Balancing Act

Grown-up? Who, me?

It can take a long time to feel like an adult

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Kristin van Ogtrop

Kristin van Ogtrop is the author of "Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom," published by Back Bay Books. (HANDOUT / July 11, 2011)

Kristin van Ogtrop and I are so much alike.

I mean, apart from the whole editor-in-chief of Real Simple magazine thing. And the published author thing. And the myriad speaking engagements thing.

Apart from those things, we are basically kindred spirits. She has a job; I have a job. She has kids; I have kids. Her book is called "Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom" (Back Bay Books); I end every night of every week begging my children to, please, seriously, just let me lie down.

But here's the clincher: In addition to those similarities (uncanny, aren't they?), she — like me — was well into adulthood before she realized she was a grown-up.

"I have two distinct times when I finally felt like a grown-up," she told me. "One personal and one professional." (We'll get to those in a minute.)

She's actually a step ahead of me. I still spend many, many moments wondering when I'll finally feel like a grown-up.

I recently hosted a dinner party with no napkins.

"Where do you keep your napkins?" my friend asked. "I'll set them out!"

They're … um … gosh, I think I'm out of napkins! Crazy!

"Oh, that's OK! We can use paper towels."

They're … um .. gosh, I think I'm out of paper towels too!

"Oh! No biggie! Let's break out your cloth napkins!"

Yeah, so, I don't really own cloth napkins!

We used Kleenex. It was funny and, also, sad.

Am I waiting for some defining moment to hurl me into adulthood? Some stark, unmistakable sign that I am really, truly, the one in charge here?

I reached out to some people I admire — people whose lives are full of career success and family obligations and, best of all, wisdom — to ask when they finally felt like grown-ups.

"I'm grown up?" replied Dana Suskind, a cochlear implant surgeon at University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital and mom of three who, in her free time, launched a program to improve language skills among impoverished kids.

That made me feel better. But I wanted answers. She had a few.

"Hearing 'Dr. Suskind' for the first time and realizing they weren't talking about my father," she said. "Hosting my first Thanksgiving with my entire family. I had it catered."

(Good way to ensure you have napkins.)

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