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DEAR ABBY: I would like your opinion about something. I am a single dad with two kids. I work 60 hours a week to support them. I'm involved with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, soccer, their school, etc. I am often on the go to the point that the vacuuming, mopping and dusting are postponed. Personally, I feel that being involved with the kids is more important.

I have a lady friend I have been seeing for a few years, and our relationship is at a standstill. She is a very neat and tidy person, and the moderate clutter in my house is a bone of contention. She feels I should cut back on some of the activities, perhaps just drop off the kids and leave so I would have time to clean the house to her standards. That would mean the Girl Scout troop would fold, and many of the activities of the Boy Scout troop would be curtailed, but her feeling is that the housework comes first. I feel that being involved with the kids comes first. What do you think? -- SLIGHTLY CLUTTERED, WASHINGTON STATE

DEAR SLIGHTLY CLUTTERED: The investment you are making in your children will reap untold benefits in the future. You seem to be a man whose priorities are in order. However, it appears there are some important lessons you are not teaching your children -- and one of them is how to share the housekeeping chores.

If they are mature enough for scouting, surely they can make their own beds, clear the table, load the dishwasher and help with the dusting. You are a wonderful father, but please do not overlook this important part of their education. It will help them to be independent later, and frankly, you could use their help now.

DEAR ABBY: My parents have been married 43 years, and my mother has never been happy with my father aside from their first years of marriage. Dad is and has been into himself and his needs, and has never lifted a thumb for our mom. They had three children, and she raised us completely on her own. Dad was either at work or away on a trip.

Now that the three of us are grown and have families of our own, Dad wants nothing to do with the grandchildren. This makes it hard for Mom, because she loves all the grandchildren and would like to spend time with them.

In the past, Mom talked frequently about leaving Dad, but now she thinks that financially it would be hard. All three of us would like nothing better than for her to escape from him and live the rest of her life in peace and harmony.

How do we let her know that divorcing Dad and living on her own would not be impossible when finances are the only thing holding her back? -- FREEDOM AT LAST IN FLORIDA DEAR FREEDOM AT LAST: The most effective way to get that message across would be for the three of you to tell her in person, in plain English, the next time you visit. I presume, however, that you would all be pitching in to help support her if she did decide to leave your father.

However, don't be surprised if your mother refuses your generous offer. The glue that holds some couples together can sometimes be a mystery even to their children, and her reasons for tolerating this lonely marriage may have nothing to do with money.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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