Annie Lane: At a loss when it comes to child’s chores

Published 9:31 pm Friday, September 16, 2022

Dear Annie: I’ve been reading your column for a while and now have a situation of my own I’m hoping you can help me with. I’ve been with my girlfriend for 10 months and am set to propose very soon. We get along quite well, make each other laugh, build each other up and communicate well, too, so things couldn’t be better. The only issue is that her 12-year-old daughter is a total slob and doesn’t know the definition of cleaning up after herself.

She constantly leaves clothes, toys and removed fake nails strewn about the house, and it makes no difference if her mother asks nicely or really gets on her about it. We cannot get her to clean up after herself and, even beyond that, get her to do chores in general. Early on, I had thought about suggesting an allowance, but I don’t think there’s an amount of money that would get this girl to do anything (plus her mother isn’t exactly in a financial position to be regularly handing out money). This is a girl whose mother legitimately offered her a crisp $100 bill to do the dishes, and she wouldn’t do them. Her mother and I were told by her son that his sister made the comment that she “doesn’t want to have to work for it.”

Overall, she’s a good kid. Her mom gets good reports on her when she spends the night with friends; she and I get along great; and she’s great with my family and does well babysitting for my brother and sister-in-law, but at home, we can’t motivate her to do anything as far as cleaning up and chores — and then she has the nerve to wonder why her mother goes nuts on her sometimes. Needless to say, her mother is extremely frustrated and at a loss. The problem for me is that we want to move in together, but I already told her that I don’t want or need her daughter trashing any house I’m living in. What do we do?

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— Caring for One Little Pig

Dear One Little Pig: I can certainly understand where your girlfriend and your mutual frustration is coming from. This young girl’s behavior is simply unacceptable and, now approaching her teen years, it’s time for her to face the music whether she likes it or not.

Since money doesn’t seem to be a motivator, perhaps it’s time to take away those things that do matter to her — like going to her friends’ houses for sleepovers or to certain extracurriculars — until she starts contributing at home. If we all put off doing the things we didn’t feel like facing, nothing would ever get done. This will go to show her that we don’t get to do the things we want unless we also put time into the things we need to do.

And on this topic of the future, now might also be a good time to discuss with your girlfriend what being a stepdad will look like and what boundaries might come with this new role. It sounds like you two have a solid relationship, and you have a good connection with her kids, so you should be able to work things out.

“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology — featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to