Since when did everything become "admin"?

Life admin, dad admin, child admin: when did the simple tasks that make up your life get so bureaucratic, asks Caroline O'Donoghue

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

It’s been a busy week. Not just for the news – I’ve not had a chance to look at that, but from what I gather, we can no longer trust any famous or sort-of famous man over 50. I mean for me, personally.

But, news aside, my ladmin – my life admin – has been through the roof. I had to cancel my PureGym membership, because who the fuck was I kidding with that thing, and that involved a series of complex steps that ended with me screaming “I WANT TO QUIT THE GYM!”, Chandler Bing-style, into the abyss. My gradmin – my girlfriend admin – has also been off the charts. My boyfriend had the temerity to have a birthday, so the first few days of this week was spent running around London, trying to buy gifts that prove I still love him. It hasn’t been a good week for chadmin, either. Oh, Chadmin? That’s my child admin: the tasks I have to perform in order to continue being a decent daughter to my parents. This included booking flights home for Christmas, implying subtly how expensive they were so my parents will realise the magnitude of just how much I love them.

Ladmin, gradmin, chadmin – look at me, I sound like a Made in Chelsea star attempting to name their kids. It’s all part of this weird new slang I’m hearing a lot of lately, which culminated today when someone sent me the “dadmin” t-shirt, sweatshirt and hoodie range. Dadmin is admin that a dad does, in order to successfully continue his tenure as Dad. Dadmin tasks include #mowlawn, #takerubbishtodump, #washthecar and #putstuffintheloft.

I don’t know why the Dadmin company have chosen to hashtag these tasks, as though they are just about to trend, any minute now. (I eagerly await the day I log into Twitter and #putstuffintheloft is trending. Imagine: everyone stops tweeting about Trump for ten seconds and instead starts tweeting about what they’re putting in the loft. What a soothing, heavenly place Twitter would be.) I don’t know why only a Dad can do these tasks, but I’m not about to whip out my “gender roles” rant over a sweatshirt company that exists solely to provide Christmas gift solutions for your uncle or brother-in-law.

Holy cow, man. I genuinely don’t blame anyone for feeling as though their lives have become an endless stack of admin tasks to be ticked of

But I do find something kind of intriguing about the use of the word “admin”, combined with the first couple of letters of whatever role you’re attempting to fulfil. Last year, you couldn’t move for the world “adulting”: an apparent symptom of being part of an overly-infantilised millennial middle class that can’t change a lightbulb, pay a bill or talk to a plumber without immediately apologising for their lack of “adulting” skills.

By contrast, doing your “life admin” is about having such advanced adulting skills that you refer to the basic tenements of life as “admin”, a word that humanity hates so much that we usually keep it locked up in the head offices of paper companies based in Slough. Sorting your socks isn’t admin, surely: isn’t sorting your socks.. y’know, just sorting your socks?  But the youngish people I work with seem to have taken to it like a 1980s secretary to a rolodex: more and more of them are answering “what did you do last night?” with an apologetic “Oh, you know, admin.” It’s one of those lines that people start saying ironically, as if they know they’re being a little funny, and then it just ends up in their day-to-day speech like an old Simpsons quote.

But, holy cow, man. I genuinely don’t blame anyone for feeling as though their lives have become an endless stack of admin tasks to be ticked off. The sheer amount of online form filling we have to do in order to get anything done has become dizzying: the other day I went looking for a dog walker online, but first had to fill in an 18-question long form about my dog’s individual specifications. “She’s a dog!” I yelled, as I was informed that the “operation has timed out” on page three. “Just put her on a lead and walk her!” I have carpal tunnel from entering my card details into things, late night anxiety over whether I should just “sign in with Facebook” and hence sign over another set of personal details to the company that helped rig the US election.

Life certainly feels more like admin than it ever did before. Please don’t get me a sweatshirt that reminds me of it.


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