FOMO… FIFO Edition


What is FOMO? “Fear of missing out”

The fear of missing out refers to the feeling or perception that others are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you are.  FOMO is not just the sense that there might be better things that you could be doing at this moment, but it is the feeling that you are missing out on something fundamentally important that others are experiencing right now. In essence, the fear (or anxiety) that causes the irrational thoughts to gain steam, lends strength to the ideas that form. FOMO is predominantly used in reference to social media sites but can be applied loosely to FIFO, or at least we will here.


I guess the easiest way for me is to share that while working a 14 on 14 off shift, it makes it very likely that I will miss some holidays, birthdays or other such special events. These events are symbolic holidays, memories are formed, more pictures are taken, and lasting stories occur. This fear is underpinned by an overwhelming sense of feeling uninformed, of not knowing or having been a part of these special moments. I will admit it is hard not being there during those times, I have missed two Easters, Christmas and New Year’s twice in the last 3 years. Even though I am very fortunate that I get two weeks off at a time, I still feel like I am missing out on “all the good family time” with my family.

The worst part is how you play it out in your head: “They are having so much fun without me! Do they enjoy it more when I am away? Is the sacrifice worth it? I am missing out on so much!” This negative and irrational self-talk can feed that FOMO anxiety and wear you down.


  • Switch your perspective: rather than focusing on what you lack, try focusing on what you have.  “I have a good job that pays me well so that I can do the activities we enjoy as a family when I get home” vs “I dread it when I am gone and am away from my family.”
  • Focus on gratitude: lift your mood by gratitude journaling on what you are grateful for, telling family members or others what you appreciate about them.  It is harder to feel like you are lacking in things in your life when you are focused on the good things that you have or the good ways that you are in the lives of your family members.  I try to start my day by being grateful for whatever is going well for me at that time.
  • Be present in the moment: Appreciate where you are and what you are doing. When you happen to be speaking with your family members about their stories and events, be present with the joy they are sharing with you and the love they are telling you they feel.  
  • Switch off the chatter: TURN off your phone and stay off of social media (or limit the time you spend on it). Instead, share meaningful photos with your inner circle members and tell stories about these photos together!


I recently spent some time speaking to a gentleman who has worked away from home since his daughter was five years old. He says he missed out on her growing up and was home only for five days at a time for long stretches of time. He felt it was very important for him to provide for his family and would do what it would take to accomplish that—being gainfully employed and doing something you enjoy, playing a foundational role in your family (provider while away and parent/partner when home) can assist in the gratitude and perspective-taking. I was also able to speak with his now-adult daughter who is married and has a daughter of her own and she shared with me how she experienced FIFO as a child through to her adult years. She acknowledged that has few childhood memories with her father and that she missed out on time with her dad. She recalls that when she was very young he was like:

“A strange man that came over once in a while and I got kicked out of my mom’s bed” (now she can laugh).

She now sees her father dote lovingly on her own daughter and in many ways be present for her daughter in a way he was unable to be for her. I asked her how that made her feel and she says that she wished very much he could have been present for her the way he is for his granddaughter but that she is grateful that due to the family and his sacrifice she was able to go to university and not need a student loan and that their family was provided for during those years. She did also share that as much as she’d liked to have her dad that way when she was younger she is very grateful that he is present in her daughter’s life and that “Papa” means the world to her daughter as she waits for him to come home.

Her experience got me thinking about how my own kids missed out on having quality time with me growing up. Now that we are a blended family (my wife has 3 kids of her own) I can appreciate more how my own adult son navigates this aspect. He gets to see me be present for my stepson in ways that I never was for him (climbing, mountain biking, tennis and working out), which I cannot imagine is entirely easy. I have asked him how this makes him feel because I admit I feel guilt and shame for not being there for him, I braced myself for the feedback. Instead he recognizes that I wasn’t there like he wished I was but he holds no grudge or resentment towards my stepson or me, instead he is appreciative that I at least plan a “Men’s camping trip” for the three of us where we go hiking and climbing and get to be wild at heart. He is grateful that he gets to be a bit of a kid again with his dad, even if it is only for a few days. I admire him for that because he could look through the lens of FOMO and be jealous or resentful, this in turn teaches me, helps me heal from guilt and reinforces that I shouldn’t get caught up in FIFO FOMO. The truth is, I live in abundance…

-Francisco Valenzuela