‘Adulting’ is hard. But only because parents are too lazy to teach their kids
The ‘Adulting’ of Millennials
last month, america learned about something the millennials like to call “adulting.” The term started as a sort of quasi-joke—whenever a millennial would do something age-appropriate rather than radically immature, this was an act of “adulting.” Now, though, millennials apparently require training in being an adult.
According to CBS News, Rachel Flehinger has co-founded an Adulting School, which includes online courses on simple sewing, conflict resolution and cooking. CBS suggests the cause for such classes: Many millennials “haven’t left childhood homes”—in America, 34 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 still lived with their parents as of 2015, up from 26 percent a decade before.
There’s a good deal of truth to this. If you’re living at home, with Mom and Dad doing their best to spoil you, you’re less likely to know how to do laundry, cook or balance a checkbook. Dependency breeds enervation.
But here’s the catch: Living at home doesn’t necessarily breed dependency. As of 1940, more than 30 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds lived at home with parents or grandparents. They were adulting, even while living at home. Parents expected their kids to do chores, to prepare for life. Instead of blaming living at home, then, we have to blame our style of parenting.
While speculation has run rampant that economic hardship has forced millennials to stay home longer and thus fail to “adult,” the truth is that we’ve simply become lazier as parents.
This is a generational problem. Since the Greatest Generation, adults have become less and less adult. Our grandparents had to grow up during the Great Depression and World War II; they learned to “adult” long before they were actual adults. As of 1940, the average age of first marriage was 24 for men and 21 for women; today, the average age of first marriage is 28 for men and 26 for women. Generations ago, men and women both entered the workforce far younger, so while today’s millennials are better educated than their grandparents, they’re also experiencing real life later. Couples had children much younger and had more of them; today, the average age of a first-time mother in New York City is 31, while that number was, on average, 26.3 across America. So what’s the real issue? We’re more likely to let our kids crash on our couches than tell them to get a job and pay rent. We don’t push our kids to build families of their own; as life expectancy has increased, so has adolescence. Americans aren’t expected to start building a life, particularly middle- and upper-class Americans, until they’re nearing their 30s. There are many Americans who make decisions that force them into adulthood—single mothers, for example, aren’t going to be taking “adulting” classes. But the question is how we can encourage young people to “adult” in non-circumstance-driven fashion.
The answer is thrusting responsibility on young people. That’s painful for parents. I know. I have two young children, and the thought of them struggling is painful to me. But “adulting,” as Nietzsche might put it, is suffering— and through that suffering, we become responsible human beings capable of bettering the world around us.
Or we can keep coddling our kids—and, via the government, coddling ourselves. But at some point, if everyone is busy “adulting” while we keep pushing off the age of adulthood, there are no adults left. There are just children. And leaving kids in charge of society is an incredibly bad idea.