Working Parents FOMO
By Corin Long on Thursday, 19 October 2023
FOMO. We usually associate it with pictures of hotdog legs in front of infinity pools, party pictures in which you’re acutely aware you are not tagged, posters around town for your favourite band’s one-off reunion gig that falls on the exact date of your parents’ golden wedding celebration.
But for me, FOMO is something I feel frequently as a parent. On an obvious level, you can’t have the social life you probably used to enjoy, but new parents might be surprised how much they feel heavy FOMO for work too.
I was recently part of a panel between Teamspirit and our sister agency Harvard on working parents. We discussed the challenges of being a working parent, maintaining good mental health, as well as things to be celebrated.
It gave me a chance to look back on my nine years at Teamspirit, in which I started with a two-year-old child, but also had a second during that time. Over that period, I’ve run the gamut of childhood milestones from the birth of my youngest, through to my oldest starting secondary school. I’ve also been a parent in the less flexible pre-covid days, throughout the pandemic itself, and now in the hybrid world we all enjoy today. So, I was very happy to share my thoughts and experiences on this with the two agencies.
Teamspirit have been very flexible with me and my childcare commitments. I took six months parental leave when my son was born, came back to four days a week, dropped down to three days, went back to four, wrangled work and two kids through lockdown, and have now moved to a place further outside London in large part due to my kids. So far, I’ve been lucky, and the change in working that covid bought on has without doubt helped swing my work-life balance in a more family friendly direction. That’s not to say everything is rosy for new and existing working parents though.
The ever-evolving logistics of parenting are a constant challenge and childcare costs continue to be eye-watering, but in many ways the mental challenges are some of the biggest.
Here is where FOMO comes in. As a parent, I tend to feel a near constant stage of FOMO. When I’m working, I feel I’m missing out on my kids. When I’m with my kids, I feel I’m missing out at work. And you feel it very keenly. At work, this can often express itself as trying your best to keep it all together no matter what, presenting yourself as the classic ‘swan’: calm on the surface but desperately paddling underneath.
And so, the theme of the panel was looking after your mental health. Here are some conclusions and ideas that came out of the session:
As a parent, it’s vital to look after your mental health using positive strategies. One of us on the panel liked to decompress, undisturbed with some enjoyable TV each night. For me, it’s listening to podcasts and walking the dog. But the key thing is carving out a bit of time for yourself. Yes, those clothes need washing and the kitchen is a mess, but mental health is more important. As an industry, we’ve certainly improved the way we treat working parents. Two members of the panel with older kids certainly had horror stories of returning to work, however there’s always more we can do. We can appreciate that hybrid working is helpful, but not the full solution. And realise that challenges that take a toll on our mental health can be frequent too. So as a manager of a working parent, check in with them – make sure they’re okay. They may be trying to keep it together, but make sure they know you have their back. New parents are unlikely to be at the start of their career and probably have a chunk of experience behind them. But they may well need managerial support in a new way, so finding solutions that work for you both will be imperative.
In return, we’ll get engaged, loyal and hardworking people who can multitask, deal with problems, and add a new perspective to the company.