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Five Things to Remember When You Feel Like You’re Failing at Adulting

I’ve listened to many podcasts and read blog posts recently that have really struck a chord with me. Though their messages were a little different, they essentially boil down to the same thing: As busy adults we have the right to claim time for ourselves, to be unproductive and unplugged, to pursue creative talents, to dabble in a hobby, to unburden ourselves from side-hustling, and stop worrying about the state of our homes. But how do we square this with the messages about “adulting”? Whether you use the word ironically or detest it, adulting still aptly describes the way adults spend most of their waking hours—working and performing other essential responsibilities. I say most, because there are those little stolen minutes or hours that we may use doing something shameful according to society/your parents/journalists/the media/politicians/you fill in the blank. The shameful stuff I’m talking about are the unproductive hours consuming media, engaging in hobbies or skills we can’t or don’t want to monetize, performing self-care, or just generally not engaging with culture the same way previous generations did (gambling in Las Vegas, eating at chain restaurants, golf, the list goes on).

I’m not making the argument that using the term adulting means I’m looking for affirmation for being a grown up, and I don’t want to rule out my dream of being a mermaid either, but I do want to address the guilt people feel, particularly women, when they spend any amount of time not attending to their careers, family obligations, and homes—all in the domain of adulting.


It’s Okay to be Unproductive

How many times have we chastised ourselves when we’ve found ourselves with an hour of down time and we spend it browsing on Anthropologie? Or maybe it’s scrolling Instagram, or flipping through a magazine, or getting caught up in a Property Brothers marathon mid-day. Whatever it is, there’s inevitably some voice that speaks to us unkindly about what a waste of time that thing is. And while yes, I am trying to curb my mindless Twitter scrolling and obsessive refreshing, we should all probably give ourselves a little break. IT’S OKAY TO BE UNPRODUCTIVE SOME OF THE TIME.

It’s not healthy to have every minute of your day on a timetable or pencil in everything in five minute increments. You are an adult and you deserve some time to be unproductive. I would suggest that you think about how you want to spend those unproductive moments, however, so that you don’t lose them to a vacuous activity like reading online rants. Choose something you love that will make you feel happy. Sometimes I spend an hour on the Baby Name Wizard and consult my list of potential baby names. No, I’m not expanding my family right now, but it’s a dorky hobby I’ve had for a long time. It’s okay to indulge myself in my alphabetical organization of favorite names and feel great about it and not at all guilty.

It’s Okay to Unplug

As I previously mentioned, I have a problem with obsessively checking social media, so lately I’ve tried to just go online once in the morning and once in the evening. I can’t read Twitter anymore without being enraged, and it drains me of energy. I can’t remember the last time I checked out my Facebook timeline. It annoys me more than anything in the world, though I do love my friends and family. As an adult, you get to choose how you connect and interact with the world. You don’t have to live your life on social media.

Spending less time on social media is time I can devote to reading fiction again. I’m rereading the Anne of Green Gables series. I read it as a kid, and it just sounded like a fun thing to reread now as an adult, and I had no idea until a few weeks ago that there is a new Netflix series called Anne with an E.

It’s Okay to Pursue Creative Talents That Aren’t a Side Hustle

This is a tricky one, because as adults we have to focus so much of our energy on working and managing our homes and lives and there’s not always an abundance of time for creativity. But I do think it’s a worthwhile pursuit. It’s okay to carve time out to blog, or write fiction, paint, sew, DIY, etc. Being creative exercises a different part of the brain, and I think that like physical activity, creativity is beneficial for our health.

Let’s free ourselves of the notion that our creativity needs to be monetized to be worthwhile. I keep seeing stuff about digging in making a commitment to a side-hustle. If you’re not familiar with this term it’s all about having a business to make some “extra cash” (perhaps with the ultimate goal of having it become a main source of income). Blogging is a side-hustle for many, for others it’s selling art (Etsy, Patreon), multi-level marketing (jewelry, clothing, makeup, fitness and dieting), or providing services (photography or web design). I’m all for anyone having the drive to be entrepreneurial and support creatives who are self-employed, but the rest of us should give ourselves the permission to not have a side-hustle just because all the cool kids are doing it.

I like taking pictures of flowers, but I’m not about to become a stock photo side-hustler.

I love to write, but if I put too much pressure on myself to do it because I want to make money from it, it’s not really scratching the same itch. I am learning to be comfortable asking for help when I want to work on my creative pursuits. I am working hard not to feel any guilt when I ask for physical space and time away to work on writing. For me that includes lining up babysitting, but I think for many it’s challenging to prioritize creativity.

It’s Okay to Dabble in a Hobby

I think there is a distinction between creative pursuits and hobbies, and I think we should make time for both. A creative pursuit is something we may spend a lifetime trying to improve or perfect. It can even be something we hope will bring us some sense of achievement or success. A hobby, however, is something we do just for fun. I like to cook and try new recipes as a hobby. I have no aspirations other than feeding myself or my family. I am under no illusion that I’ll be a great food blogger.  Similarly, I took up embroidery several years ago and it’s something that I think is fun to do occasionally. I would lump gardening into my hobbies too. I like to buy plants, and I like to read about them, and identify interesting trees and flowers.

I love taking pictures of food I make, but it’s strictly a hobby.

Think about your own hobbies and what you can do to cultivate them a bit more. Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Give yourself the permission to explore something new. Maybe you’ll love it and it will become a lifelong passion, or maybe it’ll end up like my embroidery—lost in a bin somewhere. Perhaps you’ll find just as much pleasure as a spectator rather than an active participant. I love comedy, but I have no desire to perform it myself. Instead, I read books by comedians, and listen to comedy podcasts and TV specials.

It’s Okay Not to Worry About the State of Your Home

I think the area of adulting that I struggle with the most is the constant worry and pressure of maintaining my home. Wouldn’t it be great to just do the work of keeping up our homes wherever we live and worrying less about what others think? If you rent or you own or you’re living somewhere temporarily, can tidy be enough? Can we stop arranging and rearranging in the hopes of looking like we live in the pages of Domino? Stop looking at your kitchen as an ugly, dated mess that isn’t fit to be seen unless it’s got subway tile, open shelving, and marble countertops. Let’s all work on that.

Let’s give ourselves the permission to stop worrying about the state of our homes. Who cares if the floors have dust bunnies or scuff marks. Let’s just vacuum when we feel like it rather than on a prescribed schedule we find on Pinterest. For some that will be never, for me that will be whenever I remember to set the Roomba.

I hope that you find these mantras for zapping guilt useful. Is there something I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Additional Resources:

The Mom Hour: Stay At Home, Work Full-Time, Or Something in Between

The Girl Next Door: Mom Hobbies & Speed Traps

A Beautiful Mess: The Value of Just for Fun Projects



  1. Thanks so much for mentioning The Mom Hour–such a great topic! -Sarah

    • Christina Christina

      Thank you so much! Sorry it took me so long to reply. We literally moved the day you commented and I remember getting the notification and telling myself I needed to hop online. And then I promptly forgot.
      Thanks for reading and sharing!

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