Teen Telling Lies to Avoid Stepmom Assigning Chores or Babysit Backed

A teenager pretending to be in her room while hiding in a secret "side attic" of the house to avoid her stepmom has gone viral on Reddit, with 12,100 upvotes.

In a post shared under the username throwaway_3759384, the 16-year-old wrote: "I had the idea to just go in there and avoid Josie [her stepmom] when my dad's not home and it worked. She called for me and came looking for me but couldn't find me.

"Now [the couple are] arguing because Josie insists I wasn't in the house and my dad thinks she's lying and taking it out on me because I wouldn't babysit. I do feel a little bad now because I am making Josie look kinda nuts, but I also don't want to babysit or spend my entire Saturday doing chores," the teenager said.

Teenage girl looking upset, looking out window.
A stock image of a teenager girl looking upset while staring out a window. A post about a teenager who lied about being home in a bid to avoid babysitting duties has gone viral on Reddit. iStock / Getty Images Plus

The American Psychological Association (APA) says: "Under the best conditions, it may take two to four years for a new stepfamily to adjust to living together," and "the most difficult aspect of stepfamily life is parenting."

Research has shown that older adolescents (those aged 15 and older) require less parenting but "may have less investment in stepfamily life." Kids under the age of 10 tend to be more accepting of a new adult in the family, "particularly when the adult is a positive influence," the APA notes.

A March 2011 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marriage and Family found there were six patterns of "step-relationship development." These include the following:

  • Accepting as a parent.
  • Liking from the start.
  • Accepting with ambivalence.
  • Changing trajectory.
  • Rejecting.
  • Coexisting.

The teenager in the latest Reddit post wrote that her dad and stepmom (who has two young sons, 8 and 6) got married in 2022 after the user's mom died in "a bad accident." She added, "I hate living with them." The 8-year-old allegedly has "really bad ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder]... and has meltdowns over the smallest things." The 6-year-old is "kinda similar but not quite as bad," the Redditor wrote.

Now that they all live together, the teenager explained that Josie's been trying to make her "deal with them [her stepbrothers] more and more," typically when the dad isn't at home.

According to the teenager, "Josie flat out lies to my dad when I refuse to do what she wants while he's not there...I've tried having a conversation with both my dad and Josie together and my dad separately and she denies everything and my dad thinks it's just because I don't like the idea of the step-family. Nobody listens to me."

The 16-year-old wrote: "I have chores that I do already, so it's not like I'm doing nothing, I just want some time to myself on the weekend. My dad doesn't see it happen so he thinks I'm exaggerating."

The user explained that, one day, she discovered that her room "has a hatch [in it] like a side attic." She added that no one knows about the space, and it's big enough that she can "spread out a blanket and some pillows" to read or work on her laptop "in peace."

When her dad recently asked where she was, she told him she was in her room and sent him her phone location. "Josie still couldn't find me, but I slipped out before my dad came home and was laying on my bed with a book when he got there," the user wrote.

Cassandra Aasmundsen-Fry, a U.S.-trained licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, told Newsweek that teenager behavior is understandable.

"She suffered a significant loss and is now adjusting to not only a new parental and authority figure in her life but also new siblings," Aasmundsen-Fry added. "She clearly needs space and feels unable to protect her needs and sense of emotional safety when with her stepmother.

"Lying and controlling behavior by the stepmother is problematic and should be confronted and dealt with by the dad. He should validate his daughter's own pace at adjusting to this situation. Clear boundaries around babysitting and chores will make this situation easier and make all involved feel heard and respected," Aasmundsen-Fry said.

Angela Karanja is a psychologist for adolescents and founder of Raising Remarkable Teenagers, an online resource offering parenting workshops. She told Newsweek that the teenager's behavior is "well within the safe range of coping mechanisms for a frustrated 16-year-old who feels pushed to the limit and is having responsibilities that are not hers heaped on her."

In many homes, there appears to be "a thread of entitlement" on the parents' side, expecting especially teenagers to look after their younger siblings, said Karanja. "It's important for parents to understand that bonding with siblings is not synonymous with caretaking."

Karanja added the dad must also remember that "this is a traumatized 16-year-old whose own mother died unexpectedly–so the trauma is real. Dad needs to hear and believe his teen kid–all children want is to be seen, heard and believed."

Teenage girl sitting next to older woman.
A stock image of a teenage girl looking upset, with an older woman appearing distraught seated next to her on a sofa. A post about a teenage girl who hides in a secret "side attic" in her house to avoid her stepmom has been backed by users on Reddit. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Several users on Reddit shared support for the teenager.

In a comment that received over 15,000 upvotes, user Holiday_Cat_7284 wrote: "This is golden. They're not your kids or siblings, you didn't ask for any of this to happen, and your free time/study time should be the first thing that was considered in this move..."

Separate_Dream4412 posted: "Her dad really needs to let her be allowed to have no be a whole sentence...It's really critical therefore to make sure your teen daughter is allowed to practice autonomy safely in the home before she's out on her own..."

Some posted that the original poster keep a record of her conversations with the stepmom.

In a comment with more than 5,000 upvotes, user etds3 wrote: "OP [original poster] needs to document exactly what step mom says..."

User L1ttleFr0g agreed, posting: "Yup and discreetly record the conversation with your phone for proof."

Do you have a similar family dilemma? Let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.