DEAR ABBY: From time to time you ask your readers to “dump on Abby.” Well, summer is coming around again, and this message is for working parents who don’t realize they’re taking advantage of family and friends.

So – you drop off your children to play in the a.m. and pick them up in the p.m.? Did you think to:

Pack a lunch?

Send a snack to share?

Rent a video?

Buy a pool toy?

Send a game?

Buy sunscreen?

Send a craft? Cookie dough? Juice?

While working parents save money by sending their children to play all day, my food bill triples. The extra money I spend in pool chemicals, water, laundry and toys also triples. I choose to stay home with my children, and I love having their friends over. But every year seems to bring an even greater financial hardship. I don’t know how much more blunt “Please send a snack to share” can be.

If any of your readers see this, Abby, and realize that they are one of those clueless working parents thinking stay-at-home moms “have it made,” I’ll trade them my referee shirt, food bill and mess.

Please, folks, be grateful and considerate of the person who is watching and loving your child for free, and show your appreciation. – ANYWHERE, U.S.A.

DEAR ANYWHERE: I don’t think you’re asking too much in requesting that parents who send their children to spend the day include a snack that can be shared. Although your list was quite inclusive, any readers who are confused about exactly what that means should pick up the phone and ask their child-care provider what they can do to make the children’s day more special.

DEAR ABBY: I just turned 23. During the past two years I have married, bought a house, had a baby, and am finishing up my B.A. degree in a few short months. I hold down a full-time job and still make time for my son, my husband, and even occasionally squeeze in a little “me” time. I have a wonderful life, and I would not change anything.

My problem is I am still only 23. Occasionally I like a girls’ night out. We go out as a group, eat dinner, have a couple of drinks, dance and have a good time. This is enough to satisfy my need to “let loose,” and I never do anything inappropriate.

On several occasions when I have mentioned these girls’ nights out to older relatives, they’ll respond with, “Mothers don’t behave that way,” or, “You aren’t a college student any longer.” But Abby, I AM a college student! I don’t do this very often. I’m just out with friends, having fun. The majority of the time I spend the weekends with my son, going to the park or playing with our pets.

It is now hunting season. My husband is gone for days at a time. We support each other. I have no problem with him doing things he likes, and he supports my occasional evenings out with my friends. I thought I was doing OK, but now my relatives have me second-guessing myself. Am I being inappropriate? I’d like your input. – MELISSA IN FLORIDA

DEAR MELISSA: This is between you and your husband. As long as he doesn’t mind your occasional nights out with the girls, you’ll get no argument from me. This is also nobody else’s business – including your older relatives – so my advice to you is to stop making it a subject of conversation.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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