The pressures of adulting

It’s such a Millennial kid thing to say – “adulting”. Like the responsibility of this stage if life is such a shocking adjustment from the carefree years of our youth. 

As a young adult I craved the independence and responsibility of mid-adulthood. I figured that by my 30s I’d have a career, own a house, have a kid (check), and be perfectly balanced. I thought I’d feel like I’d kicked life’s ass and would know how to have my cake and eat it too. 

But what I’ve found is that the pressure to have a balanced life is heavy. There is pressure to be able to work hard and excel in a career while also pursuing happiness and life goals and family and relaxation and hobbies…. 

This post is a personal ramble/rant (rantle?) about the pressures I feel at this stage in my life. 

I’ve been a university student for 10 years. I’ve had odd contract jobs over those years, but I haven’t brought home more than $20,000 a year in income, ever. I’m now in my 30s. I’m holding my family back from buying a house. We currently rent an amazing place that my mom owns, but we want to own. I also feel like I’m holding us back on saving for retirement, and how dare I even utter the word retirement when I haven’t “worked” for it at all yet. 

Because of my financial situation I feel like I have no control in my life anymore. Whether she thinks she does or not, my wife holds all the power in our spending decisions. I get questioned on the cost of the groceries I buy (which, believe me, is low), I get a questionable eyebrow raise when I buy an item of clothing (for myself or the baby), and I hear my wife’s frustration when friends around us buy houses on their two-person income. My wife pays my cell phone bill, so when someone suggested I try the Wonder Weeks baby app when Avery was newborn, I didn’t get it because I didn’t want to be questioned on a $2 charge on our phone bill. These little things all add up and make a severe dent in my sense of autonomy and control in my own life. 

And money is the leading cause of marital problems, so it’s not ideal to stay in this financial sore spot. 

But how can I get out of this sore spot if I don’t move forward in my PhD? I haven’t done a lick of school work during the months of May or June. I feel like I’m a 24/7 parent – even when my wife watches the baby so I can shower, I find myself listening through the bathroom door because I am so used to needing to be attuned to the baby’s needs. 

I feel annoyed at myself for my lack of work productivity because I know that the sooner I finish my PhD, the sooner I can get financial autonomy. I also receive outside pressure – my wife and my parents regularly ask how my work is going and try to give me advice on how to get work done. 

  • “Why don’t you work in the evening after the baby has gone to bed?” Oh, you mean after 2 hours of frustrated bedtime routine and a 14 hour day of being on constantly, and the 5 nonconsecutive hours of sleep I get every night? I’m sure my brain will be in tip top shape for dissertation writing. 
  • “Why don’t you let the baby play independently and do some work while she plays?” She needs constant supervision right now or she’ll pull the DVD player onto her head or eat that piece of foam playmat that the cat just ripped off… I can check emails but I can’t enter the focused land of dissertation writing while supervising a baby at play. 
  • “How can you work on your blog but not on your PhD? You need to prioritize things better.” I have prioritized things to exactly what I need to survive life right now. Baby comes first, keeping our family fed and in clean clothes comes second, self care comes third, and PhD comes fourth. I put work second during this past winter semester and I was miserable. Humans need a balance of hard work and soul replenishment. I work hard all day with the baby, and when she falls asleep in my arms I do blogging as soul replenishment. 

All of this to say, adulting can be hard. All of its parts alone are manageable, but the more you pile on the harder it gets. Work, parenting and other family responsibilities, marriage and relationships, social life, personal interests like hobbies and personal goals, money and making it or not having it, societal expectations, lack of close-knit social supports… It accumulates. 

There is no uplifting ending to this rantle. This is how it is for now. Eventually I will move through the stages – the baby will enter part time childcare, and then one day school, I will finish my PhD and one day start actually earning a solid income… Just have to take it one day at a time and try to stay positive and keep the end goal in mind.