It’s not adulting, guys, it’s just living

By Lisa Sugarman

There’s a pop culture verb floating around out there that I’m wondering if you’ve heard of yet. Maybe you recognize the word. Maybe you don’t. I mean, it is still pretty new. But make no mistake, the word adulting is real and it’s out there. And it totally fascinates me.

This new word, which I guess you could call a concept, has fast become a major buzzword out there in the mainstream, especially among millennials. Or with anyone talking about millennials. So if, by some freak chance, you haven’t come across it yet, you will. And now, when you do, you won’t feel stupid.doneadulting46

Personally, I feel like I’m hearing or reading about adulting everywhere lately; so it felt worthy of a little extra attention. Because I love a good cultural phenomena.

Before we talk about the actual word in any detail, though, like what it really refers to or how it even came to be, I think it’s important to understand why the word refers exclusively to millennials. So here’s a little history…

In simple terms, millennials, aka Generation Y, are the demographic born between the early 1980s and early 2000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, they’re actually the largest living population on the planet right now. So the word adulting was coined especially for them.

It’s a clever adaptation of a very old and very plain word that’s got linguists around the world and all the lexicographers at salivating all over themselves. And that’s because, according to a recent article in, the word started out as just an ordinary noun and then evolved into a catchy verb that was then turned back into a clever noun. We’re talking Word-of-the-Year contender.

The guys at Urban Dictionary define it like this…

untitledAdulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grownups. Used in a sentence: Jane is adulting quite well today as she is on time for work promptly at 8am and appears well groomed.

So to say someone is adulting has become a cheeky way of making fun of the fact that the majority of millennials are doing adult-like things much later in life than their baby boomer parents did, and their parents before them. In other words, millennials are getting married and having kids and buying houses and paying bills much later in life than past generations have, historically. Much, much later.

Ultimately (and unfortunately), that’s put millennials behind the eight ball when it comes to managing grown-up responsibilities. Which, in my opinion, isn’t good. And the simple reason why it’s not good is because these things that they’re putting off learning how to do are critical life skills that they can’t live without. Unless, of course, they’re planning on living in mommy and daddy’s basement forever.

Now sure, millennials are tech-savvy and more aware of what’s going on in the world than we were back in the day, but too many of them still don’t know what it means to pay rent or work fulltime or shop or cook for themselves. And that’s because they haven’t been expected to do those things the way earlier generations were. So consequently, they perceive those things (when they do do them) like accomplishments. Like they’re playing

What I find so interesting is that the very nature of the word adulting implies pretty heavily that growing up is a conscious choice rather than just a natural evolution. I mean, it’s just so funny to me that so many millennials are tossing around #adulting all over social media when they do things like cook a meal or pay bills or work an eight-hour day. Because those are normal, routine, day-to-day things that are just a part of life as an adult. But that’s the thing, a lot of millennials don’t see them that way, which is why the word has become so popular with that generation.

I just think the whole concept is comical (and maybe even a little disturbing). That’s probably because one of my two kids is a millennial right now. And as much as Dave and I have consciously, actively raised her to be independent and comfortable doing grown-up stuff, it still cracks me up when she makes a big deal about going to the bank to deposit her paycheck. Because, to her, doing something as simple as cashing her check feels like such an adult thing to do. And she’s still so inclined to ask me to do it for her. Which is why she’s totally adulting on the rare occasion when she does it herself.nopenotadulting

And the doing-it-for-her part is on me. Because I’ll be the first to admit that I do that sort of thing for my kids all the time. We all do. More out of habit and courtesy if I’m already going to the bank or doing the laundry. But we can’t anymore. Or, rather, we shouldn’t. Because the more we keep them from becoming legit adults themselves, the worse off this next generation will be. So sorry, babe. From now on, it’s just life. #justliving

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.



Too old for camp. Too young to work.

By Lisa Sugarman

Well, here we all are, on the fringe of summer. Finally. We’re all desperate to decompress from the wild pace of the school year and enjoy a little downtime. But for parents of teenage kids who are past the age for camp and too young to find summer jobs, there’s a slight problem. What in the hell do we do with them all summer long?

At that awkward age, like from 12-15, most kids are too old to be campers and too young to be hired for any real jobs. And that can be a big, fat pain to deal with when there are ten long weeks of summer staring us in the

Having a kid at home with nothing to do over the summer can be a disaster, especially when most teenage kids are terminally bored to begin with. Because even though most kids that age can be left alone for extended periods of time, they’re definitely not qualified or ready to be designing their own day-to-day schedule, the likes of which would probably include unlimited gaming time, never-ending social media time, and one endless mealtime involving grotesque amounts of artificial colors and flavors.

Thankfully, though, I’m on the other side of all that now, since both of my kids are gainfully employed. (Thank you, Lord.) This is our first summer with both kids out of camp and holding down paying jobs. But for a couple of years there, summertime was dicey in my house. Not because we didn’t love summer (we’re big summer-lovers), but because, at different times, our girls were that awkward in-between age where they were too old for camp and too young to work. So not fun.

It was that bizarre transitional period where they were desperately seeking adult-type responsibility but were still too young on paper to get real jobs and totally fend for themselves.poh7cu1zk8

I can remember those conversations leading into summer like they happened this morning. Those weeks leading up to vacation where they’d plead their case that they just wanted to relax for the summer. I just wanna chill out, they’d say. It was an exhausting school year and I just want some time to catch up on sleep and just hang out with my friends. To which I’d gently remind them that it’s physically impossible to catch up on lost sleep and they must be on crack if they think we’re going to let them just flit around downtown all day every day for two months. (Yes, I actually used the word flit. It seemed powerful at the time.)

Then they’d pull out the old, But we’ve got all that summer reading to do and that’s gonna take up most of the summer, so I don’t have time for anything else. And to that, I’d just laugh directly in their face, making sure to spit a little for emphasis because it was just that ludicrous. Then I’d remind them, in a very calm and soothing voice, that they’ve almost always left all their summer reading to the last four days before Labor Day, which would inevitably stop the entire conversation cold.

See, the very last thing any parent of a teenager wants is an open-ended day where our kid has nothing to do and there’s no one watching them. And string a whole ton of empty days together, one after another after another, and now you’ve just enabled aimlessness. And aimlessness is very, very bad.untitled

That’s why we need to take some action to ensure that our kids aren’t roaming free-range all summer. And how we do that is by encouraging them to do things like volunteer or even create their own summer job.

We have them call local summer camps and ask about becoming a counselor in training (CIT) for the summer or reach out to local churches or rec centers to see if they need junior counselors or assistants. Or look into summer athletic or enrichment programs offered by local colleges. There’s stuff out there, you just need to find it.

And if none of that looks like it’s gonna work, suggest that they creatively put themselves out there as babysitters or dog walkers or lawn mowers or tutors for younger kids. Remind them that those things will earn them some real cashola. (Make the cha-ching sound, they like that.) Then tell them the story of how Bill Gates and Paul Allen got super entrepreneurial one summer and built Microsoft in someone’s garage.54645

Either way, there are plenty of things for our awkward-age kids to do. Finding those things just takes a little creativity and patience. And who knows, maybe your kids will get super industrious and build themselves a little empire like Gates did and then all of a sudden you’re retiring early. What? It could happen.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.


Thanksgiving is wherever your heart is

By Lisa Sugarman

I don’t know what Thanksgiving Day is like for you, but for me, it’s the best one out of the other three hundred and sixty-four. It’s without a doubt, my absolute most favorite day of the year. But for about the last seventeen years, it’s also been the bitter sweetest day for me.

Let me explain.

To me, Thanksgiving is the greatest day of the year, bar none.

I get to run my local five-miler road race with Dave and all our runnerbuddies. Then I get to watch my Marblehead Magicians football team play (and hopefully win). I get to spend the entire day with my family (and because I like them, it’s actually enjoyable). I get to eat tons of tryptophan until it’s oozing out of my eye sockets. And then, after the whole thing’s over, I get the bonus prize of being able to clock out of the kitchen for at least two days post-holiday because of all the leftovers. It’s positively dreamy.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I don’t have to buy so much as a single Hallmark card or wrap even one gift because it’s not that kind of holiday. Winning!

Clearly all of that represents the sweet part of the bitter sweetness. The bitter part has to do with the guest list. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re supposing that I hate my in-laws and that I dread having them under my roof for two weeks. Well you’re wrong. Stop assuming you know everything. I’m one of the small handful of people who actually adores my in-laws. So them coming is part of what makes it so perfect. Well, almost perfect.

See, ever since my parents retired to Florida about seventeen years ago, my Thanksgivings have been, well, different. Different because my parents are roughly 1,200 miles south of my dining room table on Thanksgiving Day, making passing the cranberry sauce an incredible challenge.

The thing is, growing up, my house was the epicenter of everything. And I mean everything. Every holiday, every celebration, all the big occasions and even all the small ones. So being together as a complete family unit was all I ever knew.

But, whether we like it or not, things have the tendency to change. Not always for the worse; they just change. And when I got married and my parents moved down south and my mother-in-law took over hosting, there was a seismic shift in the tectonic family plates. And then, after a decade of my mother-in-law hosting, they moved twenty-five minutes away from my parents and I took over. And the plates shifted again.

Life is constantly changing around us, whether we’re in the mood for it or not. So what we have to remember is to keep a wide stance so we can compensate for the movement. More importantly, we have to remember that there are always trade-offs to change that keep the balance equitable.

For me, the trade-off for not having my parents with us for Thanksgiving is that I have them for June and July, when they come north for the summer. Then, in early fall, they migrate back down to their condo and stay put until spring. It’s a cold thing. But my mom is notorious for popping up for mid-winter visits just because we can’t possibly go that long without seeing each other. You know, girls and their moms.

And while that doesn’t allow us to celebrate Thanksgiving in the same room, it does give us a beautiful chunk of time to enjoy together. And for that, I’m truly thankful.

One of my mom's trademarks... a card in my mailbox for every holiday we're apart. Just something special to let me know she's thinking of me. It's one of many ways we bridge the distance. And yes, my mother is really this adorable.

One of my mom’s trademarks… a card in my mailbox for every holiday we’re apart. Just something special to let me know she’s thinking of me. It’s one of many ways we bridge the distance. And yes, my mother really is this adorable.

You see, I know there are plenty of people out there who, for various reasons, are in similar situations this week. Wishing they could be together with family and friends but, for whatever reason, can’t be. Maybe they’re serving overseas (thanks for that, by the way), or maybe plane fares are too high, or maybe someone’s not well enough to travel. Everyone has a story. And believe me, whatever the reason is, I feel you. Because, like most people, I’d like to be surrounded by all the people I love the most on Thanksgiving. But even in spite of not being, we’ve managed to make do.

We’ve taken advantage of every type of connectivity that’s out there to help us feel less apart over the holiday. We Skype and we text and we call and we send cards (lots and lots of cards). And while it’s no substitute for being able to put your actual arms around someone, it does help take the edge off.

So even though you may not have every single person you want around your table this week, as long as you can somehow stay connected to the ones who aren’t, that’s as good a reason as any to be thankful, I think.

Happy Thanksgiving, mom and dad. Sending 1,200 miles worth of love your way.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on