PARENTS

Help! I'm A FOMO Mum

22/01/2015 16:56 | Updated 20 May 2015

Woman holding a toddler in swimming pool

At college in my teens, I hated staying in, just in case I missed out on a top night. The result? Loads of boring nights out when nothing happened, and a hefty overdraft by the time I graduated.

I've clearly learnt nothing since becoming a mum During pregnancy, I attended both NCT and free NHS classes - just in case one course taught me something that the other didn't.

I realised too late that they were almost identical but it was obviously lovely to get the lowdown on episiotomies twice. Yay.

When my daughter was tiny, I ran myself ragged zipping her to various classes - Gymboree, swimming, baby groups and Rhyme Time.

We abandoned Baby Yoga after the first cringeworthy session, during which my early crawler accidentally headbutted another child.

I still haven't learnt my lesson. Now two, my little girl's social life is a heady whirl of playgroups, music classes and playdates.

By the end of each week, we're both shattered.

What our crazy schedule boils down to is FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Or rather of my child missing out on something super cool and essential to her development.

As soon as another mum mentions a fab class they've sniffed out, I feel the urge to sign up too. The latest thing is my fear that by not starting ballet classes yet, she'll somehow fall behind her peers who've been pirouetting since they were in nappies.

It's not just me. Most of my mum friends spend their days rushing from one activity to the next.

"My two are 12 and 10 and we live in the countryside so they have to be driven everywhere," says mum-of-two, Catherine. "But I can't bear them sitting around the house doing nothing and I think that they should try as many things as they can as children. Between them, they do skiing, golf, tennis, choir, theatre and guitar.

"When my son was younger, I forced him to attend Tumbletots because I thought I should, even though he loathed it. We were both much happier when I finally gave up on it. When I look back, I wonder why I did it. Now he's older, I can totally see that it wasn't his thing."

So, really, how beneficial is it our kids to be constantly raced from one appointment to another?

Wouldn't they really rather just be tootling around at home, baking cakes or doing some colouring? You know, simple stuff that doesn't cost an arm and a leg...

"Allowing time for unstructured and imaginative play and even a bit of daydreaming is crucial to children's healthy development," says Liat Hughes Joshi, author of New Old-fashioned Parenting. "No one's going to organise a weekly programme of everything from Kumon to karate for them when they're 25.

"We think we're doing our best for them so they can become these literally all-singing, all-dancing people, but actually by trailing from one class to the next after school, we're leaving them with little or no downtime and they're not learning to be able to entertain themselves. Surely that's just as important as the second musical instrument or third sport? It's about balance."

Parenting writer Tanith Carey, author of Taming the Tiger Parent: How to put your child's wellbeing first in a competitive world says that parents suffer from FOMO because they're under so much pressure to get their kids ahead.

"Being seen as willing to go the extra mile – and pay for more activities - has become the badge of our commitment as a parent," she explains. "In the short-term, it also makes us feel good because we can tell ourselves we're doing the best for our child.

"We end up spending a fortune over-scheduling our little ones and ultimately depriving them of free time they need at home to play by themselves.

"Whenever FOMO feelings crop up, remember that these classes and tutoring companies are usually trading on your insecurities in a competitive, parental atmosphere. Also check if you really need to pay someone else to teach your child.

"Parents fork out for classes in activities, like art or cookery, which they could do at home. There's overwhelming evidence that allowing your child to have unstructured play, rather than signing up to every extracurricular going, is more beneficial in the long-run."

Mum Kate refuses to race her five-year-old from one hobby to another. "Now he's at school, his time at home is precious so if he wants to spend his whole Saturday playing with Lego and we don't need to go anyway, great," she says.

"I'd rather let him use the time to explore his own interests than timetable him too much. We do cooking and go on nature walks and to the park when we feel like it rather than use that time for classes. My upbringing was the same. I never went to lots of after school classes."

When I think about it, my daughter is always her happiest when we're at home, just spending time together. Missing out? Hardly. All the fun stuff is going on right here. We've got Hungry Hippos and Hide & Seek Peppa Pig, for goodness sake!

Clearly, it's ultimately about balance.

But dealing with with FOMO is proving hard work. Right now? I'm googling tiny tutus and Twinkletoes Toddler Ballet classes. Maybe it'll have to be baby steps to get over this one...