Not Alone Series: Adulting


How are you still connected to your family of origin (that’s the one you grew up in: parents, siblings, and extended family) even as you are adulting (a.k.a. living as an independent adult, at home or on your own)? How has your relationship with your parents changed as you’ve grown up? How connected are you with your extended family? What aspects of these relationships do you think are affected by your being single? How do you think your family relationships would change after marriage or entering religious life? (Thanks for the topic suggestion, Bek!)

To start, I am on the fence about the grammatical validity of the word “adulting.” Grammar Girl made a solid argument in favor of it last year. I tend to have a similar point of view about making up words: when no suitable word exists, the only logical thing to do is create a new one. Remember when “google” wasn’t a verb? That was only about 15 years ago. Even “teenager” was not a thing until the 50’s or so. There were children; there were adults; there was no in-between.

To the point, adulting is a challenge. People like Pope Francis for a lot of different reasons, but one of my favorite things is that, when he discusses the challenges of modern family life, he always includes the problem of the growing number of unmarried young adults. The statistics don’t lie: this is unprecedented. When my mother was my age, I was 2, and she’d been married for six years. That was not unusual. In the years between her day and mine, people started intentionally getting married later and intentionally having children even later than that (or never), leading us to today, when egg freezing is becoming so common that companies offer to pay for it. You can blame prosperity, higher educational standards, or individualism. Facts are facts: adulting looked a lot different just a generation or two ago.

As for my family, I’m not sure they quite know what to do with me. I know my parents are proud of me and that they support me; it’s a blessing that I’ve never doubted that. I’m pretty sure they expected to have babies underfoot again by now, though. I did, too. My brother is in college, so he doesn’t really have to be an adult yet. My sister is a college graduate living back at home. (If you happen to know anyone in environmental science, drop me a line.) She’s kind of adulting and kind of not, but she does what she can. It’s so strange when I go home for Christmas. We have a house full of adults with no children.

My parents rarely pressure me to get married and have babies, but my extended family thinks I’m just too picky, or that I focused on my career first and purposely put off marriage. They have said as much. The problem with those opinions is that they assume getting married or not is just a matter of choice or timing. It’s not. I would have chosen by now. I would have quit delaying long before now.

I imagine that, if and when I finally do get married, that gray cloud hanging over me will finally go away. My family won’t be wondering what’s wrong with me. I won’t be wondering what’s wrong with me. I want children, but I could be happy without them. I could even be perfectly happy as a religious sister. That would be weird for my family (they’re not religious), but it would be something finite. I don’t think God is calling me to religious life, but I can’t believe he’s calling me to nothing.

Fr. Mike Schmitz mentioned in his most recent video about vocations that the purpose of a permanent vocation (marriage, priesthood, or religious life) is to be the method by which you grow in holiness and get to heaven. The vast majority of people will be made holy through their marriages, priestly ordinations, or religious community life. Those lifelong, exclusive commitments will call them to sacrifice for the other, to love that person or people unconditionally, and to help get the other to heaven. Until recently, very, very few people were called to remain single for life and become holy as single lay men and women.

So is the calling to unvowed lay single life growing, or are we all just adulting wrong?

Next week’s topic: Conversation Starters

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This is a rich area, and one that touches on the increased age of newly ordained priests (the most recent crop ordained in this diocese were all past age 35) and calls within the Church for men to “man up” and accept responsibility (as if they don’t already have responsibilities.)

Despite much literature about unmarried people (the Mary Tyler Moore Show was on more than 40 years ago) there is still a perception that single people are just aging teenagers delaying their acceptance of adult responsibility. And the romantic idea that this phase of life concludes with a wedding signifying that the people lived happily ever after. (This despite the hard fact that many marriages end in divorce.)

Joe Geisler half-facetiously calls unmarried adults “angry loners” and that stereotype does lurk in society’s unconscious. There’s the notion that unmarried people are immature, or somehow unbalanced and incomplete. A whole person is an attached person. I’m convinced this idea was a large part of what drove the same-sex marriage bandwagon of recent years. Married people (gay or straight) are less scary and threatening than single people.

    Do you think the increased age of the newly ordained might be due to the expectation that everyone will go to college and that would-be priests need to graduate, get a job, and date first? We used to have high school seminaries; now we have second-career seminaries.

    Some single adults are delaying responsibility. (That’s why Tinder is exploding and the marriage rate is declining.) When Fr. Pastor talked about money, he also mentioned that the vision of the struggling young newlyweds has basically disappeared. Debt is the doorway to having the life your parents have, but you can have it right now instead of working toward it for years like they typically did. And then you can put off children because you can’t afford them (except that no one can ever afford kids).

    One of the things I like about being a Catholic Christian is that the Catholic Church has a specific and honored place for single people. Those people are usually vowed religious, but at least there’s space for unvowed singles, too. I felt left out on Sunday, but I don’t usually feel that way.

      I see both sides of all of this. I’ve heard that a lot of priests that went to high school seminarians weren’t mature enough to become a priest and many of them were ones that committed crimes and ended up leaving the priesthood/being asked to leave (I’m not sure that is the whole reason but I feel now they are being extra cautious on who becomes a priest).

      Debit is also a big issue nowadays you can’t become a priest or a nun with debt…yes there are programs but it can be an iffy situation.

      One thing I have noticed about this issue is 20 years ago people dated much differently. People didn’t date for 2-5 years before getting engaged. They dated 6 months tops, got engaged, and then got married less than a year later and were married for 50+ years. I have no idea how we got from that to where we are today but your guess is as good as mine…i’m sure it’s all related back to sex in someway.

      I’m not sure I know the answers but I know we have to “adult” the best we can in the state of life we are in otherwise we’ll drive ourselves crazy or get super depressed by not being where we want to be in life (I know easier said that done).

[…] we are talking about Lindsay’s new word: Adulting (definition below :-) […]

[…] I have merged todays word for 31 Days of Blogging and the Not Alone Series Prompt together to write about the word ADULTING. […]

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