I was coming off of a pretty damn good weekend, as far as life with young kids goes. We had stayed busy but not frantic, the kids had long stretches of actually playing together nicely, and I even managed some catch-up time with both my husband and a great book.
Then I did a quick scroll through Instagram before bed Sunday night and saw a series of photos of a group of close friends enjoying a joint family barbecue. And just like that, my little bubble of good vibes popped.
I bestowed the obligatory “like,” but my honest feelings were the opposite. We were in town! We enjoy barbecues! We’re fun(ish)! Why weren’t we invited?
I grumbled those sentiments out loud to my husband a little while later and he looked at me with his patient, you’re-crazy-but-I-still-love-you expression. He gently reminded me that at the end of an enjoyable but tiring weekend, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go to this gathering anyway.
100% true. And 100% not the point!
I think of my reaction as the Mom Social Paradox. We want to be included in everything and, by extension, we want our kids to be included in everything. And then we want to say no to almost all of it – we are, after all, extremely overscheduled and extremely exhausted. In this scenario, it truly is the thought that counts.
Without a doubt, social media delivers moms our share of FOMO-inducing blows. But even if we avoid refreshing our feeds, we’re still going to hear about the group gatherings where we (or our kids) didn’t make the cut. And it’s going to sting a bit every time.
This is where a bit of perspective and rationality is needed. In fact, those are important skills for us to teach and model for our kids. There are going to be instances when all of us are – or at least feel – left out. But if we know we’re spending our time with people we love, or doing things we enjoy, then who cares about missing the other stuff? Yes, enjoying a glass of wine out with your girlfriends would have been great. But so was enjoying a glass of wine while watching that “Where Are They Now?” special on all the former Real Housewives. And you couldn’t have worn sweats to the first one.
What’s more, most of the time, being left out of something is completely unintentional. We’re all secretly convinced other people are thinking about us constantly, with good or bad intentions, and they almost never are; they are too busy thinking the same thing about the people around them.
Even recognizing all of that, feeling overlooked will always hurt. It’s human instinct to want to be included. (And every instinct humans have is magnified when it comes to our children.) But I’m going to keep focusing on the relationships and experiences that are truly most important to me, and trust that genuine friendships don’t depend on being asked to every barbecue.
All the same, however, please continue to send invites my way. I think I’m busy that day, but I appreciate you asking.
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