Dad undermines stepmom's authority

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Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist. ...

DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for a few years. It is a second marriage for both of us. He has custody of his children, who are in high school. He recently accepted a new job that has him working about 60 hours a week. I have agreed (willingly) to do everyday chores with the understanding that the kids pitch in. I do not work outside the home, so I like to help keep things orderly so he can come home at the end of the day to a clean and organized house. The kids are asked to do very little in the way of chores (i.e. do their laundry, take out the garbage, unload the dishwasher and walk the dog). My husband now tells me he doesn't care if the kids do their jobs and doesn't want me reminding them, though the kids have no problem with the "gentle" reminders. I always thank them and tell them their dad will be happy when he gets home from work. What gives? I cannot let the kids think they have no rules or responsibilities. Any advice I can give my husband? I suggest we sit down with the kids and discuss a good solution for all of us.

-- At My Wit's End

DEAR WIT'S END: Your husband does not have full custody of these kids -- you both do. He is gone almost every waking hour, so really -- you have custody and (for now, anyway) he is passing through.

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Understanding that you are (also) their parent might help clarify this issue.

If you are the "project manager" of your household, then you should be making everyday decisions about how it functions. This includes how to divvy up the workload.

For kids, having vital chores at home gives them a real stake in the outcome, teaching them important life skills and also a respect for the hard work of keeping a house.

A family meeting might help clear the air, but you also run the risk of your husband continuing to undermine you when he should be backing you up. Get on the same page before you two sit down with the kids.

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