I’ve had trouble sleeping lately. The reason is I have a daughter travelling the world, and with the time differences I get pinged at all hours by Messenger as she chats with me from all-night buses that have WiFi, and posts photos.
I love the connection with her, like a hungry pet hanging out for a morsel of food. And get overwhelmed with sadness when I haven’t heard for a few days. So I don’t discourage any of it.
But the past few nights I’ve noticed a feeling I hadn’t yet put a name to. Her 2am pingings have included photos of her and friends at yet another international music festival: coloured sparkles on their faces, grinning, dancing, partying. This one looked fabulous. The artists were to die for. And suddenly I realised I felt jealous.
Is it possible, or acceptable, for a mother to be jealous of her child? It’s new to me. Though she is a beautiful girl, I’ve never felt any physical jealousy. Beauty and accomplishment are not my achilles heel. But as for “crazy fun”, that’s another story. Social media is meant to provoke what they call FOMO — fear of missing out — among younger users, with everyone vying to show they are having a better time. My daughter’s Facebook shots hit home this time.
She has given me FOMO. Staring at the photos late at night, I felt I wasn’t having enough fun any more. My decade in Byron during the 2000s was spent at endless music festivals, one after the other — Woodford, Bluesfest, Splendour, Exodus. But that life of camping out and dancing under the moon has been replaced by Apple TV and looking at my daughter’s photos, living vicariously. I curled up in bed feeling miserable.
So how do we deal with child envy, where parental pride collides with the green-eyed monster? Where there is a strange grief that defies understanding, feeling so proud and happy for our children, but lamenting the wild times and opportunities that are no longer there for us?
I solved the puzzle. If these times are no longer there, and we miss them, then put them back there again! Celebrate envy. Let jealousy be your teacher. Let FOMO be a telltale sign of what our heart and soul really craves but feels deprived of. We often stop ourselves fulfilling the childlike, passionate, creative side of ourselves because we feel we simply can’t. We say it’s frivolous or impractical. But if it makes our soul ache to be without it, why not find a way?
The next day I clicked on music/arts festivals around the world and found a few that I would truly love to go to — if I can tie them in with stories I might write or a conference I might attend that would help me justify being a gadabout hippie and an aberrant adolescent. Funnily, a friend recently went to Nevada’s Burning Man, one of the most outrageous, sexually charged, life-changing cultural festivals in the world. He said most people there were in full blossom? I call them baby zoomers.
I’m clearly not the only parent who yearns for something that resonates closely with my inner child: freedom, colour, music, sensuality, joy.
Whatever is missing in life can be retrievable with a bit of honesty. So, go FOMO! It’s woken me from slumber, and not just literally, as another happy photo pings up on my phone.
Ruth, your peice deserves something more than my earlier response. Your reflections on your responses to your daughter’s messages have a welcome candour. Your ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) is an earlier phase of a later response known as ‘bitter and twisted about having missed out’ (BATAHMO – BAT for short). Once you become a BAT you seek relief in the bottle and displace your reseentment onto your partner, the banks or some other scapegoat. The next step is admitting that you have lost control; . . . then salvation awaits 🙂