Adulting is hard - A column by Beth Ritchie

By Beth Ritchie of https://propergrownup.com/ 

I’ve said it before, but I’m just going to say it again for the people in the back… adulting is really hard.

It’s basically one long chain of responsibilities, with practical stuff, such as paying bills and keeping small humans alive, totally dependent on your successful attempts to do adult stuff.

Then there are the crucial things like your own sanity, pride, and self worth, all tied up in satisfactorily living up to your obligations.

Being an adult has always scared me. But never more so than right now.

The term “sandwich generation” is a terrifying concept. And I can now attest that feeling responsible for the wellbeing of the generation above and below us is mentally and physically overwhelming.

Two weeks ago, my dad went into a care home from which he won’t return. His cancer is now deemed untreatable and complicated by the Alzheimer’s which had already stolen so much of him from us. This means that I wake up every morning wondering whether I’ll get “the call” today, and then spend all day thinking about how he’s coping. I’m trying to organise as many visits as I’m allowed during a pandemic (a 3 hour round trip), while keeping up to date with other family members.

I’m constantly distracted with making sure he’s comfortable, entertained and has everything he needs (mostly virtually), while trying to leave nothing left unsaid. I switch between being incredibly grateful that I’ve had this “warning period” and feeling absolutely exhausted with anticipatory grief.

I also have two teenage boys (who are getting more and more like gorillas stuck in tiny cages thanks to lockdown) to whom I’m of course mum, chef, cleaner, doctor, mentor, coach, therapist, taxi driver, personal assistant and all-round guru, a growing freelance business (with clients and potential clients who need me to be on the ball at all times) and I’m selling my house and moving this year (which of course means extensive practical and financial planning).

Oh, and did I mention that getting older as a woman also comes with a complete metabolic slow down that requires relentless attention to diet and exercise to offset?

This isn’t unusual for the sandwich generation. I’m no busier than anyone else, but I do illustrate a snapshot of an age group who feel weighed down with seemingly infinite responsibilities.

At our age, we all have countless plates that we must keep spinning. But it’s not the time or busyness that makes it difficult. Most of us find that 24 hours in a day is enough, if you’re organised (which I’m getting better at, even my weekends are scheduled to the minute), willing to cut a few corners and don’t value sleep too much.

Nope, it’s the emotional burden of responsibility that has me panicking in my bed at the darkest of night.

My eldest recently did his GCSE options and this is just one example where I live in a perpetual state of shock that I don’t need to get permission from my mum for this stuff.

I’m 43 on the outside but inside I’m a terrified 12-year-old riding the bus on her own for the first time. I don’t feel like I should really be trusted with this level of responsibility.

What’s even more disturbing is I know that everyone else feels the same deep down. The realisation that a “grownup” is a purely physical concept related to the number of years your body has clocked up has finally dawned.

The “grownup” who knows exactly the right thing to do in all aspects, as I once thought, is a complete fallacy that has gone the way of the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas. The last vestiges of childhood have fallen away.

We’re on our own now.

I keep seeing pictures of old school friends on social media, also navigating life as an adult, and I can’t help but feel like we’re on a long school trip and a teacher probably ought to show up soon and take charge.

How are we being allowed to do everything unsupervised?

Is this even safe?

Hopefully an adult will come along with some reassurance soon.

  • Adulting is hard - A column by Beth Ritchie