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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife's Idle Hands Are Busy Shopping Away Her Boredom

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 25-year-old married woman who has a lot of free time on my hands while my husband works. The weekends are the worst.

Abby, my problem is that I shop to fill my time. This is very expensive, and I think I'm becoming addicted to shopping. How can I control my shopping binges?

Is there such a thing as a shopaholic? -- MALL-HAPPY IN FLORIDA

DEAR MALL-HAPPY: Yes, there is. And people who binge-shop to suppress feelings of boredom or sadness frequently wind up with significant credit problems.

Volunteer work is a far more fulfilling way to utilize your free time than shopping. One way to control the binges is to concentrate on giving to others instead of to yourself. More volunteer opportunities exist than I can name in one column, but a few that come to mind are: nursing homes, hospitals, Meals on Wheels, schools, libraries, mentoring, charities and political campaigns. Not only will they provide fulfillment, you'll also meet new people and make friends.

Another constructive way to fill your time would be to join a special-interest club or take classes at a local college.

If none of these are effective, ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist who can help you understand the underlying causes of compulsive behavior, because there is help for it. There is even a 12-step support group, based on the principles of AA, called Debtors Anonymous, which offers mutual help in recovering from compulsive spending. Founded in 1976, it is international, with more than 400 chapters. To contact it, write: Debtors Anonymous, P.O. Box 400, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. 10163-0400.

DEAR ABBY: The letter in your column about the importance of parents singing to their children prompts my letter. It reminded me so much of my little girl who loved to sing, but could never carry a tune in a bucket. She is now the mother of three boys, and she's still singing.

Each night she would listen to their prayers and then she would always sing a lullaby to them. One night, I heard her 6-year-old say, "Mommy, you have the most beautiful voice in the world." Now doesn't that melt your heart?

Again, I quote the verse from your column:

"Richer than I you will never be

"For I had a mother who SANG to me."

One of my special memories is of my father rocking me and singing to me at bedtime in front of our kitchen stove, as I watched the colored gas flames dance in the oven. And that was almost 70 years ago!

Please do not sign my name. We never told our daughter that she couldn't carry a tune. I don't want to spoil her happiness at this stage of her life. -- SENTIMENTAL IN THE EASTERN U.S.A.

DEAR SENTIMENTAL: Thank you for sharing your special memories. Each one brought a smile -- and I know they will touch many hearts today. I can think of no more beautiful and reassuring sound to a child than that of a mother's lullaby.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600