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September 02, 2010


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green girl in wisconsin

Ooh...that last comment is dead on. I've seen a lot of pretty immature people become parents. And some of the most "adult" people I know are that way because of their responsibility in the workplace.
Such an interesting discussion you're hosting here, Jenn.


This is a real hot button issue for me. I think parents, by and large, are too indulgent today. They have no, or low, expectations for their young adult children. Why are they waiting until they are OUT of school to find a job? My daughters and nieces fall into the “young adult” category at 21, 19, 19 and 17. Yes, the economy IS tough but guess what? They are all employed.

Let me give this example: My oldest is a 21 year-old college senior majoring in secondary education. We are happy to pay her tuition, book fees and rent. She is expected to pick up the rest of her expenses. She will do her student teaching in the spring. She is not allowed to have another job during that semester. What’s a girl to do?

She knocked on a lot of doors to find people willing to hire her for just one semester and who would work around her class schedule. She has been a dedicated employee everywhere she’s worked, her references are impeccable and she is willing to take what she can get to make it work. She pieced together working two different jobs for the fall: a private after school program and an elementary school lunch room monitor. Glamorous? No. Paying gigs? Yes.

Come May, 2011 she will have a degree, no student loans and a work ethic. I’m just sayin’.


Rather than seeing Music Man being laid off from several jobs as being a negative, you see it as an opportunity for him to accrue experience. I like finding the silver lining and, obviously, you do too...having a positive attitude is a winning strategy. Thanks for the reminder.

busy bee suz

Great post Jenn, you always know how to get a good conversation going.
I think that the majority of parents do overindulge their kids; that can create a world of slackers. :)


Okay, I think it is probably obvious by my previous comment that I take "handouts" from my parents. I hate doing it. I feel like a total loser when I do it, and it IS rare. My husband works his ass off, and granted, if I worked full time, rather than part time, we would be fine. It was important to me, though, to spend the majority of my time with my son until he is in school, so we sacrifice. But, sometimes unexpected expenses come up (like when our house wouldn't sell for a couple months and we couldn't afford two mortgages), and it is either accept their help, or rack up credit card debt and get in a never ending spiral. Like I said before, I don't feel people should take advantage of their parents and they should try to completely support themselves and their family, but it's not always so cut and dry.


I've got a post in the queue on this subject (already linked to the first discussion) and I'll add the link to this one as well.

I will say that it came as a shock to me how very expensive college has become. We sent off our college freshman 3 weeks ago and he has a brother just one year behind him.
We are helping them their first 2 years as long as they prove themselves worthy of help. No slacking allowed on our dime.


I have a pretty biased opinion on this and I realize that there are a wide range of experiences different than mine. I had jobs in high school and college, went to college on scholarships, grants and loans. I got pregnant in college and dropped out to support our new family. I was 21, almost 22 when I had our daughter and within 3 months had found a job as an office manager for a small business. This was in 1999, so I realize that the economy was different. But I was able to get that job because I'd been working and developing office skills for years. I was paid $10 an hour, was still on my dad's insurance because I was under 25 and not yet married. When we did get married a year later, I lost that insurance and had our daughter enrolled insured through the state. We paid my mom a small amount of money to watch our daughter so I could work and my husband could go to school.

Since then, we've had 2 more kids, several different jobs, my husband has had to take time off of school again and again to be our childcare or because of military obligations (he was in the Army when we met and later the Reserves). He's STILL working on that degree. I've gone back to school and will finish my degree and plan to move on to my master's. I'm paying for school this time around with employer tuition reimbursement, grants and loans.

Not only did we not have college degrees, but we had children to take care of. But we made it because we've always worked, we've developed marketable skills and we put the welfare of our family ahead of dreams that don't pay the rent. Definitely, our families have helped us out - many times. But we lived on our own and have never expected anyone to take care of us but US. And now, in our early 30s, we're in a better place financially and able to spend time and money on those dreams, though they're different dreams now. So I don't have a ton of sympathy for "kids" who have had a lot of privilege yet haven't learned the hard lesson that you have to work. You have to WORK. You have to learn things and get better and take your lumps and WORK. You have to work jobs you hate or for people who are jerks. I think many parents have done themselves, their kids and our society a great disservice at making everything better for their children all the time and giving them whatever they need, whenever they want.

Now, I work in a grad school and I see so many of these "kids" who are in their 20s but who behave the way I did when I was 13. Truly, I had more maturity and common sense and work ethic my freshman year of high school. This is certainly not true for all of the students here (thankfully) but it's true for more than it isn't. That's really sad and discouraging to me. It's caused me to probably be less soft with my kids because I'm so scared they'll turn into 25-year-old toddlers who throw tantrums when they don't get their way and have no sense of how to support themselves.

I realize that many young people today don't have the urgency of a family to care for, pushing them into jobs they don't want just to pay the bills. My point is, though - I found a way because I *had* to. The idea that it's impossible is simply false. I think there are simply not enough young people willing to live with several roommates, get cheap cell phones, use the library for their internet, grocery shop, go without cable, shop at discount clothing stores and work more than 1 job. These are the things you have to do in order to get by when there aren't lots of jobs or when you don't have the experience to get a better paying job. Fewer and fewer people are willing to do these things.


Man, I didn't realize my comment was so long. I'm sorry!!


3rd comment! I should temper my rant with a bit more about the help from our families. They have REALLY helped us. From the underpaid childcare to helping us pay the car mechanic to dropping by unexpectedly with groceries . . . the list goes on and on - they have been very generous. It killed us to ask, but we had to sometimes.

The thing is, we asked for necessities and in the meantime, we weren't spending our money on frivolous things. My dad didn't pay the car mechanic while we were eating out and going to the movies, you know? I'm not saying there's anything wrong with parents helping out or for asking for help. But it should be done in the face of other responsible actions.

Additionally, some nice things have come from our "poverty". My husband had to quit school so many times to take care of our kids, or we paid my mom a pittance to do the same - we couldn't afford daycare. But this meant my kids have had 2 primary caregivers, family members, who love them desperately and protected them. Now that the economy is tough and my husband struggles to find work, we know how to cut back and live on my salary. Having everything money can pay for isn't always the best thing for you.


As other readers have said, my husband and I made it because we had to. He worked on a drill rig with a college degree making $7/hr.and was gone for up to 3 months at a time. I was at home taking care of the little ones. We shared a vehicle, lived in a dump of a farm house, pumped water from a well, hung clothes on a line (still do) and did without so many conviences that going to town for ice cream was like dining with the president. We have told this story to our kids for years and years...most of the time feeling like it fell on deaf ears. We figure a little want and struggle makes them appreciate what they HAVE been given.

So now that they are adults, we have had a set of rules for our kids...2 in college now and 1 going into the Armed Services. You can come home IF you have to BUT you will live in the camper in the yard, you will use the outhouse for a bathroom, you will bathe with either boiled water from your stove or in the river. Dad and I will see that you don't starve but you WILL NOT sit on you behinds while we're out working. The end result...all three kids had 2 jobs this summer. They are independent and only call us for help when they really need it. An example, our daughter was ill recently and required an ER visit. She will NOT let us pay the bill. She has set it up on payments and says it is her responsibility. All of our kids work at being independent. They have what my grandparents called the "pioneer spirit"...pride, determination, work ethic, and a resilient spirit.


The thing I find interesting in these comments is that the main theme seems to be "we did it (became adults) because we had to" which is why the psychologist from the original New York Times Magazine thinks this is a new development stage. He compares it to when psychologists recognized adolescence 100 years ago. The changes in society and economics meant that children weren't expected or needed to work 10 hour days anymore -- in some ways weren't expected to act like adults at age 10, 11 or 12.

The psychologist is making the argument that as society has changed again it has created a new development stage (emerging adulthood) with its own traits. Among the changes that have helped create this new stage are a need for more education, fewer entry level jobs, more acceptance for pre-marital sex, cohabitation and birth control.

For the last 30 or so years studies have shown that you can make more money if you have a college degree. So the prevailing advice is to go to college. We have a much bigger middle class who can either afford the tuition or the loan payments for the tuition. Or the students themselves are willing to take on the loan payments.

I'm not really sure this is a new stage or really even a true development stage at all. To go back to my original point, adolescence didn't become adolescence until children weren't trying to help their families survive. They had a bit of free time on their hands. Commenters on this post became adults because they had to. They didn't have the luxury of navel gazing or trying out different jobs. They needed to keep a roof over their heads and food in their mouths (and children's mouths). I think if the psychologists and sociologist took an historical look at college graduates, they might find that this phase of "finding ones self" is not really new for that group. It's just that we now have a much bigger, wider-ranging group so it just feels like it must be a new trend.

The article does touch on the idea that when a person is caught up in the daily struggle to survive, the brain is too focused on the task at hand to be bothered with any thing else. It's only once the basic needs are taken care of that people start to look inward.

And I still stand by my original observation that I think the 5 determiners of adulthood need to be revised for many of the same reasons that the psychologists will say have created the arena for the emerging adulthood stage.

As a side note -- it will be interesting to see if the mid-life crisis starts to disappear. If 20-somethings have time to dabble and explore now, maybe they won't need to when they are in their 40's and 50's.


Kellyg, I think you have a lot of good points. I think because I come from a working-class family and my personality is a bit more "old school" I would likely still have shown more "adult" behaviors even without having to grow up, but likely not as pronounced. Until I got pregnant and *had* to grow all the way up, I was still living a mostly autonomous life. I was on my Dad's insurance (which I rarely used) but I paid for the rest of my life on my own - rent, utilities, food, entertainment, car, school. I'd been raised to take care of myself and preferred to have the independence and make my own rules. But I definitely was less responsible than I became after getting pregnant. Sure, I made my own money - but I spent it on partying, concerts, clothes, etc. And I was pretty directionless at that point. Got too far into the party crowd, dropped my classes, wasn't sure I wanted to continue with school. I wonder how far down that road I'd have gone if I hadn't gotten pregnant.

So, interestingly, if we look at financial security as a measurement for adulthood - while I didn't make much, I made enough to "take care of myself". Yet I was making horribly irresponsible choices and those point to a serious lack of maturity.

I am interested to see if my peers skip the mid-life crisis, as you suggested. Most of them are just now getting married or thinking about kids - they'll be well into their 40s by the time they have kids the same age as my kids currently are. They've accomplished a lot in terms of career and travel and are now getting hungry for domesticity. I'm now waking up from my baby-making, survival haze and am hungry for career, travel and creativity.

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