What does growing up mean to you?

A good net-friend commented on one of my baby lust posts:

I want to say this with love, knowing you’re clearly going to be writing about the topic of starting a family for a while now (a year, if you keep the soak time promise!). It’s difficult for me, as someone who does not plan to have children ever, to hear you equating starting a family with “growing up”. Certainly starting a family is part of how you will grow and change as a person but “growing up” implies that having children is somehow connected to the inevitable components of human development and maturity. As a lover of words, and a sensitive person, I just wanted you to know:-)

I replied:

@Christine, Fair point, but not how it was intended.

I think growing up is defined differently for everyone, and I think you know me well enough to know that I’m terribly self-centered and write only from my own perspective. For me, “growing up” means suddenly seeing myself as an adult — and as a potential parent.

So I will write about starting to be okay with starting a family because for me, that’s evidence of my growing up. But I think — I hope — the idea of realizing that what your experience is IS what growing up means still resonates.

Starting a family is inevitably connected to MY development, but I understand and completely accept that that might not be true for other people.

I do sincerely appreciate the comment. Please keep making them. I love that this is an honest discussion (and I’m so glad you’re here!). Also, it makes me think: why is it so obvious that, for me, parenthood defines growing up? Why do I not feel grown up at the ripe old age of 30 (and having accomplished significantly both professionally and personally)? I suspect it’s just the next hurdle. For the last year, being a wife felt like “growing up.”

I’m going to be writing a lot about starting a family, this is true.  I’m incapable of going through a life change without endless analysis and this is my venue.  But the more I thought about her response, the more I wondered: what is growing up to you?

To me, obviously, it’s imagining myself as someone’s mother, and to a lesser extent, as someone’s boss.  You know, being responsible to/ for another person.  It took me years to be able to handle the burden of a dog’s needs (so needy, unlike cats, who could give a sh*t most of the time), then another couple to deal with being a wife, and now this: motherhood, which, for me, is the ultimate responsibility.

But I get not wanting kids.  Totally.  And I understand not wanting to read my endless waffling about when and how and whether.  I was hoping, actually, that my endless angstiness was relate-able, if not because you’re angsting over kids, too, but because you angst over something.

So I’m curious: what does growing up mean to you?  When do you look in the mirror and think, “I’m an adult”?  And if you don’t feel like one yet (like I often don’t), what will clue you in that you’re getting there?

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12 thoughts on “What does growing up mean to you?

  1. I don’t feel like an adult, and I don’t feel old until I spend time around teenagers. And then after a while with teens or young twenty-somethings, I can forget about the age difference, but they don’t. To them I’m still older, and those 8 or 10 years mean a lot.

    I don’t expect there will be a time when I say “this is it, I’m grown up.” Being 29 doesn’t feel as old as I thought it would. Neither did 25, or 21, or 17, because I’m still me. I can see physical changes that are evidence I’m aging, and I’m a responsible adult, but I don’t feel terribly different than I did ten years ago. I know I’ve learned and accomplished a lot, but I still don’t feel terribly different.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe at some point I’ll be there. After all, can I really say I’m not grown up when I’m a grandma?

  2. I totally equate having children with “growing up,” but I know that my husband does not. Especially after a long night of partying, the next morning I groan in pain, “Someday we’ll grow up, right?” I like to believe that once we have children, I’ll suddenly be responsible and mature and not do any stupid things (totally not true, I’m sure.)
    Oh, and I totally believe in the biological clock. I’ve been saying for years that I was ready for kids, then one morning I woke up and was like, “I was kids.” It was crazy…
    (Hi, I’m normally one of those many lurkers that followed you from WB! Just wanted to let you know you’re not alone!)

  3. I think it probably is different for everyone (like everything in life). I generally don’t feel all that grown up either and I’m 33. I’ve accomplished a lot personally and professionally as well. I bought a home on my own at 29. I have multiple college degrees. I got married. We got a dog. I heard someone say she misses her partying days and I thought, “I don’t.” All those things add to the pile. But I also think that becoming a mother will do it for me. My best friend has a 7-month-old and she says that she now feels grown up. That another human life is her responsibility. It’s a good question. I’m interested in reading people’s answers.

  4. I remember when 19 seemed sooo old, and 30 was ancient. 40 or 50 was off my timeline. Now that I’m 29, 30 seems pretty young to me! LOL!

    I think that when you are younger, you see grown ups who appear to have it all together- jobs, family, etc. From the outside, it seems as they are all grown up and have it all together. What we didn’t know is that they still probably felt very young (and not grown up) themselves. We just didn’t realize it!

    I think it’s all relative, and I think it all adds up. I think moving in with someone makes you a little more grown up. Buying a house makes you a little more grown up. getting married and being a wife makes you a little more grown up. Getting pets… not going out every single night (if that’s something you did before)… cooking meals rather than eating cereal for dinner… all of these things make you a little more grown up.

    But, just like you, having a child would be a HUGE “growing up moment” for me. I think at that point, I will feel a lot more grown up. And I agree that it is different for everyone. For those not planning to have kids, their “ah-ha grown up moment” might be when they are on their dream vacation with their husband… or something else…

    I also think that I will never FEEL as grown up as I thought my parents LOOKED. I remember being 8 or 9 and over and my parents’ friends house. We’d get together on a regular basis, and those parents were always so OLD and GROWN UP. Little did I realize that they were drinking beer and wine, making inappropriate jokes (quietly so we kids didn’t notice!), gossiping, etc etc. They just SEEMED old and boring when I was so young. 🙂

  5. I definitely don’t feel grown up yet, at 26 and still unmarried. I feel like I make strides every day… I note changes in myself – like suddenly not wanting the house to be dirty when friends come over, or having an overwhelming urge to cook dinner every night – and think, so here I am, growing up. But when I was a teenager, I thought I’d have two kids and a husband by now. I thought I’d feel old and keep a cleaning schedule and drink a glass of wine with dinner on Saturday night instead of going out and drinking a 6-pack. (Ha! No such luck yet.)

    And then I look at my mom, who’s 44, and I think – well, at least I’m more grown up than her. She can’t pay all her bills, and her cooking is still sub-par. And I wonder if maybe I’m using the wrong criteria to judge “grown up.”

    I definitely look at each life step and think, “that’s when I’ll be a bonafide grown person.” Next month, I get married. Will I feel grown up then? I’m starting to wonder… Then we’ll probably buy a house – what about then? Maybe caring for a child will make me feel grown up – who knows? Who can say? Maybe the concept of “grown up” is only real or relevant to children!

  6. For me feeling GROWN UP happened last fall – I totaled my car. It wasn’t dealing with my insurance company, it was the part when I walked into a dealer and bought a BRAND NEW CAR. I remember sitting there thinking to myself, “do these people know what they’re doing? They’re selling me a car. ME. Am I old enough for this?!?” That’s when it hit me. I’m a GROWN UP.

    That said, I think everyone has their own mental set point of when they feel like a bona fide adult. For you it’s having kids. For me it was buying a new car. For someone else it’s getting married, buying a house, getting a dog, graduating from college, starting a new job… etc. I think feeling like an adult is whatever makes you step back and look at something from a totally new, mature perspective.

  7. While not everyone wants to get married or have kids (at one point I wasn’t sure I did either), the steps that make us more like our parents will inevitably serve as landmarks for adulthood. Our settled, newlywed life of home repair expenses, gardening, and planning for the future makes me feel very grown up lately, but at 28 I still feel like I’m sitting on the fence sometimes.

  8. I’m having to drink prune juice to stay regular.. does that make me a grown up?? 🙂 Oh wait – there is a valid reason for that!

    I share many of the same feelings above. I just don’t feel adult or grown-up. Sometimes I look at famous folks like Angelina Jolie (34) and think they are sooo much older than me… but really she’s not at all. My favorite line from an old Deanna Carter song is ‘I remember when 30 was old’. It’s so true that when you are young these ages seem SO ancient – then you get there and don’t feel any different.

    Buying my first car was a big moment for me. Buying my house. Getting married – I really thought this one was going to make me feel ‘grown up’, which it did in some ways. Now I’m thinking the ‘mom’ thing will take me a step closer – I’ll let you know how that turns out.

    I will say a big trigger for me ‘growing up’ in my 20’s was when my dad passed away. I guess I felt my parents were always my ‘backup’ plan if I really screwed up and needed help. (Which my mom still TOTALLY is…) But it definitely hit me that I had to grown up – especially financially. That’s when I started the budget, and living within my means, and paying off debt. That was a huge part of my ‘growing up’ – but I’m still not sure it made me feel like a ‘grown-up’.

    Maybe we’re always ‘growing up’ but never quite get to the end… which is ok.

  9. I think growing up for me start the minute I started to take think about my husband (before he was my husband) before I made decisions. I would go where ever I wanted and took jobs that interested me because it was all about me. When we moved in together I knew we were in it for the long haul, I started thinking about how my decisions would impact him and even my larger family. Would someone be around if my parents needed help — that sort of thing.

  10. I guess I don’t associate growing up with the same milestones most people seem to– buying a house, getting married, having children. I don’t know why– maybe it’s cause I’ve known plenty of very grown up people who didn’t do any of those things. Or maybe it’s cause my mother immigrated to the U.S. at 18 all alone and always made us feel like we could do that too (or anything else we needed to do/wanted to do) once we were a certain age. But for me feeling independent and not necessarily settled was grown up. I think it was the first time I lived in a major city on my own– when I was studying abroad in college. So far away from family, buying my own groceries, beginning to cook my own meals, deciding when it was too late to walk home alone– these are the moments I associate with growing up.

  11. I get hit with that ‘I’m a grown up’ feeling when making a tough decision for myself (or with my husband) and sticking by it. It can be family or job or life related – all venues. Something like calling up your families and telling them you won’t be coming to Thanksgiving because an emergency with your pet. Or making a big financial step (like a house? or a business investment? or student loan?) weighing the risks with the rewards. Or deciding on having – or not having – children and becoming comfortable in defending that position.
    I guess feel grown up when I realize I am strong in my values and when I can make difficult decisions confidently (while being open-minded to advice and other people’s beliefs.. mostly).

  12. Marisa, I love you for making this a blog post:-) Once I finished my undergrad in college, my life spontaneously became quite stable and consequently, I became quite stable! I usually have “aha” moments of adult-ness (very articulate of me, I know), when I’m talking to someone in their 40s or 50s. Same goes for when I talk to my parents and realize we have a lot of the same everyday tasks and issues now and I deal with them in totally different ways that still work for me. I feel independent and confident in my own ways. I feel grown up because I have a long-range plan or vision to my life. Everything is not mapped out by any means, but my husband and I are living a lifestyle that is conduscive to goals we have for the next 5, 10 and 20 years together (it just doesn’t include being parents).

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