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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "A Grandma or a Doormat?", whose daughter expects Grandma to baby-sit for free and not be reimbursed for the cost of snacks, prompts my own.

Forty years ago, I paid my mother $23 per week to watch my two young children nine hours a day, five days a week. She even washed their diapers for me. I knew I was getting a bargain and was glad to pay.

Today, I watch my two grandchildren five days a week for $20 a day. I do the ironing and pick them up at school. My children let me know that they appreciate my efforts.

Good day care is hard to find at any price. The daughter who was reluctant to help pay for snacks is wrong to resist. The $10 a week Gramma asked is too little. She has to be home every day and cannot make other plans. It is a job. Finding a baby sitter who will provide the type of child care that a grandmother gives is nearly impossible.

Shame on that daughter. She should have been paying since the beginning. -- MIDWEST GRANDMOTHER

DEAR MIDWEST GRANDMOTHER: You're right that the daughter should have been paying her mother from the beginning. However, I have been advised that when baby-sitting is treated as a job -- and money changes hands -- there are tax liabilities.

Both the daughter and her mother should make sure they follow the tax laws to the letter, so Uncle Sam won't come knocking on their doors with his hand out. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: The daughter who leaves her child with Grandma and expects it to be "free" should wake up. Ten dollars a week is an unheard-of bargain for child care.

I work for my daughter at her day care. I am paid minimum wage. The parents pay nearly $100 a week per child. Their kids get breakfast, lunch and two snacks a day. In addition, they learn manners, geography, the alphabet, music, art, gardening, animal care, cooking and more. These little kids are reading and counting to 100 before kindergarten, and they love it. We also give the children "hugs" and "loves."

A safe environment while the parents work is so important these days. That daughter should be ashamed, and Grandma needs to toughen up and join the 21st century. Haven't they heard? There are no free lunches these days! Thank you for letting me vent. -- GRANDMA T., TACOMA, WASH.

DEAR GRANDMA T.: The children in your daughter's day-care center are lucky. They are learning to interact with peers at an early age. They are receiving affection and individual attention, and being intellectually challenged and stimulated. I'm sure they're more than ready for kindergarten by the time they get there. Not every child is so fortunate.

DEAR ABBY: I was married to a woman for 15 years, and then she left me for another man. We have been divorced for more than a year now.

I have always been close to her sister, and we would like to start dating. The problem is, even though she really wants to, she's afraid it's wrong because I was married to her sister.

Abby, we would appreciate your advice on this matter, and will wait for your opinion before making a final decision. -- CONFUSED IN TENNESSEE

DEAR CONFUSED: Since you are a free man, and you two have always been close, I see no reason why you shouldn't date and enjoy some happiness together.

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-size, 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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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