When Did You Feel Like an Adult?

by | Nov 4, 2020 | Life | 33 comments

When Did You Feel LIke an Adult?

When did you officially feel grown up?

I’m sure we all woke up this morning to a little bit of a fog that we weren’t necessarily expecting. I didn’t watch the election returns last night, and only tuned in at 7:15.

I don’t want to get political in this post, or in the comments (please!), but I will just say that I think a lot of people are very anxious today. I get it. Our prayers here in Canada are with those in the United States, and it looks like it will be a while until we know anything for sure.

But because we’re all feeling so strange, I thought I’d just write something small to think about today, as we all try to get our minds off politics or think about something else.

This month, on the blog, we’re talking about emotional maturity. I started our series off yesterday by talking about the four markers of emotional maturity. And I made the point that maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age–though it does tend to go in that direction.

So I wondered–when do we all start feeling like we’re mature? Like we’re grown ups? Like we’ve entered into a new category in life?

It took me a long time to feel like I’m actually a grown up.

I thought I’d feel like I was a grown up when I got married, but I didn’t.

Sheila when young

Me in 1992, shortly after I was married.

I thought I’d feel it when I had kids, but I didn’t.

Did you feel like a grown up when you became a mom?

Sheila and Rebecca in 1998.

But sometime in the decade after the kids were born I crossed a line. I don’t know where it was, but I became a grown-up.

And I’m trying to figure out how to define it.

I started to grow up with men when I could stop asking, “Does he like me?”, and start asking, “Do I like him?”.

I began to feel like a grown up when I called my mom for her advice, and not her approval.

My mother and me in 2020

I knew I grew up when the fact that my father didn’t understand me became a cause for pity for him, rather than for angst, anger, or introspection on my behalf.

I felt like a grown up when I could begin to make a recipe without a recipe book and without worrying whether it was how my mother-in-law would make it.

I was a grown up when I stopped worrying what other people thought of my children’s behaviour and just concentrated on being the best mom I could be.

I was a grown up when I started taking better care of myself, like caring what I looked like again and not just hiding the earrings in the drawer because I couldn’t figure out how to wear them when the kids liked to pull on them. When I started prioritizing feeling good in my body, I felt more like a grown up.

I was a grown up when I could calmly talk to a salesperson about what their establishment had done that was beyond the pale, instead of letting them walk all over me.

I knew I was a grown up when I could start looking at other people’s kids and at teens and telling them what I honestly thought instead of being intimidated into worrying that I’d be labelled “the mean mom”.

I felt like a grown up when I could pray with other women in my church, even older ones, and feel like I could offer some counsel.

I felt like a grown up when I acted like others were my equals, instead of feeling insecure around those who were of higher rank or status than I was. Once I realized that didn’t matter, I knew I had grown up.

I felt like a grown up when I could see someone and have a conversation and not remember until the next day that I was supposed to be mad at them. I guess I don’t carry grudges in the same way anymore.

I knew I was a grown up when I could ask people over for dinner and not worry about whether they’d like what I made. I’d just cook what I liked, and figured everybody else would make do.

And I know I’m a grown up now that I can admit my faults to other people rather than trying to pretend to be perfect. I know now that there’s no point in pretending.

Gregoire Family of 4

Our family, taken last month

And I feel like a grown up now because I’m realizing more and more, perhaps since turning 50 this year, that my citizenship is not here; it is in heaven. This life is important to Jesus, but it is only a fraction of eternity. So I think I can let go of things a lot easier now and not worry so much what other people think.

Frustrated about what’s happening in the world?

Maybe there are some things that it’s hard to change. But you CAN be a part of a change!

So let me do a shameless plug today. Help us change the evangelical conversation about sex. 

Pre-order The Great Sex Rescue now! When you pre-order, you’re guaranteed the lowest price. And you get the buzz going and bookstores/Amazon order more! 

So if you’re going to buy it anyway–pre-order now. And be part of the change (because it will be a huge one!)

What about you? Do you feel like a grown up, or do you still struggle with it? What makes you a grown up? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. PhoenixQuill

    Oh my word, this isn’t just me?? I’m 29, married, and have a kid….and I still feel like “wait….who let me do this?”

  2. Doug Hoyle

    This is a great question and I look forward to reading the responses. For me, it didn’t all happen at once. There were areas where I had tremendous responsibility at a pretty young age. Coming from a rural/farming background, all us boys were doing a mans work, running heavy equipment, chain saws, etc. by the age of 14 or 15, so in a sense we were grown then. On the other hand, aside from that we didn’t really have any responsibilities that were ours alone. Yes, we were responsible for livestock, looking after the young and the sick, but it was a shared responsibility. Upon entering the Army, I was able to actually step back in my responsibilities for awhile, where I was only responsible for myself, but that was a short break, and soon I was promoted, and responsible for a squad at first, and later a platoon. For those without a military background, those are every day responsibilities, just as if they are your children. Looking after their welfare as much as their training and proficiency. In a sense, that also included their families, and you knew most by name. Still, often some of the more mundane responsibilities were provided. Housing was either a barracks room, or maybe family quarters. Many/most live off post, so they have to maintain regular households, with all the responsibilities that go along with that. If I am completely honest, with me being gone so much, once I was married, that mostly fell to my wife, because, well, it is hard to pay the power bill from Honduras. I have never grown up in some areas, and I am un-apologetic about it.
    When I truly felt grown tho, was when my son was grown. Talking to your son Man to man, sort of puts things in perspective.

  3. Kristen

    Hi, Sheila! As the oldest of three children, I’ve always felt fairly mature for my age. My family always jokes that I was never really a kid lol. I’ve taken multiple personality assessments in recent years, and my Jungian type has consistently been ENFJ, so I think that has something to do with it, as well.
    That’s not to say I was always fully mature, though. I was a “responsible” teen and young adult (no drinking, drugs, sex, etc.), but I was very immature when it came to standing up for myself. I was also involved in an on again, off again relationship for years, and it took me a long time to recover from that and finally accept that things were never going to work out between me and him — when I began to look at life through a more realistic set of lenses, I guess.
    I feel very grown up now, because I finally made the decision to move away and seize an amazing opportunity for grad school — something I’ve dreamed of for years but always been afraid to pursue because it would require me to move to a new place on my own. I used to panic at the thought of leaving my small town, but I’ve learned to be independent and fend for myself, and it’s a good feeling, even if it does get lonely from time to time.

  4. Anon

    I still don’t feel like an adult. I have been married for 6 years. I have two kids with one in the way. I have a college education and a job. I have a car. I take care of my kids, I do chores and so on.
    But I don’t feel like an adult. I still feel immature and like a kid. I can’t get rid of that feeling.
    I guess I think I should be more successful or something. Or have made smarter choices in life and that’s why I still don’t feel like an adult. I feel like that proverb I once read: In every adult there is a kid asking “what happened”?
    I kind of feel like that

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Anon,
      I don’t think that being an adult is about where you are, or how successful you are.
      I think it’s the ability to take responsibility and to make wise choices from now on out. It’s to stop looking backwards, since you can’t change what happened before, and start looking forwards.
      Looking backwards can be helpful and necessary if you have wounds that need to be healed so that you’re in a better place to move forward. But eventually we do want to move forward and start living our life right now. I’m sorry that you feel so stuck. I can only imagine how frustrating that would be. But I think focusing on the choices that you do have to make a good life for your kids and for yourself is important. And you can do that!

  5. Kay

    I recently saw a Facebook memory of mine from 7 years ago in which I asked this exact same question. Only now (at 36) am I finally **beginning** to feel like an adult.
    What changed it all for me was actually learning about religious trauma, about all of the ways that thinking I am a worthless worm and that I have to stay small has harmed me and kept me emotionally stunted. As I learn to embrace who I actually am and that who I am is good, that is what has allowed me to finally feel like an adult; I finally feel like me. It’s an ongoing process, of course. But I had to ditch the toxic theology before I could get there. Just the act of saying “No more” last year felt very adult.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s awesome, Kay! It has been fun to watch your journey, too.

  6. Hannah

    I love that you ran this article! I still feel so young, and I’m a few months away from 30. For me, I started knowing I was an adult when I started teaching teenagers and realizing the maturity/experience gap between us was quite large, even when they were really great people and mature for their age. My (obviously limited, since I’m still in my 20s) life experience had passed theirs and I could give advice on college, career, marriage, finances, conflict resolution, etc.
    Apart from that, I’d say probably 27-28, when I started feeling like I could handle more situations on my own without asking for advice or googling things. I just started knowing what to do. When I was little, I remember asking my mom how she “got so smart” and learned how to do so many things. She kept saying, it just comes with time. I get it now. You really do just pick things up as years pass. It’s so nice to start feeling competent!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yay! That’s wonderful, Hannah. I just feel like I can handle Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners now with ease simply because I’ve had practice. I remember being blown away by how people could do them when I was younger–now I realize that yeah, they just had practice.

  7. Anonymous in TN

    I’m in my 40s and have just started feeling like an adult. I got started later in life with marriage and children so everyone seemed to see me as a (nice, responsible) kid well into my 30s.
    Getting married didn’t make me feel any more grown up. For me, getting the jolt of “nobody else is going to step in and do _____” that came with motherhood was the thing that booted me out of feeling like a kid.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      And I do think we need to stop seeing single people as “kids”. It really is insulting, but you’re right that we do it!

  8. L

    How funny, I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I ponder all the info from October’s orgasm series. I’ve been stuck in an adolescent/fear mentality that I no longer want to accept. I actually wrote in my journal last night, “I am an adult and will make my own determination about my sexual expression.”
    I would say since I turned 30, I’ve really grown in my sense of adulthood. When I first graduated from college, I struggled with finding a job, and I had a lot of shame about the work I did and feeling like I was letting my parents down. Slowly breaking those bonds of needing parental approval has made me feel more like an adult. I honestly wish I had moved out of the house before getting married because it might have jump-started that process, but again, I really struggled to find good jobs due to the recession.
    A lot of my confidence as an adult also has to do with having children and needing to focus on being their best advocate.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad that you’re moving ahead, L! And I wish the very best for you.
      It’s interesting what you say about moving out of your parents’ house. I wonder if others had that same experience? I know I really encouraged my kids to leave home and go to university more so that they could get the experience of living on their own and buying groceries and cooking, etc. It did them a world of good. I think it is harder when you stay with your parents, but on the other hand–it’s so much more expensive to move out!

  9. Nick Peters

    I think one time I remember is I had moved out to North Carolina away from Tennessee to go to seminary. It’s important to note also I have Aspergers so this was a big move on my part. I remember heading back for Christmas and stopping at a restaurant on the way to get something to eat, I think it was McDonald’s and just thinking “I feel like I’m a traveler on a journey being my own man.”
    Now it could also be different for us men. I don’t think we ever truly grow up. I’m still a gamer after three decades of playing games and I know men older than me who still are. Men never truly grow up. Our toys just change.

  10. Phil

    I started feeling like a grown up for after I finally got honest and came clean about my sex addiction 17 years ago. But really that was just baby me actually probably having the emotional maturity of maybe a 13 year old? So then when did I truly start feeling like a grown up? Cant say for sure but maybe in the last 13ish years and it has to do with God and when I started trying to do his will and living on his terms not mine. Now in my late 40’s I have truly started to feel grown up about 3ish years ago when I found Jesus. All except late 2019- August 2020 being in my 40’s has been the best years of my life. I have been taking a course called connecting your head knowledge of God with your heart. Thats pretty grown up stuff 👍🏻

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s awesome, Phil! And thank you for mentioning something important–maturity often comes with the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

  11. Meghan

    Like most other commenters, feeling like an adult came in fits and spurts. The first time I felt officially grown up was when I started having to take full responsibility for government documents, such as researching what I needed to renew my drivers license, or applying for my first passport. Also in that same vein, when I made big life decisions without asking my parents for help (i.e. researching apartments, choosing one, and signing a lease without asking my parents for approval on my choices).
    I do remember two instances where I really started to think “wow, I actually AM an adult!” The first was during my very first business trip. I was 21, fresh faced and new in my role as the marketer for a small firm. They wanted me to travel to the other location to meet the rest of the team, so I flew on my first airplane ride and stayed in a hotel by myself for the first time. It was so surreal to realize that, aside from my work responsibilities, I was beholden to no one. I did not have to tell anyone that I was going down to the lobby to grab breakfast, did not have to ask if I had time to go eat dinner, and basically made all my own decisions. As a senior in college, I lived alone and so wasn’t new to answering only to myself, but something about that business trip just felt more adult-like. The second time was when I realized it felt weird to continue calling older people Mr/Mrs LastName because *they were my peers.*
    One final thought: I am 31 years old now. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started questioning long-held beliefs and realizing that it’s OK to set boundaries and that it’s OK to say no and that it’s OK to advocate for what I need. I wear otter socks like a little kid and don’t care what other people think. I speak up at the doctor’s office when they’re making incorrect assumptions. I tell my father he can’t disrespect me. I take up space unapologetically. I report people who harass me or others. Basically, I’m done acting like I don’t matter, because I do. Wish it hadn’t taken me 30 years to get here, but hey at least I can model this for my daughter and start her off on a better foundation than I had.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I htink that’s a great description of being an emotionally healthy adult: “I’m done acting like I don’t matter, because I do.”

  12. unmowngrass

    This is a bit of a smaller example, but the adultiest I ever felt was last year sometime when I needed to buy matches. Because matches are something that’s always just been around somewhere, y’know?
    I was on high alert the entire time. “I’m buying MATCHES. And people are LETTING me!! I’m only 34 years old*! How do they know I’m not going to use them to commit arson?? They don’t! That must mean that they TRUST me, to be responsible with them!! That must mean that I’m an ADULT! Only ADULTS are trusted to just buy matches without questioning. They’re not questioning me, so therefore I AM AN ADULT! THEY’RE LETTING ME BUY MATCHES!!!”
    And of course outside it was fine, the most straightforward transaction ever, I bought the matches, (did not use them to commit arson,) and that was that. But on the inside it was not.
    [*now 35]

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s absolutely hilarious. But, yes, it often is the little things!

  13. Elsie

    It’s funny, when I was a child, it seemed like adults knew everything but when I became an adult, I realized we are all figuring it out as we go along. I appreciate the examples of being more confident in our own decisions. I still struggle sometimes with knowing the best thing to do but I’ve definitely grown over the past few years. Being economically independent also makes a big difference- I think that’s why many millennials don’t feel like adults until they become more financially established

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      YES! That’s a huge stressor on the next generation. Millennials have so little wealth compared to where Generation X was at their age. It’s just harder now.

  14. Becky

    I agree that there wasn’t really any rite of passage for me that served as a divider between adolescence and adulthood. I feel like it was more of a process that took well over a decade, from the time I made my first major adult decision at nearly 19 (to switch majors in college), to bringing my first child home from the hospital and realizing that oh, wait, I was primarily responsible for keeping this tiny human alive. Though I honestly think that it was a slow process through my 20s, largely due to being single. I agree completely with Anonymous in TN that when you’re not in a relationship, whether by choice or not, people in the church at least often tend to see you as somewhat less of an adult than those that are married and raising families. In my case, I was also living at home for financial reasons, though I was saving as much money as I could for a down payment on my own place. But there’s something about hitting your late 20s and still living with your parents that seriously makes one question her career/life choices.
    I’m pretty sure it’s a process that will continue for the rest of my life, since there’s often been times, especially this year, when my first reaction is wanting to throw a massive tantrum like my 3 year old when things aren’t going the way I want them to!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you! I definitely feel different now at 50 than I did at 43 even. I thought I felt like an adult then, but I’ve learned a lot in the last few years. I guess we’re always supposed to be growing!

  15. Eliza

    I think what somebody said above about realizing nobody’s going to take care of it if you don’t–that’s when I felt like a grownup. For the most part this probably coalesced when my mother died when I was 23. I certainly have learned and changed a lot in the nearly two decades since but I have just felt like a more experienced adult.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so sorry about your mother! I love living with my mom. She’s so healthy, even at 78. I’m so sorry you missed those years with her. But I’m sure it did make you feel like a grown up!

  16. Katie

    When my husband and I got married, I already had a 2.5 year old son. At the time he was very emotionally immature, which I didn’t realize until much later. He had a “me first” mentality in everything. If it wasn’t what he wanted, he wouldn’t do it. If it didn’t make him happy, he wouldn’t do it. I felt like an adult at that time because I had alot on my plate. I had to take care of a kid, husband, and house along with juggling our overbearing parents on one side, and high expectations parents on the other. When we had been married for 6 years, after many chances, he hit “rock bottom” and had been caught lying again. Something changed in him at that time and I can tell that he emotionally grew up. Our marriage was VERY rocky for those first 6 years, and since then it has been great! Now married for 9 years.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s wonderful to hear a story of a guy who grew up. I was in a conversation today with someone with a similar situation–very, very selfish, immature husband. Just so sad and needless.

  17. Patricia Moore

    I think I was in my 30s, somewhere around the time I was able to buy my own home and stand on my own two feet (post-divorce as a single parent) before I felt like an adult. Growing up my mother (I think largely due to her fearful attitude toward sex) never wanted me to grow up. I was too young for a training bra in the sixth grade. Too young to wear what other girls my age were wearing in middle school. Too young for makeup in high school. I never even drank coffee until I was well out of the house because coffee was for adults and I somehow never measured up. When I wanted to get my own apartment after graduation, that idea was shot down too. I wished I joined the Navy and escaped as my younger sister did. Anyway, for years, even after I was married with children, I felt like the checkout girl in the grocery store was going to ask me what the heck I thought I was doing with a full grocery cart, as if I was some juvenile delinquent playing house.

  18. Grandad

    Dad to teen daughter:
    “Here this should make you feel as a grown up. Your very first telephone……….bill”

  19. Beth

    I came to the comments to say this. I was 28, a college grad, married, homeowner with a baby, but nothing made me feel like an adult as my mother’s death.


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