Adult Stepchildren Moving In

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-31-2011
Adult Stepchildren Moving In
Mon, 01-07-2013 - 12:08pm

I'm looking for people to connect with who understand stepparenting. I need a place to vent.

I've been a stepmother for 15 years. The thing is, I've not been a real stepmother in the way that most of you have been. When I met my husband, he'd not seen his children since the divorce 18 months previous. He and his ex-wife grew up in the same state, though soon after they married, her parents moved about 400 miles away. My husband was in the military so they moved all over the place during their marriage. It was no surprise that she moved to the state where her parents lived after the divorce considering they didn't have any real roots anywhere.

I am going to make a long, sordid tale short by saying that my stepchildren lived far away with an unstable mother who did everything in her power to not just keep the children physically away from their father, but as we've always suspected and are learning now, also did her best at trying to make the children hate him too. Visitations were far and few in between. We would go years not hearing a peep, then an out-of-the-blue phone call asking for money. My husband got custody at one point but it was overturned for jurisdiction.

When I say the ex-wife was (is) unstable, I mean in every way possible. My stepchildren moved 3-5 times every year and switched schools about as often. They weren't allowed much social interaction with other kids. At one point, she told my dss that his father was dead. Another time, she had the kids convinced that he wanted to kidnap them. Even when we knew where she lived and pressed the courts for visitation, visits were troubling because she'd call the kids and tell them things like, "I forgot what your face looks like" or remind them that dad was going to kidnap them or tell them that their dad was a big ole' meanie because he refused to drive them home for a day in the middle of a two-week summer visitation so that she could take them to a local carnival.

Fast forward to recent times. My dss is 20 and dsd is 18. They had a few visitations during their late teens, like once a year. We were in slightly more regular contact with them by this point because they were old enough to get jobs and pay for their own cell phones. Service was always on-and-off, and they still moved pretty regularly, but somehow we made the visitations happen.

I don't know the entire story, but it would seem that my stepson left home at 18. He graduated high school, joined the national guard, and found that he couldn't live with his mother, who constantly demanded money for basic things like utilities, rent, and food. He was really upset at one point because she'd begged him for money to keep the power on, he handed it over (a huge amount to a kid that age) and she went shopping with it--power was turned off.

Dss called us last summer and asked if he could come stay with us for a while. He'd went for his two weeks for the guard and everything fell apart; he'd been roommating with his girlfriend's cousin, but she broke up with him when he did his NG duty so he kicked dss out. His car broke down, and while the movie theater he worked at held his job for him, he returned to greatly diminished hours, like less than ten a week. He'd moved in with his grandmother to get back on his feet but she threw all his stuff on the lawn one day and told him to get out. His mom didn't want him back. So we made the trip and transported him here where made him a deal: you stay rent-free, but you go to college. He got a job right away, managed to get a car, and starts college tomorrow (yay!) He has a long-term vocation goal and he's motivated.

In October, dss told us that dsd was pregnant and that she'd moved out of her mom's house with the guy. He told us then that the guy was no good. It was made clear to dsd that she wasn't welcome to go home to "mooch" from mom so knowing how endlessly silly teenage girls are toward love relationships, I urged dh to call her and offer the same deal we'd given dss. The last thing we wanted was for her to feel stuck with some guy who, apparently is a professional job-starter (You all know the type; hundreds of thousands can't find work, but this guy manages to land a new job every other month, only to quit or call in too much to keep it.)

She called on Friday. We're traveling once again in a week or two to pick her up. She's due in April.

Let me tell you about my home. We live in an 800 square foot house and my husband and I have two children together. The main floor of our house has three small bedrooms, which we had divded years ago for the kids: the girls got the largest bedroom, while the boys each had one of the smaller rooms. The basement is partially finished so dh and I have a bedroom and a separate living room space.

We're rearranging the house to shift both the boys into a single small room, move our daughter into the other smaller room, so that dsd can have the bigger room for her and baby.

It's been about six months with dss and it's weird and complicated on a personal level for me. This stepparenting thing is much easier when the kid is 7 and wields to adults, biologically related or not. It's like I have a strange, grown man in my house. He's a slob. I've never insisted that my house be in pristine clean order, but I've gone to great lengths to teach my own kids how to be respectful. When you come home and throw your backpack on the loveseat and throw your coat, hat, and gloves all over the couch, you're putting others in the position to have to choose between not using the furniture or picking up after you. My youngest child is 13 and we're all pretty good about taking care of our own things here, but now all of a sudden I'm dealing with milk left in glasses long enough to turn solid, or left with the choice to either take the grown man's clothing from the washer, put into the dryer, and take care of or not use my own washer and dryer for days while he gets around to it.

It's stupid: I ask dss to do things and he just doesn't. I have to ask my husband to talk to him about these things. Even then, it takes multiple attempts. The thought of moving dd into the bedroom he's been occupying makes me feel sick to my stomach. I peeked in there the other day to realize that the bed is still made exactly the way I set it up six months ago when I prepared the room for him. He's thrown bags of clothing and whatever all over it, there's just one small spot where he actually sleeps. But this means the bedspread has been slept on for six months without a wash. The pillowcases haven't been changed. He spent an entire day in his room supposedly cleaning before we had a cable guy scheduled to come hook his TV up, but I about died of embarassment when I showed the cable guy to his room and flung open the door. The cable guy laughed and said he'd seen worse but I doubt it. It was so bad that when he attempted to find the previous cable box in there, he required help because it was buried underneath so many piles of things that even though he knew where it was from the wire leading to it, he didn't want to disturb the trash heap piled on top.

All this time, I've resigned myself to the idea that his room = his mess, and so long as I can close his bedroom door, I can live with things. He's already 20 and even though he's just starting college, he is motivated to get his own place and start his adult life. Since he's been here, he's already been engaged (and broken up) with one girl. He's in a serious quest to move on. So I've come to think of this as temporary, maybe he'll be out in a year, two at the most. Now, I'll be throwing him in with my son who, besides kicking off his socks at the end of his bed when he goes to sleep at night, really isn't very messy, so it'll be a new level of stress.

I'm so afraid of more of the same from dsd. Not to mention the stress of having a baby in the house. We started our family on the young side. I'm 38, dh is 39. We just got to the point within our adult lives where our own children are old enough to mind themselves so we can spend an occasional evening out. I don't know how it'll work with a baby. We'll want her to go to school, but I assume we'll be babysitters when she's in class, or when she studies. Same if she works. I'm worried we'll be saddled with this baby and it's not like we have wide open schedules here. My husband holds a demanding position at work and is in a master's degree program at the same time. I work part-time and go to college full-time. We'll be young grandparents, but our energy isn't infinite. Plus, much like dss, living here will give her more social freedom than she's ever had. We spent a few hours with her when we picked up dss last summer and when we explained that dd didn't make the long car ride because she gets sick and stayed with a friend for the weekend, dsd looked a little sad and mentioned that she'd never had a sleepover and that she was barely allowed to spend time with her friends. She never had a childhood best friend. It would appear timing-wise that as soon as she turned 18, mom let up a bit, so she went out almost immediately and got pregnant. I'm not blaming her pregnancy on her mother, mind you, but I do think that her social development was even more stunted than my dss', and that without any social skills at all she had no idea what she was getting into and with whom. 

When I first got with dh, both he and the in-laws told me dirty house stories from the ex that were disgusting. SIL once told me that during a scheduled visit, dss as a toddler had found a petrified hot dog on the kitchen floor and was teething on it. Dh's uncle told me that he'd stopped in uninvited once and asked to be put up for the night and that the ex-wife spent three hours scrubbing out their apartment's second bathroom, where she was throwing the kids' outgrown clothing into the tub and the cat was using the tub as a kitty litter box. I'm pretty much convinced that had this woman not moved so often, she would have easily turned into someone who could be featured in some TLC documentary. I'd always gotten the impression from our few visitations that my stepkids thought I was overburdening or maybe even harrassing them about cleaning up after themselves, because from the world of filth they grew up in (void of any social relationships and visits to friends' houses to compare it to) I'm just uncessarily making everyone clean. In some small way I can relate to the way they felt because I remember going to certain relative's house when I was a kid who seemed to live in a world of eggshells, petrified of making their house dirty. I don't live like that. I just expect that if you explode a bowl of spaghettios in the microwave that you wipe it down and that if you take a bowl of ice cream to your room to snack on while you do your homework that it makes its way to the sink within a day.

It's to the point where I can almost understand his grandmother booting him out.

I know my anger is probably misplaced, but every day I grow more upset with the ex-wife. Why did she fight so hard to keep the kids all to herself to just abandon them once they legally turned into adults? Why shelter them from forming relationships with other family members and friends just to throw them out into the big bad world? A good parent helps their children learn how to form healthy relationships with others. I feel like this would be so much easier for everyone involved if we'd had regular vistations and contact with these kids; at this point, there's no real reason that they should feel like strangers in my house. Things are about to get doubly weird and complicated as the ex-wife has plans to move in with a brother who lives about an hour away. She and her youngest will be imposing on their family so I wonder, will she have the gall to expect to come into my home to visit with her children? Her grandbaby? Because dh and I won't have it, but how do you explain that to adult children?


Thanks for letting me vent.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-31-2011
Mon, 01-07-2013 - 12:36pm

I wanted to add that despite my whining here, I am grateful that my husband is now free to form relationships with his children. We always hoped that once they were old enough to strike out on their own that they would come to understand that he was put into a bad position from their mother. Dirty socks and cheesy milk aside, I'm happy to have them. It's the adjustment that's causing me stress, I think.

I feel better having said all of this here today. I'm afraid to vent to people that I know because the last thing I want to do is create some kind of negative attitude toward my stepchildren or something.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-07-2011
Mon, 01-07-2013 - 1:57pm
Vent away, at least you can get out all your frustrations before you lose it in your house! I would be just as irritated and upset by his behavior as you are, and would have the same fears about having a new baby in the house. Do you think it would get you anywhere if you just have an honest conversation with your dss that you love having him there, but he needs to become more responsible? Maybe along the lines that you are trying to show him how to be a responsible adult before he moves out, that you want him to have all the resources he needs to become successful? Those poor kids never had a chance growing up, and it's a complete shame that you didn't have custody. Now you are having to teach them things that they should have learned years ago, it's going to be a uphill climb but at least you are there supporting them. I hope I'm not stepping over a line, but has your dsd thought of adoption? I feel bad for her that she finally has a chance at a normal life and she's going to have to become a mom at such an early age.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-31-2011
Mon, 01-07-2013 - 4:46pm

Rangerfan, you're not out of line at all.

I don't think dsd has considered adoption, but I'll be honest--I doubt she'd consider it. The kids grew up in the bible belt.

We've already stressed to dsd that having a baby isn't the end of the world and that it doesn't have to stop her from pursuing her dreams. On paper, I want her to stay, get her GED, and go to college. She's academic and I know she'd be a great success in school. I'm afraid she'd never get the opportunity if we just forced her to land on her feet, made her get a job with the goal of moving out as quickly as possible. In practice, my worries consume me and I feel selfish. I always assumed she'd come live with us when she wanted to go to college because we've made it clear always to the kids that we can offer all of the necessary tools, like computers, stable internet connection, free rent/board, plus we live within an hour's drive of three large universities.

This past week has been a real eye-opener in my house. It's amazing what these kids don't know. I asked dss for a copy of his class schedule a few weeks ago so I could help him locate cheap books: he told me he looked it up already and he didn't need any books for any of his three courses. We finally get him straight on that--he needed $200 worth of books. Then he decides to go online and register for one more class to bump himself to full-time. He had previously registered for ENG 090 (remedial per placement testing) and then registered for ENG 131 (core.) We tried to tell him that taking both courses at the same time didn't make any sense, but he wasn't getting it. Worse, he called an academic advisor who told him that he was welcome to take both classes at once. (I wish I knew that person's name, because I'd be on campus having a tantrum about that.) When I mentioned to him that taking a full time load may require him to drop some hours at work, he seemed genuinely confused as to why I would think so. I don't think he gets that college is going to be more demanding than high school. To be honest, I don't even think he understands that high school was demanding considering he moved around so much and switched schools so often. I don't even know if he made it through a single semester without mvoing at least once.I know that he barely graduated and probably only did because he'd already enlisted and they required it.

Now the college stuff, I understand that not all kids grow up in a house with parents who constantly go to school so that's understandable. Kids don't know things about college until they go or unless someone teaches them. It gets weirder when you realize he's not internet savvy. My dh had to spend a considerable amount of time with him to get him proficient enough on the school website to work his own scheduling, for example. He's never had internet access except for scants amount of time and at computer lab in school. We sent the kids laptops a few years ago but they never got internet. Dsd worked in fast food, so before hers broke, she would go to work hours early and take advantage of the WiFi. I think in the 6 months he's been here, he's picked up on quite a bit. He's signed up for two online courses and is a nervous wreck about figuring out how to navigate the school's software. I think the school uses Blackboard, which is pretty common, user-friendly, and intuitive. Still, we understand that we can't just show him how to log on and let him go, we're going to have to show him the ins and the outs.

I'm just rambling now...

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-15-2012
Tue, 01-08-2013 - 12:53pm

I thought I would jump on here.  It is great that you have come here to get some things off your chest.  I want to commend you, Marla for being on board with having your adult children move in.  It is obvious that they both could use a loving and stable environment as they figure things out. 

I haven't had stepchildren come live with us, but my kids' friends who needed a place to stay.  Some stayed with us for nine months and others only for a few weeks.  And, I will be honest with you, it was very hectic at our house when someone new came to live with us -- trying to work around the different dynamics -- work schedules, school schedules, meal times, laundry, etc.  I found it helpful to have a short meeting on Sunday afternoon/evening so we sort of knew what was going on with everyone's schedules for the week.  We had started this when our sons transitioned from middle school to high school with all of their activities they were involved with.  Just some thoughts...

I will be praying for you and your family!


iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2010
Thu, 01-10-2013 - 1:44pm

<< I just expect that if you explode a bowl of spaghettios in the microwave that you wipe it down and that if you take a bowl of ice cream to your room to snack on while you do your homework that it makes its way to the sink within a day.>>

  Wow!  Can I relate to THIS!  Anyway, vent's not easy having adult children living at home.  Dh's DS20 lives in our basement and we constantly have to ask him to pick up his dishes, clean his bathroom, etc...He lived with his older brother in an apartment last year when he was doing drugs and it was the happiest time dh and I had had together in a LONG time.  Unfortunately, he's back now and 2 years behind in life due to his drug use.  He can't even BEGIN his life until March when he gets his license back and then WE will have to buy him a car in order for him to be able to get to and from a job.  If we don't, he'll never leave and I would end up in the insane assylum!  The hardest part for me is having no real connection to him.  He was 16 when dh and I met, so was practically grown already.  I long for the day he moves out, but know it will probably be at least 2 more years as he talks about taking a voc-ed program at our local jr. college.  We've both talked to him about joining the Navy, but, he doesn't seem all that interested.  I can't understand WHY a young person would choose to just live in their father's basement, doing nothing when they could be in the military seeing the world!  He's never really been anywhere, so I'm at a loss.  Every time I go down to our basement, he's just laying on the couch doing nothing.  Last night, I asked him to pick up all his dirty dishes (10 glasses plus others) and run the dishwasher.  He only picked up half and never ran it.  You bet he got a text message from me this morning!  What ticks ME off is working full-time and coming home to a 20 year old who does nothing.  UGH

It IS nice that your dh will finally be able to have a relationship with his children after all this time.  I agree with another OP about talking to your DSD about adoption.  My own DD28 got pregnant at 19 and was a college student and DID place her son in an open adoption whom I am VERY close to as well as his whole family.  Neither she nor her boyfriend at the time had any money, so how could they afford a child?  So, there's my question to you?  You mentioned both you and your dh are in college and now his son and daughter are going?  Do you have an endless supply of money?  I wanted to help my DD, but her father (my now ex) wouldn't hear of it.  He said it wasn't HIS responsibility, period.  Anyway, it just sounds like you and your dh have taken on ALOT with these 2 grown kids.  

Someone once told me to not change my life just because an adult child is living at home.  If they don't like your rules, etc...they know where the door is.  I will not tolerate DSS's mess and I let him know it.  I used to go through dh, but quit as it was causing too much of a strain on our marriage.  Now I go right to the problem...DSS and tell him myself.  Plus, dh and I just got married a year ago, so like our "alone" time and we make no bones of shutting our bedroom door when he's there.  You'd think he'd be sick of us by now and WANT to move out!

Feel free to vent any time!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-31-2011
Thu, 01-24-2013 - 5:46am

Thanks for your kind words, Deniumchick!

This weekly meeting sounds like a great idea. I think I'll start this tradition. Thanks!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-31-2011
Thu, 01-24-2013 - 7:02am


I got a giggle when you asked if we had an endless supply of money for school!

No infinite supply of money here. We're encouraging the kids to take the community college path. I've been attending a community college myself, with plans to transfer into a university this fall. I chose the university carefully: the one I will attend has low tuition plus they offer transfer students a scholarship based on their GPA. My GPA (3.7) qualifies for the top tier scholarship, which brings the cost down close to community college level.

I think my stepkids would go to community college otherwise because their high school careers were so rocky. Dss attended six different high schools, some of them multiple times. His final high school had to spend a lot of time putting together all of his transcripts in a way to award him a diploma. Some years he didn't stay in a school long enough to complete a semester from start to finish. His first semester of college includes 00-level math and writing courses to get him up to college readiness to take core classes. I am happy to report that he's determined and doing very well so far. He's a bright kid, he just didn't have the kind of environment that afforded him the ability to focus on school before.

Dsd would have the same issue with a high school diploma had she stayed in school, but she opted for the GED instead. Like I'd mentioned before, she's quite academic so my assumption is that she's already college ready. (We're talking about a kid who prefers to read the classics in her spare time and who thinks Algebra is fun.) I'm not sure how you get into a real college with that kind of high school history or a GED. Dss and I qualify for Pell Grant funds, so we're assuming that dsd will too, so the cost to get her through junior year will be minimal. There are a handful of allied health programs offered at the community college that she's expressed interest in, so she may opt to do that. That's her decision. To be honest, she's 18 and even though she's been living on her own for a year and is about to be a mom, she's a lot like many 18 year olds who don't really know what they want to do. There's no reason she can't pile up general education credits while she settles into the kind of maturity that will prompt her to think in terms of a career vs. a job.

My husband has had to go grad school the old-fashioned way, with student loans. He's got the work experience to back up his degree though, so the risk is minimal. He currently works at the executive level for a small business (small business, hence low enough pay to qualify the rest of us for Pell.)

Our 14 year old is taking her first college course with dual enrollment. The high school she attends pays her tuition. (Phew!) She's already earned a two-year scholarship at the community college for being an outstanding achiever.

Otherwise, we live a modest life. Small house with small mortgage payments, no credit card debt. We drive used cars. No family vacations. We're of mind that someday this will pay off nicely for everyone involved :)

WRT to the 20 year old: some of us are slow at this life goal thing. I didn't start college until I was over 35. Still, I hope your situation turns around soon. As far as your "alone" time I absolutely think it's priority. My dh and I have a family room setup in the basement that is our space, adjacent to our bedroom. The kids have full run of the upstairs. If we didn't have that little retreat to escape to, stress would be far too high here. And yes, bedroom door locks are essential :) We play kissy face in the kitchen sometimes and we've joked that we'll gross them all out enough to want to become independent as soon as possible!