FAMILY & PARENTING

Stepdad Launches A Chore Strike Until His Wife Makes Her Children Step Up Around The House

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

We’re all under a lot of pressure these days. And those of us with kids have it even worse. The programs and activities we depended on to get us through June are no longer available.

While it’s a wonderful thing that our government is taking our health seriously, it’s also stressful to feel pressured into constantly entertaining your children, especially if you’re also working from home.

One stepdad took to Reddit to sort out his feelings on one topic that came up during this time stuck inside. He says that he’s very much in love with his wife and the three children she had prior to their marriage. “These kids are awesome and I’m truly privileged to be their stepdad,” he said.

“Hope my wife and I can work this out.”

The problem is, the kids — who range in age from 12 to 7 — were never taught how to clean up. According to their stepdad, they even left the toilet unflushed on occasion. “They don’t clear their plates, they don’t sweep or vacuum, they often don’t even flush,” he wrote. “It makes me furious with her.” As a way to try to prove a point, he stopped doing chores.

Aside from being part of the family, this stepdad is furious for another legit reason. He’s had experience with blended families before. Based on how he grew up, he knows everyone should do their part.

“My dad died when I was 9 and my stepdad came around 3 years later,” he said. “The best thing my stepdad did was take the pressure off my mom so she could be there for us. I idolized my dad but I loved my stepdad too and being one has made me proud – I actually get a kick out of taking over the laundry so my wife can play with her kids, or fixing their bikes so they can go ride with her. I do more than 50% of the house & yard work. Happy to.”

That perspective helped him shape his own role in his new family. “I loved my stepdad BECAUSE my mom was the parent,” he clarified. “My mom never made my stepdad do things a parent should be doing. He never had to enforce behaviors or chores. My Mom was ON IT. She was still basically a single parent and he was the support guy.”

It’s often hard for stepparents to know what their roles in the family may be. Obviously they want to help and work together as a family, but they also know not to overstep another father if he’s still around. But based on his own past, this stepdad knows that you can be successful in making sure the children all have a role in making the house run smoothly.

“Even when my dad DIED, my mom kept our chore chart going,” he said. “She said we all had to help each other. It gave me consistency, responsibility, pride and character.” Since his stepchildren aren’t taking part in helping out, things have gotten more overwhelming in the home.

stopped doing chores

“Like all of you probably, I’m overwhelmed,” he wrote. “Now, there’s three times more housework because everyone is constantly home. I can’t do that much housework plus work from home and I’ve been raging and angry all the time.” This feeling is relatable to most of us right now.

In his eyes, there’s no reason why the kids shouldn’t be helping out — even just a little. “My wife works part-time from home and gets child support from the kids’ dad, who does make them do chores at his house. She has refused any and all attempts to have a conversation about how we might teach the kids to clean up and do their fair share of the housework,” he said.

He clarified that the work he’s asking for is basic. It’s not scrubbing the floors as much as doing a load of laundry every once in a while. “They have 1-hour of school a day. They can do 30 minutes of chores and still have 10 hours to play and enjoy themselves,” he said. “Everybody should do a fair share.”

stopped doing chores

Because his wife refused to talk to him about her children’s participation, things took a dramatic turn. The original poster (OP) chose to avoid all chores until the kids decided to help pitch in. “I’m not going to rage around being resentful, angry and exhausted all the time,” he clarified. “Those kids are amazing – I’m not going to wreck the great relationship I built with them either. It’s their mom’s fault they’re like this, not theirs or mine.”

The Redditors who commented seemed to be on his side. They couldn’t believe that the kids weren’t well-equipped to handle everyday situations. While they’re still young, they’re old enough to figure out how to pitch in and make a difference when it comes to cleaning up.

“And I thought it was bad that my HS boyfriend didn’t learn how to do his own laundry until college,” Redditor OblinaDontPlay said. “His mom literally taught him to do it like a month before he left for school and he proudly took me into the basement to show me what he’d learned. I’d been doing my own laundry since I was 11 so I was like yeah this isn’t impressive, dude.”

Others felt as if this may be a big lesson for the OP’s wife. While he said he’d still clean up after himself, he said he refuses to pick up after anyone else. “She will learn from the messy house that her refusal to have a conversation is Natural Consequences,” said Opinion8Her. “OP is not asking her to do the work: he’s asking that the kids pitch in and clean up after themselves. There is no reason that these children cannot do that, and no reason for her to be so adamant in avoiding this issue.”

Redditor yknjs- made a great point in saying that if these kids don’t learn how to clean, they’ll eventually become a nuisance to someone outside of their family as well. “It might be worth pointing out to her that if they don’t learn to do basic chores, they’re likely to be a complete [redacted] nightmare for future roommates and partners,” they wrote. “She’s really not setting them up to succeed with this.”

While nobody wants to get into a fight while most of us are under stay-at-home orders, lessons like this are important steps for all children to learn. And the sooner they learn them, the better. While the kids shouldn’t necessarily be expected to clean the toilets and bleach the kitchen, at least flushing and throwing away their garbage should be priorities.

As parents, it’s our job to teach our children to someday be able to function without us. Sure, the thought of that is scary and alarming. But it’s part of life. If you equip your children, regardless of gender, with the knowledge of cooking and cleaning, you’re just making sure that they’ll be well-rounded individuals when they’re on their own. Hopefully, this stepdad will be able to stand his ground and get a little help.