General Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Who should have this conversation with my step-daughter? (Details inside)

Asked by SuperMouse (30785points) January 20th, 2012

I am having a couple of (smallish) issues with my (22 year-old) step-daughter and her assistance around the house. She will do things like leave her dirty dishes in the sink rather than washing them, or cram more garbage in a full bag rather than taking the trash out. Like I said, smallish stuff, but stuff that makes more work for me. I have discussed this with my husband and we are not sure the best course of action. I have a good relationship with her and would like to keep it that way, so I am not super comfortable discussing this with her and looking like the wicked step-mother. DH had issues with his ex-wife trying to force him to do her bidding with his daughter, so he is gun shy about being put in the middle. My question is, what is the best way to address this with her? My best idea at this point is for DH and me to do it together, but that brings the potential for her to feel ganged up on. Thoughts?

If it makes any difference and just as an FYI, she lives with us with her two children age 5 and 3.

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37 Answers

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SpatzieLover's avatar

No matter what, your home your rules. I understand the desire to keep the peace, also.

She is the mom to two small children and should be setting a good example for them. She’s an adult and needs to do her share of the household chores to keep the home running smoothly. Period.

If it were me, I’d probably create a schedule as to what I expected from everyone for each day of the week. That way, one person wouldn’t feel ganged up on. Further, that way you aren’t taking on all of the duties that your extended household is generating.

Having a blended home isn’t easy, nor is a multi-generational one. I think it’d be best to takle this with a solution where every generation pitches in. Then, everyone will be able to reap the benefits.

Many hands make light work. <———————This would be the title of my household routine/calendar/schedule (whatever you’d chose to call it)

6rant6's avatar

@HungryGuy Jesus, don’t hurt yourself jumping to conclusions.

Seems like a pretty small list of issues, relative to what most families have. That doesn’t mean you can’t take them up with her, of course. But maybe don’t treat is a syndrome, and just take them up one at a time as part of living together.

If she’s 22 and two babies, she’s already got a lot to do. If those are the only things you’ve got to complain about, I say it’s a miracle.

By the way, if she has items about what you’re doing around her children which she would rather have you do otherwise, how would you like her to handle that?

SuperMouse's avatar

@6rant6 you are absolutely right, she is a very busy person. That being said, I am as well and I manage to wash the dishes for all three of my kids and my husband along with taking out the trash, handling all the shoveling, etc., etc. Someone in the household is going to have to do it, my adolescent children pitch in for things like these, and I do not believe it is too much to ask her to pull her weight.

If she has ever had an issue about her children regarding the way my husband, children or I behave around them or treat them, she has made no bones about bringing it up directly. The difference here is that I am a 46 year-old woman who has logged quite a bit of time as a parent, and a grown up with quite a bit more life experience. I am more than likely better equipped to hear these things.

Bellatrix's avatar

@SuperMouse, it is your house and it is causing you work and we are not talking about a 13 year old. The person is 22. At that age she is old enough to clean up after herself and not to use you like the unpaid cleaner. I would tell her, politely, but directly that she needs to clean up after herself. This is fundamentally about being respectful to others (you specifically).

As to your husband not wanting to get in the middle (because he doesn’t want to be in the middle) I’m sorry, I think that’s a cop out. You are his wife. His daughter is not treating you respectfully. It shouldn’t need to be made into a mountain. Just a “if you are going to live here, we need to treat each other respectfully and you need to make sure you do your fair share. That includes cleaning up after yourself”.

Hope you resolve this. I do know blended family issues can be tough going. I have one myself.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Please remember: This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

6rant6's avatar

@Bellatrix I understand how OP feels about someone else not pulling her weight. But Jesus, putting too much in the trash can is pretty petty a complaint.

Speaking as an adult with the benefit of several long term relationships, I still sometimes slip into bad habits and appreciate a reminder. By implication, those of you who are so judgmental of the DH totally without bad habits?

We don’t know the DH’s story. Maybe she has complaints too. I just think it’s pretty unhelpful to brand her as being disrespectful. Life is too short.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

She’s a grown up and in your home so what’s good enough for you and your husband as far as chores go should apply to her as well.

She’s a mother of two small children in your home who are expected to do as told by you, your husband, do as other children have done- she needs to do the same as you expect her kids to do.

Maybe present it as everyone else has followed simple procedures, hubby, you, your kids, her kids… she needs to get on board to show consistency to her kids. That said, let me know how this goes because I’ve got 3 teen stepkids who don’t pick up after themselves and I get no support from their dad for them to make any changes.

HungryGuy's avatar

Maybe offer to help her with her children in exchange for her being more cooperative about the common chores. Give that a fair chance, and if it doesn’t work, then start implementing rules for her that you’d implement for a child who needs to be taught to share the chores. Also, start teaching the 5-year old to start doing some simple chores.

[edit] @6rant6 – How is this “jumping to conclusions?”

marinelife's avatar

I think that the two of you doing it together would be the way to go. Tell her that it is a conversation to reinforce some house rules.

See if there is something she does that you can praise too.

SuperMouse's avatar

@6rant6 when the trash is filled to overflowing it is seriously just common courtesy to take it out, especially when you contributed to the filling of the trash can. I expect that of myself and my kids, it only seems reasonable to expect it from the other grown able-bodied person in the home.

I will not try to convince you that she is 100% content and has no complaints, but I will say that her father and I are open to hearing her concerns and have never shut her down for sharing them. I will also say that she does have it pretty good here and gets a darn good place to stay for a darn good price.

Bellatrix's avatar

It is disrespectful @6rant6. She is just assuming someone else will do it. It sounds to me as though she is taking other people’s good nature for granted. I understand mothers with babies get busy but she is living in someone else’s house. The least you can do in that situation is to be considerate of the other people in that home. The same would be true of anyone, regardless of their relationship. If she was a tenant and not a relative, would it be okay then? I don’t think it would.

I didn’t suggest jumping up and down about it, but I think it is very reasonable to set down some rules and to expect them to be adhered to. She could always leave if she felt the rules were too stringent. She isn’t a child.

6rant6's avatar

@SuperMouse I agree, it’s common courtesy. She’s falling short. My only point is that we all fall short from time to time. It just seems that you’re creating a “situation” instead of just saying, “It makes it hard to get the bag out of the trash when it’s so full. Could you please take it out when it gets full?”

I also appreciate that you are busy yourself. I have no idea how little your “discretionary” time, or how precious it is. Speaking for myself, I find I do more than my share of communal dishes. Sometimes I think I’m being taken advantage of, but more often I think, “It’s what I can do.” It doesn’t make me a better person when I do it ungrudgingly, but it does make me a happier one.

Anyway, you should talk to her. You say your relationship is good. Go from that premise. Just don’t use any of that “basic respect” crap. Act like family – you know, the good ones.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

IMHO, DH needs to get over it. Bottom line, this is his daughter. You are not his ex, you are his wife, and he can’t be upset about being put in a position where he has to parent his child.
Having said that, as a stepmother, and one that has had a huge role in raising my stepkids, there is no reason that you can’t step forward and say something. It’s your home, you allow her to live there… even if she wasn’t related to anyone in the house, you would have a right to voice this. If she doesn’t respond to you, then it may be time to bring in you & DH, but, I think she is an adult.. and she should be able to understand that you’re simply asking her to behave as one.

mrrich724's avatar

Approach it like if she were your own child. Period.

When I was a child, I did the same things. All children do. And my step-father approached it in a step-father/step-son manner, which inevitably created a more obvious gap in the relationship.

Well years later and guess what?!?! He’s now dealing with the SAME things with his own flesh and blood child (my half brother). He’s now come to realize that the step-relationship had nothing to do with it, and could have saved himself that aspect of the anguish.

Hope the distinction helps.

Jeruba's avatar

In essence it seems that she is not behaving like a member of the household but rather like a paying guest who expects services. I wonder if she does believe that paying rent exempts her from housework. Is there a clear understanding in place about what her role is and what she gets in return for what she pays?

Maybe the fact that she has small children could help you with this. You might ask her “How can you and I collaborate to model good helping behavior for your kids?” There are lots of ways that they can help out. As I recall, three-year-olds are apt to want to be proud helpers because it makes them feel big. If they see her pitching in, it shows them this expectation rather than teaching them to expect others to do everything for them.

Whether you get this message across to her or not, there’ll come a day when she has the same expectation of her kids. If she has the sense to see it now, you have leverage.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Find out why she isn’t doing the dishes right away. If she is used to living with water restrictions she may be programmed to not do the dishes until there are enough to fill the sink so as to conserve water. Same with the trash, my parents are limited to two bags a week unless they want to pay significantly extra for any extra bag(s) they generate.

If this is the case, it may take some time and effort on your part to retrain her to do it your way.

chyna's avatar

Since you said she would make no bones over something she doesn’t like that you may be doing, then this is how I would handle it:
You see her stuffing something in an over stuffed garbage, you say “Sweetie, go ahead and take that bag out, it’s spilling over. And anytime you see it that full, go ahead and take it out, don’t over stuff it.” Say it with a smile. No further explanation because she should be able to understand why you are saying it.

JLeslie's avatar

He has to be the one to do it. I would not make it a formal sit down if you have already talked to her about it before. I would ask my husband next time he catches her in the act, to do the right thing himself as an example. For instance, if she is stuffing something in the trash, have him jump up and say, “let me pull that full bag out before you put the trash in there, we don’t like to stuff the trash. Can you get a new bag to put in there while I carry this out?” Make it like everyone should be willing to help and abide by the house rules. Hopefully she will feel she needs to help more through peer pressure as being part of the team in the household. I would say even you could be the one to catch her, and help her take out the trash, etc. But, I definitely think you should not be part of any sit down lecture.

Pandora's avatar

Personally, I see it this way. She made her 2 babies and its her responsiblility to take care of them. You shouldn’t have to trade favor for favor. Her dirty dishes where also made by her and her children so she should attend to them You are already doing her a favor by putting a roof over her head and no doubt paying most of the bills. I can see why your husbands ex wife probably didn’t get along with the idea that your husband doesn’t want to be in the middle. He has to man up too and take responsibility. He has to be the one to put his foot down. He made her, not you, but its your home too and your labor that goes into keeping the place clean.
If he was a boss and he had one slacker (with a lot of personal issues) and another person doing both jobs, he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut.
I would ask him to talk to her and speak to her about responsibilities (and no excuses) and how her lack of consideration affects the whole family. He should remind her that she is not staying at a hotel and that this is home that doesn’t have maids and that he doesn’t appreciate her treating you like her personal maid. Tell her if she wants a maid some day than she should work towards that but currently he is paying all the bills and cannot afford one so she needs to pitch in.
And if your husband isn’t willing to come in between than have him clean his dishes, and hers and the grand kids. I bet he will get annoyed soon enough.

JLeslie's avatar

I have a question. Does your husband like and expect a clean house? If so, let the trash and dirty dishes pile up at the hand of his daughter, and wait for one of them to clean it up or address the issue.

In my house my husband and I have a rule, if one person hates to do something, the other one makes it their chore if they are neutral on the matter. When I worked full time my husband unloaded the dishwasher for me, because I hated doing it. Maybe ask her which chore she prefers, and let her be responsible for the one she doesn’t mind? But then you all have to discuss the matter.

chyna's avatar

I think that would be stressful waiting for someone to finally clean up and it’s also game playing @JLeslie.
It’s nothing to tiptoe around, I think being straight forward is the only way to go. How hard is it to just say, empty the garbage?

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna I would assume she has been told already the expectation and isn’t doing what is expected. Or, am I incorrect about that? I would opt for the first thing I suggested if I were to choose. Just jump in and help her do it a few times, and hope she suggests it the next time it needs being done.

I agree waiting for trash to pile up is on the passive aggressive side, which I tend to hate. I would never make it my initial way of dealing with the situation. And, I suggested it as more directed towards the husband than the daughter. He really needs to be the one to address it. Putting the OP in the middle is horrible. For the husband to not want to be in the middle is a ridiculous statement to me, because it is his daughter. Unless, he does not care at all nor expect his daughter to do it.

jca's avatar

I think you’re in a tough spot, as the step mother/landlord. I think instead of doing a formal sitdown, or asking hubby to step up to the plate, since he has his own reasons for not doing so, just ask her straight out “Can you please take that trash out and put a new bag in? Thanks.” Like @chyna suggested, say with a smile “Anytime you see the trash overflowing, please feel free to take it out.” If she stuffs it and leaves, call her out on it and say “Can you take the trash out? Thanks.” Delegate chores to the kids and include her.

augustlan's avatar

I like the idea of either of you (whoever happens to be around) mentioning these things to her as they happen, rather than a formal talk about it.

jca's avatar

Please post an update as to the outcome, if you wish. I think I can speak for everyone that we hope it goes well, and it would be nice to hear how it turns out! Good Luck!

The Update Lady

JLeslie's avatar

I want to explain why I think you or your husband should help her do the task while pointing out what task you want done. I think since she seems so reluctant to do these chores that her perception if she is simply told what to do, is she will feel like you are trying to control her. Most adults react to that feeling with resentment. Some people purposely don’t do a task, because they have been commanded to do it. I think this is part of the reason some men never get their honey do lists done, they don’t want a list of things they have to do given to them by their mother, um, wife. When husband and wife go over tasks that need to be done in the household and divide them up, the feeling is very different.

My husband would disagree with my thought process, because he thinks people should just do their jobs and obligations period. But, a lot of people like to feel like they are doing tasks along with someone else. It’s a personality thing. As a manager I always had a lot of success with my staff teaming them up for many tasks, rather than dividing tasks to an individual.

I understand that taking out the trash is not necessarily a team effort, but even that can feel like it is. I also think if you notice the trash is full and tell her to take it out, she may feel like it was already full before she put her piece of garbage in, and why does she have to be the one to take it out. You might have different definitions of full. One more piece, one less piece.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I lurved @chyna‘s suggestion to catch her when in the act and make the suggestion then in normal congenial tone!

Tonight I’m going to talk to my own hubby about implementing this at home when his kids visit, maybe more of a day-after-visit roundup of stuff they’ve used.

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie I understand your point about having my husband do it with her, unfortunately he is physically incapable of doing that. That is part of the problem because he feels bad that he can’t help and doesn’t feel comfortable stepping in when he really isn’t part of getting the work done. Before we lived together in this house, she rented out my basement. She basically had her own apartment so didn’t contribute to the dishes and trash that I had to deal with. Now that we are here she has a tiny room so she does a lot more of her living upstairs. This if fine with me but it does require a little more stepping up from her. It gets a little more prickly since he is her dad so it is harder for him to think of her as a tenant, where before it was very easy for it to be a tenant/landlord thing.

JilltheTooth's avatar

So essentially, if I did the math right never a given you have 8 people sharing your home? That’s a lot, and it makes what would seem to be “smallish” issues in smaller families actually more major in your situation. The way it seems to work, @SuperMouse , is that you are managing the household, raising three adolescent children of your own, working/schooling, providing a home for a step-daughter and two step-grandchildren, as well as adjusting to a fairly new marriage… no issue related to the operation of this household is “petty” or unimportant. Can you two approach her with the idea that if she doesn’t get these lesser things done you might have to resort to a schedule? Unless she is paying the same rates that a hotel charges she’s not really entitled to the same services, and kinda needs to see that.

SuperMouse's avatar

@JilltheTooth will you marry me? Oh wait I’m already married. Anyway, yeah, that about describes our life. I like your suggestion and @chyna‘s too, the reality is that this is going to have to be addressed before it makes me CrAzY!

JilltheTooth's avatar

@SuperMouse : I guess the idea of flying into a berserker’s rage and screaming “Take out the F**KING TRASH!!!!” isn’t really on the table, huh. That’s how I would probably resolve it.

SpatzieLover's avatar

the reality is that this is going to have to be addressed before it makes me CrAzY!

That is what presumed when I wrote my first response. My current household has only 4, but we have my mom. In the past, I was raised in a blended, mulit-generational household.

No matter the age, it works best if everyone knows what needs to get accomplished on a daily basis. Yes, these are smallish items, however, they can be overwhelmingly stressful if/when one catastophic event occurs and only one or two family members are handling them.

SuperMouse's avatar

@JilltheTooth see this is why I want you to be my lawfully wedded wife, you really understand me.

@SpatzieLover I had never thought of it in the terms you mention – that if we can’t work out the littler things we are doomed if something big comes along. I guess that makes it all the more urgent to figure out the best way to handle this situation.

Bellatrix's avatar

It would be a MAJOR problem here, in no time there would be maggots everywhere.

I agree with @mrrich724 too, try not to see it as a ‘step’ child thing. It is a child thing. I have had this problem with my own children and I know a number of my own friends have been through it too. Not that this helps you right now @SuperMouse. Strangely and rather frustratingly, my children have all now moved out and are now super houseproud.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse I had forgotten he is physically limited. That does change how to handle it. Is she there just temporarily? Just a few months? Then I might ignore and put up with the whole thing. I’m still unclear, have you talked to her at all yet about the expectation in the house that when the trash is full the person putting in the piece to put it over the top takes it out? Does she have awareness she is breaking some house rule? If not it is completely unfair to expect her to know.

If it is going to be the living situation for a while, and your husband is not going to be the one to do or say something, and you have told her the rules in passing before, maybe have a family meeting with everyone, and go over chores, and allow everyone to vent a little and make suggesstions. Is she the only one not doing her part? Would it help to assign some responsibilities in the house? Maybe change each persons job every week?

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