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PARENTING UNFILTERED

‘Joy of missing out,’ or JOMO, is all the rage. But we wouldn’t be so giddy if we could just manage our time in the first place.

Take control of your schedule in 9 simple steps.

Do you feel elated when something is canceled and you find yourself with the gift of time? Here are simple ideas for time management.Stillfx - stock.adobe.com

Sloth is the new stressed. Canceling is the new overbooking. Being busy was once a mark of clout; now, enlightened people hibernate and introversion is chic. FOMO, or fear of missing out, has been replaced by JOMO, or joy of missing out, a growing movement devoted to disconnection. We’re so fatigued, so drained by it all, that we need to applaud ourselves for being hermits.

This isn’t a new sensation: Jean-Paul Sartre once famously declared that “hell is other people.” But did Jean-Paul Sartre ever pray that a 6 a.m. hockey practice would be snowed out? The stakes are higher now; lives are busier.

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As such, I asked parents if they ever felt a twinge of relief when plans were canceled.

“How about a rush of relief?” one parent replied.

“All the time,” someone else added.

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One woman told me that, when her child’s dance practices are canceled, it’s almost as exciting as a snow day, for both adult and child. Another was downright ecstatic over a postponed Girl Scout cookie sale.

“I feel so much of an obligation to provide experiences for my son and a sense of guilt that I’m not providing enough of them. When they are canceled, that guilt goes away, and also, very selfishly, I get some unexpected and much-needed personal downtime,” confessed yet another.

Guilty? Selfish? No, no, no: The dramatic JOMO wouldn’t exist if we protected our time in the first place. Here are simple ideas for time management. Why not implement them in the dead of dry January?

Master the art of the birthday drop-off. Many parents idle awkwardly at children’s birthday parties, wearing their puffy coat even in an 80-degree gym, as if they’re ready to bolt but can’t quite do it. So they pretend to text. They make labored small talk about the school directory’s unreadable font. Leaving would be rude. But staying through 20 rounds of laser tag is almost as bad, especially since the party child’s parents likely have no idea who you are and are busy dreaming of the Chardonnay chilling at home. They don’t want to interact with you, either.

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If your child is capable of using the bathroom and consuming pizza without supervision, ask to flee. You do not need to spend two hours inhaling stale air at a grime-laced trampoline park when you could be at Target spending too much on bath towels. Sign that waiver and get the hell out.

Create an oasis in the desert. Sundays are my embalming day: I slather on face cream, don a hoodie, and hide from the cruel world. No matter what chaos transpires throughout the week, I know that Sunday will arrive with the promise of a weighted blanket and murder mysteries on Amazon Prime. But it’s not enough just to carve out this time. You must be explicit with interfering humans: Saying, “Sunday is when I do my laundry, pack lunches for the week, and plunge into deep existential dread” is kinder than declining your neighbor’s potluck invitation week after week. Set boundaries clearly and without remorse.

Embrace late-night memes. Many so-called experts claim that social media and screens are isolating us and driving us apart, but every mom I know spends from 9 p.m. on sending memes in bed. This isn’t detrimental; it’s the easiest way to connect without having to put on pants. Despite researchers’ worst fears, we’re not looking at Instagram comparing ourselves to Margot Robbie; we’re sending Caitlin Murray’s Big Time Adulting clips to each other. You’re not a lesser being for using your phone. You’re evolved.

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Leave room to bail. Tale as old as time: You meet a nice-seeming family in your child’s class and, in the heat of the moment, invite them for a playdate and pizza a few weeks out. What once seemed like an amazing idea — you’re connecting! Putting yourself out there! — turns more regrettable by the day. Playdate and a pizza might as well be a group Winnebago trip across the Midwest. You need to clean. You need to buy snacks. You actually want a brand-new house. Who are these people, anyway?

Enthusiasm ripens to regret until you snap and text that one of your children is glassy-eyed. You’d hate to spread potential germs. No worries, they say, at which point you commence rescheduling until one of you moves out of state. After years of field research, I’ve determined that the sweet spot for plans is three to four days away: Not so long that the date haunts you like “Saltburn” but long enough that there’s wiggle room to bail once you realize that the only stranger you want in your living room is Jacob Elordi.

Book plans at just the right place. For that matter, do not invite new people into your home on the first foray. Preliminary parent-kid interactions should happen in neutral places: parks, playgrounds, anywhere with an escape route. Maybe you’ll make a friend and take things indoors. But if the parents complain that kindergarten doesn’t offer calculus immersion or suggest that head lice is just an urban legend, you’ll be glad when it starts to get windy. Isn’t that a drop of rain?

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Be upfront about what you can offer. When presented with a volunteer opportunity — PTO liaison, Girl Scout troop leader, bowling team chaperone — be clear about how much time you can commit to the task: “I can devote one hour per week to cleaning out the school’s lost-and-found bin.” Then stick to it. When that hour’s up, those stray gloves can go mate with themselves.

Audit your child’s extracurriculars. Sometimes after-school enrichment doubles as childcare. But if you’re navigating Route 93 at rush hour just so your prodigy can participate in a far-flung club swim team (insignia towels cost extra but foster team spirit!), all so they might have a competitive edge in college … 10 years from now? Permit yourself to opt-out. Stop telling yourself that at least you can catch up on audiobooks. It’s still not worth it.

Normalize saying no. A few weekends ago, a friend said she couldn’t make drinks because she didn’t have the energy. Period. Done. Mic drop. The group text was astonished by her transparency. She was our own personal Oprah Winfrey. How many times have you tried to slip out of plans with a convoluted, “I’d love to, but I promised the kids we’d make pancakes together and I’m really tired from work, but I’m so excited to see you, and I can’t wait to meet up — so I might be a little late, but I’ll definitely try to be there unless someone is sick!” You’re not going: We know it, and you know it.

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Just be honest and say you’d rather collapse into a pile of laundry. It makes it safe for other people to be honest, too.

Figure out why you’re showing up to things you dread. And then stop doing those things.

Acton’s Michele-Kim Cohen recently read the book “Four Thousand Weeks.”

“The premise is that if we live to 80, we have 4,000 weeks in our lives. And instead of jamming more into those weeks, we try to be deliberate about what we fill it with,” she says. “I’ve been practicing the art of ‘no’ and saying ‘no’ to parties, activities, and events that don’t fit into our family’s schedule or bring us joy.”

So maybe it’s time for JONO — the joy of saying no — instead?


Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her @kcbaskin.