Adulting- Why is it hard?

When my  24 year old daughter first  spoke about “ADULTING”, I asked her if it was even a word. Apparently it is a word used by the millennials which is defined as: 

The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

I wondered, ‘what's the big deal about behaving like an adult? Isn't it a stage of life you grow into naturally?’  These statements I heard from my daughter’s peer group made me realise that maybe it’s not so easy for our millennial children:

  1. Aarthi bought vegetables and left them on the counter which got rotten the next day. She didn't realise that she needed to refrigerate them.

  1. Ram, studying in a top engineering college, considered himself grown up and  responsible when he remembered to take his toiletries to the common dorm bathroom everyday!

  1. Rohit shared how he found it hard to live away from home for work, manage tasks like budgeting, paying bills on time and staying within one's earnings. 

These millennials are high achievers, well educated, have high paying jobs and successful careers. And yet, they are overwhelmed by the responsibility of everyday tasks. Paying bills, purchasing groceries and toiletries, doing laundry, getting services such as gas, internet installed etc. are tasks they find tough/challenging and resist taking them up.  And, they experience a range of emotions when they take on these tasks- thrilled when they can do it, upset when they find themselves not equipped to handle a task, daunted when they realise that they need to do some tasks everyday from now on and frightened to know there is nobody to lean on to. 

When I heard about ‘adulting’, my first reaction was that of judgement - What is wrong with these kids? These are normal tasks and everybody needs to do them. We didn't make a big deal about it! 

But then as a Parent Educator, it set me thinking. Why is it that the mundane tasks we take on easily are an area of struggle for these highly accomplished youth. Moreover, they feel a greater sense of achievement in doing these tasks over their education or work goals. So much so that Twitter and Instagram are flooded with tweets and feeds about adulting! Digging deeper, I questioned whether the way this generation has been parented has left them  unprepared for adult life. Millennials are often judged as self centred . It would be important to reflect what our role as parents has been to contribute to this. When we see young adults struggle we cannot just shrug our shoulders and say, “ What is so hard about this task? It's a part of life. Grow up!”

Let’s explore the mindset with which most of us raised our millennials with: 

  1. We wanted our children to focus on studies and told them that we would take care of everything else in the house. We didn’t want to burden them with everyday chores at home, worrying about finances, or attending to the needs of an older family member. 

  2. We wanted them to be well rounded, so we enrolled them in  extra classes. And in the pursui , ended up micromanaging  their  lives and schedules for tuitions, extra classes, play dates or home work. 

  3. We bent over backwards to fulfil their wishes and made decisions for them as we wanted to insulate them from disappointments. 

With all good intentions and love for our children, did we unintentionally raise them in a bubble and not teach them what it means to be responsible? Have we failed at preparing them for the outside world?   

As parents here are some suggestions for helping our children be self reliant and prepared for adulthood-

  1. Involving them in household chores appropriate to their age. It can be putting away the grocery, feeding a pet, watering a plant, setting the table, cooking a simple meal. 

  2. Including children in discussions and decision making for big and small things like planning meal menus, researching on  which brand of  household appliance to buy, ways to entertain and take care of guests, holiday itineraries, discussions on investments and savings.

  3. Allowing them to take on some responsibilities – a child needs to take ownership  to develop self- sufficiency. It can be deciding their extracurricular activities, when to do homework, packing their school bag, making their bed, dusting or cleaning, getting the clothes ironed, or helping a grandparent with their medicines or accompanying them for a walk.

  4. Developing a mistake friendly attitude – often we don't involve children in chores as we don’t want things to go wrong. A child may score less in a subject, or burn a shirt while ironing, or make a poor choice in shopping. A mistake offers one the opportunity to learn and grow. We can help our children rectify mistakes, understand how to deal with a failure and bounce back, which in turn will help our children make decisions with confidence. 

  5. Allowing children to face natural consequences – It is of huge learning to let children face the consequences of their actions. We don’t need to rush to school every time they forget to pack something, rush to drop them off if they wake up late and miss the school bus, or bail them out if they have finished their pocket money half way through the month. 

Children feel equipped to take on responsibilities now and later in life when they are given space to make decisions, learn from mistakes and have a say in family discussions. Supporting them in academics, extracurriculars as well as everyday tasks help  them develop as a whole person. Every child is unique, so raising and helping them  according to their nature and age helps them grow into self-reliant adults.  

Author: Sunitha Ravi  is a  certified Parent Educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation that promotes parents to build deeper connections within families.