"Just got my laundry done all on my own! #Adulting."
"Didn't set the house on fire while making dinner! #Adulting."
"I put pants on today! #Adulting."
If you've ever been online, you've probably witnessed someone in his or her twenties or even thirties applauding a simple "grown-up" task like grocery shopping, laundry, or cooking dinner with the hashtag "adulting."
Why Do We Use That Phrase?
Almost everyone has gone through this and it's definitely not new to our generation. That moment where you look down at yourself doing taxes, driving to work or doing laundry alone in a house or apartment you pay for, and it hits you. You're an adult. This video by Nikki Limo presents a comical but also an accurate depiction of that jarring transition between child and adult.
While this video is supposed to be funny, there is an important element that plays into the concept of "adulting."; we miss our childhood. It is not uncommon to miss our childhood, but we are doing so while everyone else around us is either a full blown kid or a full blown adult.
Adulting is a way of making that transition a little easier. When you are a generation of praise and constant feedback, it's easy to trun towards the internet with the "adulting" hashtag and seek approval for everyday tasks such as taxes, laundry, cooking, and moving from an hourly wage to a yearly salary.
Everyone In The History Of Time Has "Adulted" Without Using That Verb ... So Why Now?
My mom told me, "Being an adult isn't new. I did everything you guys are doing and it was new and exciting and scary, but I did it too. The only difference was, I was 21 when I started on my own."
According to Pew Research, this is the first time in modern history that living with one's parents (for 18-to-34-year-olds) is becoming a more popular option than other choices, such as being married, cohabiting, or living on one's own.
Some have blamed this phenomenon on a lack of efficient home economics classes in high school. Apparently, 30 percent of college graduate do not know how to boil an egg (which, in my opinion, is greatly dependent on how much of an egg fan you are) and 70 percent of young people can't sew a button (this one I will say, "For shame"). All of this may be due to a 38 percent decrease in home-ec classes in the last ten years. However, I think it goes a little deeper than education. It's a generational and parental phenomenon.
We are both a generation that seeks approval and praise as well as one that is drastically divided in our lifetime milestone. Due to the recession and changing job market, many of us decide to live with our parents until we were stable enough to live on our own. However, some graduate college with more profitable outlooks on their career, receive large salaries, buy homes or apartments and don't need to rely on their parents.
However, this only happens to about 1 in 5 graduates. The rest are left on their own timelines. Once out of our parents' houses, we can join the ranks of our peers, but we are at different places in our adulthood journey. How much we have learned to "adult" is also dependent on how much we have been coddled by parents. We see our parents as "adults" and ourselves as "anything but."
For example, I learned how to do laundry when I was in middle school. I have been doing dishes since I was in first grade, and I have been making my own doctor's appointments since the middle of high school. However, I have never done my own taxes or paid for my own insurance.
So whenever I see a post about someone scheduling their own dentist appointment and praising themselves about it on social media at 25-years-old, I scoff. But when I see someone of the same age doing their taxes without anyone's help, I'm amazed.
It's all relative now, and there is no judgment.
Well ... There Is A Little Judgment.
I've stumbled onto several articles about why millennials need to stop using the phrase "adulting," and it involves the same criticism we have been receiving for years, either from Gen X-ers or own fellow millennials.
One from Cosmo magazine said:
"'Adulting' is a terrible fake word (that you will not find in the actual dictionary, for the record) that everyone should stop using. 'Adulting' implies that being an adult is not a necessary part of growing up, but rather a life choice you're hesitant to fully buy into. It's a singularly Millennial -- especially female, at that -- immaturity that reduces being a grown-up to a hobby. If nothing else you do makes you seem like a stereotypical Millennial living in an entitled fantasy land where actually growing up is, like your hobbies, optional, saying 'adulting' is sure to do just that."
First of all: she's not exactly wrong. As the previous video illustrated, many believe that becoming an adult was an option we wouldn't have to choose for a while until it sneaked up on us and clobbered us over the heads.
However, her jab at the adulting idea being female is not necessarily accurate. In fact, more men (about 12 percent more men) than women decide to live with their parents in lieu of roommates, marriage, or other arrangements. The living at home arrangement also decreases in probability once a person is in his or her mid-twenties.
Her notion that adulting is sure to perpetuate an "entitled fantasy land where actually growing up is ... optional," is not, in my opinion, the fruit of "adulting."
Why we use this term is to aid the transition from dependent to independent. We are so used to living with our parents, having home-cooked meals, having someone perhaps doing our laundry and dishes and taxes for us, that becoming an independent adult is slightly jarring, especially if all of your friends have had jobs and independent lives for so much longer.
Once the transition from college to parents home, to own home, and possibly to parents home again and back to independent life is complete, we feel as if there should be a celebration. We had parties after finishing the fifth grade, parties for high school graduation, college graduation, even weekend graduation (#ThirstyThursday and #TGIF), parties for birthdays and weddings and anniversaries -- why not celebrate the little things in life like successfully doing laundry or cooking for one's self?
This Too Shall Pass
For many adults, the novelty of being a grown-up passes quickly. According to Laura Wentworth, an adultier adult than I, "Probably 18 months to two years in, the novelty of being an adult was gone. Most days I get home from work and say to [my husband], 'let's build a fort and color.'" The honeymoon period of being an adult might be worth the quick Twitter post to christen this new era of our lives, but there is a poignant sense of nostalgia and loss of innocence.
This is why Wentworth comes home and wants to color with her husband or why so many people have rejoiced over the return of Lisa Frank designs (this is understandable, though; Lisa Frank is the business). We don't want to grow old or being "boring adults," but we do have to eventually do taxes and live on our own and maybe even have young humans who are dependent on us. So we "adult" which is like resembling a grown-up, but still coloring and building pillow forts at home. It's better to be young at heart and grown-up in appearance than old through and through.
There is comfort in the idea that everyone has experienced this sudden awareness of age. Wasn't fifth-grade graduation yesterday? Weren't we in home-ec class an hour ago? When did I graduate school? When did I start working and understand what all this legal, medical, and economical language means?
There are many moments where I sit there and groan, saying:
But it sadly is not an option. We have to grow up, whether we are aware that it's happening or not. Life is both unexpected and wild as the ocean and predictable as the tides. Once we accept that we are growing up, life gets just a little bit easier as we prepare for the next steps in life.
Go ahead and keep using that term. Don't let anyone deter you. Go forth and "adult" with pride. Celebrate the little things, because we don't always have much to celebrate when the going gets tough. Congratulations for doing your laundry and making that doctor's appointment! Have yourself some wine and whine about life to your friends. Life's too short to pretend that we all know what we're doing.