Technically, we become adults at 18, but lol to that. Most of us were still in high school at that age. Babies! At 21 we can drink but blacking out at a rooftop bar with 50 of your closest friends on your birthday (theoretically, of course) doesn’t exactly scream adulthood. Our brains fully develop at 25, but at that age, I still felt like a kid in many ways. Although I had a “real” job and an apartment, I would still call my parents when I didn’t understand my health insurance policy or when I needed help setting up my 401K.
Now I’m 36, a wife, a mom of two kids, a business and homeowner, and still feel like I’m not a fully formed adult at times. I think back to my parents at the same age and they looked and acted like “real” grown-ups to me. But after discussing this topic with my mom, she remembers feeling the same way I do.
So what is the adult factor? When do we grow up? As a kid I just assumed you hit a certain age in life when you “turned adult” and everything fell into place. Clearly, that was a naive view of the world and age isn’t the only factor.
If it’s not age-related, is adulthood connected to milestones?
I thought when I had my first baby, I would magically know what I was doing, but I found myself feeling like I was playing house… a child myself raising a baby. I felt the same way when Anel and I got married and bought our house. But alas, it often felt like we were kids in a game of dress-up.
There have definitely been grown-up moments in my life, mostly related to being responsible for others, like when Amalia and Anel (as well as my mom, sister, and cousins) all got really sick with a stomach bug at my grandfather’s funeral and I was the only one healthy enough to take care of everyone. Or when I opened 529 accounts for my kids’ college educations. That felt like a very adult thing to do.
Even in smaller, day-to-day moments. Like when I’m getting my kids ready in the mornings and they’re both crying and I have to figure out how to calm them both down and get them back on track. Or when someone at the grocery store recently called me ma’am instead of miss.
At daycare pick up and drop off sometimes I look around at the other moms and think they’ve really got it together and then I realize I’m part of that group!
And before kids, there were times like when I booked my first vacation without my family, paying for it on my own or when I hosted my first dinner party. These examples didn’t make me an adult but they add up to slowly change the way I look at myself.
But for me, the biggest shift to adulthood has been directly related to my relationship with my parents and the role reversal in taking care of them in certain ways as opposed to them taking care of me.
I polled my Instagram followers and about 75% of the responses had something to do with a parent getting ill, dying, or something related to taking care of parents. My friends and I have been talking a lot lately about the role reversal that happens in your 30s and 40s where you end up doing things to take care of your parents as opposed to our entire lives where our parents took care of us. It can be disorienting and can shoot you right into that feeling of “real” adulthood.
On a more humorous note, I was listening to an oldies playlist and a Norah Jones song started playing. How on earth is Come Away with Me considered an oldie!? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I was at her concert with my high school boyfriend? I did the math and turns out, that concert was 15 years ago. Thinking of my parents listening to their teenage favorites (The Beatles, Bob Dylan, etc) when all we wanted to hear was Britney and The Backstreet Boys is reminiscent of car rides today when I assume everyone in the car will love James Taylor and my daughter requests BTS instead. Small moments like that make me feel like an adult. Or maybe just old!
I asked Anel what his answer would be and he said the second Amalia was born he felt this immense responsibility to keep her safe and a switch turned him into an adult.
I’m so fascinated by this topic and would love to hear from you guys! I have blog comments turned off but comment on this Instagram post with your thoughts and we can continue the conversation there. In the meantime, here are some of the answers I got from you guys on stories yesterday.
Note before we get into that: I’m adding this later but after some IG conversations and talking to Anel, it feels important to add that it is a true privilege to have a family and support system to lean on for so long. If you grew up with a difficult or traumatic childhood, your answer is probably much different than mine.
Making medical decisions for myself without consulting my family.
Picking my kid up from daycare.
When my mom started coming to me for important advice.
When my dad was diagnosed with Cancer.
Realizing my parents weren’t perfect.
Picking retirement plans and healthcare at my first job.
When my mom passed away.
Getting a loan to replace our HVAC system.
Paying taxes on my own for the first time.
I’m turning 40 next week and I’m still waiting.
Staying up at night and tending to a sick kid.
The first time my parents visited me and stayed in my house.
Getting our will done.
At parent-teacher conferences.
When there was a crisis and I realized *I* was the adult that needed to handle it.
Making funeral arrangements for my parents.