How to Act Like a Grownup


Do you consider yourself grown up?

I don’t, not really. Yeah, I’ve got a husband, two kids, a dog and a house. But deep down, I still feel like a kid.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one, either. I mean, don’t we all go through some kind of identity crisis once we have kids? If we didn’t, why else would we volunteer at our kid’s school when we’d rather be tortured or buy minivans that we hate? And then we rebel by tossing back a slew of cocktails or punching our hubby in the face. (Just kidding about that last one. I hope.)

If you’re like me, you wanted to be something big when you grew up. An astronaut, maybe, or a princess. But I can’t ever recall anyone saying they wanted to be a responsible when they grew up. Or an adult. Can you?

And yet there’s a whole army of moms out there who aren’t afraid to look and act like responsible adults. Dads who are fine with their obvious adult-like status.

How does this happen?

Well, if you’re like me and Ken, it happens when your kids are 5 and 3 and you finally realize you cannot live like this for one more day.

You’re tired of scrounging for food.

You’re tired of trying to cook something your kids will eat.

You’re tired of trying to find your kid a clean shirt.

You’re tired of trying to find yourself a clean pair of underwear.

You’re tired of living in your hellhole of a house.

You’re just tired, damn it.

Which is pretty much what happened to us this weekend. On Saturday, we spent two hours trying to get the kids out the door to go to the pool because a) we couldn’t find their swimsuits, b) we didn’t have anything to eat and c) after a and b, we were all pretty damn grumpy.

After Ken and I tortured each other for a good hour (i.e.: fought over why our house was such a pit, why we never had anything good to eat and why no one ever put away the clothes that did manage to get washed), I finally realized something. (If you’re new to this kind of thinking, like I was, go ahead and sit down now, before you pass out.)

I realized that if we were ever going to have any clean clothes around the house, Ken and I were actually going to have to, gasp, wash them.

I told you this was shocking.

Even more shocking was that I remembered a conversation I’d once had with a woman who told me how she did laundry on Mondays, groceries on Tuesdays, vacuumed on Wednesdays and so on, until every day of the week was filled.

I was appalled. I was beyond appalled. Right then and there, I swore that I would never become like that mom. I would never become that responsible.

I would never become a mom mom.

I would not be worn down! Not at any cost!

I would not curtail my rebellious ways! I would continue to wear cowboy boots when I felt like it! Listen to music that was current! Entertain on weekday nights! Go to sleep at 8 pm! (Oops, I didn’t mean to say that one out loud.)

But after all the recent hoopla at our house, I finally realized why so many adults actually do act responsibly, at least some of the time. Because when they get all this goddamn house stuff out of the way, it frees up all sorts of time for the fun stuff.

Like: if we’d managed to find our swimsuits last Saturday, we could’ve made it out of the house before 3pm. And: if I didn’t spend 18 hours a week fighting with Ken, we could finally watch that movie we’ve been trying to watch for the past 3 months.

I know! You could have knocked me over with a feather, too.

See, Ken and I have probably wasted a good 6-8 years of our lives fighting over all the work that comes from having two small kids and a household worth of chores that neither one of us wants to do. Which means that we’ve spent way too much time rebelling against this whole grownup thing in all sorts of small (and not so small) ways.

But here’s the thing: I’m not 20 anymore. I don’t need to prove that I’m independent by refusing to do my husband’s laundry—I can prove that just by opening my mouth. And I don’t need to prove that I’m cool by refusing to discipline my kid—hell, I already prove that every day with my fabulous collection of kid-stained clothing.

When we were young, I don’t think any of us wanted to grow up to be the stodgy parents on the block. But just because we’re taking care of what needs to be taken care of doesn’t mean that we’ve giving in. It means we’ve grown up enough to understand this:

If we stop rebelling over all the little stuff, we’ll have enough energy left to rebel against the stuff that really matters. Like your mother-in-law. (Kidding!) Or that sucky job that’s been draining your lifeblood for the past 5 years. (Not kidding!)

When you stop having to put out all the daily fires that come from ignoring all those boring household chores, you’ll find that you’ve got all sorts of energy left over for the good stuff. Like hanging out with your buds. Getting out of town. Or maybe even getting along with your husband.

You’ll also find that you’ve got all sorts of know-how telling you what’s right for you—whether that’s planting a garden, getting back out into the world or finally going after that dream job.

Because when you stop using all that energy to fight everything that’s coming your way, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.


The Scary Mommy Community is built on support. If your comment doesn't add to the conversation in a positive or constructive way, please rethink submitting it. Basically? Don't be a dick, please.

  1. 4

    Ischa Ropert says

    Nice to hear someone be honest about the stress of having a baby on relationships. There is now research that shows 67% of couples experience severe marital dissatisfaction for the 3 years after the arrival of a new baby. Weird seeing very few people admit to it. I work as a couples coach and it these types of issues housework, childcare, sex or lack of it, time pressure that can bring a couple to divorce. They don’t teach you that in birth classes! Check out John Gottman’s And Baby Makes Three. I have summarise his research in an article on my website if the topic interests anyone further.

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    • 5

      Tanja Pajevic says

      Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly what made me start my blog–because I felt like everyone was going through the same hell, but no one was willing to admit it. That’s awesome that you’re doing couples coaching–God knows we all need it! Thanks, Ischa.

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    • 7

      Tanja Pajevic says

      Right back atcha, sister! Wow, all this love is definitely making my day! I always knew what an awesome community this was, but to be on the receiving end is pretty damn amazing.

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  2. 8

    Arnebya says

    I’ve been trying to institute that crazy thing called a schedule for the house, but…meh. I do want to stop the bickering and the searching through clothes only to sniff and wonder if those jeans were shit in. For us it’s not necessarily an aversion to adulthood, it’s just pure, absolute laziness (and not knowing HOW to get to the this day for this, this day for that, just wash SOME of the dishes and I’ll get the rest). When it dawned on me (much like your revelation) that we’re expected to compromise and deliberately keep our house clean, well, all I could think was “no one told me that.”

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    • 9

      Tanja Pajevic says

      Right? And in our house, we’re always waiting for the other person to do it. Here’s an example for you: after writing this (and arguing over the damn laundry for 4 hours), we (my husband really) finally decided we’d do the laundry every Monday. OK, right? So Monday rolls around and I’m just watching and waiting. Is he doing the laundry? No. Am I? No.
      I could, of course, I’m just waiting to see if he expects me to do it all. Finally, right before dinner, I call him on it, and he’s all like, Oh, I forgot.
      Which is all too often our MO. We did finally end up doing the laundry, but it took another week to get to it. All of which is to say: one step forward and two back. This stuff is hard!

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      • 10

        Matt says

        If it hasn’t already been suggested, get together with hubby and do some of the chores together, not just one of you. This can give you the time to bond and reconnect, have a little fun, and get the job done faster. It also helps in the accountability dept in that you’re both responsible instead of just one. With only one responsible for certain things, it can all devolve into keeping score and you’re back to where you started blaming the other for not doing something.

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        • 11

          Tanja Pajevic says

          Good idea, Matt. What happens with the kids, then? Don’t they start to get all crazy when you’re both busy and no one’s available for them?

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          • 12

            Matt says

            hehe true, that’s always something that could happen. start small, do one thing at a time like maybe the dishes to minimize time away. another side benefit is that you set a good example of a cooperative, happy, loving relationship to them.

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  3. 15

    Kendra {Momma's Ruby Slippers} says

    Thank you for this slap in the face! I’m constantly feeling like I’m in survival mode with my 22-mth-old son and 6-mth-old daughter. This post was just what I needed!

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    • 16

      Tanja Pajevic says

      Kendra–wow, you’re really in the thick of it. I’ve got a few close friends who pretty much lost their minds when their kids were as young as yours, and while it’s going to be great when they’re older, it’s tough to have them that close in age right now. Talk about work. Hang in there!

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  4. 17

    Rainyday says

    This post made me think about the 3 loads of laundry currently spilling all over the living room floor, waiting to be folded. And the 3 loads that are upstairs, already folded, but not really, anymore, since no one has put them away and we just root through the baskets to find stuff. And the easily 4 more loads of dirty clothes heaped and strewn on the floors in our bedroom and the bathroom because we don’t have any empty baskets. Ugh. I was trying to forget all that stuff. Thanks a lot.

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  5. 20

    Essie says

    I constantly am reacting instead of acting and if you get fairly decent at it it’s a hard habit to break. I finally realized there is a medium between being that mom that keeps to a perfect schedule and one that can’t even get out the door.

    I will keep my kids and their clothes clean, get dishes done, toys cleaned up so I don’t break my neck, and meals made. I will get them out of the house so I don’t completely lose my mind.

    I won’t pin anything, decorate, garden, entertain on a level above what a 5 yr old would like, or have an uninterrupted conversation while the kids are awake.

    Right now that’s what works I figure it can’t last forever, right?

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    • 21

      Tanja Pajevic says

      I do a lot of reacting, too. It’s hard not to when you’re losing your mind! And yet, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to show the kids what the rest of your life is like when they’re awake–that way they start to learn a little bit more about the world that’s outside of them, and it opens them up to all sorts of possibilities for when they grow up.
      But man, I hear you–it seems like this stage lasts forever.

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