"Robbie is 7 and Amy is 10, and after working downtown as a bank teller for two years, I wish I were 63. Then I could retire," writes a mother in Vienna, Va.

"I had stayed home from the time Amy was born until Robbie went to school, but there are women in my bank who come back to work when the baby is six weeks old (or less!).

"When I ask them how they do it, they never seem to have any whizbang tricks either. They may say they're tired, but they keep on slugging.

"I just can't seem to get it together. Every time I turn around there is another demand -- from my boss, from my kids, from my husband.

"I'm married to a nifty, hard-working guy who helps around the house, but I still can't ask him to wash out my lingerie or expect Robbie to help Amy figure out a new way to wear her hair. There is always so much to be done, so many words to be heard. I don't think my family has any idea how overcome I am by everything I have to do.

"We could afford it if I guit -- we did before and I'm good at cutting corners, especially when there is time to shop better -- but it would mean giving up the extras, like the trip we took to Busch Gardens. Besides, it might be quite lonely, since most women my age have gone back to work, and maybe embarrassing too. I would really feel worthless then."

A. Growing up is a little like growing shut. The secrets we once confided become harder and harder to share until we finally swallow our fears, as if nobody else had them.

You might be surprised to know just how many people feel as overwhelmed by their jobs as you do, including husbands. There is a sense of relentlessness about work that can smother men at least as much as women.

We may talk of equality, but most of us have grown up believing that the father is basically the one responsible for making the money and the mother for taking care of the family, even if both of them work. These couples, with thoughtful effort, can share some of the duties of their main jobs, but they never can unload the sense of responsibility each role carries.

Despite women's lib, the 1980 father is still left with a bleak, and what can seem at times an insurmountable road ahead as he adds up the clothes and the shoes and the doctor visits still to be bought. Sometimes it just doesn't seem possible, let alone appreciated. While a wife's paycheck is a blessed relief to the husband, he still will have that sense of forever until the last college bill is paid.

As for the 1980 mother, she feels expected to work, yet in her heart she knows she has two jobs. The most liberated woman may parcel out the 2 a.m. bottle, the marketing and even the meals, but she still will feel responsible for seeing that everything gets done and guilty when she can't. Maybe it's because women can't surrender their turf too easily, but more likely it's that awful knowledge that if something can go wrong in the household, it will.

When it comes to the foibles of children, major appliances and sudden guests, somebody has to be in charge, for love or money: Running a household is at least a part-time job. And since few working women have even part-time help, that responsibility has to rest with someone -- you, as a matter of fact.

Unless you and your husband must work fulltime to meet the mortgage, or unless a parent is the sole support of the household, or unless you're so high-powered you would drive your children bonko if you stayed home, then you need to make changes.

Get short-term temporary jobs you can quit when you run out of gas; or a fulltime job, like bookkeeping, with the option to do at least some of the work at home; some paid help once or twice a week -- or a job with fewer hours.

Twenty hours a week -- dandy, and great for the ego. Thrity hours -- it's a strain, but possible. As for 40 hours, love, every one of them is going to be tinged with fatigue, with resentment, with tension.

Although your children may be very self-sufficient, they have begun to need more psychological attention than they ever have before. You can't listen with half an ear any more.

It's not merely a matter of hearing about hair styles, but a way of staying close, of keeping the lines of communication open so that Amy can talk about other, bigger problems without feeling that you are too busy.

Maybe you ought to be able to work fulltime, and maybe you know women who say it's not so hard, but for you, right now, it can't be all day, every day, and commuting too. It's better to get half the extras for half as many hours.

Don't feel guilty about cutting back on your job to make room for your family. Feel lucky that you can.