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WATCHING ONE TOO MANY KIDS

Dear Abby: My husband's brother, "Jake," has been with "Lizzie" on and off for a year. They had a baby a few months ago, just days after I gave birth to my fifth child. Ever since their baby girl was born, Lizzie has called me begging for me to keep little "Stacy" for one reason or another. Since I am a stay-at-home mom with five kids, she thinks one more is no big deal. I have watched Stacy a few times because I feel sorry for her, but enough is enough.

Lizzie leaves Stacy in her bed all day and props a bottle in her mouth every time she cries. Stacy always has a diaper rash, and I have witnessed that Lizzie will leave her in a dirty diaper until someone offers to change her.

Jake has bragged to my husband that while I am watching his kid, Lizzie is at home sleeping. I don't have the energy to take care of a sixth baby that is just a week younger than my own, but I feel awful leaving Stacy to be ignored. How can I get myself out of this mess without feeling guilty for not watching that baby?

-- Sad Aunt in Springfield, Ill.
Dear Sad Aunt: For the baby's sake, call Child Protective Services and report the neglect. Lizzie is clearly unprepared to be a mother, and her little one is suffering for it. If Lizzie is open to it, parenting classes might help her understand what Stacy's needs are and how to meet them. However, if she's not, it would be better for that baby to be placed with a family who wants her and will properly care for her.

Instant family

Dear Abby: I am an 18-year-old senior in high school, and I'm running into a huge problem with my 28-year-old boyfriend, "Hayden." He has a daughter who is 3. She's a great little girl, but the problem is that Hayden still lives with the child's mother.

I really, really like this guy, Abby, but I have had a lot of bad relationships in the past and I don't want to be hurt again. Hayden swears up and down that he lives there only because it is a good thing for his daughter. He says he is not "with" the mother. What do you think about this? I can't afford to get hurt again.

-- Confused and Hurt in Minnesota
Dear Confused and Hurt: If Hayden is living with the mother of his child, he IS "with" the mother. If you doubt the truth of this, just ask her. I can't guarantee that you won't get hurt again, but if you avoid this kind of "challenge" in the future, the odds against being hurt will be more in your favor.

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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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