Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for 10 years. He has a son, “Franklin,” who is 20.
Franklin works a few hours a week at a restaurant, with no aspirations to go to school or get a full-time job.
Prior to him turning 18, he would split his time equally between his mother’s house and ours, which worked out well.
Now he spends five days at our house and two days at his mother’s house. He sleeps all day and is awake all night playing video games (loudly, I might add).
He does nothing to help, nor does he pay any rent.
I believe he is required to do some chores at his mother’s, which I am assuming is why he chooses to mainly live with us. My husband and I have demanding jobs (60-plus hours per week), and we could use some help around the house. My husband is defensive about this situation.
Finally, last week, we both sat down with Franklin. He is supposed to clean his room, change his sleeping schedule, help with the yardwork and the dishes, and stay half the time with his mother.
The first day, he picked up his room. It is now 10 days later. He is back to staying here five days a week. It is 4:30 p.m., and he is still sleeping, even though he is supposed to be working.
I am very resentful. Although my name is on the deed and I have put thousands of dollars into the house, I feel this is not my home, as I have no say in the living arrangements.
— No Peace of Mind
Dear No Peace: It is hard to be a stepparent, especially when you are assigned (or assume) such a tangential role with your family.
However, you entered the household when “Franklin” was 10. He is now 20. You co-own the house you all live in and you contribute to Franklin’s support in many ways. You are one of Franklin’s parents!
It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you or your husband that you two are basically holding this young man back and contributing to his delinquency.
Franklin will NEVER help with housework, because he has never faced reasonable expectations and proportional consequences.
He needs to be out on his own, where he will more directly determine his own destiny. You should calmly state your expectation to both your husband and your stepson. His 21st birthday would be a reasonable deadline. You and his dad can continue to be supportive coaches from the sidelines. A counselor could help you two to sort out the inevitable tension about this.
Dear Amy: You recently affirmed an elderly couple’s choice that they would “rather die of COVID than loneliness.” If COVID-19 were any other disease, I would agree with the elderly parents and their “right to choose.” However, this is a nasty, highly infectious disease that is putting healthcare workers — from doctors to janitors — through the wringer.
If the elderly parents were to get infected, it would NOT just affect them. It would put healthcare workers who end up caring for them in danger. And in that case, it’s not a choice, but an honorable duty. We’ve lost nearly 1,000 healthcare workers to COVID-19, and the number will surely grow as we gather more data and the pandemic unravels.
There still is a PPE shortage, putting our healthcare workers at risk every day they care for COVID-19 patients.
Healthcare workers are suffering major burnout and PTSD from working in this unprecedented crisis. Many say they used to see two deaths a year on their ward, and now it’s up to two a day. This has major lasting emotional effects, similar to veterans of war.
The elderly parents, if sick, would take up a bed and medical resources that could go to someone else, someone who hasn’t chosen death.
I urge people to realize that this is bigger than any one person. We’re truly all in it together.
Dear Alex: You are absolutely right. Thank you so much for offering this heartbreaking perspective.
Dear Amy: Thank you for your thoughtful response to “Mindful,” the husband who was “patrolling his wife’s feelings.” You pointed out that “family members are great at noticing patterns” in behavior.
So true! I wish my family members had as much respect for my insights into their behavior.
Dear Sister: Your tone might be sardonic, but I reckon you’ve got some real wisdom to share.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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