person like me should be doing before I have kids, I’m trying to remember to R-E-L-A-X. Yes, I’ll enjoy and take advantage of the opportunities and freedoms I have now, but I won’t do it out of the anxiety that my life will be over once there are children in the picture. The things I might miss out on once that happens will be worth it; there’s no need to fear.