What makes you an adult?
It is the moment you realise you’re just like your mum? The blood-chilling day you get excited over a new vacuum cleaner?
For many of us, the traditional markers of adulthood our parents experienced seem entirely out of reach.
Owning a house, having a stable job, getting married, having kids – all that is happening later in life, extending our adolescence – or the feeling of adolescence, at least – far beyond our teens.
Scientists say that we’re not adults until we hit our thirties, but even then we have to leave room for individual differences.
While we might be adults technically, what is it that makes us feel like grownups? Will we ever stop feeling like children pretending?
We spoke to some people who most would consider adults to ask them if they feel like grownups, all to find out if there is a secret checklist that means you’ve officially made it to adulthood. Here’s what they said.
I don’t feel like an adult, not even a little bit. I really don’t think I ever will. I still deem dippy eggs as an appropriate dinner choice more often than I probably should.
I turned 30 in December and oh my god, it is so hard.
An adult is probably someone who has their shit together. I live with my boyfriend and we do have a puppy, but I just don’t feel grown up yet.
I guess I would say, people who’ve learnt to be calm in a stressful situation and who are tolerant, confident and who can understand about boilers and insurance and all the things I should probably know by this point – or at least wing it in a way that they appear as though they do. And maybe people who read the money or politics supplements in the paper on a Sunday.
Yes, I feel like an adult because I am one.
There is no mystical feeling of being an adult. You are an adult, so however you feel is ‘feeling like an adult’.
You might not have the hallmarks of adulthood that our parents did, that doesn’t mean you’re not one.
I am a married woman who is about to start trying for a baby, I run a household and have a career, absolutely f*** any report which says I am not an adult – but even if I were living at home and my mum still made my lunch I’d still be an adult, just a different type of adult.
I do feel like an adult most of the time. But I very much enjoy the moments when I completely forget about it, which basically means I forget about responsibilities, money, work.
I definitely feel like one when I spend time with my daughter and realise that she is depending on me. I do believe having people depend on you makes you aware of your adultness.
I started feeling like an adult quite late, I believe. I’ve suffered (and still do) from an acute Peter Pan complex. I’m quite the dreamer. I am silly most of the time and I tend to not take most things very seriously, especially the ones that don’t feel like they really matter in the grand scheme of things.
As soon as you become too involved and care too much, that’s when it hits you. The full force of being an adult. And that’s not fun.
The things that make me feel like an adult are the mundane: the commute, money problems, looking for a job, a house, emotional issues.
Things that make someone an adult are hindsight, experience, seeing things clearly, dealing with whatever life throws at you, and children. Having children brings adulthood in your life as soon as you hold them for the first time.
I felt like an adult last year when I moved in with my girlfriend – no more ‘ooh, whose house will I crash as this time’ on nights out. Having responsibilities around someone you care about is a lot different to have responsibilities around people you rent with.
I feel like an adult when I’m locking up the doors at night and doing the bins, or making plans for the week ahead on Monday. I imagine getting a dog will make me feel like the biggest adult ever.
I’m 35, recently bought my own home (which is filled with Star Wars ‘figures’…toys), have had a heck of a life (lost my brother when I was 17 and my Mum when I was 30, have had terrible relationships in the past) and in my head I still feel about 19.
Who I am and what I thought I should be by 35 when I was younger are a million miles apart!
Younger people probably need to realise you don’t suddenly get your sh*t together by a certain age and nor does anyone have to fundamentally change as a person as they age.
I get angry when people complain/moan about being old, especially when they’re not; this may be because of losing my brother when he was 26, it may be because I work with a lot of amazing older people who have fascinating stories and lives.
I think being an adult means being able to help others, caring, volunteering, being compassionate, being considerate. Responsibility. It’s not about your job, how much you earn, getting married. It’s being able to look outside of your own bubble.
I’m 31, engaged and have a mortgage yet still wouldn’t class myself as an adult.
I think it stems from comparing where I am in life to where my parents were at the same age. By my age my dad was years into his career, had been on the property ladder since his mid twenties and had two kids.
As everything takes longer for our generation, I think the age of adulting will take longer to kick in. I’m going to say by 40 I hope to feel like an ‘proper’ adult, but who knows!
I guess being an adult would be a secure career, stable relationship, owning a home, and having children. If I had to pick one it would be having children as I (hope) to feel like a more responsible person by that time.
When I got to 21, I felt experienced and thought I knew everything about life. What happened over the next ten years made me realise I didn’t.
When I got to thirty, I felt experienced and thought I knew everything about life. When I got to forty, I realised that life is a learning experience and you will never become so experienced that you never make bad decisions.
At 47, I think the thing I have learned most is choose your friends carefully. Take time to get to know people in the same way that you would a partner.
It’s a cliché but you never stop learning.
Being an adult is the ability not to emotionally react to something as a child would. Some people have never learned this skill, even in their forties.
I turned 30 in November and I actually do feel like an adult. Or, at least, more adult than I ever have before.
The older I get the more I realise that there won’t be this big revelation moment where you wake up feeling grown up and everything suddenly falls in to place. A lot of my brain hasn’t changed since I was 16.
I think I started feeling like an adult in the year or so before turning 30. I felt a shift in mindset and began to feel more self-confident and less insecure. I am less willing to let people treat me badly – in relationships, friendships, at work – and I’m clearer on who I am.
External factors also played a part. I stopped house-sharing and moved in with my boyfriend. Having our own space, cleaning and cooking together, buying plants and rugs – these things all feel deliciously adult to me.
Being able to take responsibility for yourself and your own actions makes you an adult. A lot of that comes down to confidence. If you have the confidence to own up to your mistakes and do what needs to be done to fix them – without needing anyone else to come to your rescue – that’s an adult.
I feel like I’m always doing a lot of growing up. But now, I feel like an adult.
I thought I was an adult when I bought my first house at the age of 26 and a puppy and topped all that with a 4×4 – seemed pretty grown up but actually that was basic b***h kind of living. I didn’t have any real responsibility, despite paying bills that I had created.
My mum sadly died last year, I was 33. That’s probably the day I grew up and realised that life isn’t just about me and that I had other people to support and take care of.
When you stop relying on other people to handle your business, you’re an adult.
Of course your parents or loved ones can support you at any time, but when you’re an adult you take responsibility for your actions and also start thinking of others beyond yourself.
I’ve found that rather than consuming everything and being quite materialistic, I have a better understand of what life is all about, and am trying to make better decisions about how I want to live my life, which sounds pretty grown up to me.
Being a certain age doesn’t make you an adult every time – it’s how you conduct yourself and your experiences.
James G., 37
I think the moment I moved in with my now wife, in my mid-20s, I began to feel and behave more like an adult. I quickly realised I’d been living a pretty selfish existence and now, suddenly, literally almost every decision I made would impact on someone other than myself.
My wife, however, may argue that my dishwasher stacking etiquette, relocating, rather than tidying, of household items and reluctance to use a calendar, even if it’s stuck to the fridge, suggests I’m still to reach adulthood.
Getting married, living together, sharing rent or a mortgage and having children are pretty obvious answers for what makes you an adult, especially when you’re subjected to targeted advertising for things like nappies, storage solutions and gardening tools.
In general though, I think adulthood is more about realising people are dependent on you, whether it be a spouse, child or older relative, embracing the responsibility that comes with that and being comfortable with the reality that you aren’t and can’t be the priority in your own household.
Buying a house, getting married, running a successful PR agency… none of these things ever made me feel like an ‘adult’ and I genuinely felt like I was playing the role of adult but faking it a little.
Being an ‘adult’ is actually very new to me. I became an adult four weeks ago when I gave birth to my daughter. Seeing those eyes looking up at me it suddenly dawned on me that being an adult isn’t about all of the tangible things like having a mortgage and financial responsibilities, but to me, it’s about having someone who depends on you completely.
I’ve got a kid, a partner, two businesses, a caravan and a derelict house we are rebuilding… and I feel like an 18-year-old.
Vut saying that – heading for mid thirties – I don’t care half as much what other people think of me like I used to – and that’s a huge relief.
Apparently the 40s are much more fun too.
I don’t feel like an adult and I hope I never do.
I’d imagine work and having kids is the point at which most people start to feel like they’ve entered the adult world.
There was a game called Game of Life when I was a kid, and you go through the board, accumulating stuff – property, shares, children etc. Even then I thought life seems kind of boring and I don’t want any part of that.
So I try to keep doing things that make me feel like I did when I was younger, whether that’s music, books, comedy, education. These are all things that you can do as an ‘adult’ but I frequently hear people saying they’ve got no time to do any of the things they used to enjoy because of time constraints and life.
If you can make time, then I think you hang onto that youthfulness.
I also can’t quite get my head around the idea that the 90s wasn’t the last decade. It still feels very close to me even though it’s a long time back!
I feel like an adult when I am at work and when I am spending stupid amounts of money on things that I do not want to spend my money on. For instance, I bought Christmas dinner this year and felt like I reached peak adulthood.
I always assume that I am the same age as people on shows such as Love Island and get a shock when they are literally 10 years younger than me.
I started to feel like an adult when I hit 30. Everything fell into place career-wise and in my 20s I was a people pleaser. Literally, I hit 30 and didn’t really care what people thought.
I think you become an adult when your conversations change. I don’t mean talking kettles and toasters but more, I really don’t care who said what and where they said it.
On a deeper note, I have long suffered with my mental health and I think adulthood is somewhat getting to grips with this. I used to be super annoyed that it is something that I had to deal with but maturity has changed my stance.
Some days I feel like an adult, some days absolutely not. Visiting old haunts from when I was young makes me sometimes feel like the world’s changed so quickly but I haven’t – then I compare photos and realise I’m getting older.
When I had my little boy and brought my own house I thought: ‘My God I’m a grownup now, aren’t I!’
Being an adult means admitting when they’re wrong, when mistakes have been made, and facing problems head on. Understanding that not everything can be fixed, but to just let it go and live.
Yes, I feel like an adult. Very much so. I’ve taken on the usual responsibilities of a mortgage and I’m celebrating 20 years of marriage next week .
I started to feel like an adult when I took on the mortgage for my own place at 31 ,having saved for 12 years by living at home.
Being an adult is taking on responsibilities for yourself and trying to give others a helping hand up through guidance and support.You cannot really do that without having experienced the highs and lows of life yourself.
Yes, I feel like an adult, and that’s cool.
I think adulthood comes when you start to get your career in order. To perform well at work and to be taken seriously by peers sometimes you have to ‘grow up’.
I don’t think it’s necessarily all the material things – marriage, owning a home etc. It’s more of a mindset and how you wish to be perceived.
When I was a kid, I thought that by the time I turned 30, I would be married, boring and own my own house.
My husband married me when I was 30 (probably to prevent my childhood dream being dashed) but I still feel, act, and party like I’m 18. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever feel ‘old’.
I reckon, ‘an adult on paper’ is probably someone who takes care of monthly bills and has a grasp on their finances, thinks about retirement planning and knows how and when to plant things in their garden/allotment.
I’d love to do all of the above, but I seem to spend my time actively avoiding actually doing them. I had a tomato plant once, mind you… it only lasted a summer.
Yes, I feel like an adult I have responsibilities and a career, but I am a kid at heart – you can still see me playing the dance machine at the arcade.
I think when I met my partner that’s when I felt I was an adult, doing more grown up things. Before that I used to party hard and didn’t care about money and the value of it.
Being an adult means being responsible and knowing what you want out of life.
I’m 31, married, with an eight-year-old and a baby, a house/mortgage and just started my own business, and I cannot for the life of me understand it as surely I’m only 21.
The feeling of being an adult is such a strange one
When you’re 16 you think college kids are so much older, wiser and cooler. But they’re 18.
When you’re 18 you think uni people are so grown up. And so it goes on and on and on. Maybe we’re conditioned to think there’s more to attain before you can consider yourself grown up.
Maybe it’s because you never actually catch up to those you look up to, they’re always going to be older and wiser.
Maybe it’s because I’m 31 and I still haven’t got any facial hair.
I do have flashes of being an adult. When I’m in dad mode. Things like going to Aldi with the kids in the car seat, taking out my reusable bags. Sorting the recycling. Planning things.
I was talking recently about how I’d almost forgotten what age I am. I run a number of businesses and have a young family and all of that seems to have happened at a million miles an hour. After years of working hard but always being very young at heart it was only recently I thought to myself, wow, you really are an adult now.
I started feeling like an adult when I began ticking off certain boxes in my life. Being a parent, a home-owner, a business-owner. These were long-term goals and you achieve them with the passing of time, so when a certain amount of time has passed and you now have those things, you suddenly start to ask yourself ‘is that what it means to be an adult?’ But everyone is different.
Traditionally we associate being an adult with certain behaviours and the way we live our life, but what makes one person an adult isn’t what makes another person an adult.
I feel like the things I have in my life make me feel like an adult but those things aren’t for everyone, and that doesn’t make them any less of an adult. Perhaps it’s just a state of mind.