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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 26-year-old, stay-at-home mom married to a man in his 60s. We had three children right away.

Because of health problems, my husband is getting to the point where he can't help me with the kids as much as he once could. He comes home from work, eats supper in bed, and then falls asleep.

It's up to me to supervise the kids getting their homework finished before baths and bedtime. I struggle to keep up with all that needs to be done. What I want to know is: Why shouldn't I be able to raise my children without help? There are single moms out there who "do it all." Have you any suggestions for me? -- A MARRIED MOM IN VIRGINIA

DEAR MARRIED MOM: I certainly do. First, ask yourself why you're being so hard on yourself. Three small children are a handful, and I'm sure every single mother reading this has felt overwhelmed at one point or another.

Second, although he is in his 60s, your husband is working and hardly an old man. I don't know what his health problems are, but his doctor should be told about his lack of energy. It could be a symptom of depression, which is treatable. It could also be a symptom of a treatable physical problem.

Third, you could use a respite. Ask around and see if you and another mother in the neighborhood could watch each other's children for a few hours on a regular basis. It's important to your mental and physical health to take time for yourself.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old-boy in the eighth grade. My problem is my parents and their lack of confidence in me.

I'm an above-average artist, and I think I've got a lot of potential. But when my parents question me about what I want to do when I get older and I tell them I want to be an artist for an animation studio, they say, "That's not a realistic goal." Mom says stuff like, "Why don't you pick an occupation that's more practical?" And Dad just keeps quiet.

Abby, I know I'm only 13, but I have aspired to be an animation artist since I was 4. It hurts knowing my parents do not support my dream. What should I do about it? -- HIGH ON TALENT/LOW ON SELF-ESTEEM IN COLORADO

DEAR HIGH/LOW: Go to the library and research the field of animation, which can be quite lucrative. (I'm sure the librarian will be happy to assist you.) There are many jobs in the arts and graphic design, and as you grow older your interests may broaden. For now, continue taking art courses, hold onto your dream and keep your academic standing high. That way you'll get into a good college or art school.

DEAR ABBY: A month ago I learned that my husband, "Danny," cheated on me with a co-worker. I found out because Danny told me himself.

I was terribly upset when my husband broke the news, but after many long talks and lots of tears, we're trying to work through it. The hard part is I made the mistake of telling my family, and now they won't speak to him. They say I'm going about this all wrong, and that I'm stupid for accepting his apology so quickly.

Is my family right, Abby? Am I forgiving my husband too quickly? -- WILLING TO START FRESH IN WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.

DEAR WILLING TO START FRESH: Your family may mean well, but they should not influence your decision to forgive your husband. The wisest course for you and him would be to work this through with professional counseling. Please don't wait.

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