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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Here's one I've never seen in your column. I am a stay-at-home mom with two kids, a 5-year-old and a nursing 7-month-old. My husband provides for us. In return, I do all the child care, housekeeping, cooking, dishes, bill-paying, laundry, etc., and other things as they come up. We have a large, five-bedroom, four-bath house.

Needless to say, at the end of the day I am exhausted, and in 24 hours the house is a mess again. I feel more like a mother of three than a wife. I pick up his used tissues (he has allergies and leaves them around the house), used dental floss, empty beer bottles, food scraps, etc. I get grossed out, but he says it's part of my job.

Right now I'm looking at the kitchen table, and his dirty dishes, hot sauce and salad dressing are still there from last night. Apparently the "waitress" fell asleep with the kids.

At what point does a wife draw the line in picking up after the husband? Are husbands today responsible for any housework if the wife stays at home with the kids? –- INDENTURED SERVANT

DEAR INDENTURED SERVANT: Apparently you married a man whose mother waited on him hand and foot, and he expects his wife to do the same. He's a big boy now, and he should be ashamed of himself. There is no excuse for a grown man not to pick up his own garbage –- and that includes tissues and dental floss. There is also no reason why he cannot help set and clear a table.

Many husbands today pitch in to help with household chores -– it's called partnership.

DEAR ABBY: My husband's brother was married to "Ellie" for 17 years. She was a wonderful woman. They had two great kids. Ellie always treated his parents and siblings with respect. Sadly, they were not as nice to her. In spite of it, she considered them her family.

When Ellie finally decided to divorce my brother-in-law, after years of emotional and verbal abuse by him and his parents, it was a gut-wrenching decision.

Although Ellie and my brother-in-law continued living together for more than a year while their divorce was pending, my in-laws cut off all contact with her. They removed her pictures from the walls of their home, "uninvited" her to a family wedding for which she had already attended the bridal shower, and never once asked her children (their grandchildren) about her. It was as if Ellie never existed. She was very hurt, but never bad-mouthed any of them to her kids.

Shortly after the divorce was final, my brother-in-law died in a car accident at the age of 47. Ellie's children, now 13 and 11, no longer want anything to do with their grandparents. They feel very angry about the way their mother was treated. Ellie has told them she would like them to have a relationship with their dad's family, but will not force them.

Who should make the first move, Abby? –- SISTER-IN-LAW ON THE SIDELINES

DEAR SISTER-IN-LAW: If you have a relationship with the grandparents, urge them to apologize to Ellie for the way they treated her. However, truthfully, it may be too late to make amends. Children can smell hypocrisy a mile away.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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