Guilty of missing out!

mandy nolan opinion piece on mum guilt for Lunch Lady Magazine

Mandy Nolan suffers from GOMO and reckons she's not alone.


I have GOMO.

The other day, a friend was bleating on about having a chronic case of FOMO—Fear of Missing Out. It was at that moment that I realised my condition was far more serious: I have GOMO. It’s second-stage FOMO. Guilty of Missing Out. Generally, you only see it in working mums. FOMO is an imaginary condition based on the FEAR that you might miss out on something. But you haven’t actually missed out on anything. 

I have GOMO. I'm riddled with it. Every other day, I’m faced with another important event in my kids’ lives that I am not part of. I have missed most of my children’s significant moments. Sporting carnivals, assemblies, concerts. You name it.

That empty chair in the front row—that’s me.

Only last week, a friend texted me a pic of my son receiving an academic award commending him for six As. I worked hard for that shit. But I wasn’t there. I was in the car driving to a job. A job that pays me so I can afford to send him to his private school where he gets academic awards. In a few weeks, like his elder sister did three years ago, he will be going to Italy for a month as part of a language immersion trip. There are mums going along too. Not me. I’m working. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to do that. To take a month out from the daily grind and just ‘hang’ with a group of kids on the continent. 

How do those mums do it? Are they selling ice on the weekends? I work harder than most women I know, but I can’t afford that kind of maternal indulgence. I tell myself that those ones are smother mothers. They still carry the placenta in their handbags. But I’m just jealous. I’d love a chance to smother my kids.

I regularly apologise to my kids for missing their moments.

“Sorry, love. I won’t be there for your birthday this year.” Yep, that’s the woman who gave birth to you. She’s not available to commemorate one of the most amazing days of her life. The beginning of You. Instead she’s cracking jokes about you at a charity luncheon on the Gold Coast. Women are drunk and wearing stupid hats. I am sober, desperate to finish the gig so I can get back by ‘cake time’. I turn up. My husband is packing the dishwasher. “Sorry, love. We waited.” The kids are diplomatic. Understanding, even. They say, “That’s okay, Mum.” Them saying it’s okay just makes the GOMO worse. I can see how well adjusted they are. They don’t need me. Which is lucky, because these days I’m hardly ever there. 

I’m only at home for about four out of seven dinners per week. I creep into the bedroom late at night and undress in the dark. I try not to wake my husband. Which is pointless, because I generally fall over something I haven’t had time to pick up. I have GOMO about him, too. He looks at me sadly sometimes and says, “Are you home any nights this week?” Most nights he watches Netflix alone, knowing his middle-aged wife is in a car on the highway somewhere, or perhaps she’s pulled into a servo and she’s sharing her midnight with a bunch of long-haul drivers at a truck stop. I think I should get a photo of me drinking coffee with these guys. I seem to spend a lot of time in their company. Accidentally, of course. But I am considering buying a hi-vis vest. They have GOMO too.

GOMO parents tell occasional fibs.

When you have GOMO you make the moments when you are there count. In the few photos that I am present in my children’s lives, I make sure they are bloody spectacular. I have five children, aged eight to twenty-two. I have done canteen five times. But each child has a photo by their bedside of me serving a sausage roll and squirting the sauce. Proof that I was there. I tell them I did canteen every week when they were in kindy and the only reason they can’t remember is because they were too small.

GOMO mums throw elaborate, over-the-top children’s parties. Indulgence compensates for absence. Therapists tell us this doesn’t work, but what would they know? They’re not in their children’s lives either. I’ve been known to get clowns, ponies and contortionists. And just last week I hired my husband a sex worker.  

As long as they don’t miss out, I’m happy. Job done.



Written by Mandy Nolan and illustration by Sakuya Higuchi for Lunch Lady Issue 10