Friday, January 22, 2016

Special Needs Mothering and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

FOMO! I first heard that term/acronym from my older son who flippantly told me that one of his classmates "has major FOMO", she attends every singular school function. I had no idea what that meant and I curiously asked him, "what's that?" He said, "you don't know what that is mommy? It means Fear Of Missing Out, FOMO.”

Wow, there's a word for it! "That was me!” I thought. I felt relieved. I suddenly diagnosed myself as also having major FOMO! Is there a support group for this?

In retrospect, I don't know if I have FOMO or just want to regain my social life again. At the end of last year, some parents in my support group shared how rarely we, as special needs moms, go out. Of course, this is the story of my life so I chimed in. 

Before kids, I went out quite a bit especially to art/artists events. As a special needs parent, this doesn't happen very often, although I'm trying to rectify that. I guess this is common with any parent, not just special needs. But when one is mothering a "typical" child you expect this to be temporary, that, as the child grows older, you will have your freedom back or at least be able to take him/her with you. Not so with a special needs child. I will forever need to arrange babysitting for my son who requires constant supervision.

I don't have many options for free childcare; I have one sister who lives far away, another with many responsibilities of her own, and aging parents/in-laws who are not equipped to handle Dan's boundless energy.  

Then I have to grapple with my own guilt. "you want to spend money on babysitting to go to a gallery opening, or an art talk? How frivolous! You should be home with your kids! No one has really said this to me out loud but the self-talk is real. 

There are some outings that are no- brainers and if they happen during school hours, even better; school functions that are important for my education as a special needs parent, church every Sunday, and of course, work! These events, I am either required or make a concerted effort to attend.

But when I am deluged with countless invitations to gallery openings, book signings, poetry readings, art talks, kid's parties, church conferences, hanging with friends… I want to go to all of them and major FOMO kicks in!  I have to make a major decision as to whether it’s worth asking my very overworked husband to stay with the kids, whether it's worth paying a babysitter, or whether I will regret it if I decide to do neither and stay home. The last one has happened countless of times and I am determined to have that happen less this year. 

Here is my criteria for how I pick my outings. This is strictly my criteria and I look forward to hearing your criteria as well: 

1.    I go to outings that bring me into community

I belong to various communities and I choose events that will bring me closer to each of them. One community that means a lot to me is the Puerto Rican artist/artisan community so I try to be present for at least two of their major events; The Comite Noviembre Puerto Rican Artisan Fair in November and the Committee to Honor Puerto Rican Women on International Working Women's Day in March. These are blocked out on the calendar so everyone in the house is on notice; I’m going!

10th annual Comite Noviembre Puerto Rican Artisan Fair 2015
Community, in general, is important and necessary for everyone. As an artist, who often works in isolation, like myself, it is huge, so I plan and make sure my child is taken care of during these times.

2. I go to outings that will make an impact on my museum practice.

At a Museum Access Consortium workshop at the Museum of Modern Art 

Besides running a creative business, I am also a museum educator. I talk about art for a living and want to get better at it. When there are professional development conferences or workshops on museum education, I try to be there.

3. I go to outings that are beneficial for us as a family. 

These outings are the best because they don’t require babysitting! Two major events that we clear our schedule for are The Bronxchester Challenger Baseball League and last year’s 1st Annual Sensory-friendly Holiday Party, both hosted by D3 Sports & Recreation, Inc. The Bronxchester Challenger League is a program to help autistic children with sensory integration and social engagement through baseball. We love it! Our kids can be themselves, play ball, and we can grab something to eat afterwards. It’s great family time!

My youngest; after the  game
Anything with the word “sensory” in it has my attention so when we were invited to the 1st Annual Sensory-friendly Holiday Party, we knew we had to attend. Here, we came into contact again with former teammates from the baseball league and others from the autism community.
My youngest playing with rice during the 1st annual Holiday Sensory Party sponsored by D3 Sports & Recreation, Inc. 

These events also bring us into community, the autism community; we need this community in our lives! In general, if you create a space where our kids are welcomed, we will be there!

What are your communities? Where do you need to be seen? Who do you want to connect with, learn more from? Make sure you get to those events. Hire a sitter, ask a friend, plan in advance. Where there is a will, there is a way. This is key to keeping FOMO at bay. You are not really missing out on anything if you attend key events that are important to you. 

How do you organize your outings? I would love to know, Please post your comments below. 

If you would like to donate to the Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle, go to

If you would like to donate to D3 Sports & Recreation, Inc., please click here


  1. Love this. My family just relocated all the way across the country and I could use a kick in the pants to get us out there to connect with a new community in our new town. I get so nervous about bringing my younger son out because he has some sensory issues and a tendency to meltdown in new places, but at the same time I know it's important for him to get those new experiences. As a family, we definitely go for family-friendly, toddler-friendly preferably outdoor events. But just for me, I've been thinking it would be so nice to take a knitting class or some other kind of craft class. My husband is great at making time for his hobbies, but I hear ya on the guilt thing, it's hard for me to make time to get out by myself.

    1. Thank you Diana, yes! take that knitting/craft class! Art-making definitely is saving my life while raising my boys, I say that all the time. So happy to have run into your blog! I'll be following! Also just folioed you on IG. Have a great day.

  2. Those are excellent criteria. They make so much sense and the theory behind them allows the creation of customized goals for every situation. Thank you for adding this post to's special needs Tuesday link up.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read, Jolene! So glad for the opportunity to share on your blog!

  3. Very nice piece. I also have a special-needs son named Dan(ny). Thanks, this is helpful.