We would normally dilly-dally up top here for a bit, properly setting the scene before diving right in. But the original poster (OP) on a recent Reddit Am I The A—hole post likes things nice and tidy, so let’s not waste any time. She titled her post, “AITA for forcing my stepdaughter to pay me back after she ruined my house?”
This woman and her husband have three children from previous marriages, one of whom is an 18-year-old girl. This girl lives with her dad and stepmom full time (her parents live close to her college and campus housing is expensive), and their relationship had a bit of a “rocky start.”
“I told her from day one that I wasn’t her mom,” OP said.
PAUSE: While some might see this as her being humble and self-aware, and not wanting to overstep her boundaries, one commenter said she sees this as a major red flag.
“Frankly, as a stepdaughter, I can tell you that when a stepmom starts with ‘I told [my stepdaughter] from day one that I wasn’t her mom,’ there’s no love there,” this commenter wrote. “You’re gonna be treated as a second-class citizen in your own house. Which of course isn’t yours and how dare you even dream about treating it that way. So when I saw that sentence, immediately I said to myself, ‘[This girl] didn’t do jack sh*t.'”
Moving on. OP told her stepdaughter that if there was anything she wants to talk about or need, she can come to her. And ultimately, they have supposedly become “quite close.” The teen would talk to OP about “anything she was too embarrassed to talk about with her dad.” Unfortunately, that initial friction has reared its ugly head.
“My stepdaughter keeps bringing her friends over to hang out but [leaving the house] a mess,” she wrote. “Normally it’s not a major deal (I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder so sometimes there are issues depending on the situation though) because she picks up after herself, but I recently hired a housekeeper to clean the house once a week since I’ve been working overtime more often since my husband and I just don’t have time. It is expensive but I cannot stand it when it becomes too messy for me so I think it’s worth it.”
Recently the stepdaughter brought her friends home after the house was cleaned. The friends didn’t take their shoes off, leaving footprints “all around the house,” and left “crumbles on the counter” after making pizza from scratch.
Wait a minute, didn’t OP say the house was “ruined?” *Scrolls to the top* Yup, “ruined.”
“Once again, the cleaning service is quite expensive because I like a higher level of cleaning quality so I was pissed,” OP said. “I can’t let it go because of how much it cost. I requested the exact amount I paid for the cleaning service to her Venmo and she acted all confused on why she had to pay for it. I explained that her and her friends ruined my house that was just cleaned.”
“I gave her two choices, pay for the damages or I stop paying for her phone … AITA?”
Nearly 900 commenters said some version of the following:
“Footprints in your house and pizza crumbs do not make a house ‘filthy.’ You had plenty of options other than charging your stepdaughter — you could’ve cleaned it, your husband could’ve, you could have asked her to clean it, etc. YTA. Telling your stepdaughter she ruined your house is a surefire way to ruin your relationship with her.”
Since OP said the house was “ruined,” Redditors expected there would be “flooding, furniture or wall damage; fire or explosion, [or a] catastrophe with similar damage.” Or, there could have been “a massive house party with puke, condoms, and property destruction.”
“Yeah, I was waiting for the horrible mess that’s worth a falling out. This is cleaned in 15 minutes,” one comment said. “I hope the worst my kids will do is make pizza from scratch when I’m not home.”
Seriously! As someone else pointed out, “It wasn’t even pizza boxes or anything.”
“These kids ate homemade, healthy(ish) pizza they cooked themselves. That sort of behavior needs to be encouraged, not punished. Have her sweep the place and be done.”
It is understandably frustrating to come home to a messy house. But at what point can people start living in this house? A day after the house has been clean? Two days?
“Of course, her friends should have taken their shoes off,” said one commenter. “Of course, your stepdaughter needs to clean up after herself (and her friends). But she’s not an AH for living and sometimes living [comes with messes]. ‘Ruined’ implies actual damage. A mess is a mess, not damage.”
Right, living comes with messes — and if the compulsions have gotten to the point where this stepmom is putting strains on familial relationships, it’s time to seek help. OCD is a real, valid, and all-consuming disorder, and OP is clearly struggling to manage its symptoms. So in this case, she may be less “AH” and more “person who is suffering from a mental health disorder that is wreaking havoc on her wellbeing and her interactions with family.”
As one commenter pointed out, perhaps it’s time to opt for a cheaper cleaning service and invest in therapy instead.
“I have OCD,” one Redditor said. “I’m genuinely baffled that OP felt it was anything other than manipulative to refer to footprints and CRUMBS as DAMAGE … I thought this was going to be about some house party where furniture was destroyed and items were stolen. OP should consider therapy.”
Another Redditor pointed out, “OCD is not an excuse to act like a jerk when a teenager behaves like a totally normal teenager.” As some of use here at SheKnows are parents of teens ourselves, we can vouch for the fact that you can go to bed with a spotless kitchen and wake up to a countertop strewn with dirty dishes and crumbs. When you don’t have OCD, this is cause for definite side-eye and some parental nagging — but when a pervasive mental health disorder is present, it can seem like a much bigger deal than it actually, logically is.
On the surface, this may seem like a ridiculous overreaction, and in any other case it would be. But in this case, OP’s behavior isn’t that of an a-hole. It’s the behavior of someone who needs help, and we hope she gets it — for her own sake, and that of her family.
Before you go, check out some of Reddit’s most wicked step-parent stories.
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