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A lazy stepson grows older

Toxic Situation's picture

I haven't been on Step Talk for a while and today, I began reading the forums, found encouragement to soldier on. Below is a brief update of my situation:

SS19 got accepted into a well-known college, where he is studying electrical engineering. He is smart, academically speaking, but lazy in every other possible way. Because of the current COVID situation, he telecommuted to college last semester (up until then, it had been real commuting, living at home and taking the train to school), which meant that he was laying on his bed for 23.5 hours a day, whether sleeping, playing video games or sometimes being in an online class, and only coming out to use the bathroom or to eat something.

He will not look for a job and DW does not insist that he does. She is quite content with the way her son is, never objects to it. He won't contribute to his college tuition. Current excuse for that is the COVID situation, but he likely would not have to work anyway. He did get generous grants toward college costs. He was supposed to get an internship, but that is not happening with the current situation. 

One note about work and COVID: my wife has a pre-existing medical condition and perhaps it is better - for her, not him - that he doesn't work outside of the home, where he could bring back the virus. However, when it was recently suggested that he work at the local ShopRite, he made a spitting noise and said "ShopRite?" (As in, "Me? Work a menial job?) He briefly had a job in a local restaurant three years ago, however when it was suggested that he return there the next summer, he said, "I'm not going to have some boss telling me what to do." 

All of this is acceptable to DW. Whenever I told her that it's summer and he's just laying around, DW said, "He says he's looking for a job." With DW, everything is in the present moment; there is no follow-up. DW does not look back over the months and acknowledge that SS19 has not found a job. He says he's looking for a job, so he's trying. To her, this is as good as if he had been working the whole time. The other version of this is "The school says he's going to get an internship in the spring." This is sufficient to satisfy DW about whether or not SS19 is working.

I am not contributing financially to SS19's college tuition. This is the result of having read StepMonster several years ago and the Step Parent's Manifesto, which in part states: "I refuse to watch over a child for whom I can set no rules or boundaries." Back then, that had to do with disengaging. Now it extends to not being involved in his education in any way. However, since he is not working, and some of the grants may not be available this year, DW is taking up the financial slack, which means that, when push comes to shove, that is first and if she can't contribute to household expenses, I will have to pay for all of it, with zero contribution from her, which means, in effect, that I am helping to pay for SS19's school.

DW will never draw the line with SS19. For example, by saying that we don't have enough money and you're not working either, so you'll just have to go to a local, cheaper, community college. (That would probably light a fire under him, because he does like the college he's going to - but not to worry, this will never happen.) The upside, if there is any is that he will get a job upon graduation. (The school boast of 95% of graduates entering a well-paying job at graduation. Of course, there is always that other 5%.) My fear for the future is that he may never launch, or not until 30.

ndc's picture

Before your DW takes up any of the slack in her son's potential tuition shortfall, make sure he's taking his maximum allowable federal loans (I think he can take $27,000 on his own over the course of 4 years).  I would absolutely draw the line at contributing extra to household expenses because she was paying part of his educational expenses if there were federal loans available to him that he was not borrowing.  If it's not affecting you financially, stay disengaged and feel fortunate that this kid at least has some prospects and will likely launch.

2Tired4Drama's picture

...what you fundamentally have is a DW problem. If she is unable or unwilling to "light a fire" under her son's butt then the fault lies primarily with her.  She raised SS to be the way that he is. 

You can only control what you can.  In this case, I would tell DW that she is still expected to contribute to overall household expenses as you will not be supplementing so she can fund his tuition. 

As for his sloth-like behavior, again, this is all on your DW for raising him that way and still allowing him to act like a pampered baby.  Does he do any chores around the house, while you two work?  If not, that should be the first thing you put your foot down on - that he MUST do chores around the house if he is going to continue to live there.  FWIW, this is a very common problem with many of today's younger people, getting well into their 20s and 30s, still living at home and still unable to fully function as adults.  It's the parents who are to blame. 

In this case, I would tell your DW that she needs to get counseling so she can better understand how unhealthy her enabling is. She can't see it because she is blinded by mother love, and needs to get a wake-up call. 

If SS doesn't like responsibility put on him while he is living with you then he needs to leave.  Doesn't matter if he has no money, no job.  He needs to get out and figure it out.  


Toxic Situation's picture

Hi 2Tired4Drama,

Of course, I already know, but that doesn't mean I'm not open to comments.

Yes, he does (some) chores around the house, usually with much arm-twisting, which I leave DW to get on his case about. I have learned that there is little I can do to change the situation by merely talking about it. Believe me, I tried, until I learned about disengaging, and even then, I still tried. That doesn't mean I will never say or do anything about it.

Much has to be soft-pedaled and stated with humor, or at least cleverly worded. For example, DW was paying a maid to clean bi-weekly, which besides meaning I had to clear out for two hours and lose possible work-from-home income, it was 80 dollars each time. So, now I have sold DW on the idea of having SS19 do some of chores and "we can keep the money in the family - why give it to someone else?" That has such a positive sound to it! I still have to put up with the whining and bickering that goes on between them, but he gets 20 dollars a week, and things sort-of get cleaned.

At the same time, SS19 gets to feel that I am advocating on his behalf, at the expense of his mother, and anything he can use for his advantage against her, he likes. It does serve a purpose though. He gets some money which is not outright given to him and at least there is the appearance of work being done. He is an in-home untapped labor force and it's a shame that this is going to waste. Before this, we were paying upwards of 2,500 a year for maid service, while the skid lay in his bed in idleness.

DW is not going to get counseling. I have finally figured out that she is impervious to advice, even if she does get it. It is not that she just needs to hear more, or get more input, or have it told to her in a way that she has not considered before, as if there is going to be an ah-hah moment. I used to try very hard to cause that to happen, though dialog, through explaining, by talking about it.

Winterglow's picture

Does this useless article realize that in ALL entry level jobs, you have a boss telling you what to do regardless of your diploma...? 

Toxic Situation's picture

I don't think he has realized this yet. He has never had an internship at school yet, so we have yet to see what that is going to be like. It won't be like restaurant work, cleaning tables and washing dishes for a business owner was willing to teach any young person the basics of hard work (I met him, he's a hard-working small business owner - my first job was for a couple like this, no one who worked for them could claim that they worked harder than the owners did and I am glad that this was my first job at age 16), SS19 will have none of that. We'll see how it plays out with an internship.

tog redux's picture

Well, take heart! My SS20 is doing absolutely BUPKIS with his life, no job, no college - and BM seems fine with that. So at least yours appears to be passing and headed for a good-paying career (I hope).  If you plan to stay with your wife, you'll have to deal with it for a while longer.

Toxic Situation's picture

You're right. Hopefully, he will get a good paying career. I have to deal with this a while longer, can't do as the commenter below said, "Run, dude, run." It's going to have to be "Launch, kid, launch."

tog redux's picture

Yes, start that discussion NOW. That once SS graduates, he will have 6 months to get a job and move out, PERIOD. No excuses from coddling Mama.

KC is not the stepmother's picture

I would separate finances and hand half the bills to your wife. Let her figure it out.