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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Last fall, my live-in boyfriend was abusive to me. My parents chipped right in and helped me move back to my hometown. They were wonderful and supportive even though I'd let them down in the past. They even bought a house so my children and I would have somewhere to live.

This boyfriend went to classes, did a lot of praying and I believe he's actually changed. I really do! Abby, he's the father of one of my children. We've started seeing each other and it really feels right. We want to get married.

My mother refuses to accept that he could have changed, and makes it clear she doesn't approve. She says if I get back together with him, they will have wasted all that time and money they invested in bailing me out. She says it's my low self-esteem that makes me want to see him.

I don't know how to resolve this. I'm in my late 30s yet I still want my parents' approval. Please help. -- DAUGHTER OF AN IRON-WILLED IOWA MOM

DEAR DAUGHTER: Your mother knows you better than I do. She loves you and doesn't want to see you hurt again, and I can't fault her for that.

Daughter, I'm extremely skeptical about your chances of success in this relationship. If you decide to pursue it, I wish you the best of luck because I'm convinced you're going to need it.

A small percentage of abusers -- those who are truly determined and self-motivated -- can change if they receive long-term counseling. Only time (at least another year of counseling) will tell if this leopard has been able to change his spots.

Under no circumstances should you reconcile with him unless you maintain financial independence. That way, if he should backslide, you won't have to depend on anyone to bail you out. Should you decide to marry this "prize" I urge you to have a rock-solid prenuptial agreement so that you will be taken care of.

So your parents feel they have not "wasted" the money they invested in trying to help you, sell or rent the house and give the proceeds to them.

DEAR ABBY: I quit my job last year to stay at home with my children. All of a sudden, friends and neighbors began calling me to run errands, watch their children, sew costumes for the school plays, etc. Nobody seemed to understand that being a mother IS a full-time job.

Finally, I found a way to stop all the requests for favors: I made up fliers advertising myself as a "domestic consultant." I offered to baby-sit, pick up dry cleaning and groceries, sew and do other odd jobs for a negotiable fee.

The calls are much less frequent now. When someone does call, he or she is prepared to pay me fairly for child care and errand running. When I get requests for things that would interfere with plans I've made with my children (or don't want to do!), I simply tell the caller, "I am overbooked." -- ALREADY WORKING (THANK YOU VERY MUCH)

DEAR ALREADY WORKING (TYVM): You're a clever woman and you may have devised a method from which other stay-at-home parents can benefit.

DEAR ABBY: A good friend of mine was married recently, without a traditional reception. I have now been invited to a postnuptial reception for the couple. Does a postnuptial reception carry an obligation to send a gift? -- BOB IN OHIO

DEAR BOB: Yes, it does. If you attend the reception, a token of your good wishes is in order.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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