“Adulting is hard,” Matt sighed as we whizzed through the Wednesday evening jobs. Wednesday nights are always busy, with a daycare bag to unpack and repack as well as the usual evening jobs, but every second Wednesday we also have to tidy up for the cleaner to come on Thursday morning(1).
It’s true, adulting is hard. But where did this word come from? I’m pretty sure it’s a new word; previous generations probably just called it ‘life’ and got on with it as best they could. My parents were married at ages 21 and 22. They tell stories of having chocolate self-saucing pudding for dinner when they were first married, and how they would try to work out how to drink a litre of milk a day (they got a daily milk delivery because ‘that’s what you did’ so then they had to find ways to consume it). Pretty soon, though, kids came along and they were the grown-ups by default.
Maybe it’s because people get married and have families later now that ‘adulting’ is seen as a separate category to normal life. Once you add running a family and a household to looking after yourself, things fall apart pretty quickly if you don’t keep up adulting on the regular.
I admit, some days when I drop Finley off at daycare and he immediately occupies himself with one of the multiple options for play, I wish I could stay there in that warm cozy room. Not because I hate leaving him and want to be the one looking after him, but because I want to be a kid too, who doesn’t have to plan the next meal or social arrangement. Whose only responsibility is being nice to the other kids and deciding what amazing toys to play with next. Seems like a sweet deal(2).
Except that it’s not. Finley has very little control over his own life. He goes where we take him. He eats (or refuses) what we offer him. He lives where we live. I think sometimes as adults, we fall into feelings of powerlessness, as if we are helpless as babies, rather than acknowledging the choices we have.
I am experimenting with a different way of thinking about adulting. Rather than thinking of it as something I have to do, it’s something I get to do. Yes, Matt and I have to work to keep the household afloat. But we get to decide what we spend our money on, and how much we save. Yes, my current adulting tast I am procrastinating, setting up a new superannuation account because my new employer requires it, is super annoying. But nominating my husband as a beneficiary for my super money(3) is my way of looking after him. And instead of thinking about housework as a necessary evil to get out of the way so I can enjoy ‘real’ life, I can think of it as something we do because we enjoy living in a clean, tidy and well-organised home.
I’ll give one last example. Growing up, a learned that the minimum standard of acceptability was to change your sheets once a week. This standard was almost never kept. When I left home and was the only one responsible for my sheets, I had this thought pattern: “I should change my sheets once a week, but I don’t, therefore I am lazy/disgusting.” Then a couple of weeks ago I was introduced via a Vlogbrothers video to the idea of changing your sheets because the feeling of new sheets is a sensory delight. If you change your sheets once a week, then you get to experience that new sheets feeling for a few minutes every single week. Now I do it (or try to do it) not to meet a minimum standard of acceptable adult human being, but for the gift to myself of pure sensory pleasure.
What adulting task have you been avoiding? Would it help to reframe it in this way?
(1) Yes, this is a ‘privileged’ thing to complain about but it’s the reality. I’m not avoiding writing about it and pretending that we don’t have a cleaner. A big reason we have a cleaner is because my Asperger’s makes life hard and it’s just too stressful me to do it myself. And Matt’s job means he doesn’t do cleaning either.
(2) I’m not alone in this fantasy. Since Finley was born, more than once people have commented that they envy him his position. Sometimes strangers, sometimes friends. Usually when he was bundled up in his carrier, literally having everything done for him except bodily functions.
(3) Such that it is.