my young employee is undermining herself with constant talk about her parents and her age

A reader writes:

I supervise a very talented, younger employee. She has tremendous work skills for her years of experience and demonstrates strong potential for growth. But…she seems to lack a level of maturity that I feel is impacting her career. She often talks about her parents and even credits them for helping with her work.

I want her to be respected for her career contributions to our company, but her talents are overshadowed by her constant need to include her parents in conversation or discussions about “adulting” — like paying her bills (using a budget that her parents helped her set).

I try to give her positive reinforcement to grow her confidence in her own abilities, but how do I help her take ownership of her own work? And how do I tell her to stop talking about her parents so often? Or the year she was born? Or to stop using the term “adulting” because you’re an adult!

She’s lacking a level of emotional intelligence and doesn’t seem to realize the impression she’s making. I realize she’s young, and this is where she is in life. How do I address this in a way that’s sensitive and respectful, but also clear?

For young people new to the work world, this can be such a weird transition time! You’ve thought of yourself as a kid your whole life, and in so many ways you don’t feel like an adult yet. One day you have almost no responsibilities with real-world consequences, and the next day you’re signing contracts and have a 401K and people are talking to you like you’re 40, but clearly you are not 40 and you’re not even sure you’re that different from when you were 17.

And maybe this was just my experience, but when you’re dealing with the scary amount of changes that adjusting to adulthood entails, sometimes there can be real comfort in playing up your youth. I remember in my 20s — and honestly, sometimes beyond that — wanting to be treated not as a kid, but as an “adult lite” rather than as a full-fledged adult. I felt like I got a certain amount of support as “young person figuring this stuff out as she goes” that fully fledged adults weren’t expected to need.

That said, she is indeed undermining herself by what she’s doing, and it’s worth saying something to her about it.

I’d say it this way: “Jane, you’re extremely talented and you do great work. I’m thrilled to have you on my team. I want to mention something to you that I’m worried could impact the way others perceive you: You tend to talk about yourself as if you’re still a kid. You talk about your parents and your age a lot, and you’ve even referenced your parents helping you with your work. I want people to see you as the competent professional you are, and I’m concerned that you’re inadvertently undermining yourself when you do this.”

You could also add: “Can I tell you how I see you? I see someone who’s done an amazing job at X and Y and demonstrated a great deal of wisdom and insight on Z. I want other people to see you this way too. It’s not that it’s inappropriate for you to be close to your parents or to look to them for advice — that’s a great thing, and lots of people do it at all ages. It’s more about making sure that you’re not talking about that so much that you give the impression that you’re not a competent, self-sufficient adult.”

This might be eye-opening for her. She may not even realize that “competent, self-sufficient adult” is the right self-image for her to have. But if nothing else, it should help her be more aware of how these types of comments are coming across.

It’s a kind conversation to have with her, and good for you for being willing to do it.

{ 828 comments… read them below }

  1. Infinity anon*

    The term “adulting” drives me crazy. It comes across as wanting kudos for very basic things.

    1. Kowalski! Options!*

      +1. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, most people my age couldn’t wait to turn 18, leave home, and be an adult. I don’t get why, all of a sudden, being an adult has become an existential crisis…

        1. Artemesia*

          Standards of living and expected standards are so much higher now than when today’s Olds were young. Back when I was beginning work and walking both ways up hill and in the snow, I was putting a husband through school and eating casseroles made with an eighth of a pound of hamburger each or beans and rice and had one 15 year old car for commuting that I had to start in winter by drying out the distributor cab with a hair dryer on a very long extension cord from our second floor apartment window. Most young people starting out today that I know live a lot better than I and my peers did when we were starting out.

          Yeah today’s kids have huge debt that most of us didn’t. I was able to work in school and pay my way because the cost of college was much less. And some of us had more job opportunities (although in my field there were no jobs then either). But the whole ‘adulting’ thing is just so very childish and precious and is just an obnoxious trend that has nothing to do with the real world being more difficult. I have assumed it is partly the result of the change in life cycle patterns e.g. very late or no marriage, not choosing to have children etc etc. Getting married and having kids ‘adults’ you really fast. In a generation where people are not getting married and having kids or doing so in their 30s rather than their 20s it is easy to blur the lines between adolescence and adulthood.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Husband: “Your mom and I had to walk 10 miles uphill to school in the snow! Both ways! And there were dinosaurs, and the internet was dial-up.”

            Teenager: “I don’t even know what dial-up is.

            1. Former Hoosier*

              A co worker mentioned the other day that Facebook came out when she was sophomore in high school. I said it came out when I was 40.

            2. ThatAspie*

              LOL, I used to use dial-up when I was little. For real. Then again, we weren’t ever exactly “rich”. (I’m 18 1/2.)

          2. Biff*

            I get what you are saying, but the flip side is that the EMPLOYER expects a higher standard of living from their employees than they used to. Things I’ve heard over the years, said to me, said to coworkers, said to friends:

            — If they don’t have a decent smartphone, I just don’t feel like I can communicate with them as easily as I need to. When I need to get a hold of someone, I need them right then! (My partner was outright told that they needed a smart phone before they would be allowed to have a promotion thye’d been promised for 18 months.)
            — No way that hunk-of-junk car is going to be reliable this winter, I need someone who isn’t going to call in with car problems all the time. (Said hunk of junk is, to the best of my knowledge, still running.)
            — You walk to work? So you don’t own a car? Do you even have a driver’s license!?
            — Do you have any other shoes?
            — Didn’t you wear that last week?
            –What do you mean you don’t have a TV?

            I’m in my thirties, but a few years ago, my boss told me that I wasn’t really middle aged because I didn’t have a mortgage or “real life problems yet.” I was making a just-barely middle-class wage and had NO hope of buying a home in the area, but I most certainly had real-life problems. (This boss used this as an excuse to never give me raises. I didn’t “need” them.) I’ve spent my whole life watching the goal posts for being considered a real, contributing adult get moved out, and out, and out. And come to find out, at 30-something, I still wasn’t considered an adult?

            I’ll tell you it really screwed with my head. Here I was, paying my own bills, sending money to family when asked, saving money, driving a paid-off car, making ‘good’ decisions like putting off anything fun in favor of finances (and then being chewed out for not having a wedding after being told to not bother, and save for a down-payment instead)…. and I wasn’t an adult because…why? I still spoke to my mother each week? I asked my father for career advice? I had cheap furniture? That’s when I decided that if wasn’t going to be allowed to grow up, I was going to run my life really differently.

            1. Former Hoosier*

              Having your own reliable smartphone is a common standard these days. I see that it is a real expense and my company reimburses for some of the cost but I don’t see this as unreasonable.

              With the other comments, I think you had/have a jerk of a boss. No where that I have ever worked or supervised someone would these comments be made to an employee even in jest. They aren’t appropriate and if I thought an employee was monitoring how frequently another employee wears a pair of shoes or an item of clothing or where that clothing came from, that employee would have a forthright conversation with me.

              But not all employers are like this.

              1. Baby Driver*

                I think it’s perfectly fine for employers to ask whether employees have a driver’s license.

                1. Biff*

                  It i! I guess I wasn’t clear — I meant that I was judged for having walked to an interview near my home. They instantly started in with judging instead of just asking. I couldn’t get a break to tell them that I had a car, I just lived about half a mile away, which is a very short distance for me.

                2. Erin the Librarian*

                  I think it’s more appropriate for employers to ask whether employees have a reliable way to get to work.

                  I bike to work every day. I have a driver’s license but no desire to own a car since I live in a city where biking is much quicker than driving. That’s arguably a much more reliable way to get to work/meetings than drive a car and then circle the block for 45 minutes looking for parking.

                  And even more importantly than my previous comment, asking if a person has a driver’s license can be discriminatory against people with disabilities who can’t drive. It’s already hard enough to find a job with reasonable accommodations, why add an additional unnecessary barrier?

                3. tink*

                  I don’t unless traveling with your own vehicle (or driving a company vehicle) is a required function of the job. Some people walk/bike/take public transit/etc. and shouldn’t be punished or thought less of because they can’t, for whatever reason, drive a motorized vehicle themselves.

                  It’s much better to ask if someone has reliable transit.

                4. Indoor Cat*

                  Er, but why? Unless it’s a job that literally requires driving from place to place.

                  I have a transportation budget in lieu of a car budget. That is, instead of paying for car insurance, gas, and repairs, I pay for bus passes, Lyft fare, and occasionally taxi services. Where I live at least, my monthly cost of transportation seems to be lower, on average, than the cost to my friends who own cars. YMMV (lol!) but, it seems a bit silly to say an employee ought to spend up to $200 more per month (depending on who I’m comparing myself to) because owning a car is more “reliable.”

                  Honestly, some car owners have more problems than those with a public transit routine because if their car breaks down, now they’re late.

              2. Biff*

                I think having a smart phone, for better or for worse IS required. But it’s a lot more expensive than a land-line.

                As for jerk bosses. Well, as far as I can tell, there’s a ton of those nowadays. We don’t have management training like we used to.

                1. paul*

                  particularly if you’re expected to have a high data allowance. Maybe other regions have better options but around here a few gigs and you’re looking at north of 80 bucks a month. it sucks.

                2. twig*

                  Yes! smart phones and data plans are expensive — especially when you are scraping by.

                3. uh*

                  If my employer wanted me to have a smartphone I would expect them to provide it, in the same way the provide me a laptop, a desk, etc.

              3. nonegiven*

                DH’s employer reimburses enough for a voice plan on a flip phone. Everyone but him has a smartphone, anyway. He gets razzed constantly about it. If they need him they can call him. No reason for him to check email outside the office or send texts. Now its a matter of principle. He will hold out until after he retires and even then, maybe not.

              4. BYOD*

                if a smart phone is required for the employee, then the company should be providing said phone and not trying to get a free ride from the employee.

            2. Chinook*

              Actually, I heard those same complaints (minus the smart phone, obviously) back in the 90’s from bosses who forget what the early lean years are like. The goal posts are always moving because life has no known end line, just markers that look like goal posts.

            3. The Rat-Catcher*

              I tried buying cheap furniture from a used furniture place…
              Countless bites and $300 of bedbug treatment later, I realize I should have just bought something new.

              1. AthenaC*

                And that’s another thing – when it comes to ways to buy second-hand and save money, often the second-hand prices aren’t materially different than the new-item prices. And/or the time and expense to find the good second-hand deals make it more efficient (and cheaper) to just be really selective about getting new things on sale.

          3. Chinook*

            “Most young people starting out today that I know live a lot better than I and my peers did when we were starting out.”

            Yup, and as someone who went through those lean times twice (the downside to marrying someone much younger who came with a significantly smaller wage and the need for me to move away from my career or not live with him), my sympathy only covers so much. I have had to pawn items in order to pay rent and considered a great night out anything we could cover with my $10 in tips from a week working at the coffee shop (I never expected to get tipped at Timmy’s, so it was “bonus money.”) I almost always had to move to find a job and I worked 3 jobs at a time while in university in the 90’s to cover it because living with my parents was not an option because there was no university near by. Heck, for the first time since we got married 10 years ago, we no longer have to worry about the money lasting the month and we are in awe at our bank account.

            The Kraft Dinner years should be considered a right of passage because it takes time to build a career and it also allows you appreciate what you have when you earn it. Honestly, the fancy coffee tastes so much better knowing I couldn’t afford this when DH and I started out. And we never take our trip to Disney for granted because we know what it is like to see a trip to the movie theatre with new releases as an indulgent expense.

            Yeah, the debt of the current generation sucks, but it is hard to feel sympathy when I see how some of them spend the money they borrow (not all, of course). You can decrease that debt by having roommates, 5 year old phones that are pay as you go and no cable or internet (because you can get a whole lot of entertainment with a library card). Life isn’t meant to be comfy at 20 or even 30 if you want to be able to retire at 70 or 80.

            1. Condescendee*

              You’re seriously suggesting that people can function in the early 21st century without internet access? Gimme a break. It’s virtually a utility (and probably ought to be regulated as such).

              1. RabbitRabbit*

                Yup, that’s insane. Job applications are almost entirely done by Internet, at my last job change the scheduling for a phone interview and the follow-up in-person interview was all done by e-mail, and so on. You can’t put that off for a library trip.

              2. Zombii*

                Also agreeing.

                I am still in my uncomfy 30’s and resent the hell out of the $45/month I spend on the (prepaid) unlimited plan for my far-from-an-iPhone mobile phone (which I need to have according to every potential employer since I was 15—and especially now in case an employer wants to set up a job interview via text or contact me anytime 24/7 what fresh hell is this seriously?), but I consider the similar amount I spend on internet 100% nonnegotiable.

                Excuses, excuses: I go to the library all the time but I can’t rely on the library for internet because their wifi is so slow it times out if you’re on a laptop, there’s always a multi-hour wait for one of their computers that are plugged into the modem directly, there’s a 1 hour limit if you do manage to get a computer, and they’re not open every day.

            2. Dulf*

              The Internet is not a source of entertainment. You can’t get “a whole lot of job applications done” with a library card. I live in a rich suburb with a very well-funded public library system and the computers are still incapable of handling bloated, resource-hogging employer job application websites (Taleo, Workday etc.) – and that’s in cases where the website in question is whitelisted.

              This attitude that older people have – that because you suffered, others should too – is problematic enough on its own. You don’t need to compound it with willful ignorance.

              1. Biff*

                My local library, a rural branch, is only open for a few hours each day (with one late day on Thursday) if I’d been required to do all my job searching at the library, I’d have never gotten a job at all. And forget trying to have that initial skype interview at the library — their machines are 20 years old.

            3. Fleeb*

              Dude, I lived at home and I still had debt. I’ve never had cable, AC, or even a car, but damn those millennials and their avocados or something.

              1. designbot*

                +1 to this. Apparently my five years of biking everywhere and my time living in the dining room don’t count, because we had internet and phones that were only 3 years old.
                I get the advice that you have to scrimp for a time, but that’s going to look different for different folks, and it’s definitely going to adjust by generation.

            4. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Yeah…. to effectively apply for jobs, you need internet access, you need to be able to respond to potential employers – who often, IME, contact by *email*, and so it is not some wildly unrealistic thing for a young adult to think that he or she should have internet access and a computer at home.

              I also think you are seriously downplaying the extent to which millennials know about and rely on Kraft Dinner. lol. I’m a mom to a young millennial, and Kraft dinner and Ramen are his go-tos. So, yeah, some younger folks have trouble because they buy fancy coffee. But no need to be condescending and pretend young adults don’t actually know how to rough it. Plenty of them do.

              But sure, he spends some money to have internet at his apartment and a computer because that’s how the world works now – most places require online apps, and the library is not easily accessible/open as often as he needs for job stuff/able to handle the kind of work he has to do on it.

              And college debt is HUGE. I paid for lots of my college by working – but our state school costs $25,000 a year. Lots of kids graduate with big debt. And it’s not because they get a latte sometimes at Starbucks.

              1. fposte*

                I also think there’s an additional complication here in that Chinook is Canadian; there’s some overlap but the economics are different in some key ways.

              2. sam*

                I actually listened to an interview with Al Franken yesterday, and he talked about the fact that when he and his wife went to college, a Pell Grant covered 80% of the cost of a public education.

                80% !!

                He talked about how between that, and a summer job, you could ACTUALLY pay your way through school without incurring debt. He talked about this in the context of his own circumstances – he grew up in relative comfort, but his wife was one of FIVE kids raised by a mother who was widowed at 29 and who really had to scrape to make ends meet – and who still managed to get all five of those kids through college because it was actually affordable back then.

                These days, if you’re lucky enough to qualify for a Pell Grant, it’ll maybe cover the cost of your books.

                “kids these days” can’t save to buy a house (or anything else) because they’re already making the equivalent of a mortgage payment every month trying to pay off their student loans.

                Criticizing them for having “internet” as if its some sort of luxury in the 21st century is like criticizing them for having running water. I mean, couldn’t they just build an outhouse and bathe in a nearby river?

                1. Kyrielle*

                  Yeah. A Pell Grant will cover…a little over half the cost of tuition for a year at two particular public colleges/universities in my state (picked those because their pages were not a labyrinthine mess of conditional fees). Of course, if you need room & board, that costs a little more than the tuition, so now it’s covering about 25% of your costs…before you take books or other fees into account.

                  I think at the labyrinthine mess of conditional fees, a Pell Grant might actually cover most of the cost of tuition (not full cost, just tuition) – but I’m not sure.

                2. Zombii*

                  When I went to school the first time, I went to a community college in the state where I was living at the time. I qualified for a Pell Grant and a couple of scholarships I wouldn’t have to pay back, I didn’t take loans because I was terrified of debt. I was able to take the minimum number of courses to be considered on “full time” course load to get all the money I was eligible for without paying out of pocket, but I had to pay for my own books and living expenses (I wasn’t living at home, I was raised poor and my parents couldn’t afford to help pay anything, not that I would expect them to because college isn’t something I think parents are obligated to pay for).

                  Also I wasn’t paying attention for the first 2 semesters and later realized even though I was going “full time” according to government standards, my 2 year degree was going to take over 4 years at the pace I was going. I ran out of money before I finished the degree. 5 years later, I surprising amount of my credits failed to transfer and I’m starting from scratch (now with student loans).

                3. Pennalynn Lott*

                  @Kyrielle – Tuition at my in-state university is $13,000. My Pell Grant is $5270. (The maximum possible grant is $5920). So, yeah, a Pell Grant doesn’t cover even *half* of tuition.

                4. Donna Freedman*

                  Personally, I think the millennials are getting hosed. They were encouraged to take on student debt (“Everybody borrows — you’ll pay it back with the much better job you’ll get because you have a degree!”), they are pressured to have smartphones so their bosses can reach them 24/7 and they will almost certainly have to plan their own retirements (whereas their grandparents and maybe even some of their parents have pension plans).

                  Before you start in on me as an enabler, let me say that:
                  I’m 59 years old and didn’t get a university degree until seven years ago, and
                  I am ANYTHING but an apologist for debt and for having a lifestyle you can’t afford (in fact, I’ve written a couple of books about how to live your best life on the money you currently have, without sacrificing dignity or comfort and without ever losing sight of a better future).

                  That university degree I (finally) got? Paid for entirely with grants and scholarships. But I realize that I’m the exception, and that college costs money. (I do, however, have a chapter in one of my books about how to get an education without shackling yourself to debt.)

                  And back to the topic at hand: The young woman may not necessarily appreciate being told, “You’re a smart and capable person, so stop referring to yourself as a dependent child.” At least, not right away. It could be embarrassing. But it could also be the wake-up call she needs to begin taking herself seriously and to pay attention to the image she projects. I think her boss would be doing her a huge favor by speaking up: tactfully, gently but firmly.

            5. anoning*

              Ah, this sounds very much like those “millennials could afford houses if they stopped buying avocado toast/coffee” bs that’s so prevalent these days.

              1. EmptyPockets*

                I love when people say things like this. Okay, so if I save the $8 I spend twice a week at Starbucks, by the end of the year, I’ll have $416! By golly, at that rate, I could save for a down payment on a crappy NYC studio in just 72 years!

                1. AthenaC*

                  Agreed – at that rate, the enjoyment you get out of the daily Starbucks far exceeds the long-term benefits of saving that amount.

                2. anoning*

                  Seriously. I’ve personally been baffled by the “you millennials and your avocado toast” because….my parents ate that growing up and I ate that growing up because it was a cheap dinner that got you protein and vitamins and was healthier than a can of ravioli. Even now, it costs maybe $3 and lasts me a week. So yeah, that $3/week is really hurting my ability to buy a house or pay off my debt.

                3. sam*

                  replying to anoning – this whole thing fascinates me too. I mean, toast is LITERALLY the cheapest thing you can eat. and spreading some vegetables on it?

                  Of course, when people are referring to “avocado toast”, what they’re really referring to is going OUT to some fancy-schmancy brunch place that charges you $20 for putting avocado on toast.

                  So that’s a whole different thing. But still. People who can afford ridiculously overpriced brunches can buy ridiculous things at those brunches. But the fact that what they’re buying is “avocado toast” isn’t any more ridiculous than if they were buying ridiculously overpriced eggs. Which you can also prepare at home for cheap.

                4. Michael*

                  I wish. My downpayment on my nice-but-small NYC studio was approximately 11.5 times higher than the number you suggested.

                  (Which I say not to be disagreeable, but just to illustrate how extreme prices have gotten)

              2. AthenaC*

                For what it’s worth, I had avocado toast for the first time a couple weeks ago, and it was DELICIOUS. Totally worth the opulence-shaming from the previous generation.

                1. Kathleen Adams*

                  I love avocado toast (and I am oh, so definitely not a millennial), but I don’t get why we don’t just call it “guacamole toast.” I’ve had it maybe three times at three different places, and in all three places that green stuff is what I would call guacamole.

                  Also, while I do occasionally do some opulence-shaming, I am at the same time aware that when it comes to college costs, I was *ridiculously* lucky. I went to college in California in the halcyon days when (aside from room and board), all it cost us California natives was books, a student fee and a parking pass. Honestly, my books cost more than the student fee.

                  Also, get bacon with your avocado toast. Bacon and avocado are magic together.

              3. Liz2*

                Indeed. While I’d never use “adulting” in a professional context, it’s a great term and I’ve only ever seen it used ironically to contrast with how little adulting we were allowed to do (thanks helicopter parents) and how much harder the basic life steps are (thanks economy and housing crash, thanks huge college debt, thanks old people not retiring and opening movement because THEY can’t be secure either).

                The only people I ever hear who dislike “adulting” are the ones who think the people using it are actually looking for praise, missing the point of the irony completely.

                1. EddieSherbert*

                  Same. I do use “adulting” (never at work though! that’d be awkward), but it’s meant to be a joke with my friends…

                2. Video Gamer Lurker*

                  I use it as a joke term for when I come across something I’m needing directions on how to use (the adultier adult) and I use that word phrase exactly once in such a situation as a light-hearted segue to the asking for directions or before going off to do the directions, and only when surrounded by more professional sounding thing. Usually involving older tech devices at the workplace that were used when I was a student there (elementary school teacher’s aide now), like VCRs that I’ve forgotten how to use in the fifteen-plus years since I last used one as, maybe, maybe, an eight year old.
                  Yeah, we still use VCRs. Not as often, but sometimes.
                  Otherwise, I stick to more professional words. Adultier and adulting stays on Facebook memes for me.

                3. CanadianMillenial*

                  I also use the term adulting, but again never at work. Its generally on social media or with friends and as mentioned, it’s not a “yay praise and reward me” term. I use it typically when accomplishing those skills that school and education and parents did not prepare me for. “Wow, I managed to do all my taxes right by myself, yay adulting!”; “I’ve learned to do a budget that actually works #adulting” or for those days when I really wish I could be that kid taking a sick day, sit at home in my pyjamas, drinking juice and watching movies, because who doesn’t want that sometimes? But I recognize that that is not reality and can’t be done and therefore tongue in cheek I’m ‘adulting’.

            6. LBK*

              One thing I haven’t seen called out yet in your comment is the piece about moving – the entry cost to moving these days is insane. Most places will want a bare minimum of two months rent, one as your deposit and one as the realtor’s fee, and it’s not uncommon for you to have to put down first and last month’s rent, a full month’s rent as the realtor’s fee and an additional security deposit on top of that. I don’t have thousands of dollars saved up to be able to pay those fees multiple times in a short window – if I end up in an area I’m stuck there for a while because I literally can’t afford to get out. If I wanted to move somewhere farther away where the entry cost isn’t so high, that just increases the cost of actually getting all my stuff out there.

              1. LabTech*

                Also worth mentioning is the cost of rent in cities is one of the things that has shot up in the past few decades. Cities also tend to be where people need to move to, to be able to secure employment. Not an absolute, of course – people can get jobs elsewhere – but a strong correlation: good luck finding a good job in small towns.

                Unrelated, but also important are healthcare costs. If you get majorly sick, you’re in financial ruins without good insurance. So, to summarize: costs for education, housing, and healthcare – things that everyone needs, or at least should have access to – have skyrocketed. All the while, wages have stagnated, telepressure and <40 hr weeks have become commonplace, and jobs themselves are harder to attain. These are completely valid concerns that our generation is expressing.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, health care is one of the things I thought about when considering the U.S./Canadian divide here.

                2. many bells down*

                  I recently had to look at studio apartments in Seattle for something I was working on. We’re looking at $1500/month and up for a STUDIO. And Seattle’s minimum wage is $15/hr. Many landlords here require that you make 3x the monthly rent to qualify. That math does not work.

                3. phedre*

                  Yes, this. I’m on the upper end of millennial – born in 1983 – and I owe a ton of student loan debt (I’m doing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program). Despite my debt, things were actually fine until rent started skyrocketing in my city. Rent has doubled since I moved here 11 years ago. I still do ok, but I can’t imagine when we’ll ever be able to own a house. And it’s hard to move because 1) moving is expensive, 2) my stepson is here and we are not going to be the kind of parents who live a plane ride away and only see him a few weeks out of the year, and 3) what kind of job will I find elsewhere? I work in fundraising and most of the good jobs are in cities.

                  But you’re right that healthcare is adding on an additional burden. My husband ended up in urgent care last year – turns out it was a kidney stone. But all of the tests they had to do weren’t covered because he has a $3,000 deductible on his employer-provided health insurance. Then he had another $2,500 in dental care (again, he has dental insurance). And I broke my foot (thankfully was still able to work). So in the space of a year, we had about $7,000 in out of pocket costs despite having health insurance – and mine is actually pretty good insurance at that. And we didn’t even get really sick – I can’t imagine what something like cancer would have done to our finances.

                4. StrikingFalcon*

                  Many bells down: and people actually argue that $15 minimum wage in cities is absurdly high. Seattle has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation.

                  Regarding health care, my out of pocket maximum is literally just shy of half my yearly income. It’s not uncommon for me to spend 25-40% of my monthly income on medical expenses. And there are “luxuries” I work into my budget because they help me cope with not being able bodied. The cheapest options often mean trading money for labor, and that’s not always an actual option for me.

                5. Zombii*

                  @LabTech I know it was a typo, but <40 hour weeks are also an issue when employers are purposely giving fewer hours to not be held to the healthcare mandate but still expect all the work to get done. For a brief period, I was working 60-hour weeks but had no healthcare because those hours were spread across 3 (low-paying) jobs. I got sick of course. Fun times.

            7. Erin the Librarian*

              I’m a librarian. We give out mobile hotspots for people who can’t afford internet at home, but the demand is high and the supply is low. It’s a necessity in this age to have internet. As someone mentioned below, it’s impossible to apply for jobs without the internet. Schools now send homework home through virtual backpacks and require submission of assignments through internet. You would have to live entirely off the grid to not need internet.

            8. Rookie Manager*

              My career is in providing advice/support/assistance to people in tough situations (I’m being deliberately vague here). For at least the last 10 years when calculating income/expenditure/resources of a client I would consider internet an essential outgoing.

              For those experiencing social isolation, illness, disability, under/unemployed, single parent and so many other scenarios the internet is a lifeline. It’s far to easy to be flippant and discuss it as an extravagant luxury when (in the UK) you even need to apply for state benefits online! As others have said you need to ve online to search and apply for jobs – imagine waiting to buy the weekly job paper at the newsagents, handwrite a cover letter/CV then post it to the company. The job could be gone before the even get the envelope and post back an invite to interview. The world has moved on, expectations have changed.

            9. wealhtheow*

              Cable TV may be a live-without-able luxury (I would cancel ours if it were up to me, but Spouse loooves it) but Internet, nope. So much of working and work-getting life happens online now, you’re at a serious disadvantage if your only way of accessing the Internet is by booking an hour’s worth of computer time at the library.

              1. Ghost Town*

                Much of the time, the cable/internet company bundles the two together, so it is cheaper or the same price to get decent internet + small cable package versus just eh-to-decent internet. Plus the whole value in entertainment cable may bring, as well as the news/weather/keeping up with cultural references…

            10. Michael*

              >no internet

              This whole post was insulting out-of-touch, but wow, that takes the cake. I can’t imagine how you could genuinely believe “no internet” is an option for anyone who wants to participate in the modern economy in any sense whatsoever.

            11. Avocado Toast*

              “Life isn’t meant to be comfy at 20 or even 30 if you want to be able to retire at 70 or 80.”

              This is, by far, the worst “advice” I have ever read on this blog. First of all the fatalistic determination that people should consider retiring at 70 or 80 *good*, and by extension, taking for granted that you will even live that long. But more than that I am sick and tired of this “uphill in the snow both ways, pulling myself up by my bootstraps the entire time” self-centered libertarianism I’m seeing arise from the previous generations. For a generation constantly looking at us millennial with such utter disdain for lacking perspective or being selfish, you are doing an awful good job of embodying both those characteristics in your post.

              God forbid people try to enjoy the fruits of their efforts while they are alive and guaranteed to be *able* to enjoy them.

          4. Kowalski! Options!*

            And it’s not like being an (older) adult means that you don’t have student debt, or diminished job opportunities, either. I went back to school full-time to update my skills (and I wasn’t the only older grad student to do so, either), and got saddled with a fair amount of student debt that’s going to take a fair number of years to pay off. And there were no guarantees of a job at the end, either (though I was lucky enough to get one through my internship.)

            Turning problems, suffering or hardship into a competitive race for the bottom isn’t going to solve the issue that, unless something really unpleasant happens to you when you’re in your late teens or early twenties, becoming an adult is…somewhat inevitable. And it’s not easy for anyone, whether they’re looking forward to it or not.

            1. AMPG*

              And if you went to school in the 90’s you likely consolidated that debt and locked yourself into a ridiculously high interest rate. I’m 15 years into repayment on my student loans and have another 15 years to go, partly because of the 8-point-something % interest rate.

              1. former foster kid*

                *wish* i had an 8% interest rate. sitting on 13% over here on one of my loans. I didn’t know what a ‘variable rate’ was when i signed the paperwork at 19 with no where else to go and no other options.

                the original rate was 9.5%. i’m 5 years into paying it off. in the first year i had 2 late payments, none since then. but the interest rate still continues to rise.

                (i have 4 other loans about 10% now. sigh. at least warren is my senator and i can write to her about it)

          5. Condescendee*

            Artemesia, you’re coming across as being extremely condescending. Your churlishly dismiss student debt and the effects of the great recession. People who have made the decision not to have kids or get married have made a decision that works for them, regardless of whether the same decision would have worked for you.

            Then you critique the word “adulting” (and it’s just a word, hon) and at the same time talk about “today’s Olds.” IIRC this isn’t the first time you’ve used the term “Olds,” either — I remember this from the recent thread about the woman who wouldn’t give her seat up on the subway. Do you realize how much this comes across as “old fogeyism”? If you behave this way in meatspace, you’re unfortunately setting yourself up for age discrimination from millennials and younger GenXers.

            1. Chinook*

              Condescendee , you are assuming that Artemesia and those like me also didn’t live through a big recession when we were your age. I graduated at a time between booms and have seen them come and go. Requirements and expectations were changing every time I met them. The 80’s and 90’s were full of changing gender expectations and some of us were told you should do a, b and c to succeed but, when we did that, we were told by those same people that we should have seen the changes coming and a, b and c are not only no longer a requirement but now hamper you. Gen Xers live in the eternal shadow of boomers who left very little behind their population bulge for those who followed in their wake.

              As for education debt, my tuition literally doubled from year 1 to year 4. Sure, it was less than what is paid now, but no one could financially prepare for a 100% increase over 4 years and, at that time, the only way to qualify for student loans if you were not a mature student was to have your parents legally disown you. Bursaries and scholarships were smaller (think $100 or $500) and fewer. And the wages were still the same as they were 10 years earlier. So, we sucked it up and ate the no-name mac and cheese and ramen noodles, became experts at finding freebies on campus and worked horrible jobs like chicken catcher over the summer. Because, if we didn’t, we would have to drop out of university because we couldn’t afford to go and no one could help us (because our parents didn’t have the ability or expectations to save for our education) .

              1. MillersSpring*

                AMEN. Yes, my college tuition skyrocketed over the four years I was there. I got scholarships that were only like $300 and $500, which paid for less than one class. I graduated into a recession, and three of my first four jobs out of college were secretarial. (And I was laid off from the first two.) I ate cheap food and never went to concerts or on vacation. Ever. And then we had the recession of 2000-2001–lots of layoffs and career stagnation.

                What I have noticed is an uptick in anxiety just from doing normal tasks: scheduling a doctor’s appointment, setting up utilities, picking benefits at work, getting the oil changed in the car. In the 80s and 90s, we didn’t have social media for whining/crowd-sourcing. My peers and I did not run anxiously to Mom and Dad because Life Was Hard. People just figured things out.

                1. Marillenbaum*

                  Cool story, bro. I bet you also walked to school uphill in the snow both ways. Young people are also just figuring things out–we do it by crowdsourcing, and supporting each other, and telling dumb jokes, and getting actual legitimate help for our anxiety instead of accepting the shaming of judgmental people who call it “whining”.

                2. EmptyPockets*

                  Have to admit I prefer crowd-sourcing to flailing about and potentially f’ing up a major decision.

                3. Zombii*

                  You’re upset that kids these days are upset by the same things that upset you when you were their age, you don’t feel they’re handling it as stoically as you would prefer, and you don’t approve of them getting information instead of making decisions by “just figuring it out.”

                  Good on you, but how the hell does any of this relate to the original topic?

            2. Darkitect*

              Have to admit I find the term “hon” more condescending than anything else written.

              1. Nea*

                That could be a regional thing. “Hon” is a common term of address in Baltimore, for example.

                1. Bigglesworth*

                  It’s also pretty common where I grew up in the Midwest/South-Central region of the US.

          6. Fleeb*

            On the flip side, my dad got a great job with a GED and some gumption, bought a house and had kids, had no student debt, and came of age in a great economy.
            I graduated during a recession with tons of debt, mostly from my parents with their mortgage when my dad was laid off during said recession (because gumption isn’t a thing anymore), and don’t have a car period, let alone a 15 year old one.
            Both of our stories are anecdotal, but the data shows that millennials have lower wages, higher debt, and fewer prospects. I’m so sick of people telling me how fast they had to grow up due to marriage and children, when my fiance and I want desperately to get married and have children but can’t afford it. It demonstrates economic privilege and lack of empathy.

            1. Not Rebee*

              And not only do we have lower wages, higher debt, and fewer prospects but when you compare then to now, even after adjusting for inflation, we are earning less and paying more. So no, my college education didn’t cost the same as theirs (after inflation adjustment) because mine was more expensive (therefore more debt) and no, my wages aren’t relatively equal to yours because I earn less. Meanwhile, rents and mortgages are going up (and sure rent and mortgage can be roughly equivalent costs but good luck getting anyone to be able to afford the downpayment).

              I just moved out of my parents’ house at 26. It’s been a full 8 months since then, and last month was the first month where I wasn’t spending beyond my means to make rent and bills. And that’s still months after a job change that netted me free insurance (no monthly premiums) and a 30% raise to boot. If that’s not enough to get a person in the black when I am not wandering around spending money on avocado toast..? My monthly Starbucks consumption wasn’t going to give me the extra $100 I needed on average each of those months.

            2. Lora*

              As you said, it’s all individual. I couldn’t afford kids 20 years ago, which would have been the “normal” time for someone to have them (married for a couple of years, full time job in my field) as I didn’t make much money living in the Midwest and was putting my husband through college. I couldn’t afford kids 10 years ago, because I was underpaid relative to both men at the same level and relative to other companies; plus, my husband had his mid-life crisis and it wasn’t a good situation. Now I make 2X what I made 10 years ago, and couldn’t have children without a medical miracle – and I still wouldn’t be able to afford them, because now I have elder care to deal with.

              Growing up is overrated.

          7. LBK*

            But what part of the blame does the generation that raised us take for this? I think we were also probably generally raised in lifestyles that were better than the ones you were raised in, so I don’t think it’s really fair to judge people for feeling gutted when they’re accustomed to a certain level of comfort and suddenly they’re out in the world expected to fend for themselves and are expected to reduce themselves to austerity to get by (and keep in mind that a lot of people are pinching pennies just the same way you were but without even being able to put a husband through school or have any kind of car).

            It’s always interesting to me to see which people look at their hardships and think “everyone should have to go what I went through” vs who says “no one should have to go through what I went through”.

            1. fposte*

              I was also thinking of the axiom that there are two things nobody can bear to hear: that they have no sense of humor, and that they don’t know suffering.

            2. Oryx*

              “But what part of the blame does the generation that raised us take for this?”

              Yes. I see this all the time with Boomers claiming Millennials are so entitled and lazy because they are the generation of participation trophies and thus think they should give accolades for just showing up.

              But who gave them all those participation trophies? It’s not like the Millennials handed them out to each other.

              1. AMPG*

                This. I have several kids, and it amazes me how much of a gulf there is in intuitive self-sufficiency among them. But my job is to get them all to the same level by the time they’re adults. If you solve all your kids’ problems for them when they’re under your care, don’t be surprised when they lack problem-solving skills as adults.

              2. thebluecastle*

                Yes!! Thank you! I am so sick of that. They gave us the participation trophies and now they’re mad we got them?? I don’t understand that logic.

              3. CMF*

                My dad’s go to complaint is that we had so many snow days, and that’s why millennials are so terrible.

                Kids don’t get to close school districts when the weather is bad.

            3. doreen*

              I don’t think it’s really fair to judge people for feeling gutted when they’re accustomed to a certain level of comfort and suddenly they’re out in the world expected to fend for themselves and are expected to reduce themselves to austerity to get by

              Here’s the thing, though- that’s what happens to most people no matter what the time period is. When I moved out of my parent’s home 30 years ago at 24, I didn’t expect to immediately have have the same lifestyle that it took them until their 50s to attain. And because I didn’t expect it, I didn’t feel gutted.

              Now it could be that parents have begun raising their kids to expect to move out without a decrease in their standard of living – but in my experience, parents who do that make sure their kids get that level of comfort , at least for a while. Even if it means parents working way past the age they planned to retire so they can help their 40 year old pay the mortgage or their 35 year old pay the rent on a Manhattan apartment.

              1. LBK*

                I think you’re exaggerating a little, but to some extent I think this was intentional – I think a lot of Boomers wanted to be able to provide better lives for their children. That was part of the goal of how they conducted their lives, but now there’s this conflict where they feel…I dunno, some kind of envy that their kids didn’t struggle as much as they did?

                1. doreen*

                  I wish I was exaggerating – but I was describing two people I know. Absolutely most parents (Boomers or not) want to be able to provide better lives for their children – but there’s a huge difference between wanting your children to have a better life than you had at the same stage of life and raising them to expect the same lifestyle when they first go out on their own. * In my experience, most people don’t do the latter. It doesn’t even make sense when you think about it – both of my kids have good jobs, but 30 years in my field still means I earn twice as much as they do. I’m not envious that they didn’t struggle as much as I did , but it would have been ridiculous for me to raise them to expect that they could have my lifestyle on half the income.

                  Don’t get me wrong- there are all sorts of differences between then and now. But this is not the first generation that encountered a less comfortable lifestyle when they left their parents’ home.

                  * I said earlier that when I moved out at 24 I didn’t expect the same lifestyle that my parents had in their 50s. And I didn’t have it. But I had a much better standard of living than they had when they were 24.

                2. LBK*

                  To some extent I think it depends what exactly you mean by “the same lifestyle”. No, I don’t expect to be able to afford exactly the same things, but on a high level I think most people my age expect to be able to occasionally spend money on something that’s fun rather than necessary. I think that’s the biggest difference – we’ve been raised to think that while you’re not exactly entitled to be able to spend money on luxuries, there’s intrinsic value in buying something just because it makes you happy rather than because it serves a basic need. And then thinkpiecers turn around and complain that we want to spend $5 on a fancy latte every once in a while, even though the math doesn’t even begin to support the idea that that makes a meaningful difference to most people’s finances.

              2. Miles*

                But on average the Boomers not only attained the same lifestyle as their parents, they surpassed it. That’s no longer true. Current predictions have Millennials as the first modern generation who is not likely to ever catch up to their parents’ wealth. When kids leave home these days they know that they are likely to never live that well for the rest of their lives. Psychologically that’s quite a bit different than knowing that there are hard times ahead but you’ll get there eventually.

              3. Anxa*

                To be honest, in my experience and that of many of my friends, yeah…we (I grew up middle class) grew up with a lot of comforts (I remember take out several times a month, cable, and going to the movies without saving up for it) and then had to worry about affording basics like medical care, housing, etc.

                I think, at least for me and my SO and some of my friends, there’s a lot of pressure to suffer and pay our dues, but also a lot of shame and pity for suffering. For example, my mom will literally parrot some anti-millennial lines at me and then look askance at me for performing poverty. Other friends have parents that don’t understand that no, we can’t come on vacation even if you pay for all of it, because there’s still the cost of a pet sitter, or unpaid time off, or we haven’t been at a job long enough to feel safe taking a day off, or the cost of gas to get there.

                Sometimes I wonder if it’s a bit of denial. My childhoold was far more comfortable than my parents’, but my adulthood has been non-stop economic and career anxiety with no light at the end of the tunnel.

            4. BananaPants*

              “I don’t think it’s really fair to judge people for feeling gutted when they’re accustomed to a certain level of comfort and suddenly they’re out in the world expected to fend for themselves and are expected to reduce themselves to austerity to get by”

              Most of us had to reduce our standard of living for a while when we first went out in the world. This isn’t unique to Millennials. A lot of new grads are coming from a college experience where they were flush with amenities for 4-5 years and had few responsibilities besides studying and maybe having a part time job. It’s a rude awakening, but they can’t expect to immediately have the lifestyle that their parents took decades to attain.

              I (later we) lived in a low rent one bedroom apartment for years to pay off debt and save up to buy a house. It was SUCH a crappy apartment – the appliances were at least a decade older than I was, there was no air conditioning, the insulation sucked so it was freezing in the winter, the walls were so thin you could tell what TV show the neighbor was watching, and the one closet in the 550 square feet was half-occupied by the unit’s water heater. Sure, we *could* have spent twice as much on a nicer apartment, but we had debt and goals! It was worth it to suck it up and live on the cheap in order to have a better lifestyle later.

          8. Not Rebee*

            Standards of living might be higher, but honestly I think a lot of it’s purely cosmetic. Example – I moved out in November, and my Grandma gave me a coffee table (she was buying a new one). The coffee table was something she and my Grandpa bought when they were first married 60 years ago, and it’s still in great shape. And it was cheap as heck, but also real wood! Today, a table of equivalent size and aesthetics would cost much more than they spent for real wood. Instead, to get the same look for the same price (adjusted for inflation), I have to go to Ikea and buy a compressed fiberboard table or whatever. Do we really think my Ikea table is going to be something I can pass down to my grandkids in 60 years?

            Many aspects of everyday life, today, has been similarly altered. We have found a way to manufacture something even cheaper, for the same price, and are calling it basic. Sure it looks nice, and I’m sure my apartment is much bigger and nicer than anything my grandparents have, but half of what’s in it is fake plastic. There’s absolutely no lasting quality to anything affordable these days, but also no guarantee (like there used to be) that spending more money actually ensured better quality.

            As for the word “adulting” – we say it because we feel like we’re playing dress up. You’ve got an entire generation of people who can’t afford to achieve ordinary life milestones (like home buying, or starting a family), and yet we’re calling them adults (because they sure aren’t children). That entire group of people is just lost between things, unable to be a kid because they’re too grown and unable to be adults in their own minds because they don’t have the resources to make the leap. It feels like wearing a spritz of perfume and mommy’s high heels around the house, so yeah, we call it adulting because surely there’s supposed to be something more official than what we’ve gotten stuck with in our 20s and early 30s.

            1. Wheezy Weasel*

              +1 on your last paragraph. I’ve worked with undergrads as a volunteer while I’ve been working for a University for the last 15 years, and they use the word ‘adulting’ almost tongue in cheek to mean “things that everyone seems to know about but we don’t have any instructions”. Buying a car. Health insurance. Taxes. Investing.

              1. designbot*

                Funny enough though, there are more instructions than ever accessible through the internet. Articles and blogs and all kinds of stuff on carbuying, health insurance, taxes, investing… it’s just maybe overwhelming to sort through?

            2. PlainJane*

              Re: “adulting” – I’m 50, and I’ve been known to use it. When I was in my 20s, I struggled to adjust to adulthood. After spending my teens naively wishing I could be an adult, “so I could do whatever I want,” I had to learn that adulting was hard work: keeping up with bills, learning how to function in a workplace, dealing with car repairs and stopped-up toilets and jury duty and whatever else we grown-ups do. I remember the frustration and disillusionment; we just didn’t have a cute word for it. Even when you have a job and can pay your bills, being an adult is tough.

            3. wealhtheow*

              +1 on “adulting.” (Which I say all the time, thanks to my small-apartment-no-car lifestyle, my anxiety disorder, and my wicked case of impostor syndrome. And I’m 43, have been working for 22+ years and married for almost 20, and have a teenage child.)

              When I was in high school, we got a few lessons in adulting (although it wasn’t called that): how to do a household budget, how to write a cheque to pay a bill, how to fill in deposit and withdrawal slips at the bank and reconcile your chequebook, how to do a résumé and apply for a job — and of course also how to access birth control and how not to get an STI. With the exception of how to put on a condom (and why), pretty much everything I learned about adulting in high school is now completely wrong or at least super out of date (cheques, deposit slips, special resume paper, applying for jobs in person, attaching your grad photo to your resume…). And not only is it wrong now, a lot of it was already wrong by the time I got my BA 4 years later, because it’d been literal decades since most of those teachers were actually job-hunting themselves.

              My adult life is nothing like my parents’ lives and definitely nothing like what I expected it to be. And I bet I’m not alone in that. Sometimes it leads to some floundering.

            4. Ghost Town*

              We had my grandparent’s dining room set (buffet, china hutch, server, the whole-she-bang). It wasn’t my style. It was too big for our space. It was great – free to me, held memories, and great quality. We sold our house in April (moved to an apartment temporarily) and couldn’t take it with us. We donated it to Habitat ReStore. I may never be able to afford a similar quality dining set, or even find one. I’m simultaneously happy to not have the bulky furniture anymore and sad to have let go of such well made furniture from my family.

          9. Anonygoose*

            It can surprise people, I think, how much the Expected Standards of Living have raised so much. My parents were fairly young when they married, moved to another province and seriously struggled financially for a few years while my Dad was in school. I have heard my whole life about how broke they were, and what their life was like then, etc. My husband and I are certainly doing better than they were then, but we try really hard to live below our means so we can pay off loans quickly and still travel a bit. My parents were appalled for a few years by our tiny apartments, eating cheap pasta for dinner, not wanting to own a car or TV, etc. I felt a lot of pressure from them (and, as always, society) to spend more than we were. I finally told all this to my mom one day, and she explained that they went through all of that and worked so hard so that we could have a better standard of living than they were. They didn’t understand why we were living so frugally when we didn’t have to.

            It’s not always young people who expect a lot. Parents expect a lot for/from them.

          10. TootsNYC*

            “Adulting” is just a publisher’s way of capitalizing on the fact that nobody is born knowing how to do stuff.

          11. Optimistic Prime*

            Actually, no, there’s documented evidence that millennial adults make less money in a world that costs more money. And millennial adults are no less willing to eat casseroles with less meat or have 7 roommates or work for low pay.

            Why is there a persistent need to devalue the way other generations talk about stuff just because it’s different? The “adulting” conversations my friends and I have are more self-snark about how long it’s taken us to be able to pay bills and live independently because the housing market in the coastal cities we live in is insane. And if Baby Boomers or Gen Xers or whoever had the Internet when they were in their 20s and 30s they probably would’ve made dumb blogs about adulting too.

          12. MadGrad*

            I’m sure that when you were my age there were people starving on the street with incurable diseases and no shoes who would scoff at your concerns, but that didn’t help you worry less, right? There are people in situations just like yours in my generation and that doesn’t help me not worry about getting my lease finalized or figuring out my budget. When I talk about adulting, I’m not asking you for anything – I’m relating with firends over the feelings of stress and adjustment we have as we finally can afford to get into what people older than us have used as the finish lines to being “real adults”. You don’t have to like it, but it’s not really a conversation you are expected to be a part of.

            1. MerciMe*

              As well, adulting is… I mean, so much of adulthood involves really terrible stuff that nobody ever wants to do. When you’re not hustling to keep body and soul together, there’s an infinite supply of chores and childcare and bills and other obligations that it is impossible to get out from under without more money than any of us make. That doesn’t even touch on preventative health care – Drs visits and exercise and sleep and cooking healthy food from scratch.

              I have regularly mentored other people’s kids on how to do basic adulting and I still can’t always make it all work in my own life because sometimes there is just legitimately too much and you have to let things go.

              And despite all this, I can look at my friends and say “adulting, amirite?” and they get it, and I don’t have to unwind the details of my awful day/week/year. Or I can say “Hey, I adulted and I’m really proud!” and it’s the same thing – they know I did some stuff that was really hard, that I didn’t want to do, and they’re happy for me and supportive. Like, that’s basic friendship to me, and I don’t get why it should be preferable for us to haze people who are trying their best.

              I’ll always be there to support people in their day to day lives. It makes me happy to help bring a few more sunbeams into the world. There’s nothing immature about that sort of strategic community-building.

              (I’m also concerned that adulting talk also often comes from my friends who are sincerely struggling with medical depression/anxiety or other disabilities. Daily living is hard for them, and I worry about attacking people who are already vulnerable, especially when many disabilities are invisible.)

              1. Y*

                Or I can say “Hey, I adulted and I’m really proud!” and it’s the same thing – they know I did some stuff that was really hard, that I didn’t want to do, and they’re happy for me and supportive

                But isn’t that exactly the problem? It’s expecting praise for doing something that, while unpleasant and difficult, is frankly, just part of normal life, and not praiseworthy.

                And doing it tongue-in-cheek doesn’t make it any better: it’s fishing for compliments, like someone who says, ‘Argh, it’s so hard to find time to get to the gym, isn’t it?’ in the hope that someone will say, ‘Yeah, but still, you look really good!’

                I don’t think it’s unusual for such compliment-fishing, especially when it’s about normal parts of life that don’t deserve praise, to annoy people. It annoys me, and it especially annoys me when I catch myself doing it and so I make a conscious effort not to.

                1. Misc*

                  There’s a HUGE gulf between ‘happy for me and supportive’ (what the OP said) and ‘fishing for compliments’. You seem to be trying very hard to bring your own take to this.

                  A far more accurate response to someone who says, ‘Argh, it’s so hard to find time to get to the gym, isn’t it?’ in this context is that someone will just be generally sympathetic and understand where you’re coming from, so you can… you know, bond like human people about yeah, it IS hard to get to the gym these days.

                  Adulting is a short hand term for ‘I had to put in the emotional labour and mental effort and figure out this life skill for the first time or make this responsibility thing work and I am allowed to be proud of that because it is an achievement but also acknowledge that it’s something EVERY adult has to figure out, that’s why it’s called adulting. Let us all meet each others eyes in amused exhaustion before diving back into the mound of bills and dealing with complicated authority figures and maturely responding to patronising people on the internet’.

                2. Boris*

                  Okay, but… so what? Sometimes my mother tells me she’s done something unpleasant but necessary so that I can say, “Oh, well done” or “It’s over with now!” or something. She’s most definitely not a millennial. Everyone wants to feel like they’re part of a supportive community.

                3. Y*

                  There’s a HUGE gulf between ‘happy for me and supportive’ (what the OP said) and ‘fishing for compliments’.

                  There’s a slight quantitative difference, but not a ‘HUGE gulf’. They’re both part of this group-therapy, heart-on-your-sleeve, self-esteem-boosting, let’s-make-everybody-feel-better-about-themselves, affirmations culture.

                  The correct response to ‘Argh, it’s so hard to find time to get to the gym, isn’t it?’ is, ‘Yes, but it’s hard for everybody, so why are you complaining? Manage or fail, but either way, don’t be expecting any sympathy.’

                  Sometimes it seems like an entire generation has grown up with the theme from Friends looping constantly in the back of their heads…

                4. Misc*

                  ‘Yes, but it’s hard for everybody, so why are you complaining? Manage or fail, but either way, don’t be expecting any sympathy.’

                  Wow. I am the least sympathetic person around mostly because I am very ADHD and get bored instantly, and I still take time to feign interest in my friends to help them know someone cares about them. That? That kind of response is what I’d give to someone who I just wanted to shut up and go away.

                  You sound like you’re imagining the other person to be that annoying teen who’s still living in your house and never does the dishes and keeps expecting you to be proud that they remembered to do their homework and therefore that gets them out of anything else. Those people are not adulting, though they may be starting to learn the very first basics of it simply by discovering they exist. If you’re running that filter over everything said, then the words are irrelevant, you’re just reacting out of generic frustration.

                  People who commiserate with each other over having to adult are generally equals who are about to go right back to doing adult things, the same way parents will stop for a breath and look at each other over their screaming toddlers heads and share a moment about ‘learning to parent’. Being an adult never stops, that’s WHY it’s exhausting sometimes.

                5. Meh.*

                  The correct response to ‘Argh, it’s so hard to find time to get to the gym, isn’t it?’ is, ‘Yes, but it’s hard for everybody, so why are you complaining? Manage or fail, but either way, don’t be expecting any sympathy.’

                  Actually, that’s not a correct response as much as you just disrespecting someone who’s maybe just trying to start a conversation or attempting to find a common topic. If someone responded to me in that manner, I doubt I would ever talk to them again unless forced to by circumstance. And this isn’t because of the “affirmations” culture; it’s about being a decent person.

                  Also, let’s quickly talk about who may have created this Kumbaya culture of ours. Wait, could it be the same people who handed out participation trophies and told all of their kids they were special…?

                6. MerciMe*

                  “Isn’t that exactly the problem?” Um, no? It’s pretty much exactly the same as someone who, when you ask them how their weekend was, says “oh, productive. Puttered around the house a bit, getting things done.” Except, instead of that, I say “Oh, you know, quiet. Adulted a bit, checked some boxes.”

                  I also feel like you’re assuming adulting is only stuff like cleaning house and paying bills you can afford, but it also provides cover for things you don’t want to go into detail on – cleaning your house top to bottom for lice, or settling estates, or divorce/custody, or negotiating complicated medical scenarios, or any number of unpleasantries that your coworkers don’t need (or necessarily want) details for. Often, I’m willing to be open, but sometimes I just don’t want to have that conversation right now, or with specific people present.

                  It sure can be a chance to commiserate wryly over stuff we have in common, testing the waters to see if there is interest in developing a professionally appropriate camaraderie, but if you are openly disinterested in me, it’s actually a ton more likely I’ll use a vague “oh, adulting” to avoid opening myself to even more overt rejection by providing details you don’t care about.

              2. eleka*

                (I’m also concerned that adulting talk also often comes from my friends who are sincerely struggling with medical depression/anxiety or other disabilities. Daily living is hard for them, and I worry about attacking people who are already vulnerable, especially when many disabilities are invisible.)

                Thank you for this. This is me and many of my friends, and we commiserate all the time about making our lives work in a world that just isn’t set up for our success. I’m adulting for my life this week (and reading this blog nonstop) trying to get my application papers together for the promotion that will finally make me feel like an actual adult, and I’m 30.

                It’s not easy, and “adulting” is the language we use to communicate just how hard we are trying to live up to the standards that were set up by parents who grew up in a totally different economy. By my age my mother was married with two kids and they were buying their second house. I went to college and I still haven’t been able to find a full-time job, in my field or otherwise (until now, hopefully) that would allow me to even have my own apartment. Nobody in my area wants to hire anyone full time and have to provide benefits unless it’s an upper level position, so I’ve been paying my dues working part-time and living with a parent in order to get to that point.

                People talking about how “kids these days” and “darn millenials” aren’t willing to work hard in order to succeed just don’t understand how much harder it can be for 1) this terrible economy and 2) those of us trying to manage with mental illness.

          13. emma2*

            More women are actually getting educated at the same age their mothers got married/had kids

            1. emma2*

              And going off of this, people need to stop thinking that the only rite of passage to adulthood is getting married/having kids, especially for females.

        1. fposte*

          There’s that, but there is also a shift in expectations for age of competency and individuation in middle-class kids that coordinates with it. Parents aren’t calling their children’s university professors because of the economy.

          I also think that some of this has always been a challenge and there’s just more openness about that fact now, plus the internet ramping up discourse as it usually does.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            I don’t think it’s entirely unrelated (the economy and the helicopter parent trend). When my boomer parents went to college in the 70s, and when their parents went to college in the 50s, it was more or less a punched ticket to a good career. But by the time I went to college in the early aughts, college graduates (including my sister and I) were struggling to get jobs at Starbucks. I think that parents adjusted by trying to hyper-manage their children’s education to give them the best possible chances in an uncertain world.

            1. Artemesia*

              Good point. All that helicoptering is partly a function of the economic uncertainty and it further cripples the young person by not letting them be responsible for their own lives.

            2. fposte*

              I think helicoptering was in the pipeline long before that, though. The term “helicopter parents” pioneered in 1990, and my family were ahead of the curve by doing some helicoptering in the 1970s (and they weren’t alone in my community). Obviously there’s a perfect storm component to the fact that the little kids being helicoptered in 1990 are the ones who emerged into the recession job market, but it was noticed then with older kids, too. So I think it could have gotten more pronounced post-recession, but also the recession may just feel like a watershed moment for everything whether it is or not.

              1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

                Good point. I wonder how much the satanic panic and stranger danger had to do with the trend, too.

                1. fposte*

                  Oh, God, those were so horrific for all the wrong reasons, and satanic panic especially was visibly stupid even at the time.

                2. Kowalski! Options!*

                  “Satanic panic.” AAGH. That’s a worse flashback than the high-waisted jeans the characters wear on GLOW.

              2. Soon to be former fed*

                I was not helicoptered in the seventies and didn’t know anybody who was in my lower middle class community. I had to adult before I was one. I kinda helicoptered my own offspring though, because in our upper middle class community it was par for the course. I was always somewhat conflicted about it though. I felt my sink ot swum upbringing made me tough and independent. I think OP is very kind to want to steer this young lady in a more useful direction, but she will get there eventually anyway. Her quality work will help her a lot. But she’s not that different than many of her upper middle class peers, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If she’s still talking about mom and dad in five years though, there is a problem.

                1. fposte*

                  Right, that’s what I mean about the class stuff–I was the daughter of a bootstrapped upper-middle class dad who loved being able to give his kids what he didn’t have. And I think that divide still exists but we don’t share that many spaces where people on both sides of it tell their stories.

                2. PlainJane*

                  Yep. If I had raised my son the way I was raised, the neighbors would have called CPS (I was left alone after school starting when I was 6, roamed all over the place without adult supervision, etc.). Parenting expectations are different than they were when I was a kid in the 1970s. Some of that is good, and some encourages kids to stay kids and therefore stay dependent longer. Instead of being condescending to younger people, we can do what Alison suggested: let them know–gently–how they may be perceived based on what they say and do. In other words, do what older generations have done since forever: provide mentoring, guidance, and support.

                3. Anxa*

                  I WISH I was more helicoptered. My family was very disorganized, unfocused, and I was the first to go to college, so that was all self-directed. It may have built character, but character doesn’t get you a leg up.

            3. Lynn Whitehat*

              College is also SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than it used to be. For most families, it’s way too expensive to be used as a place to make mistakes and learn from them in any serious way. If the student themselves can earn a year’s tuition waiting tables over the summer, it’s not all that big a deal if they need to (for instance) attend an extra year because it took them a while to learn organizational skills or something. But when it costs so much that the parents had to save up for decades to pay for it, yeah, they are going to want to make sure everything is going semi-smoothly.

          2. Fisherman2*

            “There’s that, but there is also a shift in expectations for age of competency and individuation ”

            Yes – but that has been going on for well over 100 years. The very idea of “adolescence” is a non-biological concept that didn’t exist for the great majority of human history.

            1. fposte*

              I’m not disagreeing with that, and I’m not saying it’s wrong, either. It’s just that there’s been a particularly notable shift to it again recently (again, for specific classes of people–we’re falling a little bit into the trap of talking as if this were universal).

            2. Biff*

              Trained historian here… I have a degree and everything. Adolescence has definitely been a concept through the ages. Previously, it wasn’t celebrated like it is today, and for much of the upper class (about which history is written) it was kept as short as possible for economic and political reasons. Furthermore, men were allowed a longer teenhood than women. It appears that peasants enjoyed a longer period of being young, fun and fancy-free than the upperclass — but their adolescence was also considered a time in which they would (if male), built their own cottage, and improve their farm and (if female) build up a supply of household goods. They definitely weren’t adults until they were ready to start a home of their own, but they certainly weren’t considered children.

              Nowadays if you heard someone talking about young men rabble-rousing in the night, you’d probably get the mental image of some fraternity brothers barcrawling or having a hoopla at the local beach. When medieval writers talk about it, they mean teen boys. Likewise, young women might be all of eleven years old.

              1. Fisherman2*

                Yeah – “history” was a poor choice of terms.

                I’m more discussing the entirety of modern human existence, of which “history” only comprises about 5%.

                I don’t think stone age hunter-gatherer societies had much, if any, adolescence.

                1. Biff*

                  We believe they did, actually, have a concept of “not adult, not child.” Physically, a young woman would have been ready for adult work before she was able to have her own children, so it is believed that for a short period — maybe two years or so, she would have been a sort of household help to her own family. Likewise, a young man would have had a two or three year period in which he was essentially proving that he had the skills he’d been learning his whole life. Again, it was not a celebrated period like it is now, but it appears that it was present.

                2. StrikingFalcon*

                  It’s also worth keeping in mind that “move out” didn’t mean “move hundreds of miles away” for most of humanity’s exisistence either. Couples either established their own household near one set of parents’ or literally moved in with one set of parents. They were considered adults, but they weren’t expected to be entirely self sufficient immediately. Many hunter/gatherer cultures recorded in modern times had a distinction between “young adult” and “elder adult” where elders could be as young as 35. The modern pattern of setting up completely independent households is not unrelated to the extension of adolescence.

                3. Misc*

                  There’s some really neat stuff out there about the biological aspect; poor nutrition pushed puberty later and later, stretching out the ‘not child not adult’ stage significantly, and now it’s dropping back to its original age… but is now way out of sync with cultural development which had adjusted to the later age/human culture being super complicated and requiring longer to learn properly. Teenagers were definitely a Thing and also generally considered sexually immature through a lot of recentish human history.

                  On the other hand, the shorter human lifespan would mean that ‘young adult’, ‘middle age’ , and ‘elderly’ wouldn’t use the same age categories, so there wouldn’t have been as much need to separate ‘teen’ and ‘young but mature adult’ as there is today.

          3. BananaPants*

            People are having fewer kids later in life, and are more invested in their success as a result. For a middle class parent, the stakes are high – there’s a feeling that if you don’t raise your kids “right”, they’ll end up living with you forever rather than launching into their own independent lives.

      1. JulieBulie*

        I agree, Kowalski! Options! … this is so strange to me. I get that the economy has forced some people to delay their… adulting (gag)… but I would think that this would only make them more eager to show their independence.

      2. Snark*

        Because being an adult is different from when I left home in 2001, let alone whenever you did, and being an adult is more difficult, expensive, and fraught with uncertainty than either of us fully understand? I mean, I don’t like “adulting” as a term either because it seems kind of ironically escapist, but don’t underestimate how scary and crappy it is to be a freshly minted adult in 2017.

        1. Anna*

          I don’t think it’s more those things (you’re accidently playing into the “my generation has it/had it tougher than yours” BS), but it is different.

          1. Snark*

            No, I think my generation had it easier! I think it’s demonstrably harder for them than it was for us.

            1. blackcat*

              I do not know how I would have learned to “adult” without the internet, so I suspect that certain things (eg my toilet is broken, what do I do?!) have gotten easier, while other things (eg affording to live on ones own) have gotten harder.

              1. Snark*

                That’s fair. I’m still chuffed with myself four months after singlehandedly disassembling and gutting a toilet, replacing the innards, bolting it all back together, and making it flush properly once more. Couldn’t have done it without YouTube.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  My husband grew up in an old house in the country that involved learning tons of practical fix-it stuff… and he still swears by YouTube as the first stop when figuring out how to, for example, replace the Prius battery.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                Calling your parents a lot.

                I used to call my mom and ask her the dumbest questions about cooking and basic home maintenance.

                1. OwnedByTheCat*

                  I remember using my parents as my GPS. I’d call from my flip phone, give them vague street coordinates, and have them get me home/to my appointment/etc.

                2. CMart*

                  I still do this! Two weeks ago after failing to locate freezer packs for a lunchbox at the grocery store I called my mom to ask her where the hell you go about buying ice packs. I remember having them in my lunch boxes as a kid, certainly she would know where to go.

                  Just just did a Google search for me :P

                3. Amy*

                  We had a big yellow DIY home improvement manual that sat with the phone books that we used to muddle through how to fix stuff.

                4. Chinook*

                  I still have my big DIY manual I bought when I moved out. That and a basic recipe book (thank you Betty Crocker) and I still refer to them because I know that what I am looking at has been curated by an expert.

                5. Kowalski! Options!*

                  Bribing your superintendent with six-packs, so you could learn how to do basic apartment upkeep (basic plumbing, repairs, etc.) I’m not one to advocate bribery as a way of getting things done, but the ROI made it worthwhile.

                6. SC*

                  My mom and I fought a lot when I was in high school, like moms and teenage girls do. We weren’t particularly close when I was in college–maybe once a week phone calls. When I graduated from college, I called her with dumb questions pretty much everyday. We became close again. Today, I would use YouTube, but I’m happy I entered adulthood between the time of paying for long-distance phone calls and YouTube.

              3. Mazzy*

                Mmmm definitely easier twenty years ago for me. Better starting salaries compared to the cost of living, college had been cheaper, you were basically garaunteed income growth unless you were horrrible. And easier to get a job in the first place

              4. sam*

                Back in the day, there were these GREAT Time-Life home improvement books that told you how to do all of that stuff. You could order them off the TV. I always wanted a set, but by the time I was old enough, the internet had supplanted them.

              5. JAM*

                In my family, people have typically lived within 10-20 minutes of their parents, often more like 2-3 minutes so if they needed help they parents were there. My mother-in-law had childcare from her parents, my dad lived with his brother post-military, my great-grandmother had 8 of her 12 children still living on family property when she died. They didn’t have to adult alone with a huge support system.

                I live fairly close to my parents but it’s still nearly an hour there. When my fridge went out at 10 PM I couldn’t expect my dad to fix it or even to run the items over to their working fridge till a repairman could come. No, I was on youtube watching tutorials, then running tests, then using Amazon to order the parts so I could fix it the next day. A lot of adulting is doing ourselves what previously your dad or mom or brother-in-law could do. In my last house, every DIY project we did we knew a distant cousin who could help us with drywall or roofing or plumbing or electric so we didn’t have to do it alone. Just moving an hour away means we have to fly solo on projects and our support system is youtube and crowdsourcing instead of mom, dad, brother’s girlfriend’s uncle or whoever.

                1. Julia*

                  I think people living far away from their families, support networks and communities is also what makes anxiety and depression rise so much lately. It feels incredibly isolating to now know when you’ll next see someone you love.

              6. Sydney*

                Well people talked to each other and asked for help from neighbours and hardware stores, etc. So not that much difference.

            2. Risha*

              I agree that I definitely had it easier. In 1998, I graduated with a BA from an expensive private school with only $25k of debt (it seemed like a lot at the time), a full time $40k a year tech job waiting for me, and an economy that meant bonuses and 13% a year raises each year. It wasn’t easy at the time, but it was an entirely different world.

          2. Kate 2*

            But in a lot of ways it *is* demonstrably worse. Consider the statistics, unemployment and so on. Consider the fact that you used to be able to pay for a full year of college with a full time minimum wage job for three months in the summer. Now you could barely pay for a one semester class that way! Consider, as MegaMoose, Esq. did, that college graduates struggle to get jobs at Starbucks and big box stores. Academia isn’t a safe path either, many, many professors are employed and on welfare!

            1. fposte*

              Academia very definitely isn’t a safe path, but it hasn’t been for decades–my grad school cohort was thoroughly warned about that in the 1980s. (I think the professors you’re talking about are adjuncts, which is a topic all its own.)

            2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              My dad paid for his BA working as a ski instructor during winter breaks, got a job as a teller as soon as he graduated (with an English degree, natch), and spent the next three decades working up to corporate VP level at the same bank. He genuinely struggled to understand why my sister and I had such a difficult time getting careers going. I’m doing well financially now, largely thanks to my spouse’s job, but even with a low-six figure income and great credit, I got turned down for a credit card recently because of our level of student loan debt. We want to buy a house in the next couple of years and I worry that we won’t be approved for a mortgage for the same reason.

            3. Chinook*

              “Consider the fact that you used to be able to pay for a full year of college with a full time minimum wage job for three months in the summer. Now you could barely pay for a one semester class that way! ”

              Watch your assumptions about the older folks – that wasn’t the case when I went to university in the early ’90’s. Boomers and Gen Xers had two different experiences and the latter group are just now starting to get out from what we had to deal with.

              1. AMPG*

                On the other hand, pretty much anyone who graduated from college in the 90’s just walked right into a job, thanks to a booming economy and record-low unemployment, which has a huge impact on future earnings.

                1. Chinook*

                  Not everywhere and not in every field. Trust me – where I was in the 90’s was in the middle of a huge bust and everyone I knew who earned university degree in teaching and nursing weren’t able to get on as something other than contract or part time work until sometime in the late 00’s. We were the ones told that these were “safe” degrees because they will always need nurses and teachers. turns out that removing mandatory retirement (and rightly so) meant that there were fewer jobs available for those entering the field., partially because they only needed so many bodies to do the job (and no one was leaving to open spaces) and partially because those non-retirees cost twice as much as new grads, which meant the designated salary pool went less far, which resulted in things like layoffs of 1,000 teachers in Alberta in 2002 (while the province doubled the number of places churning out new B.Eds, creating more competition).

                2. AMPG*

                  There are always exceptions, and I should have specified U.S., but overall it was much easier to find a living-wage job in the 90’s, even if it wasn’t your absolute dream job.

      3. Gaia*

        I’ll pipe in as a member of the generation most known to use this phrase.

        A big part is because we were delayed in being able to do these things well into our adulthood. We couldn’t afford to pay our bills so when we finally got a job that could pay them we felt *very* grown up and *very* adult. We couldn’t get our own place so when we did and bought our first (used) couch it felt *very* adult. We couldn’t get jobs in our fields and so when we finally did we felt very official in our “grown up” life now.

        Some of it is the helicopter parenting also known of our generation but a huge part of it is the financial impact of the recession that we aged into. That is why you tend to hear this from older millennials more than younger millennials. Sure, both groups say it but it is less common with those in their late teens and early 20s than in their late 20s and early 30s.

        1. Snark*

          Yeah, I know a ton of people in their mid-late 20s who graduated in ’08 and spent the next few years with mom and dad, working crappy jobs and getting help with their expenses, because the jobs simply weren’t there for them. And they hated it, it sucked. And now they’re finally getting on their feet, and I don’t doubt that it feels like a huge deal.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Ok, but I graduated in 1985 and it took 5 years to get a job in my field. I did get married, so there were two of us (instead of living with my parents). Our furniture was cast-offs from others who saw the empty (rental) house. And, in spite of what Kate 2 says above, there was no way that working minimum wage for the summer would pay for a year of college: I worked and saved as a teen, and with scholarships and grants I was able to pay for a couple of years, dropped out and earned money for a year, and then went back to finish. Yes, I did make it through without a loan, and college is proportionally a lot more expensive now. But becoming an adult has never been cheap or easy for a vast swath of people, of all generations. It was a big deal then, it is a big deal now.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I don’t mean to be rude or unsympathetic, but saying that “becoming an adult has never been cheap or easy” for most people of all generations simplifies things in a way that’s not accurate.

              There are two separate things at play. The first is the structural barriers that make it difficult for a child from a low-income or middle-class family to attend college, buy a home, etc. Several of those barriers have become higher since the 1980s. But the second issue is that not only is college extraordinarily expensive in real dollars (and is much more expensive than it was 10 or 20 years ago), non-loan financial aid has decreased, there are fewer safety net protections, and the return on investment can be quite low depending on where/how you went to college.

              There are countless studies showing that since about 2006, there has been a massive loss in intergenerational wealth because of the recession, and that there has been a much lower ROI on a college degree (despite higher and higher numbers of grads entering the market). Millennials are the first generation, since the Depression, to earn less than their parents (by 20%) and less than the previous generation (GenX). And those returns are not limited to college-educated millennials. Simultaneously, the real cost of housing and health insurance, has increased dramatically, as has the debt burden for everyone, but especially college grads. Until the most recent federal minimum wage increase, the real minimum wage was at the lowest it had been since 1950. So no, it has not been equally difficult/hard across all generations.

              1. Anna*

                I wonder if what we’re actually seeing is that rather than those barriers we’re used to seeing (socioeconomic status, race, generational poverty, etc) being concentrated in easily identified groups, we’re now seeing them shift to a broader spectrum of people so that even those who may have grown up in what could be considered middle class are experiencing them now, too. Hmmm…

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, I think that’s true; being middle class was supposed to insulate you from some things that it really doesn’t.

                2. ThursdaysGeek*

                  That is a good point – my family was not quite middle class, so college was a greater struggle. But even after college, it took a good half a decade before the college degree started paying off, and a full decade before we were approaching the standard of living of my parents’ then lower middle class. 2008 looked a lot like 1985 to me.

                  I do earn more than my parents, but my pay has also dropped a good 15% in the last decade. The high cost of college has disproportionally hurt those who are younger, but the the lousy economy does not completely discriminate based on age.

                  Perhaps I should clarify from PCBH and Anna: becoming an adult has never been cheap or easy for people who didn’t start out with the advantages of some family security. And that is why I don’t look down on those who are struggling now – it was hard for me, with college costs: it’s even harder for you. And I understand, because other than the debt, I’ve lived it.

                  I also recognize the advantages I have: once I went through that decade after college, my standard of living has risen, and now, even with pay stagnant, it’s still well above what those younger may achieve. I don’t have the albatross of college debt dragging me down.

            2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              Kate 2 said that “you used to be able to pay for a full year of college with a full time minimum wage job” not that “in 1985 ThursdaysGeek was able to pay for a full year of college with a full time minimum wage job.” There are always going to be variations in terms of personal experience, but the trend lines in terms of real wages (stagnant), cost of college (skyrocketing), and cost of living (generally rising) over the last half century are pretty cut and dry. It’s not a contest – those trends hurt you more than they hurt someone who went to college in the 70s, but not as bad as someone who went to college in the 90s, who is generally better off than someone who went to college in the 00s.

              1. Kyrielle*

                This. Some studies track the average of everyone, some go with the average of in-state tuition for in-state schools (because people who need to be able to pay their way through college are presumably going to be considering those options strongly). (Source is my memory and I can’t cite.)

                Personal anecdote: The price for tuition, room & board at the college I graduated from in 1997 is now 2.88 times (288%) more than it was when I started there. Four years at this year’s price costs 2.58 times as much as the tuition for my four years cost. (Of course, starting this year won’t end with that, since prices will go up every year, presumably.) Room and board is “only” nearly twice as expensive as it was then.

                The average pay for a summer job hasn’t gone up that much. Optimistically assuming you’ll find a job in your field in a time frame that’s useful to you, the entry level pay for jobs in most industries (including mine) is also not more-than-double what it was then.

                I managed (with, yes, some family support). But honestly, I look at today’s prices and I wonder how anyone does, other than by luck or family support.

          2. k.k*

            Are you stalking me? Because you just described my life to a T. I’m 30 and feel like I just now am starting to be a functional adult. I’m job hunting and it makes me feel very mature that when I look at jobs I’m taking the benefits package into consideration. In the past getting any job that paid enough to get by was the goal, benefits were a luxury I couldn’t afford to think about. I also feel like a child because I’m realizing now that I don’t know the first thing about retirement plans, etc. I’ve used the term “adulting” because it feels like I’m only pretending to be an adult.

            1. justsomeone*

              “I’ve used the term “adulting” because it feels like I’m only pretending to be an adult.”

              You’ve hit the nail on the head. I use the term adulting all the time. I’m about to be 27, am married, just bought a house, own three cars, have two cats, both of us have full time office jobs, blah blah blah blah. By all the markers of society we are Adults. But it still feels like someone is going to walk by and pull the rug out from under us, take our keys away and tell us to stop playing around and go back to our parents’ house where we’re supposed to be. I feel like I’m playing house like a kindergartener.

              1. DecorativeCacti*

                I agree. It’s a symptom of imposter syndrome. I just bought a house two weeks before my 28th birthday. We put a new roof on the house, all the bills are in my (and my boyfriend’s) name, my mom isn’t two blocks away to buy me dinner when I’m thin before payday. It feels so strange because I basically grew up thinking I would never be able to afford the luxury of owning my own home.

                “Adulting” makes my skin crawl too, but I end up using it in a sarcastic “froyo” way because WTF, how is this real?

              2. mirinotginger*

                Yes this. That’s what adulting means for me. I’m 31, married, own my own car, have a full time job with benefits, but I had to ask a coworker yesterday how to find a specialist for a medical appointment I need to make. This all feels very surreal, and I have no idea what I’m doing. Maybe it’s always been this way, but our language is only now evolved to have a word to explain that feeling.

                Adulting: the word use to describe the feeling of arriving in adulthood, realizing you have no clue what you are doing, and then realizing that most of being an adult is muddling through till you figure it out

              3. MCMonkeyBean*

                I think the rise of the term “adulting” is mostly that people are more willing to talk about how you feel like you’re just faking it, when really people have always felt that way but it didn’t used to be okay to admit it! It seems to be generally more accepted now to admit that we don’t really know what we’re doing.

                1. Ghost Town*

                  More ok to admit it and admitting it is more visible b/c of technology and the prevalence of social media. Instead of quietly confiding to a significant other, close friend, and/or family member in hushed tones, people are admitting it in often-self-deprecating tones in public arenas.

              4. Hush42*

                Yes- I’ve definitely used the term “Adulting” but it wasn’t as a way to escape responsibility like many of the people here seem to think. It doesn’t always feel like I’m an adult. I still live with my parents at 25 because I (unlike most of my peers) have the opportunity to graduate with a Master’s degree without debt… IF I live with my parents until I’m done. I just graduated with my B.S. and will have an MBA by the end of next year without any student loans. But this is only possible because my parents pay to house me and feed me while I spend almost all of the money that I earn at my full time job on tuition.
                So sometimes it feels like I’m not necessarily a “real” adult because I’m still living with my parents and they’re paying for most of my living expenses. I would LOVE to move out and not commute 30 miles each way to work but that won’t happen until I’m at least 27.

              5. Rana*

                Yes. This is true for a bunch of my friends and myself (and we’re all in our 40s and 50s). “Adulting” is what we use to describe those moments when you’re doing some (usually unpleasant or difficult) task that you wish someone else would do for you, but you’re the adult, so it’s on you, whether you are any good at it or not.

                And when we talk about it to each other, it’s less about wanting cookies for being a responsible human being, and more about the wistfulness of wishing that there was a “real” adult to take care of these sorts of things for you, like when you were a kid, only there isn’t, because the only adult around is you.

                Sometimes being an adult flat-out sucks, and “adulting” gets at that feeling.

            2. Blue*

              I am totally with you on this. As Alison pointed out, you graduate from college and people expect you to know things and do things that may be completely unfamiliar. Like…health insurance? 401Ks? Dealing with landlords? Not a clue when I graduated, and there was a lot of faking it until I learned enough to be functional. I work with college students, and I watch almost of them learn how to be an adult in fits and starts.

              So to me, “adulting” is this super common process of learning about and mastering a specific new skill set you’re expected to have in order to be a “successful” adult. I think it does have utility as a concept – it’s much more productive to acknowledge that there’s a learning curve to being an independent adult rather than acting like it’s something people should inherently know. (Though, as with anything else, there’s an appropriate audience for such discussions about your non-work life, and your senior coworkers generally aren’t it.)

            3. Nea*

              I’ve got a bracelet that says “LARPing Adulthood” which sums up my feelings on the subject. I’m not a grownup – I’m just live-action roleplaying at being one.

            4. Optimistic Prime*

              I just turned 31 and I feel like I just became a functional adult in the last 2 years or so, after I finished my PhD and got a full-time job. I have a 401(K)! I have benefits! It still sort of blows my mind.

          3. KTMGee*

            If you graduated in ’08 at 21 or 22, you aren’t in your mid or late 2o’s anymore! (Speaking as a 31 yo 08 grad)

            1. blackcat*

              Indeed! I am a young ’09 graduate and am 29. My husband, an older ’08 graduate, is 32.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          I wonder if there is also more stuff to do. My parents moved into a house in their twenties and stayed there, and got jobs and stayed there (my mother part-time, so she could take care of the home), and had to pay the mortgage and utilities. They went home at five and were not contacted by work after they had left. It was easy to get doctors and dentists appointments. People I know of my age moved cities, countries and jobs more often, and within those cities had to move home more often too, and are more likely to have loans etc. This creates so much more administrative work that has to get done after a longer work day and with work mails pinging on the phone, and no-one does the housekeeping tasks during the day. I wonder if it isn’t a little harder to organize your life these days.

          1. EmptyPockets*

            On top of there being more to do, there’s just so many different things to do that my parents never did. My parents never did their research before making big purchases. They just bought a thing (and the quality of things seemed to be better back then, so their washing machine lasted a long time). Now you have to conduct hours of research to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck on a lot of things.

            I grew up in rural Ohio, so options were much more limited too, as far as housing and jobs. Now I live in NYC and the amount of research one has to do is astounding. And my parents are no help on this stuff because they just never had to do it and have no clue. So it’s all on me to figure this stuff out and that does feel like “adulting” honestly. Maybe if you grew up in a household with white collar parents and this stuff was pretty commonplace, it seems like people asking for a pat on the back for doing standard stuff, but if you grew up like me, this is a whole new world of responsibility.

            1. EmptyPockets*

              I mean, I remember the first time I took money out of an ATM when I was like 25. I felt so grown-up! My parents never had debit cards. They also never paid bills by check – they’d go to the utility office and pay in cash. Writing out my first check for a bill in the late 90s felt like the most grown-up thing ever. It’s like, “I’m doing this adult thing for the first time and I’m doing it completely on my own because no one is here to give me guidance.”

          2. mreasy*

            This is a great point! Especially in a city, if you’re expected to work 9-10+ hour days, basic things like dental checkups, taking care of fitness/health, or cooking meals for oneself become a lot more onerous.

            1. TL -*

              Oh my goodness, yes! I do alright financially but I worked full time + 2 part time jobs + 45 minute commute each way (so I could live somewhere affordable with only 1 roommate, as opposed to a 30 minute commute with 5).
              Adulting like cooking every day and housework and dealing with things was exhausting. I didn’t have a partner who worked less to do it for me or a partner who made more to give me time to do it.

        3. LBK*

          Yeah, I agree – I think it comes from the gap that’s been created between when you leave home/leave college and when you do a lot of the things that traditionally made someone an adult, like getting married and buying a house. It creates this nebulous space of 10+ years where by old definitions you’re still kind of living like a kid (renting an apartment, probably living paycheck to paycheck, in a job that you definitely won’t stay at for the rest of your life, etc) but you’re past the age where the previous generation would’ve stopped doing those things.

          It results in a lot of people my age grasping for ways to define themselves as a “grown up” because by years we feel like we should be, but our lives don’t have most of the trappings of the grown ups that raised us. So we cling to things that seem so obligatory and obvious to the old generations like cleaning your house regularly and having a budget because those are signs we recognize as “what an adult does”. It certainly doesn’t help to have a million crochety thinkpieces being published every week about how immature and unprepared Millennials are to handle the world – can you blame us for wanting to grasp for any way to feel like adults?

          1. Kate 2*

            Yes, this! As a single childless woman living in an apartment paycheck to paycheck, this is how I feel! I am struggling to get ahead and get out of student loan debt, and sometimes I feel like such a failure for being almost 30 and not better off. I have to remind myself that not getting deeper into debt by buying a house *is* responsible, that I don’t need to be married or have kids to be an adult , even though society says I do. I remind myself that just paying my bills, working hard at my job, cleaning my apartment and cooking nutritious meals for myself *are* all adult things. I am not a failure!

          2. Kheldarson*

            Yes! I had to move in with my parents for two years while looking for full-time employment, so getting to do things that were all me and to my satisfaction was incredibly liberating.

            And then pair it with the sheer amount of stuff I didn’t know I needed to know about being adult (and my parents being condescending about advice in that time period) and “adulting” becomes a good way of describing how I felt. An adult, doing adult things, while pretending I know what the heck I’m doing.

            1. LBK*

              Condescension from parents about not knowing how things work is always kind of ironic to me. It’s like…well, you raised me, so if after 18 years of your care I’m still a naive moron, whose fault is that?

              1. fposte*

                I had an epic fight with my dad based on just that precept. He was a single parent so he had absolutely nobody else to blame :-).

              2. Lehigh*

                Similarly, as a friend of mine put it, “We gave our kids everything, why don’t they have any work ethic?”

              3. Blue Anne*

                I always think that about the “kids today, with their participation trophies” thing too. Like… where do you think those trophies came from? We didn’t hand them out ourselves…

                1. Blue Anne*

                  Kheldarson – Yes! I remember thinking even when I was a kid that they were really stupid. I was crap at sports, but I did softball and swimming because my parents wanted me to do something. I ended up with all these plastic “you were on a softball team this year” trophies and “participation award” ribbons. So dumb.

                2. Chinook*

                  Don’t worry – the boomers have figured out way to give themselves the participation trophies now. There was an article yesterday in Calgary about giving awards to seniors who are still active in the community. Basically, it is a “congratulations for being alive, healthy, wealthy enough to retire and still have social conscience” reward.

                3. Lehigh*

                  Kheldarson & Blue Anne – Yes! I remember getting a perfect attendance certificate for choir. And thinking…dude…my mom drives me here every week. I did nothing.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, this is how I’ve seen it, as well. I was in a “cusper” generation between Generation X and “Old Millennial” (i.e., graduated and a year later the economy fell apart). Helicopter parenting is certainly a thing, but it was not a thing for my generation. The Recession had a much more significant and long-lasting impact on our ability to transition, and it depressed that capacity for about 4-5 years.

          People lost jobs, had to move in with their parents, and had all sorts of other things happen that felt like it delayed your credibility and experience as an adult. For people like me who did not have parental financial support, it was terrifying. It felt like the bottom fell out of your world, and like your college degree was worthless not the engine of mobility you’d been told it would be. That was pretty psychologically devastating for most of my peers. Add to that that many of my friends’ parents took equity out of their homes to pay for their kids’ education, and now they faced losing their home in the foreclosure crisis. How awful does it feel to be the “cause” of your parents losing their home, and you can’t even contribute to saving it?

          And, unlike now, there was a pretty significant stigma attached to moving in with your parents or delaying other “markers” of “adulthood.” There were tons of NYT and other articles bemoaning these lazy/selfish kids who were “choosing” to live at home because they couldn’t land their “dream job”… As opposed to recognizing that most of us were underemployed, without healthcare or other benefits, working 2-3 minimum wage jobs, and still unable to make rent + student loan payments… and the cost of achieving those adult markers was constantly rising. There was a lot of public shaming.

          My impression is that people who joke about “adulting” are making a sardonic or tongue-in-cheek comment on their effort to be able to afford the expectations that come with being an adult. And as Gaia noted, I don’t hear this from younger millennials (e.g., my sister) or from the newest generation of college grads.

          So I don’t think “adulting” is about wanting kudos for simply being an adult.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Have you seen the articles floating around about “Xennials”? Basically a micro-generation of people born between 1977-1983. It’s pretty fascinating.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                That’s what I call myself, too! But “Xennial” is intriguing because it reminds me of the X-Men ;)

                (Thank you for sharing it, Detective Amy Santiago!)

            1. Video Gamer Lurker*

              I wonder if there’s a similar phrase for the younger of the millennial generation who are more like gen Z (or 2nd Millennial generation depending on who is talking) born 1990-2003 ish?*

              *says a ’93 born Millenial of Gen Y with Gen X parents.

          2. Joielle*

            Yes, I think this is exactly it. I try not to say “adulting” much because people have such a strong negative reaction to it, but it’s definitely not wanting kudos for doing normal adult things. It’s almost self-deprecating – like, I’m really just winging it here, but I have an advanced degree and a job and a pension and a mortgage and I guess that’s what makes someone an adult?

            Pardon my rambling. All this is to say that I think there’s an irony and camaraderie to “adulting” that’s totally lost on people who hate it. I wonder if in previous generations, everyone felt like this alone, separately, and thought they were the only ones faking it. Now, we know that a lot of people feel like this at some point, and there’s a word for it that maybe doesn’t resonate with people who went through it a long time ago.

            1. Kheldarson*

              I think part of it is that there’s a loss of preparation that the current adult generation missed out on. Think about it: until the late 80s, your life could be set on a fairly solid track and never really move unless you messed up or decided to move yourself. You could reasonably expect that you’d start with a company and work your way up from there.

              And then the Dot Com boom happened. The recession. Corporate culture shattered. Credit usage boomed. There are so many factors now.

              And the adults who lived through the changes could only really teach us according to the old model because that’s how they were raised and it was a “certainty”.

              So the current generation got lost in a way that previous generations didn’t. We had to find a new way to be adults.

              1. fposte*

                “until the late 80s, your life could be set on a fairly solid track and never really move unless you messed up or decided to move yourself.”

                That was not the late 80s in which I lived, though, and it wasn’t the message my cohort received in walking into the 1980s job market–change is the new constant was our message. I don’t think the people saying it anticipated the sheer rate of change, but I think that’s the difference, not that there was some solid track of life for the previous generation.

                1. Kheldarson*

                  I was speaking towards how folks were raised. Basically, my parents and folks I know from my parents’ age all repeat the same idea that my grandparents do: company loyalty. Stay the path.

                  And that’s the advice that got imparted to *my* cohort, despite the sea of change around us.

                  Now, maybe as you entered the workforce, you heard different, but I’m indicating that it didn’t get tossed to the younger generation. That leaves us a bit more ill-prepared than a kid following in his dad’s footsteps to be a whatever.

                2. fposte*

                  Yeah, the messages have always tended to deviate considerably from the reality anyway. But I think some people aren’t realizing that some changes pre-dated their own youth, message or no.

          3. Anxa*

            [Add to that that many of my friends’ parents took equity out of their homes to pay for their kids’ education, and now they faced losing their home in the foreclosure crisis. How awful does it feel to be the “cause” of your parents losing their home, and you can’t even contribute to saving it?]

            Oh goodness, yes. My mom sold her house to send her children to college. Neither of us make much money or have great careers, and this is the first year (graduated in ’08) I’ll make more than I did while a college student.

            The house she sold has skyrocketed in value, and the one she bought has…not. Plus, all the money that didn’t get spent on college was lost (some recovered) in recession.

            Not a day goes by that I wish I hadn’t been more proactive in finding a job to help keep us afloat and gone to community college and lived at home.

        5. AthenaC*

          “Some of it is the helicopter parenting also known of our generation …”

          See, that’s what I think of when I hear “adulting,” as someone in the upper age range of the millennials. When I see the word, I don’t really see it referring to a money thing, I see it referring to a basic adult competency thing. As in, “I did my laundry and cooked food all by myself! Look at me adulting!” Now, I did have to learn these things as a 20-something, mainly because while I grew up my mom found it much easier to just do things herself than to teach us. (Side note: not making the same mistakes with my kids!)

          TL/DR: I think the helicopter parenting has a LOT more to do with the development of the term “adulting” than the poor financial conditions seen by our generation.

          1. Gaia*

            See I disagree – I think some of those domestic tasks didn’t get cemented *because* of the financial issues we faced and thus saw us living at home.

      4. loons with gumption*

        Honestly, at the risk of sounding like an old fogey I *wish* the term adulting had been around when I left home at 18. I think it’s a cute and playful way to describe the growth and learning that young adults go through after high school.

        1. Snark*

          And it IS a learning curve! I just sort of bumbled through my adolescence college years with everything paid for by my “we’re middle class, honey” parents who I now realize were quite affluent and a few grants/stipends/scholarships that paid most of my expenses, and all of a sudden I graduated college and it was like OH MY GOD whaddya mean my power bill is $84?

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          I agree. I think sometimes us older folks forget how much there is to learn about living your life on your own as a fully functioning adult. If younger people want to use a cute term to talk to and joke with their peers about it, I don’t have a problem with that. Especially since, even as someone over 40, I have days where being an adult is hard.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            I feel the same way. Sometimes it is hard to make the medical appointment, or roll over your 401k, or return the faulty product, or whatever. I mean, if you’ve never in your life procrastinated at something because it sounded hard or you weren’t sure where to start, good for you. But civilization isn’t going to collapse because people half-jokingly brag about “adulting so hard, setting up an IRA!”

        3. Collarbone High*

          I remember as a kid thinking that I would learn to do adult things like file taxes, apply for a mortgage, fix the sink etc. in some high school class, and that when I turned 18 I would know those things and be a fully minted adult. And even though I was incredibly excited to turn 18 and get started on my adult life, there was some level of panic at realizing that magical class hadn’t taken place and there was so much I didn’t know.

          1. LBK*

            I still have no idea how you learn about buying a house. Google it, I guess? But how did people figure it out before the internet? I suppose if the housing crisis is any evidence, the answer is “You don’t figure it out and you get taken for a ride because you have no clue what you’re doing.”

              1. MashaKasha*

                ^ This is such a perfect description of my entire life. I want this on my tombstone (which I am not going to have).

                1. Snark*

                  Literal conversation with my realtor, when we found the house we wanted to buy:

                  “Sweet! This place is so rad. So, what’s the next step.”

                  “Well, who are you pre-approved with?”


                  “For your morgage….?”

                  “Okay, so, let’s get pre-approved! How do I do that.”

                2. Kheldarson*

                  Snark: That was the same convo I had with my realtor. And it was like, none of the folks I talked to before getting a realtor mentioned this?

                  Lost out on that house too.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Yeah, I think most of us just cross our fingers and hope the people we’re paying to help us don’t screw us.

            2. Specialk9*

              Though I hate the title – I’m not an idiot thank you – the Idiot’s Guide was quite helpful. I highlighted the heck out of it, my partner didn’t do any research, and I definitely knew more, saw the pitfalls, and was better able to negotiate things. This is not something to blunder through, when $15 and some time can save you.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            There really needs to be a ‘basic life skills’ class in high school that teaches people about personal finance and how to do laundry and boil water and whatnot.

              1. LBK*

                I had “home ec” in high school in the mid-00s, but I think all we learned was some really basic cooking and sewing skills. Definitely not anything about actually running a household.

                1. AthenaC*

                  Meanwhile, my husband took home ec with the girls back in the day, and learned how to sew, including using a sewing machine and reading patterns. Fast forward just a handful of years, and he decides (on a whim) to sew his 12-year-old stepdaughter a Catherine the Great dress for her school project. Lots and lots of fabric later (and a basement entirely taken over by the project), it’s a bit too long and doesn’t fit her shoulders quite right, but other than that it looks fabulous!

                  So glad I married a guy that does the girly things better than I do! :D

                2. Blue Anne*

                  Yeah. We sewed some pajama pants, learned not to let babies drink antifreeze or have buddies over when we were babysitting, and made cookies from a mix. Helpful.

                3. LBK*

                  I may not have learned any long-term useful skills but if by some bizarre turn of events I ever end up on RuPaul’s Drag Race, at least I won’t be one of the queens who doesn’t know how to sew!

                4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  There was one day in home ec that I still remember as the most useful day of school in my entire life.

                  It was the day we learned how to handle cooking oil without setting fires or burning ourselves.

              2. Evan Þ*

                I was homeschooled, and I joked with my parents that they really should put a Home Ec class on my transcript.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It still existed in a lot of schools in the early 00s. But it definitely didn’t teach people personal finance.

                1. fposte*

                  I can’t remember the research I found, but I did see at one point an indication that teaching personal finance in high school had virtually no effect anyway.

                  Which I guess makes some sense given how little I remember of sophomore year classical history.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @fposte, it’s probably better that they didn’t :) If anyone taught personal finance the way I was taught Economics or sex ed, then it would be a greater service to offer nothing in its stead.

                3. Emily S.*

                  Just a quick note: my high school (in the Midwest, in the ’90s) required every student to take a class called Personal Economics. This taught us all about managing a checking account, paying bills, managing expenses, etc. It even got into investing, and building savings.

                  It was a very helpful class.

                  Of course, plenty of the students didn’t pay attention, but the rest of us gained many good nuggets of common sense.

                4. AthenaC*

                  I was taught in middle school how to write a check, but it wasn’t anything I didn’t already know from watching my parents.

                  Other than that, I didn’t really have a problem figuring out personal finance – take an arbitrary unit of time (say, a month since most bills are on a monthly cycle), add up all the money that hits your account, subtract all the things you are committed to every month (i.e. rent, insurance, student loans, estimated utilities), and what’s left is your money to spend on everything – groceries, coffee, gas, entertainment. Basic math, really.

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @AthenaC, it’s a lot harder when you add in things like student loan payment, 401(k), credit usage and development, strategic saving and investment, etc.

                  Many people are capable of obtaining basic budgeting skills. But there’s a big gap for people who did not receive guidance on good financial habits and money management, especially if they did not see anyone exercise good finance habits (or talk about their good finance/wealth management habits) at home. If you start off with zero information on how credit systems work, or how to deal with a bank account, or when to start saving for retirement, or how to determine whether to take out a loan, then it’s pretty easy to end up in financial trouble.

                6. The Rat-Catcher*

                  I also didn’t have much trouble figuring out the basics of a budget, but it’s hard if you haven’t been the one paying the bills and all of a sudden you are. I think the big one for me was conditioner. What does my conditioner even cost? How often do I buy it? Can I get something cheaper? (I really can’t because crazy hair.) And then thinking about doing that for ALL THE THINGS you buy…it’s intimidating at first.
                  Now (at 27), it’s old hat for me, but at first I was wildly guessing some crazy numbers, as well as seriously underestimating my smaller expenditures (think gas station sodas and such), and not accounting for the fact that some pay cycles I’d need to get my oil changed and some I wouldn’t, and I’d have to have some kind of “random” money set aside because something like that was always going to come up.

                7. nonegiven*

                  I don’t remember the name of the class but we did stuff like pick a stock and pretend we bought some and watched what happened to it. Another thing I recall is looking at consumer ads and trying to pick apart what was informative and what was smoke and mirrors. It was a co-ed class. It might have been Consumer Economics or something like that.

                  It wasn’t home-ec, in that class we sewed, cooked, did crafts, a little household budgeting. That was girls only.

              4. Marillenbaum*

                The longer I’m out of school, the more I realize that the most useful class I ever took was Family and Consumer Sciences (Mrs. Casavecchia would get super miffed if we called it “Home Ec”). Financial Literacy was a close second (required for high schoolers in my state).

            1. Turquoise Cow*

              My mom had a home economics class in high school where they actually had to make up a budget and furnish an apartment and all that sort of thing. My home ec class taught me the basics of cooking and how to use their model of sewing machine.

              The cooking part was useful – I can actually make an omelet! – but it might have been more useful to learn about budgeting.

            2. Sylvia*

              Sometimes you can cobble it together with a few electives, but having done that, I still think that we DEFINITELY need one comprehensive Functional Human 101 course.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I’m going to design a course called Adulting 101 and convince high schools to add it to the curriculum.

                1. CM*

                  That would be so useful!

                  I am a bit too old to be a Millennial, but I appreciate the word “adulting.” It sums up all the ways that you have to take care of yourself and your family when you’re an adult, with the connotation that this stuff is hard and it sucks when nobody will take care of you and you’re in charge of everything. And it IS hard — yes, it is a basic fact of life, and I don’t feel entitled to having everything be easy, but why is it so bad to acknowledge that?

                  You can grumble all you want about how you drove an old car and ate canned beans and struggled to pay off your loans (I did all those things too in my 20s) but being an adult is hard and there’s nothing wrong with saying so. When you were in your 20s, didn’t you commiserate with your friends about paying bills and dealing with landlords? People in their 20s are still doing that same thing. It’s just that everything is online now so it’s a lot more visible.

            3. Turquoise Cow*

              Im 35, and my husband is a few months older than me. Some people put us in the “millenials” grouping, but I think we’re a little out of it. (There’s a few interesting articles I’ve seen about the “forgotten” or “mini” generation that covers my birth years and identify with more, but that’s neither here nor there.)

              While we occasionally use the term with regard to our own age group or ourselves, we honestly more often use it to describe my father-in-law. The son of fairly well-off parents, he then married my mother-in-law, and all three of those people basically did almost everything for him. My mother-in-law eventually got fed up with him, and his second wife also takes care of most of the “adulting” for him. He also will ask my husband how to do basic life things like researching purchases or hiring help. Not just technology things, either. He’s a self-employed sales broker who hasn’t had a significant sale in several years because his clients discovered they could use the internet to contact the sellers directly – he constantly loses sales this way. He also gets upset when they don’t honor “handshake” agreements, thinking those should have the same legal weight as contracts.

              I’m not just listing these things to point out my father-in-law’s failings, I’m simply pointing out that adulting or failure to do so is not a generational default. My parents are the same age and have no problem figuring out life (aside from a few tech questions), probably because they didn’t have their parents do things for them. I know some 20 and 30 year olds who don’t have life figured out, and I also know a few in their 6os.

              1. AthenaC*

                “I’m simply pointing out that adulting or failure to do so is not a generational default.”

                That’s a good point – there are certain skills that my parents have that I don’t, and there are other skills that I have that my parents don’t.

                Your story reminded me of a friend of mine and her dad – she is my age, racked up $80k in student loans from two different colleges and has no degree. Sounds really dumb from the outside, right?


                Upon getting to know her family, I’m not sure when she was supposed to have learned any better, because she was raised in a wealthy suburb as a family who “has money,” while their lifestyle was paid for with increasing amounts of debt as her dad’s pay decreased. Her parents handled money by largely not dealing with it, and when they did deal with it, they made poor decisions (such as a reverse mortgage on their house when they couldn’t afford their lifestyle anymore).

                She’s married to a guy who is a much better financial planner and she is learning a lot as their financial life continues to grow together.

                Long story short, this taught me a lesson about assuming too much about how other people see things that seem obvious to me.

          3. Nan*

            ha! I’m still waiting for that instruction book to come along. Most of being an adult is faking it until you make it.

          4. Chinook*

            Wait – paying taxes is an adult thing? I was doing it when I was 14 because, if you have a job, that is what you do. We even had a lesson in high school math on how to do it properly.

            1. AthenaC*

              As badly as I wanted to work at 14, I couldn’t get a job. I couldn’t get hired until 16. Then after the first calendar year-end I sat down with my Dad and he walked me through the 1040 EZ … which seemed SO complicated at the time!

              Fast forward to today, when I’m everyone’s taxes resource, even though I’m not THAT kind of CPA!

            2. Blue Anne*

              For most people it is, yeah. Lots don’t have taxes to pay until they’re adults, and the parents take care of it for another big chunk (or I take care of it when I do their parent’s taxes and tack another hundred bucks on the bill.)

              I think this is changing with free online software like TurboTax, though. Not a lot of kids have returns that need more than that.

        4. Holly*

          I feel like our society is very bad at helping people bridge the gap between ‘child’ and ‘adult.’ This is partly because how one goes from ‘child’ to ‘adult’ has changed rapidly, but I don’t want to pretend like it probably wasn’t shocking in 1750 to go from ‘child’ to ‘wife’ at age 20. But today, kid’s graduate from school (whether HS or college) and it goes from “You’re a kid who can’t be trusted with anything” to “You should know everything about being an adult now.” And there’s not really much guidance. In this very column I often see people acting like being ‘naive’ is a cardinal sin.
          That all said, the flip side of the term ‘adulting’ is that I think people are celebrating being an adult – not struggling with it so much. I remember in the early days of my career (granted delayed a bit since I went to grad school) I felt like I had entered the secret Adult Club, where suddenly I could talk to all adults like peers, where I was listened to when I spoke, where I got to decide who to hang out with and how to spend my time.

      5. Nofunfortrish*

        I mean….most people use it as a self-deprecating joke. I agree that it’s annoying, but most people my age (20s) aren’t actually amazed at their ability to go to work on time consistently (or whatever else).

        1. Video Gamer Lurker*

          +1 Internet points.

          I’m not that amazed I worked out a schedule for how to cover the week’s topics in a reading room (helping kids with reading, my usual long-er substituting roles).

          The copy machine is a different story, since it has a mind of its own on when to break down.

          Earning more than $100 a month does bring me joy, but that’s from originally working part time and seasonally.

      6. MashaKasha*

        I know I couldn’t. And I know why! I’d shared a studio apartment with my parents for 17 years and could not keep doing it a minute longer.

      7. Alton*

        I think in addition to what people have said about economic challenges, a lot of the things that are considered “basic” adult milestones and skills are either becoming outdated or are no longer as easily attainable. For example, yeah, it’s great to know about home maintenance, but if you live in a rented apartment, there are obviously going to be fewer opportunities to learn things like how to care for a lawn. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing that people tend to delay marriage and children more than they used to, but our culture still treats getting married and having kids as a general milestone (even though not everyone wants that).

      8. Moon Elf Tempest Cleric*

        Right, I’m a millennial and enjoy being an adult as opposed to a HS or college student. I’ve always considered the less fun “adulting” tasks to simply be the cost of admission for having more independence.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Same. My childhood wasn’t necessarily unhappy, but I struggled with having high expectations and a lack of autonomy, so going off to college, getting a job, etc. felt like a blessed relief. Don’t get me wrong–I made a ton of stupid mistakes (and accumulated some stupid debt along the way), but they were my mistakes and I was dealing with them.

      9. Sketchee*

        Many younger folks saw the older generation trying to do so much. So I feel like it’s a push back to say “You know what, it’s okay to have a sense of humor about how weird and made up these social conventions are.”

        Part of the fun of the term of the term “adulting” is connecting with others of our generation. In our generation it’s okay to admit that things we want are sometimes difficult.

        Of course, having generational language often has an alienating component. Just as the slang of their parents annoyed their grandparents. I admit that for me, I feel like it’s use is rebellion against those who don’t like the term. I would never use it at work

      10. gmg*

        I’m curious to know your age, if you would be open to sharing it. There is a certain brand of baby-boomer disdain (NOT a universal, I stress I understand this.) for younger folks who find that launching themselves into adulthood is a big challenge. I sometimes want to nicely ask those people why it seems so hard for many of them to retire. Because the answers, I suspect, are basically a mirror image of the younger people’s answers about struggling on their way INTO the workforce (either it’s finances, or it’s self-esteem).

        I’m 42 (and single, so I suppose part of this is I don’t have a fellow adult in my home to share tasks with), and I joke about “adulting” sometimes. Take yesterday — I got a letter confirming that I am getting a good-sized property tax credit next year, and I was quite pleased with myself for puzzling out all the forms I had to fill out to make this happen and the first text celebrating this went to my mom. Yep. Adulting!!

        1. Rainy, PI*

          I’m 41 and I joke about adulting all the time.

          Part of it is that I lived my life backward (met my late husband at 19, went back to school at 26, went to grad school–MA and doctoral work– at 29, widowed at 33 whereupon I have had basically a second life including changes of country, career, being single for 5 years, meeting a second life partner, etc) so I’m all over the map experientially.

          One of the things I find amusing is when people more than a decade younger than me say nasty things about the term “adulting”. Nothing like realizing you managed to avoid foguitude! :D

          1. Lady Bug*

            I’m also 41 and I hate adulting. I’d much rather be on the beach than at work today. I hate that I have to work to waste my money on stupid crap like cutting down dead trees in my yard and fixing my roof. Adulting sucks, but we all have to do it.

            And kids today do have more of a struggle. My kids work hard and were raised with free range, failing your way through life is the only way to learn parenting, but have less options than I did 20 years ago. I rented a 1 bedroom basement for $600 in 1995. Today that same apt would be $1200, but wages have only gone up maybe 25%.

          2. Chinook*

            44 and hate “adulting” with a passion. I have lived through this transition twice (once for myself and then once as DH did because I married him when he was 21 and I was 30) and, while there is definitely a learning curve to doing anything, I just see it as living. Life changes and you have to adapt. Calling it “adulting” makes it seem like it is a choice and an accomplishment. Nope, it is called surviving and everyone has to do it.

            1. Sketchee*

              I respect that it’s not what motivates many people. Still I do think it is a choice and accomplishment. Many don’t choose to do it or try very hard. I do work very hard, keep my schedule planned, strive to be mannerly and kind. It’s a great thing to take pride, appreciation, and joy in the little things we do in life. For me, the word Adulting is usually used in a humorous way to acknowledge that. (I’m 35)

          3. Stop That Goat*

            I’m 37 and use the term adulting myself occasionally. I wouldn’t use it at work (because paying bills and all that jazz just doesn’t come up) but I don’t see an issue about the word otherwise.

            Yes, we all know you have to survive, pay bills, etc and it’s not a choice. I see no reason not to clap yourself on the back occasionally for keeping your life together though. What skin is it off your back, y’know?

        2. Biff*

          A baby boomer told me that their big plan was to retire to a jr. management position and their mind was BLOWN when I explained that such a plan actively took food out of my generation’s mouth. Blown, I tell you. They’d never even realized how many other boomers had this plan to step back down into mid-tier management, and how that might create a total roadblock to the younger generation getting the management experience that is so desperately needed to get ahead at all.

          1. Chinook*

            As someone who lived the result of the abolishing of mandatory retirement (which I have no problem with), I heard too many boomers say it was great for everyone without acknowledging that there is a cohort of people for whom this means there will be no work for them ever because work and financial resources to pay staff is a finite resource. In order for someone to be hired on, someone has to leave or find more money to pay for another body.

            Living in the shadow of their bulge means we get whatever scraps they choose to let go of.

          2. Cafe au Lait*

            My OldJob used a retirement incentive (or penalty, based on who you speak with) that gave $X.00 if you retired by Y-age, and then it was $X.00-($A.00*Years Past X) dollars if you retired after Y-age. A woman I worked with was pissed about it. She felt penalized for wanting to work after Y-age. At the same time, she could not see that by staying in her middle management position for 30 years cut me and my peers off from having an opportunity to grow past entry level.

            (The age limit was fairly high; 65, I think. Past when you start collecting full social security).

      11. Colorado*

        In the late 60’s, my dad joined the service at 18 and my parents had 3 kids by the time they were 22. This was the norm among their friends too. There was no transitional time. You went from a kid living with your parents to an adult living with your spouse, usually with kids on the way. I still think this is true for younger people today who don’t go to college and have children young, marry young, join the military. There’s no cushion phase for them. As opposed to say myself, who went to college for 4 years, partied, moved, lived with roommates, spent time alone. I had years of cushion to go from a kid to a “pre-adult” to an adult, at my own pace and time. And still at 45 years old, those early-mid-late 20’s were the best times of my life.

        1. Chinook*

          I never saw university as a “cushion” phase, but maybe that is because I had to leave home to go to college? Filing taxes, finding a place to live, making sure I had money to feed myself and pay bills were all part of my university experience (and of my peers). Is that not how it usually works?

          1. The Rat-Catcher*

            Depends on a lot of things. For people who are having to pay out of pocket for school, it is often like you describe. For people who have parents pay, have full-ride scholarships (me the first two years), or took out maximum amounts of student loans to live on (me the last two years), it can be kind of a cushion. Of course, those student loans come back to bite you in the butt later, but a lot of us were under the impression that we’d get jobs with high enough salaries to make those payments, not the $13 an hour that I read somewhere was the average for Millennials…

          2. Shishimai*

            That’s how it worked for me. I did work study and held down summer jobs and still went hungry* and had loans in 5 digits when I graduated.

            The number of my fellow students who gave me blank looks and asked “why would you do THAT?” when I mentioned I had to work over the summer instead of going to [island] for beach parties was… dismaying.

            * As in “this packet of ramen is today’s meals, and if I eat two green onions with it I will have no onion tomorrow.”

          3. Lili*

            Your experience doesn’t sound like mine, or that of most of my friends. Granted, there was no off-campus housing available at my college, so housing and bills we’re not an issue (or a learning experience) and food came from meal plans. Never worried about taxes until afterwards, either.

      12. Stranger than fiction*

        Where do I start…
        When I was 15, there were jobs a plenty. Now in my area almost nobody will hire anyone under 18 because they don’t want to deal with all the work permit restrictions for minors.
        My first apartment at 18 there were four of us splitting a two bedroom and we each paid $200/mo. Now in my area that same split would be $650 each.
        Community college was $12/unit; now its $46.
        Yes cost of living goes up, but wages and number of job opportunities has not kept up.
        So, unfortunately kids are having to live at home longer.
        There also seems to be a trend, at least in my area, where parents are encouraging kids to stay at home longer; not to worry about working while in school; take a “gap year” or whatever. (mostly amongst upper middle class and upper class people). Sometimes citing “kids just grow up too fast”. Of course I don’t think that’s helping the matter any. As we see so often here, kids coming out of college with zero work experience have a hell of a harder time finding a job.

      13. Bea*

        Probably because parents don’t force their kids out as fast and accept that 18 can be way too young for babies,marriage and knowing what you want to be for the rest of your life.

        Also it’s usually a laughable tone when people talk about how hard it is to be an adult. I think some take the joke way more serious than a lot of people ever mean.

    2. The Bimmer Guy*

      As a young adult (24), I agree that that’s exactly what it means. It has its place when one of my friends tells me, “I had to pay the power bill today; I hate adulting.” But I think it’s out-of-place in a work environment, especially when there’s a giant gulf between ages.

      1. Infinity anon*

        I agree. I am a millennial and I mostly hate it because it reinforces the stereotype of millennials as unwilling to grow up and act responsibly. It’s pervasive enough without us actively reinforcing it.

      2. Callalily*

        I agree with it belonging out of the workplace. I only use the term jokingly with my spouse, I would sound like a toddler at work if I ever muttered it!

        1. gmg*

          Same here. Mulling over my example in the comment above, I realize that’s a useful distinction between personal stuff and work stuff.

      3. Frozen Ginger*

        I’d say it depends on your workplace and the coworker you’re talking to. Example, I exclusively use “adulting” in a self-deprecating way, and I could see using it with coworkers I’m friendly with and especially those around my age.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I think it’s tongue in cheek and quite light-hearted though. I’m too old to use it myself, but it wouldn’t bother me as a catch-all term for boring life admin stuff.

      1. Gaia*

        That is exactly it. It is meant to harken back to the times when we didn’t have (or couldn’t) do these things and therefore had less responsibility. Every generation feels this, mine is just the first to express it in this way.

      2. NW Mossy*

        That’s basically the way that I use it, particularly towards things that are not necessarily urgent but should be done to avoid issues in the future even though it’s a hassle in the moment. I seem to use it most when I’ve finally done something I’ve been procrastinating on for a while, such as getting a new debit card for a little-used account, updating my will, or calling to complain about a billing error.

      3. Anna*

        Yep. I’ve used it myself almost exactly as you describe. It’s the downside of getting to be in charge of yourself.

    4. Carla*

      It’s meant to be light-hearted and self-deprecating: here’s this adult thing that should come easy to me at my age, but I found it difficult for reason xyz. I highly doubt anyone saying it wants recognition for what they’re doing.

      1. Holly*

        I haven’t heard it used only to refer to the person thinking something is difficult. More often I see it as a joke or a celebration. “Just used CarFax and avoided buying a lemon! #Adulting.”

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Actually I think this is exactly how I use it – as a joking/self-deprecatory “celebration”. I did this thing. It wasn’t fun and it was pretty difficult/confusing. I’m proud of myself for getting done a difficult/confusing/boring necessary thing, but also realize and acknowledge that this thing should not be as difficult/confusing/boring as I found it. So I’m making fund of myself ultimately.

      2. The Rat-Catcher*

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. It’s all stuff we were never exposed to until we suddenly were.

      3. Hrovitnir*

        Yes! I also associate it most strongly with people with mental health issues that are trying to push their way through getting up in the morning, never mind the rest of what makes life tick. So talking about “adulting” is a mix of self-deprecation and an attempt to positively reinforce oneself. Trust me, no one I’ve encountered using the word has an excess of pride in their abilities. It springs significantly from resisting despair that they do struggle.

        Of course you don’t have to have mental health issues to struggle with impostor syndrome or joke about what’s going on in your life with friends.

        (I’ve never heard the word out loud, to be fair. But I’ve read it plenty and was completely bemused by the interpretation above.)

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I don’t think it’s about wanting kudos; I think it just acknowledges a category of stuff that teenagers don’t have to think about and is therefore new to them. I call it “life maintenance,” but it’s the same stuff.

      “What did you do this weekend?”
      “Oh, you know, not much. Mostly just adulting/life maintenance! Groceries, mowed the lawn, took the dog to the vet.”

    6. Junior Dev*

      I’m 26 and I use it to acknowledge that it’s really hard for me to do maintenance work on my life when I’m struggling with anxiety and depression. I was also bad at that stuff–cleaning, remembering to deal with paperwork–as a teen, and people called me lazy and stupid. Now I get to use my own language to describe it, and adulting seems a lot better.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It’s a catch-all term for the ‘drudgery’ that we have to do to maintain our lives.

      2. Holly*

        I’ve seen it used this way, too. Although I’ve also seen #self-care used for this. As in “Did the laundry today. #self-care”

      3. teclatrans*

        Yes, this. I am in my mid-40s, recently diagnosed with and have struggled with basic….maintenance-type issues?….my entire life. I find the term “adulting” to be very useful, and I use it to describe successfully staying on top of mail/bills, dealing with tricky financial issues, etc. These are things that some people appear to handle with a lot less stress and confusion and angst, and which I can get whiny and resistant toward, especially when all my spoons are being used up in other areas (special needs kids, advanced degree).

        I have mostly heard this term from folks in their early to mid thirties, not so much newly fledged adults, and maybe that context matters a bit. Someone who has been legally an adult for 15 years will necessarily be using adulting in an ironic/self-deprecating sense, whereas new adults might be using it a bit too sincerely. I wonder if it started with the late milleniala and then got taken up by younger folks (and older folks like me) because it met a linguistic need? The change in context would be enough to muddy the meaning.

    7. MashaKasha*

      I thought I was the only one. It sets my hackles up. I cannot explain why. Oh wait, I can. Here I am, head of a family, having put one kid through college, putting the other through college, maintaining the house that we all live in, paying the bills and otherwise being in control of my life and providing support to two young adults and their cats and so forth… then somebody tells me that what I am doing here is “adulting”. GTFO with this minimizing nonsense. I am not adulting, I am living my life and you (the metaphorical “you”) should be too.

      1. Frozen Ginger*

        I wouldn’t see it as minimizing. In fact, I’d say it’s synonymous with “living your life”. If I’m saying *you* are adulting (as opposed to me), I mean that it looks like you’ve got your responsibilities and independence down pat. It’s kind of like “Man, MashaKasha has it all figured out.”

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it speaks to a certain privilege, and there’s likely a reason you generally only hear the term among a certain socioeconomic demographic.

        1. Fictional Butt*

          +1. The only people I know who talk about “adulting” are the ones who can choose not to adult and go live with Mom and Dad instead (myself included). Everyone else just calls it life.

          1. LBK*

            Uh…strongly disagree, and I don’t think most people who are stuck living with their parents choose to do so or prefer it that way. They do it because they have to.

            1. Fictional Butt*

              I’m not talking about people who are stuck living with their parents, I’m talking about people whose (extremely wealthy) parents give them virtually unlimited financial support, so they can, for instance, go to grad school without funding or take that cool unpaid internship on the other side of the country or work at a lower-paying job than they need but still live in a swanky apartment. They brag about “adulting” because it makes them feel less dependent.

              I probably know a disproportionate number of these people, given where I grew up.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Wow. Yeah okay, so your experience is not universal, and I can counter by telling you how I and all my friends, none of whom are dependent upon wealthy parents and most of whom are struggling to make ends meet, use the term when talking amongst ourselves. Maybe the only people *you* know to use the term are spoiled rich kids, but that doesn’t mean those are the only people who use the term period.

                1. Marillenbaum*

                  Seconding! I don’t get this hostility towards the term. Yes, it is living my life–and I prefer to describe it this way. To quote a different generation: take a chill pill.

                2. Stop That Goat*

                  Yea, I don’t get the hostility either. I grew up pretty low on the economic scale and even today, the help is far more likely to go up to my parents than down from them. I have no issue with the term and do occasionally use it outside of work. I don’t see where privilege has anything to do with it.

                3. long time lurker*

                  Thank you! This entire thread is starting to make me feel riled up. Why don’t people just ask someone what they mean if they don’t understand how they’re expressing themselves?

                4. The Rat-Catcher*

                  +1 to Marillenbaum. Every generation has had its catchphrases and its own definitions of life. It’s a trend and it’s weirdly adversarial to hate it so much.

                5. Fictional Butt*

                  Yeah, I know my experience is not universal. That’s why in both my comments I stated that I was talking about my own experience. Sorry if that still was not clear.

              2. LBK*

                You’re referencing a pretty small percentage of the population – I think you’re right that you know a disproportionately high number of people like that. I’m from pretty normal middle class upbringings and I absolutely hear the term “adulting” thrown around by people in the same background with none of the luxuries you describe.

              3. CNW*

                Oh no…this is me to a t (my parents aren’t extremely wealthy but they’re well enough off). I’m definitely going to be checking myself from now on.

            2. Lata*

              It’s not about of the KIDs have to, it’s about that they can do so.

              If living w your parents is even an option, you are privileged. Period.

              You have parents who have a home w room for you, even if it’s a couch.

              You have parents who have jobs or income.

              You have parents who aren’t in jail or deported.

              You have parents who aren’t so mentally or physically challenged that you would be an unbearable burden.

              You have parents who can feed themselves, their other children, and you.

              I’ve lived all over the USA. There are a lot of communities where the parents can’t even feed themselves. Kids MUST leave at 18, some sooner.

              1. fposte*

                Though even that’s viewing things through a particular cultural lens, Lata–there are definitely cultures within the US where keeping the family together is a priority over almost all of the things you list.

              2. Erin*

                + 1 So true. I remember in college when I was in college and everyone was happy about the staying on your parents health insurance until you’re 26. But It didn’t help me because my father didn’t have health insurance either.

                1. Anxa*

                  I am 31 and I was quietly seething on my first day of my new job because I was giving a declining form for the health insurance benefit. My coworkers are all younger and in college and their parents mostly work for the agency and I’m the oddball who is way older than I look. At 26, my mom was self-insured and paying over 1K a month on health insurance. Do you think I wanted a piece of that action? Heck no.

                  Without getting into a healthcare conversation, that whole parent’s health insurance solution was such classist nonsense and I still get mad thinking about it.

              3. Optimistic Prime*

                Umm…no? I’ve done work with all sorts of low-income, disadvantaged communities with multi-generational households. Sometimes the kids over 18 stay home because they can bring in extra income to support the household. Living at home could mean sharing the second room in a two room (not two-bedroom…two ROOM) place with your younger siblings just to have a place to lay your head at night. Or maybe you are taking care of sick or elderly parents who can no longer work. Or maybe you live with your single mom and your dad IS in jail or deported or simply gone.

                There are TONS of different multigenerational family structures; not all of them are the stereotypical “kids live at home and do not contribute to the household with their income” people envision.

                And even for the middle class – I know at least two people who moved back home after graduate school to help their families keep the house after the recession, because one or both parents lost their job and they wouldn’t have been able to afford to live there without the extra income.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            That is totally not my experience at all.

            As I mentioned elsewhere, it’s fairly common among the people I know with mental illnesses for whom those ‘normal’ daily tasks can be rather daunting.

            1. MashaKasha*

              Thank you, I haven’t thought of it from this angle… This is totally understandable.

            2. Alton*

              Agreed. Most of the people I’ve encountered who used the term adulting and who talked about struggling to do “normal” things were also open about struggling with anxiety/depression, or being neuroatypical.

            3. General Ginger*

              +1. I give myself credit for “adulting” in a self-deprecating, silly way when I manage to get done the things I need to get done despite the executive dysfunction that is a very common side effect of my anxiety/depression/other mental health issues.

          3. Rainy, PI*

            Welp, now you know someone who doesn’t have that choice and hasn’t since she fled her parents’ home and cult at 17, 25 years ago next month. :)


          4. EmptyPockets*

            Haven’t lived with my parents since I was 19 years old. Cannot go live with them. I sometimes call it adulting.

          5. Us, Too*

            The people I know who use the term “adulting” do not fit this description AT ALL. They are just normal adults. These types of word trends develop in lots of interesting ways. :)

          6. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

            I’m 46, married with an adult daughter and own my own home. My dad passed in 1999 and my mom lives is a retirement community 700 miles away. So even though I sometimes refer to taking care of things I have to but don’t want to as “adulting”, I don’t think I’ll be moving in with my folks again.

          7. Doe-Eyed*

            Uh, I talk about adulting all the time. I own my own house. My mom, dad, and stepfather have all died, and I cared for all of them as they went through cancer and dementia. I’ve dealt with my own multiple health crisises, and been married and divorced. You’re drawing a lot of conclusions about people who happen to like using a silly word.

          8. Snorlax*

            Nah, I’m 51 and my parents have been dead for decades, but I still joke about adulting sometimes.

          9. Security SemiPro*

            I can’t choose not to be an adult, and I still use “adulting” to mark bits of life maintenance. I think I fall in with the chronic illness crowd where some of the life maintenance takes an inordinate amount of my available time and energy and you have to do it anyway, so you take what short cuts you can to try to preserve any possible balance and productivity.

            I have a toddler, a degenerative joint condition, a 60 hour a week job, a house and a husband. None of those stop at any point, they all require and deserve the best attention I can give them. That sometimes the hardest thing, or thing I’m proudest of getting to fit into the day, was the load of laundry or remembering to eat is what I call “adulting.” The successes of making my life actually fit together, one day at a time.

            If that comes easy to you, honor that joy. If you think it should come easier for me and I’m just doing it wrong, please come teach me the glorious improvements that could be made. Ic ould use the extra time and energy.

        2. Anon16*

          I totally disagree. The only person I’ve heard use this is 27 years old, an immigrant, living with her parents (because she can’t afford to move out), and is a first generation college graduate. Granted, she’s not exactly emotionally mature, but this is painting it with a really wide brush.

          My millennial friends from higher socioeconomic classes don’t use this term.

          1. Anon16*

            Meanwhile, I grew up in a higher socio-economic class, I live on my own (my parents help me pay rent along with other necessary expenses that I can’t afford), and I avoid using this term like the plague because it feels childish. Maybe BECAUSE I’ve gotten so much help (that I know others haven’t), I work to feel more independent. Just a thought.

        3. Lata*

          This entire conversation in our culture is so skewed by the assumption that the suburban middle class is somehow the default and that those experiences are universal. They aren’t.

          The assertions that back up one’s view that kids today have it either harder or easier are based in a middle class view of the world. I never hear the poor and oppressed clientele I work with talking like this. Maybe it’s because they are too busy surviving. Maybe it’s because one flavor of difficult is not different for them than another flavor of difficult.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think it depends on how you define “poor” and “oppressed.” There are certainly levels of poverty, even among “the poor,” and the same is true among people who would otherwise identify as middle-class. Class privilege is not so cut and dry.

            “Adulting” seems to be used, almost exclusively, by people who went to college and graduated. Regardless of how they grew up, it’s true that after graduation, they are categorically in a different socioeconomic class than the “poor” and “oppressed.” But many of them still identify with the class status they had pre-college, which for some includes not having food, not having a home, not having a place to return, and having incarcerated parents.

            1. Anna*

              Not very many of them, though. I work with that population as well and the numbers tell a very stark story about how generational poverty happens. The people who came from those backgrounds and even made it all the way through college are still not common. It’s why colleges are setting up programs to connect first generation college students with each other.

          2. Optimistic Prime*

            Seriously? I have worked with oppressed and poor people before (as a researcher) and they have lots of thoughts about whether their kids have it easier or harder than they did, and they can hold all kinds of nuanced conversations about different difficulties that are presented by different situations.

      3. Elizabeth*

        I’m curious who has used the term to describe you and why, because I have only ever heard it used to describe new adults, and usually by the adults in question about themselves.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, I haven’t used it this way either. I wouldn’t think of raising kids as “adulting” – the whole concept of “adulting” is doing stuff that adults do while not feeling like an adult yourself, and I don’t think that applies to raising a family.

          1. Government Worker*

            I wouldn’t use the term, but the disorientation that comes with entering a new phase of life where you have new responsibilities and don’t quite feel equipped to handle them can come with both moving out on your own for the first time and with having kids. I definitely had some weird moments when my kid needed medical care in her first few months of life and the doctors asked me to make decisions for her – the feeling of “how am I supposed to know? I’m not qualified for this! Isn’t there someone more responsible around to tell me what to do?” wasn’t really that different from when I was 23 and had to sign up for a 401k or learn how to handle a tax form that came in the mail.

            But you get used to each new phase of life and it stops feeling like a big deal after a while.

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, that makes sense – IME “adulting” refers to any time you have that feeling of “this is a thing an adult should be prepared to do, but I do not feel prepared to do it,” which could certainly apply to being a new parent. It doesn’t sound like that’s applicable to what MashaKasha describes.

          2. Doe-Eyed*

            I tend to use it in the sense that I’m doing what a responsible adult would do instead of what I want to do instead. So if I skip finishing off the bag of cookies for breakfast and instead make oatmeal and have an apple, I have successfully adulted.

            1. AMPG*

              I’ve heard one of two usages – the one you’ve described, and the “I’m dealing with Impostor Syndrome” one.

              1. CanadianMillenial*

                I’ve definitely used both. I find the one here is used more in the mental health community. I deal with a lot of anxiety and depression and use ‘adulting’ as a way to say I didn’t let me mental state keep me from doing what I need to do.

                I also use it in the imposter syndrome sense of ‘wow, I’m doing all these things that I really don’t think I’m mature and able to do – like getting married, considering kids, buying cars, planning my rrsps, yet I’m getting them done successfully. I am actually able to adult better then I thought I was.

          3. anoncmntr*

            The only time I think I’ve heard the term “adulting” in person was when the mother of a friend used it to describe my life. Honestly, it infuriated me, and I’m not sure I can articulate why! I’m 35, married and own my home, and at the time I had one toddler. My friend (who had recently moved to the area I now live in) came to dinner and brought along her visiting mother, whom I’ve known since I was three. At this point, two of her three kids are married and I think own homes, but they’ve all been to college, Peace Corps, moved countries, had careers, etc., for going on 20 years. And yet, she said to me, “Wow, house, husband, kid — you’re really adulting!” or something along those lines. I think I sort of cringed in embarrassment, maybe agreed mildly, and moved on. I don’t think I had an opinion on the term before that, but dang, did it bug me to hear her describe my life that way! (To be fair, she’s always been really condescending, so I probably read more into it than I otherwise would have).

            1. Becca*

              Actually that sounds like it might be the “parent trying to fit in with the younger crowd and misusing their slang” stereotype.

              I might use it to refer to *close* friends who also used it for themselves. But I would never use it to refer to anyone I wasn’t close to, because it *is* often self-deprecating, and that *would* be pretty insulting. I might talk about how I’m jealous of their apparent ability to manage their lives well, because that makes it about me and my inability rather than implying that this should be some sort of Big Deal, or if I were their parent (or a friends parent who was close enough that they felt like my child I suppose) I might say how proud I was of them for being so together, especially if I’d known that had been a struggle for them, because that’s something a parent fears, that their child will be one of those who never gets it together (I think; I’m not actually a parent) but I wouldn’t use the term adulting in either of these situations.

              (FWIW, I’m one of the mental illness suffering users, as are most people I know who use it.)

        2. MashaKasha*

          Not directed at myself, admittedly, but I’ve heard women in my age group use it in reference to themselves to describe activities similar to mine. Or as a question to the group, “how has everyone adulted today?”

          You know who I have never heard use this term? Men. And I think that’s where it gets at me – it comes across to me as the reinforcement of the picture of a world where men are raising families, having careers, doing important things, and we girls are playing house. It kind of sounds like we’re pretending to be the things we actually are.

          I could be way wrong. Maybe the word just sounds off.

          1. Saskia*

            Huh. I honestly never noticed only women use the term around me (me included). Thank you. This has given me something to think about.

          2. Saskia*

            Also I’m 31 and use the term for big milestones when I’m feeling major Imposter Syndrome. E.g buying a house as a single woman. I’m really proud of how I saved the last 10 years while living in cheap share houses, budgeted mortgage payments according to much higher interest rates just in case, researched areas, learned about building quality to make sure I was making an informed purchase, etc. and my roommates from my old sharehouse have come to live with me to help with mortgage/because I like living with people.

            but it still doesn’t mean that I haven’t had a few ‘oh god what have I done, I’m not mature enough to handle this’ feelings! Like I really am playing pretend.
            (I think this feeling also comes from noticing the huge amount of luck I have when I see my peers- I finished uni in Australia at 22 in 08 and scored a solid job I like with a good income, and so I had the CHOICE to live cheap and use disposable income for bigger goals. I watched my friends in the US and in other parts of Australia not have the same luck, no choice there, and I have no idea how I would have gone in their situations).

            I also used the term when speaking with my parents- I love them but they’re pretty well off and so their house maintenance experience has always been to pay someone. So we joke that I win at adulting because of all these skills I have that they never had to learn, like budgeting and basic plumbing.

      4. Emi.*

        I don’t understand this. You’re living your life, and it’s an adult life. How is it minimizing to point that out, or for other people to be happy that they’re learning to be adults like you?

    8. Elle the New Fed*

      In my friend group (late 20s-mid 30s) it’s usually used as a term of congratulations for doing very “adult” things. For example, finally buying that first house we’d been saving 15 years for a down payment, getting the first promotion to a “senior” position after 13 years in the work force or fully funding my retirement accounts for the first time in my life. So in the context of a person wanting kudos for very basic things I could see it as annoying, but in the context I typically see it find it be acknowledgement of those things that my parents may have found basic, but I have found to be exceedingly difficult to achieve.

    9. Emi.*

      I don’t think that’s fair. In my experience, using the term “adulting” is not primarily about looking for kudos, and insofar as it is, it’s only for very minor kudos for learning new and non-obvious skills. Looking for an apartment, choosing a plumber, buying a car, etc are “basic” in the sense that they form a base for the other things that you do, not in the sense that everyone should already know how to do them.

    10. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

      I know the way I use it (note: not at work…definitely only in relaxed social situations and occasionally with my dietitian and therapist) IS when referencing “adult” things that I’ve done, but not as a way to garner kudos. It’s actually more in response to a tremendous amount of self-criticism. I’m nearly 30 and have come to terms with the fact that I may never “feel” like an adult. I pay all my bills, live on my own, have a pretty standard office job, etc. but I still feel somewhat like a kid in a lot of ways (particularly with some of the depression/mental health issues I’ve dealt with and am working through). So, it’s less “congratulate me for being a human!” and more “Hey, I CAN be an adult and do things that seem overwhelming and scary!”

      I’m not sure if that makes sense. I actually haven’t ever seen the term used outside of someone being silly/ironic or in mental health circles when referring to self care type things that sometimes seem insurmountable. I’ve truly never experienced anyone use it in a way to get pats on the back for just existing.

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

        Oh! Also, usually when I see it used it’s a sort of “I recognize that this is a normal thing that people have to do in life, but it seemed overwhelming to me, so I’m proud I did it”. People aren’t generally saying they think everything they do deserves an award; it’s more that they KNOW the thing is a common part of life, but they’re still trying to figure it out.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Absolutely – we’re not asking for parades because we think we did something Herculean in stature. We’re using shorthand to express “I know this is a Basic Thing, but it was a struggle for me to do it so I’m going to be proud of it anyway.”

          1. Y*

            It seems weird to be proud of the fact that basic things are a struggle for you?

            If someone else congratulated me on achieving something very basic, as if it had been a struggle, I’d think they were incredibly patronising and be quite offended.

            So it seems very weird to see others using it in a way that basically seems to be them patronising themselves by implying they are so inept that even basic achievements are worthy, if not praise, then at least of noting publicly.

            1. eleka*

              There’s a difference between being proud that something basic was a struggle and being proud that something that is generally considered to be basic was a struggle and you managed it anyway. Not everyone finds the same tasks to be the same difficulty; everyone has their own individual skillsets. As someone who frequently finds “basic” tasks to be difficult due to mental illness, it’s helpful to remember that I can manage to do these things anyway. I like to celebrate accomplishing things with my friends even if the general public wouldn’t find it worth noting.

        2. Elizabeth*

          Exactly. I personally don’t use the term, but I have no issue with those who do—they’re just acknowledging doing something that doesn’t yet feel natural, and they’re expressing it humorously as a way to connect with others. What’s so wrong about that? (Provided it isn’t at work.)

      2. Trillian*

        For me it’s the small petty stuff — like laundry, tidying up, and minor financial matters — that seems to be never-ending, overwhelming, and I hates it, precious, and that other people seem to get done as a matter of course. When I have clean laundry on Monday morning, instead on Thursday, having worn my please-don’t-let-me-be-in-an-accident underwear on Wednesday, and I don’t have to wash dishes before I cook, or there’s a clear place amongst the papers on my kitchen table to put a place setting … yeah, that’s adulting.

        1. nonegiven*

          What difference could it make if my underpants has holes in them and I’m in an accident? They’ll cut them off anyway. Rather that than lose a new pair.

    11. Jadelyn*

      If we choose to support each other in doing things that often, nobody ever really taught us how to do, navigating unfamiliar circumstances, and we develop our own, mostly-ironic shorthand for talking about that experience and sharing tips and, yes, kudos, what harm does that do you?

      I am 1000% Team Frivolous Kudos and always will be. Something that’s “very basic” for you may be fraught with anxiety for me and borderline impossible for someone else. I’ve noticed that the term “adulting”, in particular, gets used a lot by non-neurotypical youth for whom “very basic things” are not, in fact, very basic or easy to do. What damage does it do to you to let us acknowledge, amongst ourselves and to each other, that “basic” stuff is harder than we thought it would be, and let us be proud of ourselves and each other for doing those things? It just smacks of, how dare we have pride in ourselves for things you don’t think we deserve to have pride in ourselves for?

      I just can’t stand this attitude of “it’s basic stuff, it should therefore be easy for everyone, and if it’s not easy for you, suck it up and pretend it was lest you be mocked for “wanting kudos for very basic things”.” Let people celebrate their tiny victories. That’s how you build up to doing bigger things, not by being squashed back down and made to feel bad because the small thing you’re proud of doing is something other people find easy.

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

        I’m realizing as I keep thinking about this that the term is actually often used to express that we think we SHOULD know how to do something/have such-and-such in place, but we don’t, so once we figure it out, we’re more adult-like. So, it’s ACTUALLY a recognition that we’re learning and figuring out how to be more independent, not a petition of accolades.

        This has been such an interesting topic. I keep thinking about it. Haha…

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Bless you. I offer you a high-five, and a scented sticker with an anthropomorphic strawberry that says “Berry Good Work!”

      3. Hrovitnir*

        Yes! Of course all the eloquent comments about mental health came after I finally had to comment on same, just not as well. It’s sad to me that people can feel so threatened and defensive by this.

        It is also entirely my experience that “adulting” is used by people who have little to no support, so this entire thread was a shock. I am an adult who had to learn to function by myself after unlearning all the twisted s— my parents taught me, and that is what I think of as “adulting”. A lack of emotional and/or practical support leaving you drifting and unsure and trying to put a happy face on it while you try and juggle practical considerations with caring about surviving even a little.

    12. Jaguar*

      I was staggered when I first heard the term “adulting.” Talk about a Peter Pan syndrome. I can’t even fathom why someone would deliberately want to be taken less seriously like that.

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

        It’s generally used 1. A bit tongue-in-cheek and 2. As a recognition of “I should really know how to do this thing as an adult, but I haven’t been taught yet, so figuring it out makes me feel more like an adult”. I have literally never seen it used as an attempt to be exempt from responsibility (other than the very silly “I can’t adult today” which could be reworded as “I’m too tired to do anything productive right now”. The former is just a funnier way of saying it for some of us.)

        1. Jaguar*

          If a term comes with a disclaimer about, “I know it sounds this way, but here’s what we actually mean by it,” it might not be a good term. To me, it clearly communicates, “I know I just paid my credit card off, but I want everyone to know that I still consider myself a child and expect you to consider me a child as well.”

          1. LBK*

            You not knowing the definition isn’t really the problem of the people who actually understand the term.

            1. Jaguar*

              What I’m saying is I’m skeptical of the reframed definitions being offered here and I think the term carries with it the clear subtext that the speaker wants to be understood as mentally still a child. It pretty clearly draws a distinction between a mature act and the immaturity of the actor. I don’t think anyone should expect to both use the term and not be thought of as immature by the audience who hears it. That’s baked into the term.

              1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

                You’re assuming definitions are being reframed despite the fact that the definitions being given across the board in these comments are pretty consistently communicating the same thing. So, you’re taking the definition you’ve assumed it correct and are holding to it despite being told by everyone who actually uses the term that you’ve misunderstood.

                That’s not reframing; that’s you refusing to accept the commonly held definition of a term.

                1. LBK*

                  Yeah, this isn’t people reframing the definition. This is you injecting your exist perception of the people using the term into how you you’re interpreting it.

              2. Risha*

                Yes, you are offering a lot of justifications about subtext, when you have clearly just completely misunderstood the term. People can have nuanced views about degrees of meaning and usage and history for a given word, but “halfhearted” will never somehow mean “someone has literally cut open my chest and cut my heart in half.”

          2. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

            There are loads of terms in the English language that require that clarification divorced from tone and context. If I say it’s “raining cats and dogs”, it SOUNDS like there are animals falling from the sky, but it’s generally accepted that that’s not what it means. If I say “I’m really burning up”, very few people would think I’m literally on fire.

            The fact is that I think there’s a bit of confirmation bias going on amongst those who hate this term to the point of thinking poorly of those who use it. If you don’t look down on a group (or generation) of people, you could SURELY understand how saying something like, “I paid my bills today AND picked up my dry cleaning. Adulting win!” is intentionally over-the-top and a bit tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, so many people routinely assume that millenials are self-entitled brats that the tone is missed entirely in favor of propagating an opinion that is strongly held.

            As a millennial who falls kind of in the middle of the generation and who knows plenty of people who use the term, I can confirm that it’s not used to continue acting like children. If you don’t want to believe me, fine, but that’s you denying the definition of the term being explained by those who actually use it; it certainly doesn’t make your assessment correct.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I wonder if some of it is a marked difference in the type of humor that people of different ages tend to use? I’ve noticed that what I call “internet humor” doesn’t really…translate…to people of older generations. Stuff like “Do ALL THE THINGS!” or ironic hashtag-abuse or deadpan “So that’s a thing that happened” after something messed-up takes place, or particularly the kind of self-deprecating, borderline nihilistic humor that I see in younger internet spaces like Tumblr, if you try to use it offline to people who don’t spend as much time on social media, they just kind of look at you blankly until you explain it, and even then they don’t really think it’s funny.

              So a lot of us are using “Adulting!” as a joke at our own expense, but I think the joking aspect, the humor of it, is what’s not translating. It gets taken literally by people who aren’t immersed in the culture from which the term came, and that results in this misunderstanding and hostility toward the term.

              1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

                That’s a fair assessment and I definitely agree that it’s probably a factor. I suppose I take a bit of issue with the resistance to accept the common use in favor of the — generally more negative from what I can tell — misunderstanding. But, I can see how Internet humor could definitely be difficult to translate to the unaware. I supposed I just hope that people would actually look into it/ask about it instead of immediately jumping to negative conclusions. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            2. Jaguar*

              Adulting isn’t an idiom; the definition is clear from the context. It’s a noun being used as a verb, which is a diction style that pre-dates information age language use. And I’ve never said anything about an age group and am myself a millennial.

              I understand subtext, exaggeration, and non-literal language, of course – what I’m speaking to is subtext. What I’m saying is that when people use the term, it carries a subtext of owning immaturity – and given the numerous people also saying they hate the term, I’m betting they get a similar subtext. The speaker doesn’t own subtext – you say things and other people interpret them. One of my favourite examples is from a David Foster Wallace essay where he describes how people who say “classy” when what they really mean is “sophisticated or refined.” The definition of “classy” is one thing, but what’s communicated about you when using the term is another. That’s subtext. When you use “adulting,” you might mean it to be a frivolous way of describing unfamiliar activities of adulthood or getting used to responsibilities you recently didn’t have, but I would argue that what it communicates to some people is a reluctance to grow up. And while you and the people you know might not intend that subtext, I don’t believe there is uniformity in that – I think there are many people who use the term to communicate that they aren’t ready to move past being a teenager.

              The TL;DR of this is that a lot of people find the term obnoxious and immature. You can handwave that you meant it a different way, but that doesn’t change how people hear it.

              1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

                Wait, so if I interpret someone saying, “It’s burning up in here” as their house being on fire and call the fire department, that’s on them because I didn’t know the definition of the commonly used term?

                (As far as “handwaving”, I have to say that personally, prior to this comment thread, I had never heard that people associated the term with “Peter Pan syndrome” or anything similar. I’d think if it was an overly common position, I’d have heard the complaints about it by now, especially considering how loudly everyone likes to whine about anything millennials do, but maybe not. I’m not saying that no one holds that position, but sticking to the generally commonly understood definition of the phrase is hardly handwaving.)

                1. Jaguar*

                  I think we’re talking past each other because I don’t think I understand what you’re saying and I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m saying. “Burning up in here” and “raining cats and dogs” are hard to understand to people unfamiliar with the phrases because they’re idioms. I don’t see how they’re relevant to the term “adulting,” since the word is using a noun as a verb and can generally be understood from context.

              2. Optimistic Prime*

                But classy actually DOES mean sophisticated or refined. I don’t get that example.

                What your explanation sounds a lot like is “A slang word can mean one thing by the people who use it, but if people who don’t use it misinterpret the slang and decide to look down on the group using it because of their own preconceived notions and assumptions it is somehow the fault of the people who use the slang.” At the risk of being blunt, how is it my fault if someone assumes “adulting” means I want to hold onto being a kid when that’s clearly not what the term means or was meant to mean?

                Some people may find it obnoxious and immature, but why is that a problem of the world itself and not their problem?

                1. Jaguar*

                  Of course it does. That’s the point. Your diction describes how you are perceived. If you don’t care how you are perceived, then you should use whatever language you want. But this letter is about, in part, perception, and if you care about that, let’s say you go to an expensively-designed and furnished house and are describing it to someone. If you described it as “classy,” your audience would probably make different assumptions about you than if you described it as “elegant.”

                  Seeing it as a problem with the world itself strikes me as way too simplistic. Language and presentation and selection are all tied up together in an ecosystem of a culture. To some extent, we should all endeavor to not make hasty judgments about people, but that only goes so far, and it’s obviously very convenient and useful to understand that the person whose every third word is an f-bomb is maybe not someone you want to bother having a prolonged conversation with – you can make assumptions that might be false but likely aren’t. Similarly, if someone is talking in a way that signals immaturity, you’re making a calculation to, say, not trust them to look after your dog when you go on a business trip next week and ask someone else. You might be wrong and it’s something they’re totally capable of, but why not ask someone you think is more mature? And by the same logic, if you want to be seen as mature, it helps to to avoid language that will work against that. It’s a problem with the world in a utopian sense, but we’re boots on the ground in the culture we live here and people making assumptions about you based on how you talk isn’t ending in our lifetimes.

              3. Y*

                What I’m saying is that when people use the term, it carries a subtext of owning immaturity

                ‘Owning immaturity’ is a great way of putting it. If someone says they ‘adulted’ to me it implies that they managed to achieve something which should be a basic skill, but that they found enough of a struggle to make it worth noting in public, and that they are okay with that.

                It’s that last bit I don’t get. Being okay with the fact that doing basic things is a struggle for you?

                If someone said to me, ‘Wow, you hold down a job, and pay your rent and all your bills on time, and you wash your clothes, and you feed yourself, you’re doing so well’ I would feel incredibly patronised and offended that they should even consider that I might not do these simple, basic tasks of living.

                So if you use the term then it implies to me that you think it’s okay to find these basic things a struggle.

                1. Liz2*

                  I am a smart cookie, I was THE overachiever in HS and it was all to get out of the ghetto. My only real chance was to get a scholarship, which I did as my family certainly had no assets or support to provide. I could have been a dr, a lawyer, a super great mba exec. But I’m an admin.

                  And to a lot of people that might be crazy. But to me, with moderate OCD and anxiety, with huge abuse and neglect in my personal past- “just” holding down a job, making rent, buying my own stuff and being not only functional but actually FULFILLED- yeah those are a struggle, and those are amazing things.

                  It’s ok to find these basic things a struggle. Because they really are, for a lot of people.

                  I don’t understand why that is hard for others to recognize, or why they feel the same things should be easy to everyone, or why understanding and calling out those differences in an ironic way is a sign of lack of awareness. But I just keep being me, and celebrating the “little” things that mean a lot to me.

                2. Dulf*

                  Thank you, Liz2; you addressed Y’s lack of compassion and awareness for other people’s realities much more gracefully than I could have.

          3. Fries With That?*

            Do you have issues understanding non-literal language use in general, or is it just this one term that is beyond your capacity for comprehension?

            1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

              It really gets my goat how bananas this conversation has become.

      2. Miles*

        I think it’s partly a generation gap thing where among Millennials admitting that you struggled with something doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be taken less seriously. Previous generations preferred a “bootstraps” life narrative where the whole world was against them but they never failed or faltered internally through sheer pureness of spirit (see pretty much the whole first thread on this post for examples), that’s not the life narrative that Millennials tend to favour which instead involves a lot of inner struggle and deliberate self-improvement. I do think it’s worth Millennials realizing that in the work world the Boomer life narrative is preferred by Boomer and Gen X management who take people less seriously if they imply that they have struggled internally.

        1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

          I think you’re onto something there, though I do find the whole “never admit you struggle” thing to be…just so dang stressful! I did it for a long time, and it’s exhausting. I don’t think it’s necessary to emotionally vomit everywhere all the time, but I do appreciate the freedom I’ve found in just admitting that some things are hard as well as finding out that others also find them hard and that I’m not failing in life just because I find something difficult. It’s not an excuse to give up on the difficult task, but it’s almost treated that way by some. (Or it’s treated like whining which…isn’t the same as talking about difficulties. There is such a massive difference and it’s frustrating to see them lumped together.)

          It’s a bit frustrating that all of that is viewed as somehow being less-than, but I suppose my generation will have its day at some point as well. I do hope I’m a bit more gracious about younger generations than some of the loudest people who whine about millennials, but maybe I won’t be. (After all, every young generation has been “the worst generation ever” according to their elders for literally thousands of years. I hope I’m self-aware enough to NOT do that, but…)

          1. Miles*

            I’m the same, honestly. My automatic reaction to people asserting that they never struggled is “who do you think you’re fooling?” because I just flat out don’t believe it. My Boomer mother is like this now when she talks about parenting and how “it’s not that hard, you just do what needs to be done”, but I remember her making mistakes and getting overwhelmed and watching her barely hold it together at times. She would see admitting that as “whining” but I see not admitting it as “revising history”. It’s a generational culture gap that I think everyone needs to be aware of because otherwise it leads to, well, the judgement and defensiveness in the replies here. I’m sure the next generation will have new ways of talking about their lives that will horrify me, and I also hope that I’m self-aware enough to roll with it.

          2. Rana*

            Oh yes to the bit about talking about difficulties being conflated with whining. I think there’s a lot of value of being open about how many of us, despite our serene exteriors, are actually paddling madly below the surface to stay afloat. I find that comforting, especially among friends. It doesn’t mean that any of us are incompetent, or that we’re irresponsible, it’s that we’re acknowledging the work instead of assuming that things just magically happen. It’s reminding ourselves that even the most super-human seeming people are doing the work and that if we’re struggling it’s not because we suck, but because life. takes. work. even if some people like to pretend it doesn’t.

        2. Jaguar*

          For me, I don’t think it’s a matter of acknowledging an internal struggle so much as it is the ditziness (for lack of a better term) of the word. It seems to reframe being an adult from something you are to something you achieve that I find irritating. When people talk about adulting by, say, taking out a loan for a car, it sounds built in that they view themselves as not fully adult but have taken a step towards achieving that (and, implicitly by virtue of the fact that they announce it, want some acknowledgement for it). Maybe they’re hoping to achieve adulthood or maybe they’re trying to draw a distinction between an adult and what they are, but they both strike me as immature coming from the mouth of someone who already is an adult.

          But this thread has given me a lot to think about on the subject.

          1. Lissa*

            I get both points of this. I’m an older millennial and my friends and I are kind of close to the “struggling” stereotype, most of us with tons of debt and not great jobs, a very high percentage of people with anxiety or other mental health stuff going on. I pretty much always agree with articles posted about it being rougher today.

            But dag namit, I hate the term adulting! I used to like it, and I do think it’s useful so this is a “just me” thing, not “others should stop” – but a lot of terms that become a thing online end up beaten into the ground and it’s like that song I liked at first but now the radio plays it every five minutes and there’s three different cover versions and if I hear it again I’ll screaaaam!

            1. Anxa*

              This is about where I stand on it. I’m sympathetic to things being rough, but the phrase is nails on a chalk board to me.

              But I’m a little strange in that I don’t feel like I missed out on any life skill lessons. Cooking, laundry, all of this stuff is stuff I’ve been gradually doing more of since I was a little kid and mostly involves reading directions or trial and error and that’s fine to me.

              If I struggle with something, it’s not like either of my parents are going to be able to do it much better (except for finding things I misplaced. my mom is still magic at that). My parents had a lot of years of experience that I didn’t and are better at a lot of things than me, but not necessarily general life skill stuff. I feel like we are all learning things as we go through them and we kind of help each other out or have our areas of expertise.

    13. Allison*

      I get that, but to me, “adulting” is just an umbrella term for taking on grownup responsibilities that come with moving out of your parents’ house, which a lot of young people are delaying after college because of the job market, price of housing, and student debt. Yet when they move out, a staggering number lack basic skills and there’s a subset of millennials who choose to stay incompetent, acting like it’s silly and cute. To me, I feel like I have a handle on basic things, but I’m trying to be better at other things, learn more skills, get more organized, and stop living with overgrown children.

      A lot of my same aged peers stink at adulting. They see “being a grownup” as too haaaaard, and they don’t waaaanna, and so they’re just not gonna do it, or they’re gonna do the bare minimum and act like their state of perpetual childhood is some adorable quirk. Others are trying, but get overwhelmed and struggle, and that’s where I’ve been, but in my late 20’s, I’m on this kick where I’m trying to declutter, get organized, and get to a point where I’m more or less on top of things most of the time and my apartment looks like a responsible adult lives there.

      1. Sydney*

        I’ve got a news flash for you. Decluttering, getting organized etc is an on-going thing and still needs to happen whether you are 60 or 20.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          Sure, but I think the point is by the time you’re 60 you’ve got 40+ years of experience doing it and you know what works for you and what doesn’t. When you’re in your 20s and in an apartment for the first time, you are learning how to do it, and it fees new to you.

          What was the point of being rude about this?

    14. Tobias Funke*

      You know, I just ordered flowers for a funeral for the first time (I’m in my 30s and the culture I grew up in doesn’t do flowers for funerals) and as I hung up the phone, I thought to myself something along the lines of “adulting” or “this is 30 I guess”. I just meant it in a very “welp, here’s a thing I never actually pictured myself doing or learned to do growing up but I am somehow doing anyway because it’s The Thing To Do” sort of way.

      I also am “behind” a lot of my peers and without wanting to give away too much personal information, there was a time when I was really struggling to accomplish “basic” tasks. And I don’t want kudos for doing them. I’m humiliated it’s taken me so long and I am pretty much doing the “worst” of all my friends from high school. But I am doing them, and I am proud of myself for coming back from a couple of enormous setbacks. Maybe I shouldn’t be. Maybe I should just stick to humiliated. But mixed in that humiliation is some pride that I developed some resilience, and that is what I am speaking to when I feel proud.

      1. Jadelyn*

        As someone who is also “behind” significantly and battles that shame and humiliation often, take that pride and run with it. You’ve earned it. This is why I say I am 1000% Team Frivolous Kudos, because what seems like “basic” stuff isn’t always.

        Some days, “I’m still alive” is something worth getting/giving kudos for. Anyone who minimizes or mocks or dismisses that…maybe think about what that means.

    15. Clinical Social Worker*

      It did not take long at all for this thread to devolve into “Millenials suck.” Ugh.

      1. Lurker*

        I haven’t seen this level of condescension in this comment section for a long time.

        I’m in a profession which basically requires a BA and at least one Master’s degree + hours of temporary and unpaid labor just to get a foot in the door, if you’re lucky. I got my first permanent professional job at the age of 26 and I had to learn a lot on the fly. That is #adulting. Learning how to respond to managers at work after years of dealing with your grad adviser as your only manager-esque figure is #adulting. Me finding this blog via google while trying to figure out how to deal with an awkward situation at a temp job is #adulting. Learning how to find a psychiatrist in NYC that treats your particular issue AND takes your insurance is #adulting. And so is having and maintaining cultural competency re: the various iterations of non-literal vernacular that change every five years or so.

        1. Fog*

          You should be proud of all of that. Largely the criticisms I’ve heard (and feel) about the phrase “adulting” is exactly that it sounds condescending. It seems to have been popularized by those who target an imagined demographic, less so than voiced by representatives of any one of the real demographics who inhabit it. Middle aged people writing edgy articles praising struggling adults in a difficult economy with “adulting” is never going to sound appropriate.

    16. VX34*

      I’m 31. Adulting sucks. I moan about it, but I also do it. I don’t need anyone to hold my hand about it, nor do I need any praise for doing day to day responsibilities.

      But, no. It sucks, and it’s hard, and exhausting. Kudos to anyone who wants to vent.

    17. Fog*

      It’s also super cultural?

      My (poor, Southern) friends and I can’t relate at all. When we read Buzzfeed-style headlines about “adulting” it’s all stuff we have been helping our mothers with since childhood.

      1. emma2*

        I don’t think “adulating” just refers to doing basic chores, which a lot of kids help their mothers with – not just in the South. It is specific to the “adult” phase of one’s life, like getting your first professional job, buying work clothes, living on your own/buying a house, getting married, etc.

    18. TootsNYC*

      funny–I kind of like it.

      The times I see it used, it refers to the things many people do for the first time as an adult, that are also just a little complicated.

      Like: buy a home (mortgates, real estate, etc.)
      file taxes, or complicated ones
      calling a plumber

      And what’s so horrible about having resources to find out how to do those things?
      Mostly “adulting” is a marketing ploy to sell books or recruit people to websites.

      I hang out on a “home site” collection of message boards where people ask those sorts of questions. Sure, they don’t label it “adulting,” but I just don’t have any problem w/ people using that term. I think it makes them more likely to seek out the information they need to feel confident as they tackle that sort of stuff; they aren’t “asking mommy and daddy,” or fumbling through without help.

      They end up smarter and perhaps are able to navigate through things more easily.

      I get annoyed w/ people who act as though somehow everybody should know everything already.

    19. emma2*

      I’ve mostly heard this term used in jest – particularly to poke fun at oneself when they have trouble doing basic things. That’s how I use it anyway (like if I mess up my laundry or something.)

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      To provide a counter context – my friends and I (who are all in our 30s/40s), use it frequently, but we all suffer from various mental and physical illnesses that can make doing what seems like a simple, routine task to a ‘normal’ person quite daunting.

      1. Junior Dev*

        This is basically what I commented on above–it feels better to me to say “adulting is hard” than “depression means I’m dysfunctional and can’t handle my life.”

    2. Justme*

      I use that term when I make medical appointments and stuff for myself. Like, “I adulted today by making a dentist appointment!” and I’m in my late 30s.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Exactly! “I went to the grocery store, post office, and bank. Adulting done for the weekend.”

        1. fposte*

          Oh, that’s interesting. I actually like the term in general but that usage raises a question for me–what category do you think of yourself when you’re not adulting?

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            I don’t think it’s about who or what the subject is, but the actions.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I still consider myself an adult. For me, it’s more a verb than a state of mind, if that makes sense.

            1. Allypopx*

              Same. It’s just a fun categorization of tasks that makes them feel like accomplishments. It’s not a big deal.

            2. Turquoise Cow*

              Yes. I’m always an adult, but sometimes we all do tasks that are not necessarily “adult” tasks. The term “adulting” just acknowledges that we are now being more grown-up.

          3. Scotty Smalls*

            Enjoying life.

            Like Adulting wouldn’t be used if you went to Vegas, or a wine tour or a spa day. These are all things you would do as an adult, but since they’re fun Adulting doesn’t apply.

              1. TootsNYC*

                well, I also think of it as hard or difficult or “requiring secret skills” tasks/chores (like applying for a mortgage or calling the plumber, which make people feel like there’s something they’re supposed to know before they do it).

                Or social stuff that tends to be taken care of by the adults in the family without training seminars for the kids. Like, “I got invited to a wedding; what do I do now?” when you’re 22.

          4. Fictional Butt*

            fposte, I think you just hit the nail on the head of why I (a young millennial) hate the term “adulting.” It basically implies that I’m not an adult, only someone who is performing adulthood. And I think it’s interesting which things people choose to describe as “adulting.” When I’m doing basic, self-serving stuff like paying bills and going to the dentist? That’s adulting. But what about when I’m succeeding at work, making a difference, being a useful member of society? Isn’t that the epitome of “adulting”? But no one ever talks about millennials doing that stuff.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I don’t think of succeeding at work as “adulting.”

              That’s being a grownup.

              i think the term “adulting” actually sort of belittles things like setting up a schedule to take out the garbage, or applying for a mortgage or calling the plumber when there’s a drip. it cuts them down to size and turns them into a game.

              The real stuff? Having a solid relationship; doing well at work; being a supportive friend when someone’s going through a rough patch; volunteering for a charity; raising a child–those are not “adulting” to me. And I seldom see them referred to that way.

              i think labeling it “adulting” is a way to take annoying things and make them less so, and a way to classify intimidating or slightly mysterious tasks into something that seems more approachable, more game-like.

          5. animaniactoo*

            According to my husband, we’re kiddults. I have to say that it would be hard to disagree with him.

            When I bought my co-op and got a mortgage at the age of 30 or so, a family friend laughed and said this meant I had to be a grown-up now (reputation? what are you talking about, I had no rep…), I immediately disputed it and said that no it didn’t. As long as the bills were paid, I could be as immature as I wanted.

          6. The IT Manager*

            I find it used to describe a responsible choice. I can’t I have to adult i.e. stay home and clean house instead of going out with friends; run errands instead of sleeping in possibly after a night of drinking.

            Making the responsible i.e. adult choice. Usually not cost related in my group of friends.

            So the category when you’ not adulting is irresponsible.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, these are really interesting to me, because they identify adulting only in the context of burdens and not privileges. I wonder if it relates to Kowalski’s comment upthread, since my cohort was really excited about what it saw as the privileges unique to adulthood, whether it be drinking legally, renting cars, or eating pizza whenever you wanted. I think there was still a lot of angst about the responsibilities, but the privileges were worth it.

              1. Kowalski! Options!*

                Yeah. Being an adult meant responsibilities, but it also meant: MY life is my OWN! (And yeah, you had to figure a fair amount of stuff out for yourself, but that was done doing what everyone else was doing – calling people up and going, “(X) happened! What do I do??”

                1. fposte*

                  My other theory is that this ties in with cultural observations about young people having less experience with failure in recent decades (related somewhat to the greater protectivity) and therefore tending to have more anxiety about its possibility.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  Right! Plus I think people in a certain cohort (i.e., not “my poor Southern friends” from a comment above, but perhaps kids like mine, w/ 2 working parents who didn’t have time or energy to teach them all the nuances of everything we were doing) grew up without as much exposure to the stuff that needs to be done once you’re independent.

                  So, they want a book or website or podcast to teach them this stuff, because they’re uncomfortable or impatient with failing at it.
                  And they don’t have a lot of observational experience or hands-on experience to help them feel confident when they tackle it.

              2. Gandalf the Nude*

                I think this goes back to everyone using it not quite the same. I’ll use it for burdens or privileges but only when I’m particularly aware of the task being required or available because of my adulthood. I have to pay bills because I’m an adult, but I can also have Pringles and moscato for dinner because I’m an adult. But they’re only adulting when I’m thinking about it.

                1. mirinotginger*

                  Huh. I say I’m adulting when talking about the burdens (bills, taxes, car registration) but if I’m doing something like pringles for dinner it’s “cause I’m an adult and I can if I want to. Adulting is only for the hard stuff

              3. LBK*

                I think the lopsidedness comes partially from the pretty abrupt disillusionment that a lot of people of my generation experienced with the wonders of adulthood. I think the burdens of adulthood were generally undersold to us, so stacked with those burdens actually being even worse than they were for a lot of those parents, and suddenly the fact that you can order a pizza whenever you want doesn’t seem particularly cool in comparison to not being able to buy a house until you’re 40.

                1. fposte*

                  Oh, I think this is spot on; it ties in to that whole “follow your passion” thing, too. In contrast to the Eddie Izzard routine about growing up in Thatcherite Britain and getting career advice of “Look, you’re British, so scale it down a bit, right?”

                2. Just Me and My $0.02*


                  We also go from thinking we know everything as teenagers to having responsibilities that we couldn’t understand until faced with them. That shift that comes next in dealing with those responsibilities feels like a big shift in maturity.

                3. LBK*

                  And I think this where some of the cynicism and carpe diem attitude of my generation gets misread as flippancy and immaturity; we focus more on trying to build memories and enjoy life now *because* we recognize that the old measures of success and happiness are not as accessible to us as they were to our predecessors such that we’ll be able to hit those milestones along the path as it’s been laid out for us.

                  So sure, if I lived in a worse apartment and worked extra jobs and never traveled and stopped seeing plays every week and didn’t spend a few Sundays here and there downing bottles of rose at brunch, I could probably get myself a house a few years earlier than I could while doing all those things. But I’m 7 years out of college – I already missed the mark set out for me by the generation before me, so why try to play catch up to an old metric when I could just rewrite the rubric?

                  I think some of this also speaks to what I said above about most people my generation being raised in better circumstances. For many people, going from a fairly stark upbringing to stark independence and then slowly expanding your lifestyle was a natural curve that always went up – so when people see Millennials straight out of college in decent apartments living decent lives that actually incorporate time and money for something other than the bare essentials, it feels like they’ve jumped up the curve. But we haven’t – that’s the lifestyle we were raised in, so the curve is the same, the y-intercept is just higher than it was when you were growing up.

                  I think you can argue that once you’re out on your own, you should basically have to start back from the bottom to learn the value of working your way up and being self-sufficient. But going back to my previous point, I think what people view as self-sufficiency is very different, and it causes a lot of anger from the older generation when their children don’t view life the same way they do.

                  Kind of a goofy anecdote, but I think it ties in to what I’m saying: the other day I went to buy deli meat and I had a moment of nostalgia thinking about 5 or 6 years ago when I used to get so excited when the D&W items were on sale for the same price as the cheap store brand because that would be my special treat for the week. Now I can buy D&W without thinking twice about it and it’s almost funny to me that a difference of a few dollars per pound would have been a strain on my budget. To me, that’s some kind of measure of success, that I can take for granted little things that used to be luxuries. That kind of concrete symbol of the scaling of my buying power means more to me than whether or not I own a house.

                4. LBK*

                  (Oh, and I forgot to say this, but my comment obviously comes with lots of caveats about privilege and the experience of being raised in a relatively financially stable household not being universal, but I think at least generally more common among my generation than the generation before.)

              4. Optimistic Prime*

                I think some people are conflating identifying “adulting” only in the context of burdens and identifying being an adult only in the context of burdens. Many people in our generation were excited about being adults, too.

              5. Rana*

                Yeah, I (and my 40- and 50-something friends) see adulting as exclusively referring to doing difficult or vaguely unpleasant tasks that fall on your shoulders because you’re the responsible adult in the house. Taking the car in to the shop and paying for it is adulting. Going to get groceries even though it’s raining and you’re feeling a bit ill is adulting. Arranging for a dentist appointment and going even though you hate going to the dentist is adulting. Going to bed early so you get enough sleep instead of staying up playing on the computer is adulting.

                That sort of thing. It’s all the unpleasant and tedious things you didn’t have to think about as a kid because “an adult” would take care of it.

          7. Mints*

            For me it’s like “being healthy.” I’m overall, week to week or monthly, at the same level of health. But sometimes I’m like “I had a salad for lunch and went to the gym this morning. I’m so healthy today!” Adulting is something that I do occasionally, but I’m always an adult. Like sometimes exercise but I’m always fairly healthy

          8. Jadelyn*

            My thing is, “adulting” is the stuff I have to do to get by. Sometimes that stuff is super hard for me to do because depression/anxiety/ADHD, so I motivate myself by acknowledging the challenge that “adulting” presents for me and congratulating myself for succeeding at it when I do.

            When I’m done adulting, I’m still *an adult*, but my responsibilities are done for the moment and so I can relax and do fun stuff instead. I can play video games, or make jewelry, or paint, or whatever. Still an adult, just an adult goofing off because the bills are paid and the laundry is done.

          9. ZTwo*

            I’m an adult and I’m engaging in the work (or more aptly, drudgery) of adulthood, which I will sometimes call adulting. I think of it like actor / acting or researcher / researching.

          10. fposte*

            So, another question: do people think there’s any relationship between this and some young women’s preference for “girl” over “women”–are “women” are people with all of the burden and none of the privilege?

            1. Marillenbaum*

              I’m not sure, but it’s an interesting question! I gleefully use the term adulting to apply to necessary tasks that I struggle to do (I live alone, and find housework shockingly difficult now I don’t have the specter of an angry roommate to motivate me). However, I don’t like people referring to me as a girl. I’m 27–I am a grown-ass woman. (Frankly, I’m more likely to refer to myself as a grown-ass woman rather than simply a woman, but the point still applies).

              1. LadyKelvin*

                Yeah, my a$$ has definitely grown since I became a woman. I should use that too. :)

            2. Grapey*

              I’m in my early 30’s and have been financially independent from my parents since I graduated college, hit desired life milestones by age 30, so I feel like I have it all together and definitely what other people would call a woman. (However I do not want kids, so a few people pointedly have told me they don’t consider me a woman ‘yet’, lol forever at them.)

              But I still feel weird calling myself a woman (more weird calling myself a girl, so I do say woman, but it’s still weird).

          11. AK*

            Eh, I get where that question comes from and everything, but it doesn’t apply to other similar words so it seems unfair to cast it as ‘if you’re not adulting then you’re…?’. If someone said they felt their actions were kind, or clever, or dedicated etc. you wouldn’t say something like “I don’t get why you need that word – what are you all the times you’re not doing these things? Ashamed, unkind, slacker etc?” It doesn’t imply that the rest of the time you aren’t this thing or that you’re the opposite (that you’re ‘childing’ or something) just that this particular action seemed especially so. Very often the objections to usage that annoys people also apply to much of other regular speech, but nobody notices it until it applies to a thing that bugs them for whatever reason. I honestly don’t understand the complaint that ‘It’s just regular life so why would you say that?’. We need words for regular life, and those words will change. Especially since it’s often used self-deprecatingly in a way that acknowledges it isn’t actually a rare or especially difficult matter. Sure, it’s out of place language in some places, and gets odd when people say it too often, but that’s true of any word.

          12. RL*

            I think of the term “adulting” a lot like the term “momming”. You are an adult or a mom regardless of the activity you’re taking part in. If you are a mom, that doesn’t change even if you’re out at a bar with your friends. If you are an adult, that doesn’t change even if you are playing video games. I’ve heard both terms used as a categorization of the myriad of activities you do because you’re an adult (or mom) but wouldn’t do otherwise or as a lighthearted way to poke fun at yourself when you don’t want to be responsible/are recognizing the tedious or unpleasant parts of your current life situation.

          13. General Ginger*

            I don’t know about Detective Amy Santiago, but as someone who uses adulting much the same way, I don’t put myself into another category when not doing those tasks. I’m just, you know, me, plodding along.

    3. Collarbone High*

      Same. I think the term has become so widespread so fast because it’s a useful shorthand for a near-universal experience. Just about anyone can relate to the idea of being temporarily overwhelmed by the stresses of adult life.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        The older I get, the more I have come to realize that no one really ever has it all together. Some people just pretend a lot better than others. That was a pretty stunning realization for me because I always assumed that “by the time, I’m X years old, I’ll have my life together” and then felt bad about myself when those milestones rolled around and I did not have it together.

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          THIS. I thought I’d reach an age and magically be/feel like an adult. It was all a lie.

        2. Snark*

          Yep. I still feel like more or less the same dolt I was at 22, with all the same doubts and flaws, but with more responsibility and higher stakes.

        3. S*

          YES! I also assumed that my parents were the only parents who didn’t have it all together, and that every other kid was getting the benefit of watching true adult behavior, while I was the only one trying to work it out on my own (like reading Your Money or Your Life when I was in college). Turns out: nuh-uh.

        4. gmg*

          YES. The big lesson of my 30s was that “adulthood” is a bit of a mirage, really. Being able to take care of yourself was and still is a big marker of adulthood for me, but beyond that … emotional maturity is a thing MANY people never, ever achieve.

        5. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

          THIS is why I use the term. I’m nearly 30 and realized a couple of years ago that I don’t know anyone who truly “feels” like an adult. I think I expected to transform into a totally different person but…I’m always going to be me. I have grown and matured in a lot of ways, but I’m probably always going to be a bit goofy, talk to my cat, make dumb jokes, etc. Aging and paying rent doesn’t cause someone’s personality to change, but in my head that’s what I expected. So, I basically never feel totally grown-up and thus when I do things that I always have thought of Parent Things or Grown-Up Things (or, often for me, Emotionally Aware Things), it’s “adulting”…even though I’m a fully-functional adult.

          I also haven’t ever taken the term too seriously. It’s usually used pretty playfully and sometimes is a recognition of, “I know this is a thing that’s a part of normal life, but it seemed overwhelming to me, so I feel a bit accomplished in getting it done”.

        6. Gandalf the Nude*

          My goodness, yes. I had to deal with a really annoying property tax thing the other day, and I felt like a moron for not knowing how to do it. But I chatted about it with my Boomer boss, and he also had no idea what it was or how to handle it. It was very comforting to know that I was on the same level as this older, more adultier adult. Same for finding out your parents still don’t know what they’re doing half the time.

        7. Jadelyn*

          My grandmother once commented, on her birthday, that she didn’t “feel” 70. I, all of 15 years old, asked what she meant. She said, “I still feel like myself – like the same person I was when I was 20, only the body doesn’t quite work the same anymore.” I didn’t get it at the time (how could I?) but I’m in my 30s now and I’m starting to understand what she meant. I expected there to be some big Shift in Who I Really Am that would mark a threshold between childhood and adulthood, and it…never happened. Which left me feeling weird and unmoored, waiting for something that wasn’t going to come, feeling like a fraud posing as an adult.

          I’ve come to believe, instead, that adulthood is simply a matter of having more practice at certain things. The first time your car breaks down and strands you by the highway, it’s terrifying! You’ve never experienced this before! The second time it happens, it’s still unnerving, but you can say, hey, last time I did XYZ, here’s how it played out, maybe I’ll try doing ABC instead. The third time it happens, you’ve got two instances of experience to draw on and you can make better choices and have more confidence in your choices. The first time my car broke down, I called my mom, almost in tears. She helped me get AAA out and get me towed. A few weeks ago I had a major tire blowout on the freeway – I called AAA, then texted my team to let them know I was going to be late, texted my mom to complain about it, and started researching what kind of tires I wanted to upgrade to and where I could get them so by the time the tow truck got there I knew exactly where I was going and what I needed when I got there. It was annoying, but not a big deal anymore. And that…to me, that’s all Being An Adult is. There’s no magic about it.

        8. JAM*

          I have all these memories of my mom being put together that she says were mostly interspersed with her hiding in the bathroom/laundry room and crying. I totally thought my mom had it together and only recently lost it but it’s been like this her entire life and now that I’m an adult she lets me see it. The difference between her and me is at my current age I have a husband and dog and full time job and she had three kids, one of which was a teenager and one was a baby. I might actually have it more together than she did and that’s something I never expected.

          1. Dankar*

            Isn’t that just a shocking thought? I talk to my mother about where I am in life compared to where she is, and she routinely tells me that I’m doing fine, that things are more together at this point than they were for her (since she and her husband were unexpectedly expecting a child at my age).

            I have similar memories of growing up–Mom had it all under control!–and I’ve also recently learned that there was a lot of uncertainty, pressure and nights spent crying that I didn’t know about. She loves the way I describe my life now as “adulting” (though I would NEVER say that at work), and has helped me recognize that we’re all living some kind of impostor syndrome in our shakiest moments.

        9. ancolie*

          I have a very sharp memory of when I was 26 and in the hallway at my job, when I had gotten engaged and was moving out of my parents’ home to my own studio. I thought about how when my mom was my age, she had a 6 year old kid and was pregnant with me. I couldn’t IMAGINE being at that stage right then; I didn’t have my shit together or know what I was doing….

          … and a huge flash of insight hit me — MY PARENTS HADN’T, EITHER! They had to figure it out as they went, too!

          That made me feel better about adulthood and feel a bit closer to my parents.

          1. nonegiven*

            At the grocery checkout, the cashier had been a couple of years ahead of me in high school. Her military son was coming home from overseas, my 27 yo son was working 1500+ miles away. We were chatting about the prospects for grandchildren while she scanned my things.

            A nicely put together older woman next in line was shocked. “You girls are way too young to be thinking about grandchildren.”

            I laughed and said, “I’m 5 years older, now, than my mother was when I made her a grandmother.”

      2. loons with gumption*

        Yes!! I’m in my late 30s and wow I wish the term had been around when I was 18 and figuring out how to live independently! I’m way too old to use it but I still do sometimes anyway (I’m relatively new to homeownership for example, thanks expensive coastal city).

      3. Government Worker*

        The concept has resonated with me at various points of transition even though I’m already firmly an adult. My spouse and I just bought our first house, and I’m doing things that I strongly associate with my parents – buying a lawnmower and mowing the lawn, having a plumber come fix the water heater, etc. It’s a transition towards increased responsibility that feels significant as I’m going through it, even though it’s extremely common and not that big a deal. Something similar happened when I had kids, and when I’ve gotten more responsibility at work. Sort of an adjustment period where I come to terms with the shift in how I think of myself and where I am in life.

        1. Deschain*

          I think I’m regressing. At 39, I’ve owned a home for 10 years and have gone through major renovations and several lawn mowers. Now, all I want is to sell it all and move to an apartment. I can’t wait to get rid of all non-essential responsibilities so that my husband and I can spend more time having fun (playing video games, camping and kayaking, reading, etc.). Thankfully, we don’t have children so this is a realistic goal.

      4. animaniactoo*

        I stumbled across this the other day and went… oh yeah, I can relate to that overwhelmed feeling alright. (Insert several life mini-crises in the last 2 months, the fact that I am actually at work today counts as adulting in my book).

    4. Nan*

      I’m 39 and use it, but not in work conversations. I would use it at home as in “I’d really like to play hooky and stay in bed today, but I’ll go out in the torrential thunderstorm and sit in traffic for an hour so I can go to work” Ugh. Adulting. Or “annual exam time!” Ugh. Adulting.

    5. Carla*

      Me too. It’s just a term people use to represent a shared experience. Where previously people might not have talked to each other about finding certain parts of adult life difficult or confusing (e.g. when I was first learning about 401ks and setting up retirement accounts and investing), we now feel more comfortable sharing that. Personally, it helps me to know that the tough time I have “adulting” is something that other people experience too.

      1. TootsNYC*

        or…tbey DID talk to one another about it.

        But they didn’t have a jargon that was coined by a clever blog writer and capitalized on by marketing.
        They said, “Wow, I feel like my dad” or “this grown-up stuff is hard.”

        It’s just fun and clever term, that’s all.

    6. kittymommy*

      My friends and I use it, but mire in s joking way. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it at work.

    7. Fiennes*

      I’m nearly 50, and I use the term too, sometimes. (And I’m not some upper-class twit who “chooses” to adult – I’ve been on my own for a long while, thanks.) It’s just a lighthearted way of referring to the way we suck it up to deal with unfun responsibilities.

      While I understand the need to a young person not to talk about it too much at work, the judgment heaped on this term by so many on this post astonishes me. I’m sorry, I didn’t know sitting down to go through bills was some sacred holy task nobody’s allowed to joke about, ever.

      1. fposte*

        That’s not what’s raising eyebrows, though; joking about paying bills is fine. It’s that the term being used for doing so here 1) isn’t universally understood the way some people are meaning it and 2) suggests to a lot of people that adulthood is a temporary state that the speaker needs to muster special focus for. That’s not an impression you want to give in the workplace (and a lot of people are saying they wouldn’t use the term in the workplace).

        1. Chinook*

          “suggests to a lot of people that adulthood is a temporary state that the speaker needs to muster special focus for. ”

          That’s the phrasing I am looking for. I mean, I am an adult 24/7, even when I go to Disneyworld. It implies that having fun is not an adult activity as well as implying that things like paying the mortgage (which I see as “woohoo-only 25 more years until I am rent free) doesn’t have its own rewards.

          1. LBK*

            I mean, that’s what we’re told by our elders, isn’t it? Being an adult means being serious. When people say to “grow up” I don’t think they ever mean going to Disneyworld.

            1. Chinook*

              Maybe your elders but not mine. Often, when we kids and teens would ask the adults why we can’t do X when they get to (insert whining noise), their response would be that it is a perk with age. And then would invite us to do something when we were of legal age and/or graduated high school.

              And, as someone who couldn’t afford to go on fun trips when I was kid or even in my 20’s (unless I was working there), growing up did mean more responsibilities but also more freedom to spend my money like I want to, which includes Disney.

              1. snorkellingfish*

                Actually, that kinda articulates something I felt the other day, which seemed really silly at the time. I went to the shops and I bought myself a shiny new videogame console because I wanted one and I could afford one. I didn’t have to explain it to anyone, or justify to anyone else why I needed it. It was enough that I wanted it and I could afford it and I decided for myself that it was an okay use of my money. I felt like such an adult for being able to do that.

                And it’s absolutely not the sort of thing that people would describe when they talk about being an adult. Honestly, a lot of people would say that it’s wasteful spending like the mythical smashed avocado, and I that should have saved the money towards a deposit or whatever. But I’m an adult and I got to make that choice for myself, and I found that pretty cool.

        2. Fiennes*

          I also said I understood the need for a young person not to use it in the workplace.

          But if some people don’t understand the term’s use, maybe them being judgmental from a place of ignorance is the bigger problem.

          1. fposte*

            But I think that’s reductive, too–not everybody has to see things your way. This is also one of those crossing cultural borders things where it’s worth considering who has the most to lose. I don’t think swearing is a big deal and I don’t associate with people who do, but if I worked for people who did it’s in my own self-interest to understand how they see it if I want to keep my job.

  2. Cambridge Comma*

    This may be a cultural thing, but the idea of getting hands on help with work tasks from an outside person, whoever they are, would have been a big no-no in all the very different places I’ve worked. (I wouldn’t include things like asking for e.g. Excel help if a friend knows the program much better, but that would be more like ‘please explain this function like I’m five years old’ not ‘can you look at this worksheet and fix the formula?’)
    I wonder if the employee should be mentioning it, or even doing it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, this is definitely true. I couldn’t tell if it was something not a big deal (like “I was bouncing this idea off my mom”) or truly problematic (“my mom is fixing my data analysis”).

      1. JamieS*

        Hard to tell but I’m leaning towards the bounced ideas option. Reasoning being if the parents were actually doing the work the employee would probably be incompetent when her parents aren’t there to do the work. I have to assume the OP would notice that.

      2. Jadelyn*

        My mom and I bounce Excel problems off each other fairly frequently, but it’s not a “Mommy, fix this!” so much as “Hey, person I know who is the only other person who knows Excel’s advanced functions like I do, here’s a problem I’ve run into and I can’t figure out why Excel is doing this thing instead of that thing like I wanted. Have you ever had this problem?” I don’t usually mention *who* I got help from, if I tell anyone that I did get help – just that I reached out to a contact of mine who’s another Excel whiz and got her input.

    2. HisGirlFriday*

      I was thinking that, too! I mean, I have absolutely asked friends who know programs like InDesign or Adobe better than I do to explain something to me because it’s not intuitive. Conversely, I have explained Excel and databasing programs to them because I know those better. If it’s a really generic, ‘How do you get Excel to do X?’ or ‘How do you get InDesign to do Y?,’ I think that’s fine.

      If it’s more like, ‘I was talking to my Mom about the Boaty McBoatface account, and she recommended we go with a marketing scheme of X and Y rather than Z and Q,’ that’s a huge problem, and something the manager should address in a wholly different context, because there it doesn’t matter if the employee is talking to her mother, her best friend, her hair stylist or some random person on the street, she’s telling tales out of school.

    3. paul*

      Hell, I had to teach my dad (fairly upper management!) how to make a pivot table during Christmas a couple year sago. I don’t think that makes dad less professional…

      1. Lata*

        Husband has been a c-level officer for several companies. He’s had jobs where he had “signing rights” and could bind the company financially and legally for hundreds of millions with his signature alone.

        He’s asked for outside opinions and help. When he gets together with peers at different companies, they ask each other’s opinions.

        At his level, it’s de riguer to float ideas and ask for assistance so long as there’s no ethical or competitive issues.

        The issue isn’t asking for help on a specific task or for general input, it’s the perceived role “Mom” is playing in this person’s life.

  3. Mouse*

    Yeah, I do this a bit, and I’ve started to realize it lately. Part of the “problem” is that I’m really close to my mom now that I’ve moved out. I text her every day, and call her once every couple days, sometimes for hours! My mom is a great parent, but now that her parenting job is more or less done, she’s become a great friend. So, naturally, when I’m chatting, she comes up in conversation a lot. I’ve started replacing “mom” with “friend” (when I remember) to try to fix it.

    Instead of: Oh, my mom loves that TV show! She’s been telling me to watch it!
    I’ll say: Oh, my friend loves that TV show! She’s been telling me to watch it!

    I realize that it’s not the best solution, and my relationship with my mom sounds weird when I type it out, but I’ve noticed I get better reactions from older coworkers when I censor myself this way!

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      For what it’s worth, my mom is my best friend and I don’t see anything wrong with having a close relationship with your parents.

    2. Anna*

      I don’t think you have to worry about the closeness of the relationship with your mom, but I don’t imagine you talk about how your mom helps you with work as if it’s your homework. :)

    3. Yorick*

      That’s normal, and you can say that your mom loves a tv show or whatever without sounding like a kid

      1. Mouse*

        Sure, but I think the frequency was making it weird. I don’t have a lot of other friends. :) Maybe I’m overthinking it, but someone out there wrote to Alison about something similar, so I don’t think I’m too far off base.

        1. Yorick*

          I would, however, think it was super weird if you said something about your “friend” and then I somehow realized it was your mom.

    4. BadPlanning*

      I feel you. I find myself mentioning my parent probably too much, but usually in a good way. I try to remember to curb it sometimes so people don’t think I’m heading towards some Grey Gardens scenario.

    5. INTP*

      Yeah, I think this is something that can happen naturally because when you’re young and single, your parents may still be your closest family members. Your coworkers may talk about their kids and spouses just as much as you talk about your parents, it’s just that talking about parents has an immaturity connotation for some people that talking about other types of family lacks so you have to pay attention to how frequently you mention them.

      1. BananaPants*

        My young, entry level coworkers do this. If I mention something about my husband or kids, they seem to talk about their parents or younger siblings. At first I thought that it made them seem really young and immature to CONSTANTLY relate it to what their 16 year old sister did, but 1) they ARE young, and 2) those people are their closest family members so it’s natural that it’s what they relate to.

        1. Julia*

          I talk about my niece who’s three, but I hope that doesn’t make me sound like I’m three.
          Your kids are presumably young as well, so I don’t see the big difference to a teenaged sister. Sure, you’re parenting your kids, but you seem to think that relating to someone young makes them sound young as well.

          I also talk about my grandma who’s 95, so maybe that makes me sound older. :D

    6. memyselfandi*

      This is true for me for my brothers and sisters. I have a lot of them and they (and their spouses and children) do a wide variety of things. I can almost always find someone in my family who knows something about a topic. And, because they are all so interesting I spend a lot of time with them. I had to learn to stop referring to my family in conversations.

      For what its worth, I have never heard the term “adulting” before.

    7. SJ*

      I’ve noticed the same thing about myself recently. I’m almost 29, and while I do have lots of friends, we all live in different cities, so my weekends aren’t usually packed with friend things — and my only sibling lives far away and we never see him (which I know makes my parents very sad), so I make an effort to see my parents a lot to make up for it. We’re a close family. Plus they’re getting older (mid-60s), and I have so much anxiety over it that I need to see them ALL THE TIME for my own peace of mind.

      But yeah, I kind of had a lightbulb moment when I was telling an older coworker about how my dad and I go to tons of concerts together because we’re both huge music fans, and I must have gotten into some longish story about my dad, because she got a weird look on her face and I was sorta like… ohhhhh, maybe it’s weird to talk this much about my dad. But it sucks because my dad is great and hilarious! And so is my mom, who watches a lot of the same TV shows my boss watches, so I always seem to bring her up in conversation about TV shows! But I’m definitely trying to censor myself more in this area.

      1. AliceBD*

        I’m pretty similar! And I’m actually about to move from 5.5 hours away from my parents to 1.5 hours away from my parents, living (hopefully, haven’t signed the lease yet) 5 minutes from my dad’s sister and seeing my cousins frequently, in part so if my dad has to have more surgeries I can go hang out in the hospital, and so as they age I can be around. My brother is also across the country and terrible about calling, and I text and call my mom all the time, and I mostly keep up with my friends via the internet.

        I am currently in the same small industry as my mom and got my job because the person who hired me had met me at an industry event when I tagged along with my mom because the event was near me, and me having the background of growing up knowing this niche industry has come in incredibly handy, so my mom comes up frequently in conversation. (The industry event was for the public put on by companies, so it was totally normal that I was there.) I’m really going to have to watch it at my new job though. But being 27 instead of 21 has also helped a lot.

  4. Snark*

    God, this could have been written by me, about a year ago. One of my team was 22, just out of college, and would literally not stop talking about her parents, and her brothers, and about how hard adulting is, and how weird it was to go to work all year instead of have summer break, and stuff. And, like….I get it. But I finally had to tell her to rein it in, a little more bluntly than Alison recommends – she was joking around about how she was adulting, but she still went home for mom’s cooking, and I was like, “Jane, you’re not adulting. You’re an adult. Cut it out.” And she kind of looked startled, and it actually evolved into kind of an awesome chat about impostor syndrome and how I feel about being a dad and we’re all faking it till we make it and so on.

    There’s a whole genus of Buzzfeed articles and memes that feed this sort of weird, pre-adult mindset of “OH MY GOD look at me paying bills and going to work, I’m adulting so hard.” And that’s kind of where a 20-23 year old is in life, naturally, but I feel like there’s a lot of media that cultivates this ironic detatchment from adulthood (I’m actually still a kid, but I’m adulting!) that’s not productive.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      I love this story, and your wording was awesome! I work in a very young office (and am young myself) and it bothers me when my coworkers refer to themselves as “adulting” when doing basic tasks. Granted, most of them receive some kind of support from their parents, so that probably contributes to the problem.

    2. not really*

      I’d be curious to hear Jane’s side of this, because I bet it’s a lot different.

        1. not really*

          “And it actually evolved into kind of an awesome chat about impostor syndrome and how I feel about being a dad and we’re all faking it till we make it and so on.”

          You left the conversation feeling upbeat and like you’d really made a connection after having a really blunt conversation with her. But then you gripe about the “whole genus of Buzzfeed articles and memes that feed this sort of weird, pre-adult mindset,” which feels really dismissive to me of the people who are actually trying to figure this out.

          I was this young woman. A man talked to me. I nodded and played along, and it was a very important early lesson that sometimes jobs aren’t about coming to a consensus with a colleague, but they’re more about making sure the older male colleague feels like he’s been allowed to have his opinion heard.

          I don’t know you. I don’t know how that conversation went. And maybe I’m way way way off base here. But throughout this chat you’ve been saying that kids these days just need to chill/buck up/get over themselves/grow up, and that’s just not something i’ve found helpful whenever anyone brings it up. In fact, it’s usually a sign that the person speaking doesn’t have a lot of empathy for what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes.

          But really my main problem has been expressed elsewhere here better: there’s no problem with the word “adulting,” as an idea or a concept, and it’s bizarre to me that people take such offense to it.

          1. fposte*

            The thing is, no one person gets to absolve language; there are a lot of words that people can claim there are no problems with that will still hurt your career if you use.

            1. not really*

              Meanwhile, I work in a place where “adulting” is actually something we talk about professionally and publicly. I’m in media, and we write about it so much that we’ve made it its own subsection of the site, and it’s one of the most popular. So perhaps you can see my bafflement at people who find it offensive.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, I think that’s why the parallel with swearing works for me. In some groups it’s part of the landscape; in others it’s going to make people look at you askance.

              2. paul*

                from the letter, and from Snark’s, I think the phrase wasn’t remotely the heart of the issue they were having.

              3. Snark*

                I don’t find it offensive at all. I use it myself, though not in a professional context. However, in context with this particular coworker of mine, I think it featured in a litany of negative self-talk that was wearing a groove and undermining her sense of herself in a professional, adult role.

          2. Dulf*

            Removed this and the replies to it. Everyone, please read the damn site rules, stay on topic (I realize that ship has long sailed on this post) and be kind to other people here.

          3. paul*

            In a work context, it is entirely possible to make the mistake of talking too much about personal stuff going on. There’s no hard and fast rule–at least I don’t think there is–but it’s a (I think) pretty common thing for people new to the workforce to make some flubs with it. I know I did, I know my youngest colleague did when she started, I’ve heard from friends in manager positions about it…and I don’t think it’s just a generational thing, more like an experience thing.

          4. Snark*

            “I don’t know you. I don’t know how that conversation went. And maybe I’m way way way off base here.”

            You should have acknowledged this right off the bat, because you truly have no idea how that conversation went. You’re choosing to read it in the least friendly, supportive, and compassionate way possible, so much so that it verges on saying more about you than me, and frankly it’s so far off base that I’m not sure how to even defend myself.

            “But then you gripe about the “whole genus of Buzzfeed articles and memes that feed this sort of weird, pre-adult mindset,” which feels really dismissive to me of the people who are actually trying to figure this out.”

            Sorry you feel that way. However, my point was that there’s a steady flow of media that I think feeds impostor syndrome and intimidation, and entrenches a sense of alienation from adult life by treating it as ironic and funny. That’s a criticism of the media, not you.

            “But throughout this chat you’ve been saying that kids these days just need to chill/buck up/get over themselves/grow up, and that’s just not something i’ve found helpful whenever anyone brings it up.”

            ….No? That’s literally not anything I’ve said. I’ve repeatedly and explicitly expressed empathy with people in this situation, and defended them, and related my own shock at utility bills and fixing toilets guided by YouTube videos.

          5. long time lurker*

            Yeah, I was thinking this too. If someone said, “You’re not adulting. You’re an adult. Cut it out,” I’d be very bothered by it. It is dismissive. I wouldn’t have said anything, but internally I would have logged that away as coming from one of those people who think they understand more about young people than they do, hence picking on phrases you don’t understand.
            Even from the phrasing in Allison’s letter, I’d think that my boss didn’t understand this way of self-expression, but hers is better because I would have also taken it as a cue not to use the word at work (instead of not to use the word in front of this specific person). Still though. First time I disagreed with one of Allison’s posts.

            1. Snark*

              “Yeah, I was thinking this too. If someone said, “You’re not adulting. You’re an adult. Cut it out,” I’d be very bothered by it. It is dismissive.”

              It wasn’t, in context, and with tone, personal history, and other things you would not be privy to even if I provided you a detailed transcript, which I shouldn’t really have to do in order to relate a brief personal anecdote without having my character and motivations called into question. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s not even the exact wording I used.

              This tendency to cross-examine the living hell out of people based on minor turns of phrase is among the least attractive features of this particular comment community.

              1. Nye*

                FWIW, Snark, I agree with you. I’ve been reading the comments here for years, because they’re often quite insightful. (In large part because Alison won’t tolerate bad behavior.) But recently, it seems like more and more of the comments are “concern trolling”, which I don’t find at all helpful. It’s made me much more reluctant to comment, since I feel like anything I say is likely to be mired in increasingly unlikely hypotheticals.

                All of which is to say, thanks for your original comment. I think it’s quite interesting to consider that the “adulting” phenomenon might be connected with imposter syndrome around actually being an adult. Especially in an environment where most new adults can’t realistically reach many of the traditional markers of adulthood (house, kids, etc) until later in their lives.

            2. CM*

              Like so many other things in life, I think it depends. If someone generally talks a lot, especially at work, about how hard it is for them to carry out basic adult responsibilities, they come across as immature and sometimes it’s good to be made aware of that. On the other hand, if someone jokes about “adulting” because they just spent all day fixing the toilet or have to skip the party to take their mom to a doctor’s appointment, then it would be dismissive to say, “You’re not adulting. You’re an adult.”

              This letter is really about the former — somebody who sees herself as not really an adult, which is causing coworkers to see her as being immature. It’s been interesting to read this thread about the various interpretations and uses of “adulting” but this letter isn’t really about that. Nor is it about Millennials in general.

    3. Morning Glory*

      That kind of talk every day would have driven me crazy, you were right to let your employee know not to do it.

      Although it’s annoying in the office, I do think that the buzzfeed articles etc. on ‘adulting’ can be valuable for recent grads to use as a blueprint for fiscal and personal responsibility – especially for young adults who didn’t had responsible ‘adulting’ behavior modeled at home.

      I get the sense that money matters didn’t necessarily get talked about and written about as openly when previous generations were young, and that reinforced cycles of financial bad habits – at least it did in my family.

    4. Emi.*

      The “OH MY GOD look at me paying bills and going to work, I’m adulting so hard” memes are at least better than the “I’m such a mess lol I ruin everything I touch and I don’t seek treatment for my mental illness lol” memes. To me they seem more like “yay, I’m learning skills and developing good habits” more than “I’m not really an adult.”

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Same. I feel like a hot mess some days, and mental illness makes certain things really hard, but I hate the second category you mentioned. There is nothing charming about mental illness ruining your life–been there, done that, got the semicolon tattoo. No, no, and no.

    5. Lata*

      It’s also very privileged and blind to the fact so many don’t have a choice. You “adult” or you starve.

      Not only does someone who say this look like a kid in adult clothes, they look to me to be someone who doesn’t get how lucky they are.

      Where I grew up, people still move out at 18. If you stay home, you have to work in farms or factories.

      So much of the content of these discussions are framed by privilege blindness. Even the comments upthread about whether it’s harder now are framed by the notion that suburban middle class American existence is the default.

      For the poor inner city kids, for farm kids, for the kids on the Rez, for the children of struggling immigrants, there isn’t the same context.

      I recently watched Spa Night w my husband. He was born in LA, but the world he had lived in is not the same as the main character in that movie. That reality, the one of the MC in Winter”s Bone, etc. are no less important that that of the children of the middle class.

      1. Lata*

        PS I know I have my own cultural context and blinders.

        Not posting to shut down discussion, but to say there are alternatives takes and we all need to listen and think

      2. Morning Glory*

        Adulting isn’t survival though, it’s making responsible, adult-level decisions like going to the doctor proactively, or setting up a retirement account, or how to adult by investing with Acorns, etc.. I get it, I come from below the poverty line, and I know those things are out of reach for a lot of people.

        But, a culture where young adults publicly talk about the steps they are taking for financial security creates new social norms and expectations. When my parents were young, poor first generation college grads they did not know about many of the secret ‘adulting’ steps that their peers from more financially literate households were doing. They knew only what their siblings and families were doing. A generation later, my husband, who also grew up below the poverty line, and I, both benefited from a much more open discourse on what adulting is and how to do it, instead of just looking to our parents as examples for advice.

        Sure, the terminology sounds infantile and ridiculous. But the knowledge gained from these articles, and even the cultural normalization of being fiscally responsible has been invaluable. We adulted our way into home ownership in a D.C. suburb and paid off our student loans in our twenties. We adulted 401Ks and I adulted through a healthcare crisis at 22 by doing things like calling to make my own doctors appointments and appealing health insurance denials. ‘Adulting culture’ may be a sign of privilege, but it’s also a way of sharing insider knowledge so that people without that privilege can find out information on how to do things. If you are seeing your rich FB friend’s pictures of a trip to Paris, and not seeing her ‘adulting’ post about investing in her 401K, you are seeing the consumption norm but not the fiscal responsibility norm. I find the dismissals of this as privileged to be actively harmful to low-income young adults.

      3. a different Vicki*

        The people I know who refer to “adulting” know that it’s do those adult things or, possibly, go hungry, or be homebound because nobody else is going to get that wheelchair fixed, or suffer from untreated toothaches, or such. But knowing you have to do something doesn’t make it easy, and if giving yourself kudos for making that difficult phone call, or getting work done even though you’re sick helps you get through the day, go for it. Or if it helps you pace yourself, rather than doing all the stressful things on Monday and then being so out of spoons on Tuesday that all you can do is pet the cat.

        One of the things about being an adult who lives thousands of miles from her mother is that I can have ice cream for lunch if I want to, or get up at 4:30 to look for frogs at dawn and then go back to bed; there’s a meaningful difference between the shape of being an adult that means I can do that, and the shape that means I have to be sure that we have cat food, and the electric bill is paid.

      4. CM*

        That’s a great point. While I still like the term “adulting” to mean doing stuff you’d really rather not, I now have a better understanding of how annoying and entitled it can sound to somebody who has ALWAYS done that stuff, without having anybody congratulate them for it.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think the term’s kind of cute but that’s been a really good point about its application.

        2. Grapey*

          Hmm that brings up a good point – does anyone really say “adulting” to themselves? Or is it just that they want to appear adultlike to other people?

          I’ve said adulting once or twice in reference to myself but I didn’t really like it since it came off as so self-deprecating. That, plus I enjoy being an adult.

          1. Emi.*

            I say to to myself because I find it enormously helpful to think of adulthood as something you do instead of something you are–a mythical status that I’m supposed to have attained (how?!?) but don’t feel like I have. Adulting-as-action means that I can meet “Help, I don’t know how to X, I don’t count as an adult” with “It’s okay, I can learn that.”

      5. JAM*

        In my area, poor means you stay at home. Poor means you might be still living at home at 33 and you might have a sandwiched household, a multi-generational group all supporting each other. Grandma lives with you and watches any young kids while people work, mom and kid pool their paychecks to keep the house payments and insurance going up, grandma doesn’t drive so someone else drives her.

        Moving out and “adulting” is a sign that the entire family is successful enough to start outsourcing (OATS is going to pick up grandma so she can see her mall walking friends, job just got on-site daycare so I don’t have to stick them in a daycare 30 minutes out of the way, kid got a desk job so she can afford to get a rental of her own now) and then people who have run a house as a group are suddenly alone. Adulting isn’t just for the rich. I hear coworkers from my Walmart days and the startup world I live in now all use it to describe transitioning life phases or doing boring adult stuff.

        1. CM*

          That’s a really interesting perspective — “successful enough to start outsourcing” is a new concept for me.
          My parents are from a culture where multigenerational families living together is the norm. My husband and I live on our own with no family around, not because we don’t want to be near them but because we do not like our respective hometowns and never want to go back there. And in the town where we live, there are lots of multi-generational families sharing homes and often responsibilities (typically in a 2-family or 3-family house, where each floor is its own apartment) but it’s not related to material success. All different models from what you’re talking about.

          1. Julia*

            I am getting somewhat sick of this whole ‘be independent! move out as soon as you can’ shtick. Sometimes, it seems that independence is just a lack of responsibilities for others.

      6. Emi.*

        I never hear people talking about adulting as something merely optional. It’s “yay, I’m getting a handle on all these non-optional things!” If other people are already doing those things, good for them! But also good for people who are starting to do them now.

  5. TCO*

    That’s really great language, Alison. I had a similar conversation once with a 19-yo student employee. She would bring some great ideas to client meetings, but would preface them with phrases like, “A couple of years ago in high school, we did XYZ for a similar program to this.” I told her that her ideas were great and that she was underselling herself by inadvertently advertising her youth so explicitly. I encouraged her to let her ideas speak for themselves because she was wise beyond her years and I didn’t want people to write her off by being reminded of how young she was. She was grateful for the advice.

  6. Anna*

    I feel like this is another kind of Imposter Syndrome. We (meaning those of us of in our 30s and 40s) maybe inadvertently give off the “wait until you’re MY age” vibe, which can reinforce the idea that the things young people are doing right now aren’t grown-up or adult enough. It gets internalized and it doesn’t surprise me someone doesn’t feel like they’re really a capable grown-up with a job and a career path.

    1. Snark*

      I think those of us who’ve leveled up to homeowner, car owner, munchkin wrangler-level adulting do kind of tend to look at the struggles of 22 year olds with a little bit of an “oh, honey” kind of attitude. Which sucks, because a lot of millennials were really sheltered from a lot of adult realities – I know I was – and there’s a certain shock and horror to suddenly comprehending how expensive just living is, how work is stressful, how much the world seems to be arrayed against you, and how complicated it is to keep track of stuff. I think we’d all do well to have a little compassion for young adults.

      1. fposte*

        You’re putting your finger on where I think a lot of this lies, too; I think we’re struggling (again, mostly in middle-class households) with what this transition looks like in an era where young people are considered to be under their parents’ protection at increasingly higher ages.

        1. Snark*

          It’s a weird feature of millennials’ parents being boomers, who could generally count on an affluent middle class lifestyle and financial security if they had a degree of any kind or even just strong work experience. They’re in a position to provide lodging, financial assistance, and so on in a world very different from the one they came up in.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I was ahead of the curve chronologically as a tail-end boomer but had a similar experience; my family were early pioneers of the soft launch, and it worked better for some of us than for others.

      2. anoning*

        I don’t even think it’s an age thing, necessarily. I get that “oh honey” vibe from people my own age (early 30s) who have “leveled up” when I haven’t. It’s pretty irritating no matter your age since there’s still a pervasive idea that you have to do specific things to be considered an adult.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Agreed! I am perfectly content to rent and not be responsible for the cost of major home repairs. And I’ve never been married because I haven’t found the right person.

          1. Breda*

            The thing where you’re regarded as more of an adult because you’re married/partnered is so frustrating to me, particularly in a city where it’s very very difficult to afford to live on your own. Because I’m single, I have to have roommates, and that often (especially when talking to people in other places) contributes to a sense that I’m playing house instead of being a self-sufficient adult.

            1. Snark*

              I understand how the condescension and dismissal are hugely frustrating, and it’s not warranted, but I do think spouses, kids, and home ownership raise the stakes and add dimensions. You’re of course just as much an adult and just as self-sufficient as I, but.

              1. fposte*

                It’s also a neat demarcation in a culture that doesn’t have a lot of those. I suspect in places with mandatory military service that might play a similar role.

              2. Gandalf the Nude*

                In the nicest way possible, spouses, kids, and home ownership are not the only way to raise stakes and add dimensions, and implying they are does ring quite condescending.

                1. Snark*

                  And in the nicest way possible, I have to remind you that I didn’t state or imply that they were, and I really can’t defend things I didn’t say.

                  I bring those particular three up because they’re three of the most common and universal ways that the stakes get raised in one’s adulting, and common features of many people’s life plans, and so are most relevant to a general discussion. And, as fposte says, they’re a neat demarcation between life stages in this culture.

                2. Chinook*

                  I agree that “spouses, kids, and home ownership” aren’t the only way to raise stakes, but they are very clear ways to do so and there are no “take backs” once you do so, especially when it comes to tying yourself to another human. You are literally leveling up with no option to go back to a previous save point once you realize you divided up your “level up points” unwisely. It is like you have unlocked a new level and no one who has not been there can truly understand the complexities before you or the price of failure.

                3. Gandalf the Nude*

                  @Snark Sorry, I didn’t refresh before submitting, so I didn’t see your response below to anoning or that you were specifically saying it wasn’t cool. I see now that you were saying the condescension is not warranted, not the frustration. But without that extra context, I think your comment implied something you didn’t intend. It’s extremely similar to the wording my uncle used when criticizing my choice not to marry or have children.

              3. Breda*

                Kids certainly do, but while a spouse adds certain responsibilities, they also relieve you of others. Having a person you can rely on who also relies on you is a different dynamic than only being able to rely on yourself, but it’s not exactly MORE of a thing. Like, taking care of someone who’s sick is different from taking care of yourself when you’re sick. I was thinking about this a lot recently when I had some weird devastating cold that made me dizzy if I stood up for more than 5 minutes, but when I needed tissues I had to go out and buy them myself and try not to pass out on the sidewalk. If you have a partner, you can send them out for tissues with the understanding that you’ll do the same the next time they’re sick. Or if I have an unexpected medical bill, or a major purchase to make, I don’t have anyone to share that expense with. It’s just me. People talk a lot about the additional responsibilities that come with relationships, but less about the ways in which they relieve burdens.

                (Kids, obviously, are different, because they rely wholly on you.)

                1. Breda*

                  Or, for another example, how I can’t afford my own studio apartment, but would pay less to share a one-bedroom with a partner than I do now to share a three-bedroom with two other women.

                2. Kate 2*

                  Absolutely! If a single person loses their job, that’s it, game over. They have to have savings to cover their bills (unemployment doesn’t cover much even if you can get it) or friends or family they can couchsurf with. If you have a working spouse and lose your job your life is much easier and you are more secure. You have another source of income while you find a job. It is very rare, though it does happen, that you both lose your jobs at the same time.

                3. Snark*

                  My income is X. My wife’s salary is X/2. Her paycheck basically covers the mortgage, but not groceries, bills and utilities, debt service, incidentals, and so on. Don’t imagine that having our household income cut by 2/3rds wouldn’t be a massive burden, should I lose my job.

              4. Allison*

                All sorts of life experiences contribute to your maturity, and I do agree that getting married and having kids do give you more responsibilities and thus a higher sense of maturity. It may also be that some people suck at adulthood during their single years and are sort of “forced” to grow up a lot when a kid comes into the picture, but there are people who don’t need a child or spouse to make them grow up.

                1. Julia*

                  But then there are also people who get married because they cannot adult alone. Isn’t there a statistic on men remarrying quickly after a divorce or being widowed because their new wife will cook and clean for them and do emotional labour?

          2. Kate 2*

            Me too! My pet peeve is the “all people with kids are better than all people without kids” thing. Responsibility, “real love”, etc, are all things childless people will never understand apparently. Like, loving your parents, siblings, friends, that isn’t real love. The only love that is legitimate and important is parent to child. Also you didn’t want Christmas off did you? Because Jennifer has kids and clearly her life is more important than yours.

            1. The Rat-Catcher*

              That part about the holidays is really crappy to do to people. Those should be worked out irrespective of that. And to operate under the assumption that the childless don’t have anyone that they care about is ridiculous.

            2. Rana*

              I’m a parent and I think that attitude is shitty. I’m sorry anyone’s pulling that crap on you.

        2. Snark*

          I think it’s more of an “Oh, honey, you think it’s hard to find time to get stuff done when you don’t have kids? You have no idea.” Which is still fairly condescending, but I don’t think they’re saying you’re not an adult, I think they’re saying they think your life is comparitively simple and straighforward compared to their complications.

          1. anoning*

            Uh….in my experience, it’s a very condescendingly “polite” way of saying you’re not an adult. Assuming your life is more complicated than mine because you have X, Y, Z and I don’t is pretty dismissive. My life can still be just as complicated without X, Y, Z. There’s more to people’s lives than marriage, children, and houses and dismissing that and acting as though those three things are the height of self-sufficiency, adulthood, and life complications is pretty gross.

            1. Snark*

              Yes and no. I try very hard not to indulge in this myself, because as you say, I know 20 year olds who have lifes infinitely harder than mine is, and unless you know someome really well it’s gross to assume their lives are simple.


              On the other side, being personally responsible for paying back a loan of over a quarter million dollars and having a small, unformed, needy person utterly dependent on you and your earnings for their every material and emotional need, that added a level of complication, stakes, and emotional labor to my life that utterly dwarfs anything that came before. It can be easy to look at people not facing those particular challenges, remember how simple it was when getting the landlord to fix the toilet counted as a major challenge, and get a little condescending. Again, not saying it’s right.

                1. Snark*

                  This thing you’re doing here, where you respond indignantly to things I didn’t say or even remotely imply? You can stop that. I can’t possibly defend things I didn’t say in the first place.

                2. Anna*

                  Literally he is not saying that. I feel like you’re taking a lot of this personally when it’s not intended. In fact, this comment you’re responding to, Snark is speaking specifically about THEIR OWN thought process and how off it is.

                3. Snark*

                  Thanks, Anna. Yes, that is exactly what I’m doing. Yes, I have thought this. Yes, I realize that it’s awful and judgmental and minimizing. Yes, I specifically said that it’s not right.

              1. EmptyPockets*

                Okay, but I don’t *want* children. So because I don’t want them, that makes my problems easier to look at condescendingly? I’m not going to have a kid I don’t want so that I get respect from people who think my life is soooooo easy without one.

                1. Snark*

                  Like I said: I can’t defend something I didn’t say in the first place. I really did my best to underline that I don’t think this condescension is fair or right. But if you want to understand why people with kids find it easy to be condescending to people who don’t, I’m trying to tell you why that might be.

                  Take it or leave it, but you know damn well I’m not telling you to have a kid to get respect.

              2. anoning*

                Except this is a pretty narrow worldview that still places people will partners, kids, and mortgages as more important.

                I have a student loan and tons of medical debt I have to pay for myself. I have no partner to help me with that. It’s all on me. That’s a huge level of complication, stakes, and emotional labor to my life that dwarfs anything else. So, by that logic, I can look at someone with a partner and go, “wow it sure must be easy to have someone else there to help with the bills”. But the thing is, I’m going to be looked down on for doing that whereas someone with a partner, kid, and house is rarely going to get called out for being condescending to someone who’s single.

                I know you’re saying it’s not right, and I appreciate that, but the thing of it is that society has for a long time, placed people with partners, kids, and houses as more important and “more complicated” than people without, and it’s really tiring. I don’t need a pandering excuse as to why someone with kids/etc might be condescending, I just want them to realize that people who are single and without kids have things they have to overcome and that sometimes those with kids/houses/partners have it easier in some regards.

                1. fposte*

                  I think there are (at least) two different conversations here, though. Does having kids or a house make you a fuller or more important person than people without those things? No. Does having kids or a house mean you have some experience that people without those things don’t have? Yes, absolutely (and possibly vice versa, of course). Do those people have more emotional maturity? Maybe, in some small ways, compared to their age cohort, but I don’t think in a way that really matters in the workplace. But “maturity” isn’t the same thing as “having it harder.”

              3. Kate 2*

                I mean, I have student loans that take a full quarter of my salary (rent in a low-income building takes half), I also have two mental illnesses and multiple (thankfully minor) health conditions. Compared to the people around me who are *just* dealing with kids and maybe student loan debt, I feel like it is pretty easy to be condescending.

                But see, doesn’t that sound awful! I know you are saying that you don’t feel this way, but it really sounds pretty bad. That’s why I think people are not responding very well to your comments.

                1. EmptyPockets*

                  Thank you for this. I know plenty of people who aren’t married and don’t have kids, but they have extensive student loan or medical debt, have endured medical hardships, have been caretakers for parents who have died young, etc. etc. etc. And to say that they lack the emotional maturity that someone with a spouse and/or child and/or house has strikes me as awful. I know people who have two kids who are less emotionally mature than my friend who has survived two different kinds of cancer and a whole host of related medical issues. To look at her and say, “Well, yeah, but you don’t have a tiny helpless human to care for so I’m more emotionally mature” is ridiculous.

                2. Snark*

                  “But see, doesn’t that sound awful! I know you are saying that you don’t feel this way, but it really sounds pretty bad. That’s why I think people are not responding very well to your comments.”

                  It does sound awful. It is awful. It also sounds like the kind of awful thought we all have, which we’re all not proud of, and which color a lot of interactions we have.

            2. Kate 2*

              Yep, caring for elderly parents, helping sick friends and family, volunteering to foster animals, like abused dogs, training guide dogs, fostering kids, working two jobs, taking night classes, having a disability or disabling illness(es) mental and otherwise, etc.

              There are a million life complications that people without kids can have. To ignore them is ridiculous and oblivious.

      3. nnn*

        And aside from the degree to which one is sheltered from adult realities, there’s also the fact that a lot of stuff is hard until you’re used to doing it. I just think back about how stressful it was to call for a doctor’s appointment or ask my landlord for a repair when I was 22 – I had to psych myself up, write scripts, etc. – whereas now it’s just something I mindlessly bing off while a document is printing.

      4. BananaPants*

        YES. I married at 24, became a homeowner at 25, and a mother at 29. When one of my 23 year old coworkers is talking at work about how they “adulted” by making a dentist appointment or cooking a meal that didn’t involve nuking a frozen dinner, it’s really temping to say, “Oh, honey, you have NO IDEA.”

        But I do remember that when I was their age, I felt proud of myself for doing basic things. As I figured out more of the realities of independent living and had more responsibility for other people, my version of “adulting” became progressively more challenging. When you have the ability to keep more balls in the air at the same time, juggling one seems easy. The 22 year old me would have hyperventilated at the thought of working full time, going to grad school part time, and raising two children while working a different schedule from my spouse – and at 36, that’s my life and I don’t find it particularly noteworthy or special that I do it. The idea that calling to make a dentist appointment is a challenging task IS pretty laughable in my world TODAY, but I remember being 22 and so nervous about having to make an appointment for a haircut that I went to walk-in salons for like a year. It’s all a matter of perspective.

        That said, I never talked about accomplishing basic life tasks at work. My then-manager was in his early 50s and had children my age, and my coworkers were men in their 30s and 40s. All were homeowners, most were parents. There was *no way* that I would have bragged to them that I’d successfully Googled how to plunge a toilet or figured out how to rent a carpet cleaning machine. If I had, I probably would have gotten their not-so-nice version of, “Oh, honey…”

    2. Annalee*

      Yes! I am sure that OP is not doing this, but older colleagues sometimes make me (a 24-year-old) feel younger than I am – I make sure to never comment on my age, but some of my coworkers who are in their late 50’s or 60’s will often comment about how research assistants “keep getting younger” or how I’m younger than their kids. And then I feel very self conscious!

      1. Breda*

        Oh god, yeah. When I was under 25 I refused to ever mention my age – I had clients who were older than me, and went to conferences where I taught people my parents’ age, and I was terrified of undermining myself. I’ve now reached the ripe old age of 28 (looooool) and no longer feel like everyone sees me as a child, so I don’t dodge those questions anymore.

      2. Malibu Stacey*

        I have been told I look younger than my age most of my life. At my first week at my first office job as a receptionist when I was 21, a guy came in on the wrong day and I was scrambling trying to figure out what to do, so he asked, “Is there an adult I can talk to?”

      3. Anon16*

        You know what’s funny? Sometimes I mention my age as a defense mechanism, almost as if I expect somebody’s already thinking about it, etc. Maybe the person in this letter is doing the same?

    3. Anonymous 40*

      I’m not sure it’s inadvertent a lot of the time. It drives me crazy how many people our age are so casually smug in their superiority to “millennials.” I had a hard time feeling grown up in my early 20s and I can’t imagine how a constant cultural message of “people like you are so immature/sheltered/lazy/etc” would have made things any better. It’s ironic, really, because I remember a lot of the same things said by older generations back in the mid 90s.

      1. fposte*

        It’s one of the great cheap superiorities. And sure, on the one hand, 50 is likely to know things that 25 doesn’t, but that’s from being around for 25 more years, not from being special. It’s like lording it over babies that they don’t understand object permanence and you do.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Eh, yeah, all generations see themselves as superior to the one below, and the one below sees the ones above as old, washed-up, and irrelevant, right?

        Even though I’m now one of the older female employees in my company, I catch myself being a little taken aback when I meet an accomplished female who iseven older then me outside of my work. So many of the women I grew up around had “working for fun money” types of jobs, or if they were professionals, it was in education or social work. My default perception is that a woman over 50 couldn’t have a career like mine. I’m wrong, but I am prepared to be viewed that way by the 20-somethings.

    4. Marillenbaum*

      It’s something I find frustrating as well. I’m 27 and interning this summer as part of my grad program (I wnet back to school full-time for my MA). Something about the word “intern” keeps people in my workplace from seeing me as a “real” adult. I see myself as an adult–hell, I AM an adult–but somehow I’m on par with the 20-year-old undergrad in their eyes.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Not to pile on, but you should explicitly remind this woman that if she continues her behavior, it really will make people question her and possibly think less of her professionally — even if there’s nothing concrete in her work to support that.

    Of course when we go to work, we get a sense of how young and old employees are. That can’t be helped. But this woman needs to show her age in professional expertise not personal stories or emotional dependence on her parents. Parents in that capacity do not belong in the workplace, and they certainly don’t deserve any professional credit. Even if they give you a budget to stick to (!), that’s not something an adult should be sharing.

    Here’s a good example. A friend of mine is a partner in a law firm. A first year attorney was assigned to a team of lawyers, and everyone (lawyers and clients) were headed into court. This young lawyer chose that moment to call her parents and express her insecurities about the case she was working on and she said she didn’t think she could be successful. Everyone, including the client, heard this conversation and this woman’s mother giving positive emotional support.

    That’s not something you want your lawyer to be saying when you’re in the midst of a multi-million dollar lawsuit and you’re paying this attorney by the hour.

    If this continues, it will never matter how good this employee’s performance is. If she’s playing up her youth and constantly referring to her parents, then that’s all people will ever see.

    1. Snark*

      “Everyone, including the client, heard this conversation and this woman’s mother giving positive emotional support.”

      I just cringed SO HARD. Oh, honey… No, no, no.

      1. Frozen Ginger*

        I can’t even imagine doing that. Like, maybe calling after work or in the bathroom, but in front of people?? Nooooooo

    2. mreasy*

      The lack of professional boundary understanding is what’s boggling here. I’m 37 and still get support from my mom about work frustrations sometimes, but I have those calls at home! It’s not relying on parents of taking their advice that’s odd, it’s the lack of scruples around revealing all of that. I simply do not understand why that’s missing in some folks.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I was working a hiring fair for my employer a couple months ago and job candidates showed up with their parents. Thankfully they didn’t bring them in for the actual interviews, but they brought their parents.

        1. BananaPants*

          I would have been so humiliated if my parents had tried to come to interviews with me. Actually, I would have told them, “Hell no, I’m not making my youth and inexperience even more crystal clear than it already is.”

    3. Alexa*

      I can assure you that it will make people question her and think less of her professionally. I worked with someone who is in her late 40s and is very much like this. I’ve worked with her over the years and her always bringing her parents into the conversation is more than just cringe worthy.

    4. hbc*

      I think I would rather be caught participating in the office duck club than be overheard having that conversation by colleagues.

  8. Roker Moose*

    I cringe now, remembering I did much the same at her age. I was teaching 16-18 year olds and was constantly mentioning how recently I’d finished uni; that I was only 22; etc. I think I felt a sense of shock that here I was, an authority figure, when I still lived at home. It was a strange dichotomy.

    But definitely speak to your employee. Let her know she’s valued for her contributions, but her focus on her age and (what she probably feels as a lack of experience) could hurt her prospects.

  9. Grits McGee*

    She often talks about her parents and even credits them for helping with her work.

    So, is this at-home work (budgeting, chores, etc) or is this work-work? Because if it’s the latter, then that’s even more problematic. It’s fine to get input or proofreading from family, but you definitely don’t want to be broadcasting that you had Mom and Dad help you write your teapot spout reports.

  10. Rachel Green*

    As a young single person (not married, don’t have children) my parents and siblings are my “family” and I talk about them just as much as my coworkers talk about their spouses and kids. It sounds like this manager is annoyed her employee is talking about her parents so much, but would she be taken aback if the employee was talking about a spouse or kids?

    I agree that if her parents are helping her with her work, then that 100% needs to be addressed. But all the other stuff I think is fine.

    1. ZSD*

      Well, the amount that people talk about their families varies by office; it’s possible that the letter writer is in an office where most people just don’t mention their home life too often.
      However, even if other people *do* talk about their spouse or kids, then yes, I think it still carries a different vibe when someone talks about their parents. The issue is that it connotes youth and immaturity in a way that talking about, say, a spouse doesn’t.

      1. anoning*

        It’s incredibly unfair to view someone as immature because they don’t have a partner to talk about and they consider their family their parents and siblings.

        It’s one more way single people are ostracized in society or viewed as “not true adults” and it’s ridiculous (and I’m not saying you do this, but that’s the general implication your comment evokes).

        1. Here we go again*

          Yep! I hate this mentality… I would love to “not be single,” but I am not settling to meet some arbitrary standard that society has set. It’s so frustrating to be seen as a child or not full adult because I am not married with 2.5 kids blah blah…

          1. ZSD*

            I’m sorry if what I said earlier implied that the lack of a spouse makes someone seem immature. That wasn’t my intention at all. What I think makes someone seem immature is the talking about parents; if you’re single but don’t still talk about your parents as if they’re still parenting you, that’s fine.
            I really do apologize for offending you.

            1. Here we go again*

              I wasn’t offended… It’s just the stigma around it that annoys me. I do think as people stay single longer and have kids later (or never) it will get better, but it will be a while before it becomes the norm.

            2. paul*

              yeah, which is what OP’s employee is doing.

              I mean, there’s a huge gap between “Yeah, I’m heading down state to visit my folks over the holidays, hope it goes well” and “Oh, my mom told me I can’t go out for lunch anymore.” I get those are extreme examples, but I’m trying to go to extremes to make it easy to see how people could take some statements about your parents differently than others.

        2. Snark*

          For me, kind of like how a triathlete might view a runner. Runners are still accomplished athletes. They are skilled and accomplished at what they do. But swimming and cycling at a highly competitive level while ALSO being a highly competitve runner requires a level of training, diversification, and skills that a runner just hasn’t had to develop.

          I don’t view you as less of an adult or immature. But I do know that you are challenged differently than me, and that I’ve been consequently forced to mature in ways that you have not. Staying with the same partner for 10 years and having a child has forced me to change, grow, adapt, and learn emotional skills I had no reason to develop when I was single.

          1. Here we go again*

            But there are “mature” things single people have to do that coupled people don’t. As a single only child, I have to figure out how to take care of my aging parents on my own. I have to figure out how to fix things, on my own. I have to plan for retirement on my own.

            Yes, having kids forces SOME people to grow up, but I still have heard of people ditching their kids on weekends and partying and doing drugs. I don’t consider that mature at all. I consider it selfish and immature. The fact that they brought a kid into their self-absorbed life makes it worse.

            We are each a product of our individual circumstances. I promise you, being single forces you to mature in ways that people who found their “soul mate” or whatever in high school or college will never experience.

            1. fposte*

              I’m a single person and I don’t think that’s true either, though, any more than onlies have a maturity that people with siblings don’t. You’re talking about the same tasks everybody faces. Unless you’re marrying a caretaker, you’re not getting completely relieved of the burden, and you’ve got their burdens to handle as well.

              While I don’t entirely buy the parents are more mature than non-parents thing in the long run, I think the kind of sucking up stuff you do for competent parenting can be a fast track to maturity, especially if you’re parenting in your early twenties.

              1. Snark*

                This is a great point. I will freely admit that, even in my early 30s, I’ve had to fast-track a lot of learning about selflessness, giving, and deferring my own needs and wants. In a lot of ways, it was harder than if I’d done it at 20, because I had a nice long run of adulthood there where I was completely free to devote entire weekends to going hiking and camping, or spend my entire Saturday afternoon quietly reading a book, or take solo road trips, and canning my desire to do those things was rough.

            2. Snark*

              So….we agree? Because it basically sounds like you’re restating my point in a different way.

              I will amend my statement to say that being a good parent forces you to mature and learn entirely new emotional skills, as your point that there’s a lot of crappy parents is a good one.

              1. Here we go again*

                No, I disagree…. you said that triathletes have multiple skills that runners don’t. Your analogy implies that parents/couples have an additional maturity that singles don’t. I am saying that single people have to mature in ways that are DIFFERENT than people who are coupled, but that doesn’t make them any more or less mature.

                1. Snark*

                  “No, I disagree…. you said that triathletes have multiple skills that runners don’t. Your analogy implies that parents/couples have an additional maturity that singles don’t. ”

                  Maturity is a mindset and an emotional approach to life, not a prize you win, so I disagree with how you’re framing it. As you said, there’s plenty of people of all life situations who are immature, and plenty who are mature. We’re both mature people, I fully acknowledge you as such, so let’s move on.

                  A runner might be a dedicated and skilled athlete, universally recognized as such, but they’re not likely to have developed the swimming skill that a triathlete did. Doesn’t take anything from their status as an athlete, just means they’re not a swimmer in addition to being a runner. In the sense that maturity is a kit of emotional skills to deal with adult life, yeah, I think marriage and parenthood have put a few new ones in my quiver that most (but not all!) singles, or chidless couples, don’t have a chance to develop. That just seems obvious to me. The only singles I know with the emotional skills that came to me with parenting gained them raising younger siblings due to absentee parents, which strikes me as the exception that proves the rule anyway.

                2. Kate 2*

                  Replying to Snark, the skills you list learning as a parent “selflessness, giving, and deferring my own needs and wants” can be learned a lot of ways. As many parents say, being a parent doesn’t give you special or unique powers. All the things you listed, plus the other skill people usually list, multi-tasking and such, everyone can and usually do learn in life.

                  You keep implying that parents have emotional skills that most single and childless people never develop. That just isn’t true.

                3. Oryx*

                  Yes, I have to agree with Kate 2 — I don’t have children and don’t want to have them but other life circumstances have forced me to learn the whole “selflessness, giving, and deferring my own needs and wants.”

                4. Snark*

                  “Replying to Snark, the skills you list learning as a parent “selflessness, giving, and deferring my own needs and wants” can be learned a lot of ways. As many parents say, being a parent doesn’t give you special or unique powers….You keep implying that parents have emotional skills that most single and childless people never develop. That just isn’t true.””

                  The language is sort of failing us, because calling something a skill equates it to something that one can learn and master, right? But selflessness isn’t like learning a recipe or something. My son had a potentially terminal health scare right after he was born. If someone had handed me gas and matches, and said, “If you light yourself on fire right now, I can guarantee your son will live,” I’d have lit up without hesitation. That kind of headspace isn’t a skill.

                5. EmptyPockets*

                  Replying to Snark:
                  But selflessness isn’t like learning a recipe or something. My son had a potentially terminal health scare right after he was born. If someone had handed me gas and matches, and said, “If you light yourself on fire right now, I can guarantee your son will live,” I’d have lit up without hesitation. That kind of headspace isn’t a skill.

                  You’re saying this like someone who doesn’t have a child could never feel that way about another person. If my husband were in a situation where I could trade his life for mine, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m sure there are people who would do the same for a sibling or a parent or a best friend. Your words are implying that true selflessness can only be achieved if one is a parent.

            3. Kate 2*

              I agree. Can we just stop comparing ourselves, making assumptions and looking down on other people? As I said above to Snark, I have burdens that most people don’t. I don’t assume they are less mature than I am.

          2. Yorick*

            This seems really dismissive. A triathlete is a more advanced athlete than a runner. A married person is not a more advanced adult than a single person. MarriedPerson who got married at 18 to Spouse who makes most important decisions is not more mature or a more complete adult than SinglePerson who takes care of everything. I would argue that SinglePerson is better at “adulting” in this scenario.

        3. Julia*

          It also robs single people of a lot of support. You have to be independent from your parents or you’re considered a failure these days, but without a spouse, you’re kind of on your own unless you’re lucky enough to have really close friends that also live close to you.

          It’s also sad because our parents don’t live forever, so why should we not spend time with them while we still can, if that’s what we want?

    2. Anonymous 40*

      It’s not that parents should never come up in conversation, it’s how she talks about them and the frequency. Yes, I talk about my wife and son at work, but in casual conversation. I don’t bring them up in work-related conversations unless they’re extremely relevant. Also, the OP’s team member is talking about her parents in a way that indicates or implies dependence on them. It’s a tricky thing for people to learn to deal with their parents on an adult level. It’s probably clear from her comments that she hasn’t made that transition yet, which will stick out badly in a professional environment where she has adult responsibilities.

    3. Fictional Butt*

      Yes, I was hoping someone would bring this up. I personally think the employee shouldn’t be talking about her parental-approved budget, but it shouldn’t automatically be a problem for her to talk about her parents, or other “young person stuff.” OP, I think you should focus on encouraging the employee to have more confidence in herself as an adult. Don’t make her feel like she has to pretend she’s middle-aged.

    4. HisGirlFriday*

      I also think it depends on the context and what the employee is saying.

      I work in a very small office, and we all talk about our families/lives outside the office fairly often. People will say, ‘HisGirl, what are you doing for Baby HisGirl’s first birthday?’ and I’ll tell them, or I’ll ask someone what she and her husband did on their long weekend and she’ll say they went RV’ing with their six rescue dogs (God love ’em!). Whatever we say is very general and casual — yes, we’re acknowledging the family aspect, but we’re not getting into the nitty-gritty details.

      BEC Lunch Stealer, though, will go into the gory details of, ‘My oldest kid got a concussion playing lacrosse, and then he puked all over the car and that made my other kid puke, too, so then I had to clean up puke and now my car smells like puke. Then we went to a party at Chuck E. Cheese’s and the food gave both my kids diarrhea, so I spent the weekend cleaning that up.’

      Yeah, that’s more detail than anyone wants or needs, tyvm.

      tl;dr: it’s not just the quantity of talk, it’s the content of the talking that matters

    5. Lynn Whitehat*

      I got in minor trouble for this kind of thing in my first job out of college. We developed a product that was the hot new consumer tech of its day. (Like if I worked in the iPhone division of Apple today or something.) We were allowed to purchase the very latest versions much cheaper than most people for ourselves “and family”. I bought one for my mom, because I was 20 and it never ever crossed my mind that my mother wouldn’t be considered family. And then I talked about it at work, all puzzled that I couldn’t specify another address to ship it to.

      So, it turns out that “family” = “spouse and children”, not parents. Oh.

      1. CM*

        I don’t think that’s the same — if I got a “family” discount that didn’t specify who it could be used for, I would think it could include anybody who I reasonably consider family (spouse and children, parents, siblings, in-laws, etc.)

  11. Anne*

    I call my mom for advice on Photoshop or InDesign once every month or two, but the first couple times I did this I told my boss I was calling “a graphic designer I know” because I didn’t want to seem like I was running to mommy for advice. Now I just say I asked my mom because, well, I DID ask my mom.

    1. Anne*

      (I am not a graphic designer, I am just “the person who knows how to operate Adobe software” around the office)

      1. animaniactoo*

        It’s all good – my dad calls me for the same reason. As long as you’re clear that the reason you’re contacting them is that they’re an expert in this thing and you’re not (because you’re not supposed to be), it’s really no different than calling any other friend.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          When my mom started her new job a few months ago, she sent me an email asking me how to make her email address hyperlink in her signature.

    2. Here we go again*

      I do the same with my dad and Excel! I know more about Excel than 98+% of people in the office, and the only person who I know who knows more than me is my Dad. I hate that this is seen as inappropriate, compared to another colleague or friend or whatever, but I’ve learned to own it.

        1. Here we go again*

          I was in the Google-level of Excel phase a couple of years ago, but have fortunately, or unfortunately passed that… There is a point where you need something so random and specific that Google is no longer with your friend in Excel… The more you learn about it, the more you realize you don’t know!

  12. Sarasaurus*

    I’m on the young side (25), and think I can be guilty of this sometimes, though to a lesser extent than OP’s employee. I think part of it stems from wanting extra support, as Alison said. If I, as a 25-year-old, do a good job on a project or present myself well or accomplish something, it’s less expected and therefore more impressive than if a 45-year-old did the same thing. That sounds really crappy as I write it, and maybe I’m totally perpetuating the stereotype that millennials need constant praise, but it is really nice to feel like you’re doing well at something and not just failing at adult life.
    On the flip side, it seems like my older coworkers LOVE to point out my age (“you don’t understand this cultural reference from before you were born? You’re soooo young!” “I can’t believe I have kids your age!” “I started working here when you were in kindergarten!” etc.), and I don’t always know how to respond to that kind of thing. If I laugh and go along with it, I feel like I’m undermining myself, but if shut it down and demand to be taken seriously, that’s overly aggressive. I usually just give a noncommittal laugh and go back to whatever I was doing, but it’s definitely awkward.

    1. Annalee*

      Yes, (also being on the young side) our older coworkers can be just as at fault in undermining us. I rarely mention my age at the office, but I look a little younger than I am even, and my colleagues (who are much older – 60’s or 70’s, even) frequently mention my age and how young I am, or how I won’t get some reference, or something about technology these days. I don’t know if they do it on purpose, and I think it “weirds them out” a little that they work with people younger than their kids, but I never know how to respond.

    2. Grapey*

      I don’t think it’s crappy to want praise – I think more praise should be the default instead of the stick that people seem to continually have in their rear end. My boss consistently praises our team, and we range from 22 to 45 yrs old.

      Keep in mind you were put on a project because it actually is expected that you can at least DO the task – doing it well is just a pleasant extra, and that goes for someone of any age. I know that I do better on some projects than others and I’ve been at my job for 10 years. However I recommend always praising YOURSELF for doing better than you may have expected and be glad that you got to experience a certain skill for example.

      My advice for the awkward stuff would be to just remember that their outbursts are more about them than you. The noncommittal laugh is what I do.

    3. On The Road Again*

      I’m 27, so young-ish in my workplace. I don’t think it’s too “argh, millennials all want trophies” to believe that someone in the beginning of their career should be held to different standards than someone who’s been with the company or in the working world for 20 years. On the flip side of it, we might need more help and patience, and questions we may ask would be silly coming from someone with much more seniority. I often forget, when I’m comparing myself to co-workers, that they’ve got 10 years on me – but that speaks more to my anxiety!

      I totally relate to older co-workers pointing out your age. It can be obnoxious when you just want to be taken seriously.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      +1 for the older coworkers pointing out ages.

      My manager and I are actually the youngest ones in my office (me being younger than manager), but she was well-established as “a baby” when I came in, and I typically don’t take the bait on “generation-specific” comments…. so she still gets a lot of age crap (she doesn’t seem to mind)… and I don’t. Haha!

    5. amanda_cake*

      This is interesting to me.

      My first job out of college was teaching high school English (at my old high school). I already knew many of the teachers there as they were old, seasoned veterans. The rest of the teachers were new like me or relatively new. I guess with a lot of old people and a lot of young people, that might quell some of those comments.

      Now I work in higher ed. The only person over the age of 30 in my office (admissions) is our receptionist. We are all between 24-28 (I think a new hire coming might be 23, but you get the gist). The receptionist hasn’t worked there long enough to make comments about how “she started here when I was in kindergarten” or the like.

  13. BottleBlonde*

    As a fellow early-twenties person – what is the maximum amount you should mention your parents at work? I feel that I mention my parents a fair amount – usually in the context of discussing weekend plans and things, as I live with them and we spend a lot of time together. I work in a tiny office and only really interact with five colleagues, all of whom know my situation. I really never mentioned my parents, or the fact that I lived with them, for my first three or four months, but I felt sharing so little of my personal life was putting a barrier between myself and my colleagues, so I decided to loosen up! But now I’m wondering if I should reel it in…

    1. ZSD*

      My take is that it’s okay to talk about *past* things, as well as things that kind of show your distance from your parents/are normal for “sandwich generation people to be dealing with, but less so things that would show them still kind of parenting you.
      Sample past-oriented things I might share with my co-workers when relevant:
      -My dad grew up poor.
      -My mom was a teacher.
      -My parents both went to Catholic school but sent my siblings and me to public school.

      Sample “sandwich generation” things I might share:
      -My dad has dementia, and we’re thinking about when we’ll cross the line of needing in-home elder care for him.
      -I’m flying back to my home state to visit my parents for a week.
      -I moved across the country so that my husband and I could be closer to our parents as they age.

      Things I wouldn’t share:
      -My mom just sent me a sizable check for my birthday because she’s worried about my finances.
      -I need my dad to teach me how to use [a band saw, a circular saw, whatever]

      The things in the last group signify a remaining dependence that the things in the first two groups don’t. So I don’t think it’s about quantity so much as type.

      1. Alton*

        I think the challenge BottleBlonde is facing though, is that she probably doesn’t have a lot of “sandwich generation” type statements she can make. Having distance from your parents and being dependent on them aren’t the only two options here, and someone who lives with/near their parents will probably find occasion to say things like:

        “My weekend was nice–my mom and I checked out the farmer’s market.”
        “Oh, I haven’t watched it much, but my dad is a huge fan of Game of Thrones.”
        “I’m meeting up with my mom after work. We’re going to check out that new Korean restaurant.”

        None of these statements would sound weird if you switched in “wife” or “friend,” but when you’re an adult who lives at home, it’s easy to feel self-conscious and worry about people judging you as immature.

        I also don’t think that referencing your parents teaching you something is always going to sound immature. If it’s a general life skill, that’s one thing, but if you have a parent who’s skilled at a particular niche that you can’t learn easily on your own, I don’t see the big deal. My mom is teaching me how to sew and weave.

        1. Yorick*

          I agree. Your dad teaching you to use a band saw doesn’t sound immature, but teaching you to stick to a budget does.

    2. Another Lawyer*

      This sounds totally normal to me. I’m in my 30s and take a lot of vacations with my mom, and make a lot of my vacation plans around my parents, so inevitably they come up in conversation at work. But I think the key is just keeping it to normal work topics, e.g. light weekend plan talk, tried a good recipe and my parents loved it, etc. rather than budgeting.

    3. paul*

      *amount* is very office dependent; how much do people generally talk about their personal lives?

      *context* probably matters more. I mentioned upthread how there’s a huge gap between saying you’re traveling to visit your folks over a long weekend or talking about a planned multi generation vacation (reminder: I need to start working on 2018’s-talk to my brother and parents) vs. saying things like “My mom pays my rent” or “Thank god mom’s cooking my dinner” on a regular basis.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +1 I would agree context is what’s important here. I have several coworkers who mention parents/grandparents a lot, but it never comes across weird to me because it’s just seeing them, doing something with them, life event stuff, versus “things that should like you depend on them for normal adult things”.

        1. whomever*

          Is this the point to mention that I, personally, am 42, have had a reasonably successful career, own my own home, have a wife and child, and my mother STILL insists on doing my laundry for me when I go home? (And yes, I’m perfectly capable of doing laundry). Some of this dynamic never really goes away.

          1. CM*

            Aww, that’s sweet. I think the point made here, when you’re talking to coworkers, is: “I visited my mother this weekend” –> OK. “My mom did my laundry” –> Not OK. EddieSherbert makes a useful distinction about spending time with family versus depending on family. I don’t think it’s weird when coworkers or acquaintances spend a lot of time talking about family members that they live with, whether it’s their spouse and kids or a parent or other relative. I have a friend who always talks about her dad because they live together and she takes care of him. I’ve never thought of her as less than adult (in fact, the opposite).

  14. Anne*

    I will say, as a 29-year-old in an office with mostly people in their 40s and 50s, it can be a little demoralizing to mention something about your age offhand (like saying some TV show was before my time, or that I have a big milestone birthday coming up because I’m turning 30) and have everybody take it as an opportunity to talk about how young you are and how old they are. I’m not constantly bringing it up, but I shouldn’t need to feel like it’s something I need to conceal either.

    1. animaniactoo*

      It’s okay – just remind them that they don’t know the fun of rickrolling or several other things that happened for you that they didn’t get to be part of. “Life, huh?”

      1. Chinook*

        We go even farther hear – if you make a joke about someone being young, then you open yourself to an old person joke. And vice-versa. And everyone laughs at both.

        1. animaniactoo*

          You mean stuff like to be sure to let you know when they’re ready to start thumping their cane and asking if they’ve started yelling “Get off my lawn!” at the neighborhood kids? [insert wink here]

    2. Mazzy*

      Ha ha I have the same thing except the people are usually only a few years older than me and I’m usually always thinking, dude if you barely even remember the 70s stop calling yourself old! You’re not and no one cares!

  15. UX Designer*

    I’m 25 and still catch myself mentioning my parents or my family at work from time to time. For me, I think it actually stems less from not feeling like an adult (I LOVE the real world…I’ve always been an old soul so the 9-5 life suits me really well) but more from now thinking of my parents more like my equals than as my parents. Ever since I started paying my own rent, working my own job, caring for my first fur-baby, I have a renewed love and appreciation for my parents. She probably doesn’t realize she’s doing it so often but I can empathize because things are SO weird when you’re a floundering 20-something.

  16. Shadow*

    Sure it undermines her but that’s not such a bad thing. As a hiring manager it’s hugely useful knowing that the potential is there but the dependence on parents is still there also. In other words even she doesn’t know if she can sustain the maturity/performance without her parents. It’s much better for everyone to factor that unknown in before giving her more/higher level work.

    1. N.J.*

      Well, that’s kind of the problem the OP is talking about. The OP described this employee as capable etc. but you just showed an example about why talking about her dependence on her parents for life responsibilities undermines thus employee. She is perfectly capable of doing her job according to her boss, but you have advocated basing work assignment decisions on her perceived immaturity, even though plenty of people tho don’t have it together in some “adulting” departments have it together in others, such as work and career. This perception undermining her is always a bad thing…you are advocating for her to get less than stellar working assignments based on her perceived maturity or her work ability or work talent. The manager shouldn’t be happy at all to have to consider a perception of immaturity and it bring at odds with the demonstrable work quality of the employee. Yeah, we all use the data points we are given about someone, so I suppose a hiring manager might want to know how mature their employee is, but it does t mean they should know it.

      1. Shadow*

        What’s bad is that she’s still leaning on her parents pretty heavily. If the perception is accurate the perception isn’t the problem.

        1. N.J.*

          That can be in true in some cases, but assuming that the OP is accurate in her assessment of the employee’s potential and skill level, which is described in relatively glowing terms, there seems to be a disconnect between reality and perception. And frankly, we adults mostly only have it together in certain areas of our lives and not in others, no matter our age. I for instance am terrible at keeping up with housework (cleaning and organizing) at home. I am extremely organized at work. I’m not dumb enough to let on to anyone at work that my home environment is an organizational shambles for two reasons a) it isn’t a predictor or accurate depiction of my organizational level in the the work world b) people draw inaccurate conclusions about all sorts of personality traits and abilities based on any little piece of information. The young employee is naive enough not to guard against that, but they doesn’t mean she isn’t capable of handling higher level work at her job. The lesson here boils down to managing perceptions so people don’t jump to the conclusions you don’t want them to form. Just pointing out that it might not be indicative of her work ability.

        2. Kate 2*

          Precisely what N.J. said. I am kind of lazy and a procrastinator at home, I couldn’t be less like that at work. I always complete assignments the minute I get them, I look for extra work to do, and so on.

  17. Lizzard*

    I remember vividly how awkward I felt at my first post college job. The work itself I was great at, but I wasn’t sure how to form business relationships when I still felt weird calling adults by their first name. It also didn’t help that most people I worked with had kids close to my age. I went the opposite direction of your employee – I basically didn’t talk because I was so afraid of mentioning anything about my parents, or college, or the fact that I still lived at home, or anything that would make them think of me as a kid as opposed to a colleague. There is a happy medium between being young and being childish. It would be a kindness if you could guide her to finding it.

    1. nnn*

      OMG, the calling adults by first name thing! One of my colleagues at my first post-university job had also taught me when I was in university. (Some of our industry-specific courses were taught by instructors from industry rather than by professors.)

      I felt so awkward calling him by first name that I circumlocuted the need to call him by any name for seven years!

  18. animaniactoo*

    In many ways, I think this is also something that will solve itself over time. We all grew out of several boneheaded made ourselves seem super young and awkward behaviors. And I really wouldn’t approach it as more than that – something she has yet to grow out of, but could use a head’s up that it’s potentially creating an appearance she doesn’t want and to give it some thought.

  19. Maggie*

    I struggled with this hard for most of my early to mid-20’s. Part of it was the recession and the horrible economy I had come of age into, and some of it was diagnosed mental illness. Once I got those two more or less taken care of, I noticed that the “impostor syndrome” was less forefront in my mind. I was actually being an adult, doing adulty things — maybe not the way I had envisioned, but that was OK. It took me forever to realize that it might be different, but it’s all right.

    For me though, it was looking up to people around me, knowing that they could be trusted adult influences that I could lean on for advice or whatever. Like so-and-so is adulting better than me, maybe I can learn from them!

    On another note, I got married this year, and now that I’m a thirty-something with a good job and a partner, it’s been easier for my parents to treat me like an adult, instead of perpetual teenager. I’m sure that helps my perception of myself (and my self-esteem), too.

  20. Mazzy*

    This is a funny question because I’ve only seen the opposite – people who were obviously very young and inexperienced acting like they knew it all and had experience with everything already.

    I’d rather someone admit they don’t know the difference between an IRA and 401k or that they never used a program than act surprised or insulted when I insinuate that they, idk, aren’t master programmers or stock market gurus at 24.

    1. nnn*

      This is interesting, because I was one of those young people who didn’t want to admit to not knowing anything, and that came from a place of insecurity. As I became more secure in my abilities, my place in the company and my place in the world, I became more willing to admit when I didn’t know something. Because I knew that, overall, I am Good Enough.

      This also extends to how I talk about adulting. When I was just starting out, I was desperately flailing about trying to give the impression that I have everything under control, because I felt like someone was going to come along and say “No, you’re not Good Enough and don’t get to be a grownup.” But now that I’m more secure in my adulthood, I don’t mind admitting that sometimes I ask my parents for help with stuff, and will even make self-deprecating jokes about it when it makes a good story.

      1. nnn*

        (Accidentally clicked Post before I finished)

        So maybe young adults who constantly talk about their parents and their age are actually more secure in their place in life, and therefore feel no need to hide the aspects of life that they aren’t yet proficient in.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, I think you may have a point there; I was not secure about that and hid it as much as I could when I was young.

  21. Emilia Bedelia*

    As a pretty young/new employee myself, I struggle with this a lot, primarily in casual conversation with my mostly much older coworkers, mainly because most of my life experiences are, well, youthful! When my coworkers are talking about their kids and parenting and such it’s hard to not think about my parents and my childhood and chime in- I really don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation otherwise. When people talk about things that happened before I was born, it’s hard to participate in a way that doesn’t highlight that I’m 30 years younger than everyone else. I have less than 2 years of experience out of school- that’s really not a lot to draw on when I’m trying to make conversation and not look childish.
    The OP’s employee talking about how your parents pay your bills and including your parents in conversations is a big step too far, but it really is difficult to handle the social aspect of work when your life experiences are so different from your coworkers’.

    Also, a lot of people seem determined to bring up my age as a conversation topic- saying things like “you weren’t even born when this thing happened!” or “you’ll understand this when you’re my age” or “good thing we have a Millenial around to work Excel for us!” is really annoying. I really try to act like a real adult professional, even if I don’t feel like it all the time, but sometimes it’s very clear that people still see me as the young’un of the team.

    1. Puffyshirt*

      That is a fair comment. Although, I’m in my 30s and have no children, so my only point of reference for those convos are my childhood or nieces and nephews.

      To me there is a big difference between being young and ACTING young. I had a boss once I really struggled to connect with. I tried hard to meet her expectations, but the more I tried the worse things seemed to get. She finally had a very tough conversation with me- the things I was doing to the extreme read very young to her. So she explained how some of my actions were being perceived. I took her criticism to heart and was promoted within 6 months. It’s okay to be the young one of the group, you can still shine with your intelligence, energy, creativity, and hard work!

    2. paul*

      I think that big step too far is what (hopefully) matters here and needs to be addressed.

      We’ve got a coworker who doesn’t really remember 9/11; she was alive and remembers her parents being upset/anxious but that’s about it. She’s a little more aware of Katrina but not much (we can be called upon in the event a disaster, and those two still get referenced in a lot of the training for organization and incident management stuff).

      Yeah it makes most of us feel a little old, but I don’t think any of us think less of her for it. People know folks have different life experiences, particularly across generations. There’s limits, sure (like if she’d never heard of 9/11 we’d all be flummoxed), but I do think most people make allowances for that.

      But if she was talking about how her parents were paying her rent and her phone and and and yeah that probably would kind color our expectations–both because it’s kind of odd to talk about finances with your coworkers like that, and because yeah it would probably make people think she was less mature.

      She used to ask dating advice from some of the older female coworkers I have (that stopped and I don’t know if one of them talked to her or she figured it out or what) and I think *that* kind of irked/annoyed people but not any more than that. It’s the sort of mistake new employees may make, kind of fuzzing the line between what is and isn’t work appropriate, and hopefully it doesn’t color your perception forever…but the mistakes also need to lessen over time you know?

    3. emma2*

      Super tangentally related, but I find it amusing how some middle-aged people think you’re a genius if you know how to use Excel.

  22. Rachel Green*

    “Youth can not know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty if they forget what it is to be young.” — Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

    1. Grapey*

      I mostly disagreed with that when I first read it and I still do. Lots of older people talk honestly about their experiences. So of course we can know how age thinks and feels. When I hear my beloved aunt say “I wish I didn’t feel compelled to have so many kids and instead was able to go to school”…you bet that influenced me as a young girl!

      Old (wo)men are especially guilty if they forget what it was to be young and pressured to do things you didn’t want to do just because other old people told you to.

      1. Becca*

        You can intellectually understand something without really *knowing* what it’s like, though. That’s true of a lot of experiences, not just age-related ones.

  23. Here we go again*

    I’m approaching 30 and just dressed like a cow today to get a free breakfast entree at Chick Fil A because that is how far behind I am financially. Finished school in 2008, so my starting salary sucked and because I have yet to be in a position to avoid the “what is your current salary?” question, my current wage is still horrible. I also live in a city with one of the fastest increasing rents, with clueless management who thinks I can magically pull money out of thin air to pay rent so it just compounds the problem.

    Coworkers my age and I call it adulting even though it’s been more than a decade since we were legally adults because we are so freaking behind it doesn’t feel like I am an adult. My parents still help me out with car expenses even though they are mostly retired because their social security and side gigs pay more than I make in a year.

    I’m sorry the term “adulting” bothers people, but I would much rather feel like a real independent adult than have to rely on my family as much as I do.

  24. Jenna*

    I love the term “adult lite” lolol. I want that–not in a way that I’d call my parents for work-related issues (even though I’m only 25, I wouldn’t *dream* of involving my parents the way some people my age do, but maybe because I’ve never had that luxury), but in a way that people would be particularly patient and explanatory as I try to get all that stuff figured out.

    On the other hand, I’ve managed to navigate life insurance, estate planning, doctor and dentist visits, apartment leases and moving companies, interviewing, and salary negotiations totally on my own. A person has to be willing to try, and parents have to let kids–especially adult kids–fail sometimes.

  25. Oryx*

    All this talk of “adulting” reminds me of a quote from Margaret Atwood (not Oryx and Crake, but Cat’s Eye):

    “Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”

    1. BookishMiss*

      Yes. I think someone mentioned it upthread, but there is some serious impostor syndrome among young adults. School and college spat us out into the world without real ideas about being an adult, beyond what we observed of our families and teachers, and honestly their version of adulthood still seems alien. When I worked in credit unions, I always took extra time with kids opening their first checking account, explaining how to write the check, what the check is, how to use the register, basic budgeting ($ in > $ out level), showed them how to use the atm… All because it’s not really taught. So there’s this nebulous concept of what an adult is, but no real training on how to be one.
      Young adults are also going from a parent-funded standard of living to a much more restricted standard of living set by their likely smaller income, so while they may legally be an adult, they’re not an adult like the parental generation is an adult, which can feel weird.
      All this to say, generation gaps and empathy gaps can make the transition to adulthood and the accompanying impostor syndrome difficult to navigate.

      1. Kate 2*

        Yep! My mom was amazed the first time I had to write a check and only sort of knew how. She had to help me. But the only reason I sort of knew was because my high school shop teacher had decided to fold it into one of his lessons!

        1. Oryx*

          I learned in middle school as part of an overnight class trip we took: there was a snack bar where we all had an account. To use against the account we had to fill out something like a check, although I didn’t realize that until later when I actually had to start using real checks.

          When I had to deposit money into my savings account in high-school I remember needing my mom to teach me because some of the language confused me on the slip and I was worried about putting the amount on the wrong line.

  26. Murphy*

    I think when you’re a kid, you think of adults as “different” and you wonder “When will I be an adult?” And then when it happens, it happens so gradually that you don’t actually feel any different. It’s like you just woke up one day and you were an adult. You don’t know when or how it happened, and it seems remarkable how much “adulting” you’re actually doing.

    1. Van Wilder*

      This. Exactly. I think you and Alison really nailed what it feels like to graduate college and start working. I remember having to do the mental calculations in my head that I wasn’t a kid anymore, and being like I always thought that when I was an adult, I would feel like an adult. And then thinking that it must never change and all adults must feel like this.

      1. LadyKelvin*

        This is it exactly. I am 30, married, living 4000 miles away from home with a full time job, and I just bought a couch and a dining room table (brand new! Not from craigstlist or salval or ikea!) and I feel like such an adult, because that is something I feel like an adult would do. Of course, I have a good budget, am saving, have a retirement account, manage my healthcare, etc but I still ask my husband, at what point do we feel like we are adults? Because I still feel like I have no idea what I am doing.

        1. Allison*

          The other day I was going to a public pool, and remembered that adult swim is a thing. And I thought “woah, do we qualify for that now?”

          I have to be careful about those comments though. My boyfriend is in his mid 30’s, I try to avoid highlighting that I’m still in my 20’s. Maybe that’s part of my recent “adulting” kick, I want to make sure he sees me as an adequate life partner and not an overgrown baby he’d need to take care of.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            Ooh, I feel that. Current squeeze is 34; I’m 26. Recently he said something about “not holding the same opinions you had 20 years ago” and i had to remind him that 20 years ago, I was in first grade. Luckily, he tends to see himself as stodgy rather than seeing me as a youthful flibbertigibbet.

            1. Allison*

              “youthful flibbertigibbet”

              This made me giggle, I forgot about that word and I’m going to start using it now.

        2. LBK*

          I’ve been to a few parties in recently months where people were talking about their mortgages and I was like “Wait, is this it? Does this mean I’m an adult, when we can stand around and talk about mortgages? This seems like adult stuff.”

    2. Allison*

      It’s part maturity, which is gained through experience not necessarily age, and it’s part a choice, you choose to tackle all the responsibilities that come with adulthood. Or you can refuse, whine that everything is hard and you don’t wanna, and expect that any day now you’ll just magically wake up a responsible person.

    3. kb*

      One day I realized I deeply enjoyed reading my Trader Joe’s newslettter. Now I wonder when I will wake up knowing all about plants and insist on pointing out different types everywhere I go. (I realize not all people age into caring about plants, but it appears to be the way of my family.)