It’s all over social media — from tweets and hashtags to Amazon merchandise. The term “adulting” is colloquially used among the millennial and Generation Z crowd. Anyone who feels they’re transitioning from the blissful ignorance of childhood to the harsh reality of adulthood may find themselves pondering the hardships that come with “adulting.” The dictionary now defines “adulting” as the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially through the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks. It makes no sense that making responsible, healthy decisions as a twenty-something-year-old should be overly hyped or praised.
There are many reasons why routine, adult tasks are harder than they used to be. For example, student debt has risen from $340 billion in 2001 to $1.3 trillion in 2016, leaving many young adults struggling to pay off their tuition bills and feel financially stable in the real world. When finding a job to pay off said student debt, 44.6% find themselves working jobs that don’t even require a college-level degree.
The financial burdens that millennials must deal with are different from the struggles that plagued the Baby Boomers, but they are valid nonetheless. The older generations have failed to see this and use the term “millennial” against all young adults who might seem lazy, self-absorbed and technology-obsessed.
Older generations have decided that millennials don’t do enough to further their economic goals and spend too much time buying organic avocado toast instead of saving up for a down payment on a house. Millennials aren’t getting married, aren’t buying houses and aren’t having kids, but that’s because they’re drowning in debt and can’t afford to support anyone but themselves.
Despite these real struggles, completing less life-changing adult tasks such as washing the dishes, doing laundry or cleaning the bathroom doesn’t need to be documented all over social media. Twitter accounts such as @adultprobs and the use of the adulting hashtag to document mundane chores is something that shouldn’t be praised through likes and retweets. For a while, you could go to any Target or Walmart and find coffee mugs, T-shirts and notebooks decorated in quotes about the difficulties of adulting.
There’s also evidence that the term adulting is more widely used by females and that it might have sexist connotations. Jessica Grose, a writer for The Washington Post, argued that the adulting trend has caused women to celebrate the completion of domestic tasks over their accomplishments in the workplace. Grose argued that millennial women may find it makes them look endearing and likable if they portray themselves as “less competent” on social media. For example, congratulating themselves on washing the dishes and changing the sheets might be seen as a cry for masculine help and paint them as weak and helpless.
Grose’s case is an intriguing look into the roots of a wholly sexist problem that still plagues today’s women as they search for validity in the media. However, it seems that adulting may simply be boiled down to a generation’s way of asking for guidance and support from their peers and society.
Learning how to get a car inspected, doing taxes for the first time and keeping up with bills and budgets are all things that aren’t taught but learned through trial and error. Books like “Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps” by Kelly Williams Brownmight make the steps toward handling an independent life a little more manageable, but simply talking to friends and adult mentors could be an even more effective way of feeling confident in adulthood.
With rising student debt and a job market that’s getting harder and harder to crack, adulting will be hard. But, millennials might find they receive a little less hate if they simply buckle down and do it instead of complaining to thousands of their followers.
Ryann Sheehy is a sophomore theater and media arts and design double major. Contact Ryann at firstname.lastname@example.org.