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. 

23 thoughts on “The pressures of adulting”

  1. I think you need to talk to your wife. You both need to be on the same page w.r.t money, Id feel insulted if my husband raised his eyebrows on a 2$ bill on my phone card. You both are in this together, yes, its true, its harder on families with single income undoubtedly, so you have to be really careful with what you spend. Plus, I hate the connotation that going outside = working and SAHM with an infant is relaxing! Maybe get your wife to do it for a whole week to see how hard it is to run a home.
    I am sorry you feel this way, its totally unfair. I have been procrastinating pursuing education because there really is no time to get into the “study frame” when you have a infant/toddler to take care of! Every minute alone with them is a full time job..

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, thank you for understanding that there is a study frame of mind… It’s so hard to multitask on a cognitively heavy task and infant care…

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  2. Amen, sister. Even when you have accomplished some of those things that you’re supposed to accomplish by some arbitrary time in life, there are ALWAYS things to feel like you need to be doing better (saving money, making money, cleaning the house, parenting, exercising, etc.) Take it easy on yourself, have honest conversations with your wife about how you’re feeling, and know that you’re doing an awesome job at being a mother, which is what will matter to you (and to Avery) most later in life…not how much money you made.

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  3. I echo mamalife and Caitlin. Be kind to yourself, being the primary caregiver for your child is a huge task and responsibility which is clearly going to be your first priority right now. And I do think it’s worth talking to your wife about the money stuff and how you feel. It may be a hard conversation but it’s also a very necessary conversation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I have brought it up before but we don’t really get into it enough. I say this is how I feel, she says I shouldn’t feel that way because we’re equals, end of conversation. Money convos are always going to be tough, and being in a stay at home mom role is a whole new can of awkwardness when it comes to marital financial issues…

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  4. ❀ ❀ ❀
    You are in a difficult place right now, for sure. But childcare will help so so so much when you get there. I tried to juggle baby at home and work at the same time and it is impossible. You can write a blogpost with one eye on the baby. You can't do any real work that way, though. And the sleep deprivation only complicates things.

    As someone who has gotten beyond the sleep dep and has childcare – oh god it gets better. So so so much better. Your journey is longer, but you will reach an end. Someday, Avery will sleep. Someday, you will have childcare. You will be amazed at how much brighter the world is and how much easier it is to make progress. Be kind to yourself.

    The money thing is only more stress. I know my wife went through that when she was doing her doctorate and bringing in somewhere around the same amount. I carried the financial burden for a long time, but we both knew that some day it would flip, and she would carry the burden. So we never analyzed individual purchases like that. Would it help if there was some sort of budget, some amount that she wouldn't analyze and judge? Also, she needs to take into account the $ you're both saving by you staying home with Avery. That is definitely not an insignificant contribution to the household. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks ☺️ I definitely look at your experience as a source of inspiration and hope. It did get better, and you accomplished SO MUCH. If anyone knows how hard it is to do brain-heavy work while parenting on very little sleep, it’s you and some of the other parents in this blogging community.
      A budget is a good idea. We don’t have a joint bank account so I think a budget would help to clarify what exactly we’re both contributing to the family as well as spending on frivolous things.

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  5. I get this SO MUCH!!! Sometimes B implies that he doesn’t understand why XYZ are not done, because I’ve just been home all day. Being “on” 24/7 is NOT an easy job!! Even when the baby sleeps, you have to have some sort of relaxing and off time for yourself, and not be cleaning or organizing every second that your child is not awake. Even when she’s sleeping I’m usually staring at the monitor waiting for her to wake up. Add in running errands (what feels like at least 4 days a week sometimes!) and trying to get some sort of socialization in for both C’s an my own benefit, and it doesn’t always leave a lot of time in the day. There’s also not a lot of brain power left to think about anything, other than when you’re going to find time to do things the next day.
    As for finances…I’m right there with you on that as well. I feel like I can’t/shouldn’t ask for anything, ever. Not because B has said that to me, but because of the reaction I get when I say I want or need something. It’s usually a pause, a look of frustration, sometimes a deep sigh, then “How much is it?” It’s kinda demoralizing. I’ve sort of been used to getting things when I want to, not asking permission first. I’m a pretty independent person, so having to ask to buy things and also being attached to another human at all times is a huge change of life. Not that I would change it for anything, I love my child to death and I’m so thankful that I’m home with her…it’s just hard. So I get it, I’m right there with you. We’ll get through it though. *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I totally get that it sucks on the one hand, also being a really independent person before this arrangement, and also so so thankful to be able to be home with the baby. It’s always nice to know I’m not alone in these feelings. They must be pretty common for stay at home parents.

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      1. I’m sure they are, especially for people who used to be super independent. If you ever need to vent, please feel free. It’s nice to know there’s someone around who understands. πŸ™‚

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  6. So, I’m the “breadwinner” while my wife is home with Ansel. I think you all have to set up systems that will support you feeling like you have access to money without having to justify or explain. I like to think of things as the economy of your family. There’s the actual money and cost of food, rent, etc. But there’s also things that contribute that aren’t money based: childcare, cooking, cleaning, managing a house, laundry, errands, etc. You are doing those things, which don’t earn a wage for but which are a “cost” (and which you’d have to pay to outsource) we have a joint account and everything goes into that and everything comes out. I know some people don’t feel comfortable with that kind of arrangement but it works for us. We talk about big expenses and know generally how much we want to spend on groceries, coffee, and personal stuff. I hope you can figure things out. I can’t imagine having an infant and trying to write a dissertation.

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  7. Oh I absolutely hear you! I am in the same boat, except my partner hardly earns much either as he 7 years younger than me. And I 150% agree with the soul replenishment. Looking after babies is hard work and I find in between I do things like write, bake, watch series until my eyes fall out…lol. I was working non stop with running a house, looking after twins and trying to earn some income int he first 4 months of my baby’s lives and I hit burnout. I’m lucky I have such a supportive family who have agreed that for the first year I need to be with my babies and that is my job!

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  8. I can’t imagine trying to finish ones PhD with a little one at home… Even if you had more help, school is a different kind of thing than even work…hell, my husband just working full-time and taking one online community college class was hugely disruptive to our schedule, exhausting him… and that’s without kids! Blogging is so completely different…for me it’s a release, not Academia!
    By the way it’s never too late to renegotiate in your marriage… Take care of your stuff now before the resentment grows even more… Both parents should be primary caregivers…

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    1. Thanks for reassuring me that I have a right to feel overwhelmed with it. 😊 I know that my wife and I have a constant job of figuring out our new roles now that our family has grown.

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  9. I work my full-time job from home, so I TOTALLY get it. It’s hard to balance everything (and not feel guilty!). I work in Higher Ed so I take MBA classsess a few times per year (I already have an MA, but I actually like learning, so I am open to getting a second Master’s…especially for free). It is very difficult to do school work. I would put my toddler to bed (9pm usually), fire up the coffee pot and hack away at school work for the next 3-4 hours. It’s not a goood plan in the long run, but for an 8 week class, I can trick my mind enough to power through. P.S. your late 30’s are better than your early 30’s. I promise πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Keep your head up! Being a grad student is tough any way you slice it. On top of that you are also balancing being a spouse and a parent. These are all awesome roles but very difficult to excel in all simultaneously! Things will get better, hang in there!

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