You are here

Tuesday Tips - Your Mama Doesn't Live Here & I'm Not the Maid!

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Blending families sometimes feels as futile as mixing oil and water, but there ARE things we can do to help curb the chaos and save our sanity!  I thought I'd start taking Tuesdays to share helpful tips I've picked up over the years and more recently from other STalkers.  I hope you find something to help get a little closer to "living the dream" and would love for others to share any tips they have on the topic in the comments below.

The very first topic for Tuesday Tips is "Your Mama Doesn't Live Here & I'm Not the Maid!"  Yes...I've actually said those words on more than one occasion!  *ROFL*  Cleaning up after SKIDS who were not taught to clean up after themselves and contribute to the family home in some way has been a huge source of contention and resentment in my world.  In my situation, I am responsible for more of the cleaning while MR. ED picks up other domestic responsibilities.  Everyone's situation is different, but that works for us for the most part.  It gets a little hairy when SKIDS toss in their mess and as a SP, I'm left with the constant dilemma, "Should I say something to SKIDS AGAIN, have another tension-filled talk with SO about HIS kids, or should I just clean it up and move on with the day?"  Oh...that IS the question, isn't it? 

We all can agree that BD/BM should be teaching their children responsibility for picking up after themselves, but at the end of the day, we just want a clean home without feeling like a maid, a nag, or like we have to pick up parenting where the bioparents fall short.  So, here are a few real-world tips for warding off messy SKIDS and a heading toward a SP meltdown!

  1. Make sure SKIDS are responsible for chores and held to basic household cleaning expectations long BEFORE moving in together.  Roles change when you go from 2 single-parent households to one co-existing couple and adults may welcome the sharing of responsibilities.  Just remember...if you are taking over cleaning chores from your SO, you are also taking on any cleaning they did for SKIDS, especially those at home full-time.  Make sure SO lays down the law pre-blending families or you are setting yourself up to be an evil Step-Maid from the start!
  2. Give visiting SKIDS chores to do while they're there.  We didn't do this for years, but are working on this now with SSs.  I think it helps them feel more like it is their 2nd home rather than a "please entertain me while I'm on vacation with dad" situation, and I feel less like a doormat.  It's a win-win.  
  3. Make sure visiting SKIDS know where household supplies are stored.  This sounds obvious, but I recently realized SSs didn't know where certain cleaning supplies were so they can clean up after themselves.  Yes, ideally they would take it upon themselves to look, but let's be real...Will they?  I gave them a little tour and now there is no excuse for leaving a mess or for rifling through my personal things.  Also, make sure they actually understand they are expected to clean up after themselves even if you are the one mainly responsible for general household cleaning.  They're kids and they honestly may not understand what the roles and expectations are until someone tells them.
  4. Leave shoes at the door.  We were pretty lax about this house rule at our last home and it drove me crazy cleaning the floors and complaining about SKIDS traipsing through with dirt and grime. When we moved, we got everyone on board and I can't tell you how much this helps!  Less cleaning, less resentment, happier me, happier home.    
  5. No food and drink for kids outside the kitchen/dining area.  This one takes patience and persistence, but it is SO worth it!  My SSs are pretty good about following this rule and there are no spills, food left around, and sticky messes for me to contemplate outside of the kitchen/dining area.  HUGE DIFFERENCE from our old house!  SD17 still takes food/drink to her room and there are constant spills, messes, and resentment/arguments over stuff getting destroyed.  Still working that out in our home, but I HIGHLY recommend just axing food/drink outside a couple of rooms.  
  6. The "BioParent by Default" Rule".  If a mess is made by SKIDS and no one will fess up to it, then the bioparent is responsible for cleaning it up or figuring out which SKID will.  For example, SSs often pee on the seat.  It drives me nuts.  Obviously, I didn't do it and MR. ED knows better.  I normally clean the toilets, but if SSs each claim they didn't do it, then MR. ED has to get to the bottom of it or clean it up himself.  Not my monkeys, not my mess to clean up.  I'm getting better at this one! Wink
  7. "5 Minute Family Pick Up".  Before you leave to go somewhere fun, before bedtime, while dinner's cooking, or before visiting SKIDS leave for the weekend are great times for a quick all hands on deck pick up around the house.  Just set aside 5 minutes for EVERYONE to put down their phones or game controller and pick up or clean SOMETHING.  If the fam can't commit to 5 minutes...there is a much bigger entitlement or disrespect problem at hand!
  8. Lost and Found.  When we had 6 kiddos in the house and I was trying to get a handle on the crap they left lying EVERYWHERE, I started tossing every sock, school paper, hair tie, toy and miscellaneous article in a big storage bench.  Eventually, SKIDS started looking for missing items and by the time they asked about it the bench was STUFFED!  Eventually, they got tired of digging through a pile of stinky socks to find their things and started picking up more.  Also, I did tell them anything left in the bench at the end of the weekend when the boys left from visiting was getting thrown away.  That put a stop to a lot!  It's worth a try!
  9. Lead by example.  This seems like a no-brainer, but just make sure you are holding yourself to the same standards that you expect from SKIDS.  It may drive you nuts that your SD leaves her clothes piled in a corner of her closet to mold and breed spiders (true story!), but how's your laundry situation looking these days?  I've had to work on this myself and take a long hard look in the mirror sometimes before opening up my pie-hole to nag about SKIDS.
  10. Walk away for a minute and give SO room to parent.  I can admittedly be pretty anal-retentive about cleaning and picking up around the house.  So I've had to learn to let some things lie and at least give MR. ED the opportunity to parent his own kids in his own time.  Sometimes that means I look around at the messy house and turn right around to escape to my office or jump in the car to take a thrift-shopping break by myself.  If you've communicated your concerns and expectations clearly to your SO, then they know what to do in your absence.  If they don't follow through with having their kids pick up after themselves...well...then the two of you have some of your own work to do.  Again...true story. <3

Has any of this worked in your blended family home?  Have any helpful or life-changing tips to add?  Let's hear it!  

Hope you are all having a wonderful Tuesday! Smile


tog redux's picture

Yeah, all of this seems a lot like the SM having to parent the kids.(Although if you have your own kids in the mix, it might make more sense). 

I only had one SS, but I would just open the door to his bedroom and throw crap in there and slam the door. Didn't care how messy it was, or if he did any chores. He was a slob, though he was good about not leaving stuff in the bathroom or peeing on the floor, and there wasn't any food or toxins in his bedroom, so I could just leave it be.   BUT, my DH was a strong parent in every other area except cleaning. 

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

I took a look back over the list and I can see where you're coming from on that.  I did have my son in the mix during the first years, so things were a bit different.  Mostly though, I think its just important to decide on household expectations with your SO from the jump.  We didn't do that well AT ALL for years and I wish we had!  That way, it's not "my" rules and I'm not put into the position of parenting them as much as it's just how MR. ED and I have agreed to live in our home.  The other stuff is me finding ways to throw it back in the hands of SKIDS and MR. ED to work out amongst themselves.  

Yeah, it was so much different when it was just me and my DS.  We jumped from us in a 2 bedroom apt. to living in a 6 bedroom house with 6 other people!  So, I guess that may be worth mentioning! lol


Siemprematahari's picture

Tip Tuesday:

Spouse parents step child, if he/she doesn’t follow through and isn’t consistent with discipline……that’s a red flag and a sign to run toward the nearest exit.

Communication, Discipline, & Consistency!!! This has to be implemented every time, no exceptions.

CLove's picture

We have the simple "taking turns rule for dishes" its easy.

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Oh, that would be lovely!  If I had it to do all over again, I would definitely jump on that one.  Good stuff.

CLove's picture

Because she gets her turn, and its become an expectation now.

There is no eating in the lving room or bedroom - she has seen cockroaches at her mothers apartment from her sister doing that.

The shoes thing, I just have to let go of that.

Now that school is in session, backpack is always put away because I trip over it. Violin is put away for its safety.

Otherwise shes a clean kiddo. DH is clean freak.

thinkthrice's picture

I used to work with a step dad who was completely enabling of his wife's (the BM) PASing (of course no children of his own nor any ours children) and he told me that when he spoke with his skids' bio dad and their SM  he told them that the skids should not have any chores when at their house because they're "only on visitation."

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Yeah, we honestly didn't give it much thought because I'll admit...I was even guilty of thinking, "Oh, they're only here for a weekend...whatever."  BIG MISTAKE!  As the years pass and they get older, resentment grows.  Plus, you never know when SKIDS may decide or need to live there full time and then you're left with a huge transition of mindset for everyone.  Again, if I had it to do all over, I'd expect everyone to have some sort of chores.  If its a family ya'll want, then you have to help each other out, yeah?

Letti.R's picture

Tip: When you constantly find yourself compromised and going against your better judgment in relation to your step family situation, it is time to think real bloody hard if you want to do it for the rest of your life.

As to living in filth with slobs who don't / can't / won't clean up after themselves, consider eviction or converting your home to the local dump to get money from collecting the rubbish of others too. 
This is the one thing I cannot get over: people who think living like filthy slobs is ok.
It is revoltingly vile!  

blessedwithstress's picture

Oh man, my skids are older teenagers who leave crap lying around ALL. THE. TIME. Often right in the middle of a high traffic area where everyone has to trip over it. SS15 left his enormous backpack smack in the middle of a walkway once so I marched it straight down to his room and left it in his doorway. I'm guessing he tripped over it because it hasn't been lying around as much. 

The bench idea is fabulous! 

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Eventually, they would even toss their siblings stuff in there when they picked up.  You can take that idea a few different routes!  Good luck!

Cover1W's picture

I threw OSDs lunch bag down the front steps one day.  It was ONE.TIME.TOO.MANY that she left the thing lying around the living room - this time it was in front of the fireplace.  THREE steps from the kitchen.  Again, after many verbal reminders. She couldn't be bothered to move it to the appropriate area (to do something fun with DH - and of course he always ignored it).  So I launched it.  She found it when they got back, cryyyying her eyes out that she had to pick it up.  Amazingly DH support me on this!  He simply told her put it away correctly and maybe this wouldn't have happened.  I about fainted.  And she never left it around the living room again.

Cover1W's picture

Most of the above will only be successful if your SO also agrees with it, mine doesn't.  He thinks he does, but he really doesn't.  So I don't/cannot enforce any chores or other things within a very limited set:  help set or clear the table at a minimum, help load/unload dishwasher when asked (because this cannot be a chore!), clean up spills (I had to recently give SD13.5 a lesson in sweeping up her spills - she's generally clean but if it hits the floor it's someone else's problem).  That's pretty much it. 

She keeps her room clean, does her own laundry and tidies her bathroom (but actually cleaning it is too much to ask apparently).  So I don't complain too much - but DH is always amazed that she simply doesn't want to "do chores" randomly or even if asked, "Hey you want to come pull weeds with us?" - yeah, that's a great way to phrase it DH! 

CLove's picture

He will ask me to help with weeds and yardwork, but not his precious princess. We will sweat and toil in the yard, and she will either still be in bed on hr phone, or in the rocking chair on her phone or watching her favorite netflix thing.

I almost had a coniption one day when she told us point blank that "why dont we water more so the lawn looks greener" Im like, well its very expensive to maintain like that and when we come home from work, we are both very tired.

Now, I say quickly "oh, your volunteering to help out?" when she gives us these "helpful suggestions".

So thats another TIP. If Skids want to make helpful suggestions, then they obviously know what needs to be done and after 12 years old, can actually complete these things!!!! If it begins with "you should", then it should end with "Grat then YOU can!!!!"


Cover1W's picture

OSD was good at this...the yard needs to be cleaned up, or the grass is too long, or the trash is full, or there's dishes in the sink, or hey, can we paint the house a different color or re-do the SDs bathroom?  LOL.  Yeah, you get on that and let me know how it goes.

I told her one day, "I am not your maid."  She looked really, really confused and said, "What...I don't get it..." Well, it's not my job to keep this entire house clean for everyone.  I literally had to explain what that meant.  She just always assumed someone else would do it for her.


ChamomileTea4Me's picture

I finally came to realize all but 1 of 5 SKIDS really didn't get it that I wasn't responsible for keeping the entire house clean by myself and picking up whatever messes were laid down before me.  It's definitely been a process and still in the works.  We recently had to explain to them why I do MORE of the general cleaning and talk to them about the give-and-take of shared responsibilities between MR. ED and I.  Now with SDs, during the really heated years, I actually had a similar conversation followed up by, "When is the last time YOU did ANYTHING nice for me just because?"  It was definitely confrontational but needed to be said.  They just weren't understanding that it's not my JOB to do everything for them.  My DS used to get so irritated about how they expected to be catered to because I raised him to give and take.

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Ooohhhh...I feel ya on that, CLove!  I've said that so many times!  SD17 is a lost cause, I'm afraid, when it comes to lifting a finger to help with yard work, but thankfully SSs are coming around.  Recently when MR. ED and I were getting ready to work in the yard, SS15 perched on the sofa with his phone asked, "Are we doing anything FUN today?"  I looked blankly at him and said, "Not unless you two help out in the yard.  We're going to be too tired," and walked outside.  The little one jumped to it and a few minutes later the older followed.  They actually did a lot of work that day and we took them out for ice cream.  

That's also how the chores-while-you're-visiting thing came about.  SS15 said to me one day, "Somebody needs to take the trash out!"  I said, "The smeller's the feller!" and again walked away.  He was irritated, but he did it.  That night MR. ED decided it was forever more his "chore" while visiting.  

CLove's picture

Oh boy, that one gets under my skin, too.

I used to love to go out and do fun things, had hopes that it was good bonding time. Now Im at the point I want to just go out alone or with friends.

ITB2012's picture

I could have written this during the "everyone is awesome" phase (before anniversary number one).

I'm now wondering why I ever thought any of that would work. All the kids have chores. That at least I accomplished during the "awesome" phase. But the rest sunk to the bottom of the step hell sea.


ChamomileTea4Me's picture

I'm not a new SP...6 years in, 6 kids in all.  I was just sharing a few things that actually DID help or ARE helping in my personal situation hoping it might spark a helpful idea for someone else.  Believe me...there is plenty that doesn't work around our house.  I've completely disengaged from some SKIDS, but others I still have a good relationship with.  Our house does run a million times better than it did years ago, so we've made some progress.  I would LOVE to hear things that HAVE worked in your situation.  

Your comment sounded like I was a hopeful new SP.  I am not.  I'm a veteran who is working very hard with MR. ED to make our lives better.  I'm sorry things seem to have gotten so rough with you and DH.  I sincerely hope you find some hope about it all or at least some peace.  We all deserve that!