The struggle is real. Here's how to put time missed with your family into perspective.
A full-time job, a one-hour commute each way, phone calls, emails, texts … This just scratches the surface of the work commitments that drag me away from my family five days a week, 52 weeks a year.
While technology has done wonders to help me feel like I can still know what’s going on at home, the updates from my wife showing smiling faces having fun while I’m stuck in meeting after meeting at the office leaves me feeling some serious FOMO.
For those who don’t know, FOMO stands for “feelings of missing out,” and when it comes to being a working parent, the FOMO struggle is real.
How can we working parents take steps to help us keep the FOMO at a manageable level? How can we ensure that we’re doing everything we can to feel connected even though we’re away from the home for 50 or more of our waking hours every week?
Here are some of the tips I’ve discovered over my years as a working dad:
1. Fight the belief that you’re indispensible (you aren’t)
We are trained to see ourselves and our role at the office as completely essential. If we weren’t there, something really important wouldn’t get done, and the results could be devastating! Our employers work hard to instill this belief in all of us, hoping to encourage faithfulness to the business even at the expense of our family life.
While all of our work is important, at some point we have to step back and realize that the boat will continue to float on without us. If we’re out on a Wednesday, the work will still be there on Thursday.
We need to start seriously valuing time away from work, not only for maintaining our own sanity through self-care, but also to help us be involved in those important moments of our children’s lives we’ll never get back.
I definitely lost sight of this recently, until I was “forced” to call in sick because everyone at my house was throwing up. I was reminded of just how healing a day off can be. Don’t be like me, sitting around hoarding your time off for no reason! Use the time off you have earned and take some time to be with your family.
2. Stay in touch all day long
Sure, getting that text message of your spouse and kids having fun at the beach can make you feel like you’re missing out, but staying in touch via the amazing technology we all have in our pockets can also help us feel like we’re still present.
Step aside from your desk to FaceTime with the fam! Take selfies and send them so your kids can actually see what you’re doing when you’re away. Send notes in their school lunches and keep a picture of them in your lunch (or wallet if you treat yourself out).
The little texts, the cute audio message, the loads of pictures, these are the things that help get me through those long days at the office.
3. Put away your devices at home
Once you are home, it’s time to toss that smart device in a drawer and PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FAMILY!
I say this as if it’s easy, but in full disclosure, I have a really hard time with this myself. But even I can recognize one of the reasons we feel like we’re constantly missing out is because even when we get home, we’re staring at that screen. Did our boss send us a text? Did we get that return call we’ve been waiting for all day? Did people like that hilarious tweet we posted earlier?
None of that matters once you walk in the door.
One of the most important things you can do to maintain that healthy and happy family relationship when you’re spending much of your waking hours at the office is being truly present with your family once you’re home.
4. Speak kindly about your family when you’re at work
Everyone at your work should know you’re a spouse and a parent, and you should be proud of it!
Many conversations about families at work tends to be focused on the negative aspects of family life: My kid never sleeps! My wife is always nagging me!! My house is a never-ending project!!!
Engaging in these conversations can actually drag you further away from your family, perpetuating that feeling of missing out. Take care to be intentional about the way you speak of your family with your co-workers. If your co-workers don’t think of you and then automatically think of how much you love your beautiful family, something’s wrong.
5. Keep perspective as to why you’re away from them
Why do we go to work? If we strip it down to the real reason, it isn’t about power, prestige, or climbing the corporate ladder (or at least it shouldn’t be). It’s all about taking care of your family. Going to work isn’t about you, it’s about them, and working hard to foster that in yourself can go a long way toward keeping those feelings of FOMO at bay.
If you maintain your perspective as to why you’re spending time at work in the first place, you can stay connected by always having your family at the forefront of your mind.
Every morning as I walk out the door for work, my heart breaks just a little bit. I feel like I’m missing out on the most exciting time in my young family’s life, and even though my wife’s job of staying at home with the kids is clearly harder than the work I do at the office, I still find myself a little jealous that she gets to be there for all the laughs, all the tears, and all the cuteness.
It might not cure my longing completely, but working to incorporate these five tips into my daily routine will hopefully keep the FOMO levels at an all-time low.