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Wit and Wisdom for Navigating Adulthood


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I’m spilling everything I think 20-somethings should know about building a life that has it all—career, love and marriage, and (eventually) children

By the time I officially became a grown-up, it was generally accepted that women were entitled to having it all.


In the beginning, as best I could tell, it seemed like you could easily get everything you wanted and all of your #goals would play nicely together if you worked hard and were generally on top of your game.


Oh, how wrong I was. When I think back to getting my first job, and getting married, and having a baby, none of those experiences unfolded exactly like I thought they would, and all required major-league adjustments.


And adulthood was littered with all kinds of tricky situations and dilemmas that I wasn’t sure how to handle at first—like bosses, and in-laws, and where the baby was going to be while I was at work.


I wish somebody had spoken to me honestly about everything I was going to encounter instead of pretending like it would be all smooth sailing ahead.


I’m sharing what I learned about how the hell this whole adulthood thing works. By speaking honestly about the struggles, offering common-sense wisdom, and throwing in a few laughs, I hope to help reduce anxiety about becoming a grown-up.



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I’m no stranger to the struggles associated with assembling your grown-up life. Though I was voted my high school’s Girl Most Likely to Succeed, I had a really hard time figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up.


I was a wayward accounting major who earned a bachelor’s degree and an M.B.A. from Villanova University. Eventually I found my way to a career in international marketing with a pharmaceutical company.

Despite a less than stellar dating career, I found “The Guy” and have been happily married now for 31 years.


I postponed having kids for a while because I had no idea where I was going to put the baby. But I figured it out, and, even though my first child made me wonder if it was possible to return early from maternity leave, I went on to have two more.

After I climbed a few rungs on the corporate ladder, I rebalanced my life to spend more time at home with my daughters.


Consulting gigs allowed me to employ my thinking skills on something besides the kids’ activity schedules. I also had the chance to try on a variety of occupational hats, including writer, editor, brand strategist, and personal historian.

When my three daughters started to fly the coop, I started remembering what it was like to be in their shoes, teetering on the brink of adulthood.


To help my daughters be better prepared, I wrote an unfiltered account of what assembling my grown-up life looked like that became Things Your Mother Should Have Told You.

Currently I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia with my husband, a yellow Lab, three cats, and grown children who are occasionally in residence.


While I ponder whether to start a Parents Facing Redundancy support group, I distract myself by reading People magazine and the obituaries, which helps to satisfy my above-average curiosity about other people’s life stories.



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Things Your Mother Should Have Told You
Wit and Wisdom about Building a Life

Things Your Mother Should Have Told You includes all the behind-the-scenes stuff that most people wouldn’t put on their highlight reels. You can expect:

  • Uncensored tales about dealing with troublesome situations like picking the wrong major, hating my first job, and having to fire a bridesmaid

  • Candid discussions of subjects most moms keep mum about—like assessing whether he’s “The Guy” and figuring out whether you’re ready to have a baby

  • Episodes of real life not matching expectations, like the rainy wedding day and the screaming newborn who acted nothing like the baby featured in my daydreams

  • Frank talk about newlywed life, dislikable bosses, mothers-in-law, and how staying home with the kids resembled Roseanne instead of Bewitched

  • Answers to how-the-hell-is-this-going-to-work questions like: How do you find your way to a dream job when you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? And is it really possible to juggle a career and motherhood like conventional wisdom has been telling you all these years?

If you’re looking for platitudes or preachy advice, this isn’t the book for you. But if you want practical wisdom along with a side helping of humor, Things Your Mother Should Have Told You might hit the spot. And best of all, it has a happy ending--you’ll see that even though putting your adult life together is hard, it all usually works out okay.

Tell me when your book is released:

Thanks for submitting!



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Me with the original audience for my book, along with the guy who made that audience possible

When my oldest daughter started college and the other two were in high school, I started being haunted by a recurring dream in which I had to unpack and sort through a giant suitcase overflowing with their stuff and mine, all jumbled together. 

As I pondered why this suitcase kept showing up in my dreams, I eventually realized that seeing my daughters hit different milestones was triggering memories of what it was like to be their age—with all of the struggles and dilemmas of becoming a grown-up ahead of them.

Most of the time when we discussed their futures, I talked about limitless opportunities and focused on the upside. I avoided talking about the struggles ahead because I didn’t want them to be discouraged. Or maybe I hoped that they’d somehow magically avoid all the pitfalls.

Then I read about a golden rule than marathon runners follow—if a runner asks you about the terrain on the trail ahead, you should let her know about tough hills and how far she still has to go. In other words, instead of resorting to happy talk and telling her it won’t be that hard, you should be honest.

So I decided to stop papering over the struggles and be more open about the challenges and dilemmas that come along with being a grown-up. 

Once I unpacked my experiences of becoming a young adult and wrote down the non-airbrushed version of my life story, I stopped dreaming about the suitcase. I'm happy to share what I unpacked.



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Even Grown-Ups Like Stories 

My sweet spot is telling tales about the ordinary challenges of assembling your grown-up life--like how you figure out what you want to be when you grow up or how to adjust to being somebody's mother.

More recently, as my nest has started to empty, I've been pondering how to best parent nearly-grown children.

Maybe your own mother never talked to you about any of these dilemmas, but I'm happy to share what I've discovered.

Topics Suitable for College Students

Finding Your Dream Job When You Don't Know What You Want to Be When You Grow Up: Choosing the major, let alone the career, that's right for you may be harder than you expected. How to discover the clues pointing you to the career path you are most likely to love.

The First Job 411: Spoiler alert for recent and soon-to-be grads: The working world may not be as welcoming as you hoped. This what-to-expect rundown will gently prepare you to face reality. What expectations might be unrealistic? What do you do if you hate your first job? How exactly do you find your way to your dream job from your starter job? 

Things Your Mother Should Have Told You About Having It All: Many young women are haunted by a mystery: How exactly do you go about assembling a life that has it all—a career, love and marriage, and eventually children—especially when these #goals don’t always play nicely together? Discover strategies for crafting the life of your dreams.

Topics Suitable for Parents at the Grown-and-Flown Stage of Parenting

Welcome to the Parents Facing Redundancy Club: Feeling like the Maytag repairman these days because your nearly-grown children don't need you as much anymore? Some ideas for navigating the trickiest stage of parenting--when you have to figure out when and how to let go.

The Ultimate Lovely Parting Gift for Your Soon-to-Be Graduate: Looking to improve your young adult child's prospects for future success and happiness? Discover why planned obsolescence is the greatest gift you can give.

Things Your Nearly-Grown Children Wish You Would Tell Them: Real life doesn’t resemble the highlight reels featured on social media. How sharing the behind-the-scenes stories of your young adult life can help prepare your teens and 20-somethings to face the realities of becoming a grown-up.





Having a quarter-life crisis? Tired of adulting?  

I may not be able to help make it all better, but at least I can help you figure out what's for dinner tonight. Get a pdf of The Lazy Chef Mini Cookbook. It's a stash of tasty, people-pleasing recipes. More importantly, each recipe has been rated on a 5-point scale that indicates how much of a pain in the ass it is to make. One less adulting thing to worry about.

Look for an email with your free download. Check your spam folder if you don't see it!

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Contact Me

Writers love to hear from readers—it helps make all of those hours at the keyboard worthwhile. I welcome your feedback. Or if you have an adulting dilemma, maybe I can help. You can reach me at:


  • Instagram
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Are you the parent

of a teen or 20-something?

Welcome to the trickiest stage of parenting. Get my pdf--Tips for Letting Go of Your Nearly Grown Child,

Plus: A Suggestion for the Ultimate Lovely Parting Gift.

Look for an email with your free download. Check your spam folder if you don't see it!

Joanne's Essays as featured on GrownAndFlown.com

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Tell Me: What do you wish your mother would have told you?

So many aspects of adulthood can make you wonder—how the hell is this supposed to work? Are you facing an adulting dilemma that you wish somebody would address? Tell me the things you wonder about or wish somebody would explain.

Drop me a line at Joanne_McHugh@msn.com.

Even if the topic doesn’t make it into

Things Your Mother Should Have Told You, take heart. A sequel is always a possibility if I don’t know what to get my daughters for Christmas.



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