[Solved] Adult step-daughter at home
Hey all, I'm a step dad and could really do with some advice.
I remarried 10 years ago, 2 of my own kids (now adults and moved out) and 2 step kids (one 21, one 12). The 21 year old is the issue. Although I've tried to be a good step dad she never fully accepted me, and we've had a bit of a rocky relationship - she's an alpha female and always has been, needs to be the centre of the stage at every turn. To her. mom is everything. I'm just the dude her mom lives with, and she can get on fine with me - but when I say no, or lay down the law, all hell breaks loose.
As she's gotten older that has meant more and more strain on things, she currently lives at home, has a boyfriend and a car and a good job, but I've been patiently waiting for her to move on out so I can get some tranquility back into life.
My issue is, this week she told her mom (not me, of course) that she's planning on not moving out till she can buy a house. She earns a reasonable income but since her boyfriend is still at uni, that probably means anywhere from 1 to 3 more years at home. I have fought with her over pretty much everything in the past - boyfriend staying over (I restrict it to 2 or 3 nights a week, she wants more), contributing to the home (she doesn't), chores at home (she'll do a few, if she has to), parties at home (don't get me started). So the prospect of 1 to 3 more years of this has left me, honestly, hugely depressed.
My wife is in a very different position. She's desperate to keep a great relationship with her daughter and admitted she was really happy to hear about this extra timeframe. When I suggested I didn't know if I could do it, she got quite upset and angry - honestly, if it came down to "it's her or me" I'm definitely feeling she'd pick her daughter.
So it feels like my choices are really limited to either sucking it up and trying to keep the peace for a few more years, or trying to negotiate a set of conditions for this happening. I've started writing something up, around the lines of respect, pulling your weight, contributing to the home, etc. But honestly, in the anonymity of this place, I can say that there's a part of me that just wants to pack a bag and leave. Run away and not deal with this.
Any thoughts or opinions, really gratefully received.
I'd suggest going for negotiating the conditions but be a little smart about them..
Do not include showing respect etc. Start with what you are trying to achieve and work from there. Stick to things that are tangible to avoid any debate and that achieves an element that allows you to cope with the next few years.
If it comes to a choice mum will always choose daughter. What does your wife think about things? Could the 2 of you put some conditions together in which case maybe there might be a more willingness to stick to them?
A good starting point would be to talk and explain things and ensure you do not come across as you are only doing it due to a lack of a great relationship with your step daughter rather than its the right thing to do..
It is difficult, i had the same with my step son. I discussed any concerns and issues with my now ex about it and to be fair, she appreciated them and we put them in to practice.
He dropped out of college, played his xbox until 3-4am and stayed in bed until late in the afternoon. He never did anything at all. The way I was bought up, as soon as i started earning (even a paper round) any allowance stopped and if i wanted soemthing, i would have to save and pay for it. It did me well in the long run.
We started off by giving him specific jobs to do around the house, cleaning the bathroom, taking the bins and recycling out etc. We helped him look for work, and as soon as he did, we asked him to contribute £80 a month. We discussed that this helps him learn how to budget and priorities his money. I am personally surprised your wife lets her live there rent free if she is earning in a full time job. They need to learn they cant free load all their lives and have to learn the value of money. I would discuss it with your wife first and then hopefully put some sort of plan in place.
There are plenty of articles online about charging housekeeping for young adults living at home. They say it teaches them good lessons about budgeting and will encourage them to save and become independent. (onefamily.com) You might encourage your wife to agree to this if you suggested keeping the money in a separate account which would be used towards the deposit for a house in due course (unbeknown to your stepdaughter). You could also encourage your step daughter to set up Lifetime ISA saving scheme. I'm not qualified to give financial advice so these are just suggestions.
your advice helped, and I thought I would post an update, in case it helps others.
Firstly, after working through all this, I came up with a 4 point plan, which was basically:
1. She had to set a goal (how much to save over how long)
2. She had to stick to that goal (no buying a new car with that money, for example)
3. She had to be respectful at home, and help in avoiding fights
4. She had to help out more around the home, and not try and 'have it both ways'. If she's a member of the home that means she helps maintain the home, takes a turn cutting the grass, or helping out if we're doing things. What I meant by having it both ways is sometimes she pulls the 'it's your house' card, if asked to do things, and instead goes back to bed. So I said that's trying to have it both ways - it's our house when there's work to be done, but her house when it comes to having her boyfriend over or having a party, etc.
And in turn, I said her boyfriend could stay over far more often (just not moving in, or all the time).
I talked them through with my wife. She wasn't happy, exactly, as for her she simply wanted us to be fully supportive and 'yes of course darling, whatever you like!'. But she did back me up and agreed.
Then we sat down with my step daughter, and had the talk. For the most part she sat stony faced, but at the end starting taking issue with the 'respect' point. The she took issue with me 'laying down the law' and said that she felt she was getting treated differently because she was a step kid. I said she wasn't being given any conditions my other kids wouldn't have been given in the same circumstances, but then agreed that things between us were strained, and had been for years, and that I thought me giving her pretty much everything she wanted, but just asking for a framework so we didn't fight, was pretty good - given that the last conversation we'd had was two months prior, when she called me a selfish man-child who never thought of anyone but myself (I very much had to bite the tongue that day).
She then cried, and walked off upset - which triggered her mum to be angry at me, because I'd upset her daughter (despite saying she backed me on those points) and said I could have been 'more loving' in explaining this.
The next morning she came back and said I had handled that talk 'very badly' and that she thought any decent parent would have been loving and supportive and happy for her, and not tried to lay down rules. She told me all the things she thought I'd said wrong in the talk, and how it was unfair that she was getting treated like this.
So we opened the talk up again, and I told her I did love her (which I've told her dozens of times in the past) and that I'd love for us to have a great father-daughter relationship. In turn, she said neither of those things - which is a common theme, I can't remember her ever saying them. So it ended, with me having reached out (yet again) and her walking away, having told me all the things I need to improve.
The very next day we moved 3 cubes of wood chips by wheelbarrow from the top of our property to the bottom. During which she and her boyfriend turned up. I saw them pull up on the street, wait till I took the wheelbarrow down the hill, then sneak into the house and her room and stay there all afternoon. I let her mum know they'd done that and said that was a prime example of where I expected her to help out, but of course nothing happened. Since then, the boyfriend has been over several times, she's making noises about saving, but has not spoken to me unless she has to. I cooked an amazing meal yesterday (even if I do say so myself!) and when she got home from work she walked to the kitchen, filled her plate and walked back to her room to eat it - no hello, no thanks. When she'd finished she walked back, chucked the bowl in the dishwasher and headed off to bed, again no words said despite me sitting right there in the room.
So, I've laid out the framework and given her what she wants, but it very much feels like I'm not going to get what I want in return. Feels like she's calling my bluff, and I know I'll have to stick to what I say or else lose any chance of respect.
For example, I've thought that if she does the dinner thing again, I'll simply stop making her food. And when she asks where dinner is I'll say I'll cook dinner when she (A) thanks those who make it for her and engages in some polite talk, and (B) takes on her fair share of cooking and cleaning. And if she doesn't help out like with the wood chips, Our deal is off and the BF can't stay over. Or she moves out to spend time with him.
Of course, I know it'll back-fire if I have to go that far, but this girl is simply not playing fair.
Any advice, again, would be great.
It sounds like you approached it well and it all seems fair to me. The difficult situation you are in is that she just doesnt seem to respect you. I imagine it is because you are not "her dad" it is a real shame but I hope it improves for you.
This must be very stressful for you as she sounds like quite a madam and should have got past the difficult teens by now. There are numerous articles online about relationships between step parents - perhaps you may find something helpful there. How is your relationship with the boyfriend? Any chance that if you worked on that, it would rub off on her?
I think you've handled things very well considering. However, just based on what you have said I can probably see a little of why your wife might say you could try things differently.
Using terms such as conditions or rules often can trigger negative reactions. Especially in individuals who are still maturing and haven't yet found their own feet.
Also no matter the age we often have to remember we are the parents (or step parents) / adults.
In the examples you have given, moving woodchip, could you have maybe asked for assistance? Even if you got a no persevere and ask next time? The food, youve watched her fill her plate and return it empty without engaging with her. Could you ask you for feedback on the meal, if she says it was ok, ask
what could make it great etc anything she could suggest for next time, maybe cook something together rather than just not cooking anything?
From her point of view it may feel like there are lots of rules and conditions, however could you achieve the same outcomes by taking a different approach?
Also could you ask her what she thinks about how the house should be run? See what she says, after all if she says everyone should be allowed to do what they want im sure you can think of examples that she wouldn't want you to do.
Just some suggestions, potentially you've considered and tried these already..
I think if you would like help with a task you need to ask in advance and try to fix a time when it might be convenient. Do you all sit down to eat at all? Perhaps you could invite the boyfriend, open a bottle of wine and try to have a friendly dinner without any suggestion of tasks. If her mother cooks, then you could suggest to the boyfriend that you both do the washing up.