Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a widow and the mother of 10 children. I live in an older house that occasionally needs repairs. My children refuse to do work around my house and suggest I sell it or hire a handyman. Handymen are not easy to find for small jobs, and I like where I live and do not want to move.

I was very good to my own mother and did her every bidding. My children say children don't do that anymore. All I ask is that each one give me one or two days a year. They are good to me in many other ways, but as long as I'm on a roll, I wish they'd ask me out to dinner more often.

Do children have any responsibility toward older parents? I promise to abide by your reply. If I am wrong, I'll never mention it again. -- "SIS" THE NAG, HICKORY HILLS, ILL.

DEAR "SIS": Of course children have a responsibility toward their parents. However, what that means may differ from family to family, and should be mutually agreed upon by everyone concerned. It appears that your children are living busy, complicated lives. If they won't listen to you, Sis, they're not likely to listen to me either. That means you may have to solve this problem without their help.

You would be wise to listen more closely to what your children are trying to say to you. Since you are unable to keep your house in good repair by yourself, perhaps it IS time to sell it and move to a condominium or an assisted-living facility for active seniors. It would solve BOTH of your problems because a staff maintains the premises, and there is also a pool of people with whom to socialize without having to depend on your children. Please don't nix it until you have thoroughly checked out what is available in your area.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 32-year-old mother of two, and yes, I am married. This is my second marriage, and we've been together for seven long years. My husband is a drunk. He does work two jobs, but when he's home on the weekends, he stays drunk.

At first, I didn't mind being the adult. (I thought it was my job.) But it has gotten really old, and I'm tired of it.

I know that if I leave, my husband will make it hard on me, and he'll tell the kids more than they should know. They are 11 and 5. The kids have seen and been through enough already. How can I leave if he's going to put the children through this? I'm not sure how this should be handled. -- STUCK IN THE SUNSHINE STATE

DEAR STUCK: Your husband appears to be what is called a "functional alcoholic." Before you do anything else, attend some meetings of Al-Anon. Al-Anon, an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous, assists spouses and families of alcoholics and is listed in the telephone book -- or you can call directory assistance for the number. There you will find people like yourself who may be able to help you change the way you react to your husband's problem. It could save your marriage.

If the marriage is really over, before you leave, explain to your children what is coming and the fact that their father is going to be angry about it and will say things that are untrue and that he doesn't really mean. Reinforce that message as necessary.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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