DEAR ABBY: On Dec. 8, "Slightly Cluttered in Washington" wrote that, as a single dad, he is deeply involved with his children's activities. Then he described his relationship with his "ladyfriend" as "at a standstill" because he spends so much time with his children that his housekeeping isn't up to her standards.
You complimented him on his parenting skills and advised that his kids should be sharing the chores. Your answer was right on, Abby. My children and I have always cleaned up together. But when there's a choice to be made, time with family always comes first.
Before you know it, the "kids" are grown and gone, but there will always be housework to be done. That was my philosophy, and it has paid off. We invested in our children. Now they're paying us back by involving us in their lives and trusting us with the most valuable thing they have: our grandchildren. -- HIGH-YIELD INVESTOR IN UTAH
DEAR INVESTOR: I'm pleased your investment of time and love is paying off. Many readers commented on that letter. Some felt I didn't praise the father highly enough; others felt the ladyfriend's priorities were what needed reorganizing, not his home. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Why doesn't the woman he's dating pitch in? She could bond with the kids by joining them for a "cleaning day" on Saturdays, while Dad takes over another chore. She appears to be very disconnected from their lives. Maybe she could start bonding now, and bring cleaning into their lives by making chores fun -- like Mary Poppins. After all, to date a dad is to date his kids. -- SIGRID G. IN L.A.
DEAR ABBY: I grew up with a mother who was a neat freak. We kids had to clean the house every day, even when the weekly cleaning lady came. Our pets were imprisoned in the basement. We were allowed to bathe only once a week so the bathroom would be scum-free. If a book or a coat was left on the sofa for a minute, we were spanked.
We grew up knowing our mother cared more for her fancy home than for us. Bravo to "Cluttered" for putting his kids first. Happy childhood memories are worth far more than pictures of a spotless home. -- A.S.R., HOUSTON
DEAR ABBY: That letter wasn't about getting the kids to help. It was about a selfish girlfriend who is obviously jealous of the time he spends with his children. Not enough parents these days take an active interest in their kids' lives. When those kids are grown -- and believe me, it goes fast -- there will be plenty of time to scrub and clean. -- KAREN IN LA QUINTA, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: I have another suggestion for "Slightly Cluttered." Dump the neat freak and find a woman who appreciates a man who works hard to support his children and be involved in their activities! A little clutter does not begin to compare with a responsible father, and I think your lecture to him was misdirected. -- LARRY IN MANTENO, ILL.
DEAR ABBY: I've been a single mother for 12 years. Since they were small, my kids have had "chores." They could pick up their clothes, put away their toys, keep their rooms clean, etc. They are now 14 and 15.
I work full time and go to school online at night. They understand that this is a family house, and we all take care of it and do our part. When parents do not instill a sense of work ethic and responsibility in their children, the children will be the ones to suffer. -- PROUD MOM, LIVINGSTON, TEXAS