Dear Amy:

My husband and I have been married for about six years.

During the first year of marriage, he hurt his back at work and has been out of work since. He went through workman's comp and has had two back surgeries. He was released as 65 percent disabled, so he is able to work now, but he can't sit all day or stand for long periods of time.

My husband says he wants to be an actor. He's been acting for the past year now, and I don't see it helping us much. I told him from the start that acting would not pay, at least not right away. We have four children; two are mine from my previous marriage and the other two are ours together. Their ages are 14, 11, 4 and 2.

I do everything, from the cooking and cleaning, laundry and taking the kids to school and then picking them up from my sister-in-law's because she watches them for me when neither one of us is home.

I have a full-time job as well as a part-time job. When he is at home with the kids, he constantly sends me text messages on my cell phone, telling me how I'm never home and how he hates being my baby-sitter.

I can't seem to make him understand that I need his help. I'm just about ready to walk out.

My friends tell me to just quit my job and see how he would handle it, but I know my kids would be the ones who suffer. I know that I need to walk out, but I need an outside point of view.

Stressed in L.A.

Somewhere along the line, your husband got the idea that your job is to support the family, while his job is to feed his soul.

Nice trick.

I don't think that you should walk out, however. Leaving only gets you some clarity, and while clarity is nice, it doesn't help pay the bills. (Do you realize that if you left, you could end up paying your husband a financial settlement?) Leaving also disrupts the lives of your four children.

You and he are at a classic impasse. Because it involves very basic and very big issues, you really need to call in a third party to help you to negotiate this. Find a marriage counselor or a mediator to work with. You should also see a lawyer on your own in order to learn what your options and responsibilities are. I know it sounds like just more work heaped on to your already full plate, but discussing this issue in a structured way will help.

I notice in your letter that you don't have one good thing to say about your husband. (Is he at least a good actor?) But you owe it to your family to make your very best effort to work this out. Do that before you walk.

Dear Amy:

I'm 14 and I think I'm pretty smart. In school when I have a class with my friend, "Charlotte," and the teacher asks a question, Charlotte and I usually raise our hands. For some reason, if the teacher looks my way first and she calls on me, then after class Charlotte won't talk to me.

Once or twice I asked her what was wrong. She said she was mad at me for answering the question and that she wanted to answer the question. So, now every time the teacher asks a question and Charlotte has her hand up I put my hand down.

Don't get me wrong -- any other time Charlotte is a really nice girl and a great friend, but am I doing the right thing by letting her answer the question even though I know the answer?

Confused Intelligent Chick

Your job is to do your very best in school. I know that it sounds easy for me to say because I don't have to worry about a friend being mad at me for being smart, but real friends don't punish other friends for doing well. If Charlotte has trouble getting the teacher's attention, then she should speak with the teacher to work it out, instead of trying to make you feel guilty.

Some of the stuff that goes on at school goes on after you get out of school too. You'll see that in life, as in school, it's not always so easy to be smart, but really, would you have it any other way?

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

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