The Real Reason Why “Adulting” Is So Damn Hard

If you were a young girl in the ’80s, there is a good chance you came across a popular future-telling game that involved writing the Letters M, A, S, and H at the top of a piece of paper, and then following directions that would ultimately reveal all the secrets about how your life would play out.

Mary Katherine Backstrom, from the popular blog Mom Babble, knows what I’m talking about — and she feels a little cheated. The writer recently penned a powerful post about growing up, and it gets to heart of why so many of us feel that this whole ”being an adult” thing is not at all how we imagined it would be.

“I thought adulthood would be easy.” she begins. “According to M.A.S.H., anyways. Everyone got to grow up and get issued a Mansion, Apartment, Shack, or a House. You got to marry one of your four favorite men and you definitely got children and a job.”

But of course! Happily ever after and all that.

Only, no one really tells you the whole truth. That life is full of surprises and that being an adult is way harder than we anticipated.

Backstrom puts it perfectly:

“There was no talk about mortgages or life insurance or property taxes. There was no warning that marriage is hard as hell, or how even the best relationships break your heart, from time to time.

And omg, family planning? Whoever knew it involved peeing on sticks and crying every 29th day of the month and taking your temperature in the most uncomfortable of ways — all for the joy of having that baby (or two or three).”

Preach! When my husband and I were trying for our first baby, I thought I had the timing all figured out. We had enjoyed a few years of just being a couple, and then it was time for kids. My sister and I even planned on getting pregnant at the same time so we could be expecting together. Only … it didn’t work out that way.

What happened was, my sister got pregnant right away, and I went through several months of anticipation, followed by a devastating letdown with each negative pregnancy test. I was eventually diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. I was fortunate to conceive after more than a year of trying (I know some couples go through so much more), but it definitely didn’t go as planned.

Backstrom has the perfect term to describe how it feels when life throws a wrench in your carefully crafted plans: “shift happens.”

“I used to think adulthood was going to be simple, but now I realize it’s anything but. Growing up is hard. So hard.

As soon as you think you’ve unlocked the Next Level and figured the whole thing out, well

Shift happens.”

Yes, yes it does.

Backstrom then goes on to lay out some of the ways that “shift happens” in adulthood.

“You lose your job. Your marriage that was a rock yesterday, is now just rocky. You experience a miscarriage. Or you never conceive at all. Your house payment becomes an unbearable burden. Or a parent gets sick. You gain fifty pounds and no longer love yourself.”

It can all be so overwhelming at times.

Of course, there is an abundance of good that comes along in life as well! There are days when the stars align, or as Backstrom puts it:

“One day, the world is blue skies and sunshine. You’ve struck gold in M.A.S.H., and you set out on your great adventure. It all looks so easy, and you start to get cocky.

You think you have this parenting thing figured out and this finances thing figured out and this life thing figured out and the next

Shift happens.”

Lately, I’ve been reminded how with motherhood (and everything else) the only constant is change. Right when I get my toddler sleeping through the night in his own bed, he gets sick and things change. The moment I feel that everything is running smoothly in our household, we face an unforeseen challenge. And yet, with those challenges comes growth. We learn, and we become stronger and better versions of ourselves.

I faced a “shift” in my life when I experienced postpartum depression after the birth of my third baby. I never anticipated that I would experience PPD and wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and yet … I grew. I found healing through writing and it led me to pursue the freelance writing career I had always dreamed of.

As Backstrom says, it’s important to have faith. “You will be made stronger in the hardest of times. You will discover more about who you are with the change of every season. With every struggle, every hard day, every gray hair.”


Backstrom tells Babble that she was inspired to write the post because she has had “a few major life shifts this week.” She added, “Change is bittersweet, especially when you are looking back on a recent season of life and it was so beautiful. Moving on is hard, but necessary. And that’s where I am right now.”

She also says that the response to her post has been one of solidarity. “I had at least hundred private messages, in which moms expressed gratitude that I was honestly addressing the good and bad of adulting – and the fact that acknowledging it all is okay, and part of life’s process.”

I think that the simple truth is most of us feel that being an adult is much harder than we ever imagined, but so beautiful as well. Backstrom is spot-on when she declares this at the end of her post:

“Even though life is scarier, and harder, and more discombobulating than we ever imagined …

It’s still good.

It’s hard, and it sure as hell ain’t M.A.S.H.

But it’s good.”

Amen. “Shift happens” and then we grow. If we knew everything that was going to happen in our lives, we’d ultimately be missing out on the grand adventure of it all.

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