When do you feel grown up?

My mom passed away a couple of months before I turned 40. Not too long before that, I told her I’d always thought 40 would feel more grown up than this. She smiled, knowingly.

That’s the first time I clued in that age really is just a number. We are who we are, and even we mature physically, mentally, and emotionally, deep down we are always the same person. But still, I couldn’t help wondering if other people felt the way I did, or if they thought about it at all.

Our conversation has come back to me recently, because the first two books I’ve read this year both allude to the same thing.

“She was turning thirty soon, with a terrifying mortgage and a husband and a baby on the way, but she didn’t feel that different from when she was fifteen.”

Liane Moriarty, What Alice Forgot

If you haven’t read the book, don’t be thinking Alice forgot the years between fifteen and thirty. She didn’t.

“… she thinks again the thing every adult woman thinks of herself – that she is still her sixteen-year-old self.”

Lisa Moore, February

I decided to Google the question, “When do you feel like a grown up?” and I found some interesting results.

“The thing about being an adult that no one tells you growing up is that you don’t feel like an adult. All your stupid insecurities and anxieties are still there, only you feel more stupid and insecure about being stupid and insecure because you’re not supposed be stupid and insecure anymore. You’re supposed have the answers. You’re supposed to know. But we don’t always know. And those answers? They’re not always easy to come by.”

from the TV show, Emily Owens MD, quoted by Meredith Lepore, 9 Things No One Tells You About Being A Grown-Up

“I still don’t generally feel how I’d imagined I’d feel by 36.”

Laura Barcella, When (If Ever) Did You Start Feeling Like An Adult?

Clearly, this is a fairly common feeling.

There are over 180 comments on Barcella’s post, and I didn’t read all of them, but I noticed something interesting. Some people, mainly those in their 20s or early 30s said things like:

“I started feeling like an adult when I realized that I had to prioritize supporting myself over being cool… I am 30 now.”

“My dad died suddenly of a heart attack when I was 22, and when I think about it, that’s when it happened.”

“I started to feel like a grown up when I had ONE job with regular hours.”

Those in their mid-30s and up were more likely to say things like:

“I don’t feel like an adult ever, for what it’s worth.”

“I’m 35 and I do not feel like an adult at all. In fact, most of my friends are either much younger, or profess to feel the same way.”

“In some moments I really do feel like an adult. Mostly I don’t…”

“Every once in a while I feel like an adult, but it’s only for a short flash of time…”

Some of the answers are actually pretty funny, so check them out, but only if you have time to kill (I don’t want to be responsible for you not getting your work done).

I almost wonder if we go through three phases:

  1. I can’t wait to be a grown-up.
  2. I’m an adult now!
  3. I wonder when I’ll feel like a grown-up?

This is probably my favourite quote of all:

“… growing up is not about arriving at some mythical destination but, rather, embarking on a memorable journey.”

Jim Butler, I’m 40. Am I grown up yet?

Do YOU feel as grown up as you expected to at this age?


  1. Janet, there are still some days I wake up and expect my mother to call me for breakfast. I am 52, my mother died when I was 29, so no I don’t think we ever feel grown up, until we are faced with the reality of everyday life that calls upon us to be “grown up”.

    • I get that. There are days when something interesting happens, and I want to call my mom and tell her about it, then remember, I haven’t been able to phone her in many many years. And I do probably feel more grown up than I did when we had that conversation; it just doesn’t feel the way I expected it to.

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