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by Abigail Van Buren

Stay at Home Mom Reluctant to Leave Kids With Stranger

DEAR ABBY: I am the mother of three elementary school-aged children. Every few years, my husband is awarded a trip by his company that he can take me on. The trip this year is one week during the school year.

I have decided I will not go, since the only way I would be able to go is to separate my children out to friends or neighbors. We have no grandparents or family members who are able to watch them for one week at our home. My friends and family can't believe this is the choice I made.

Abby, my children are my first priority. It is unfair in my mind to ask friends or family to shoulder the responsibility that I have chosen and am proud to do -- driving my children to school, homework, etc. -- just so I can have a week of "playtime."

I keep hearing "hire a sitter" -- even from my own mother-in-law! Why would I hire someone I do not know to come into my home for a week to watch my most treasured possessions? In this age of so many troubled children whose parents put themselves first, I feel as though I am the only mother left in this country who takes her responsibilities seriously. Your thoughts, please. -- STAY-AT-HOME MOM WHO MEANS IT, ROSWELL, GA.

DEAR MOM: While I admire your idealism, being a responsible mother isn't a case of black-and-white -- it's a matter of degree.

Your mother-in-law is trying to tell you something important. Don't lull yourself into thinking your entire responsibility is to your children; it's more far-reaching than that. Your husband should come first and your children a close second. In the next 20 years, if you, as parents, have done your job well, the children will "fly the nest" and you'll be left with each other. Therefore, it is vital that you invest in that relationship.

Perhaps a good friend would stay with your children in your absence, or take them all in for a week. You could repay her in kind at a later date. If not, perhaps your clergyperson could recommend a trustworthy and experienced sitter.

Your husband has been awarded a trip in recognition of his effort -- and you belong with him, helping him to enjoy every minute of it.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 17-year-old high school senior. I have always been the math and science type, taking every class possible.

I joined a chemistry class this year that meets outside the classroom. The teacher is a very friendly guy, a little obsessed with our work, but nothing serious.

The problem is, I have become attracted to his 15-year-old daughter, and I believe she feels the same about me. We have a lot in common. So far, we have spent little time together outside of school, but we talk on the phone for hours.

Her father, my teacher, is oblivious to all of this, and may be an obstacle, but I can deal with that.

Since I am a senior and she is a freshman, I am wondering whether I should pursue the relationship. I have spent countless hours debating the issue, but it seems trivial when I think of her. What do you think? -- CRAZY FOR A FRESHMAN

DEAR CRAZY: You may be a whiz in math and science, but you're obviously only a B-minus in biology and psychology. Make it a priority to ask your teacher's permission to see his daughter. If you are caught "sneaking around," it will look like you have something to hide, and he might not be so "friendly" when it comes to giving you a passing grade.

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