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Dear Ann Landers: I love my father-in-law dearly, but he has made a habit of coming to visit without announcing his arrival or departure date. In the last three years, he has been here four times and stayed between six and eight weeks each time. These visits are stressful because I work out of my home, but Dad considers it "not really working." He expects me to serve a homecooked meal every night. Also, he brings his dogs, and they shed all over the place.

My husband says it's "great" that his Dad comes to visit us so often. But he doesn't have to be home all day with Dad and clean up after his dogs. I realize Dad is getting on in years and shouldn't be alone, but he has three other children he could visit. Why is he always here with us? Should I discuss this with my husband again and insist that Dad limit his time in our house, or should I just keep my mouth shut and deal with it? I don't want this to cause a strain in our marriage, but I'm having a hard time.

-- Disrespected in the East
Dear Disrespected: Your father-in-law's excessive visits have already created a strain in your marriage. Four visits in three years, six and eight weeks at a time, is one heck of an imposition, no matter how you slice it.

What about those "three other children" he could visit? You and your husband are due for a heart-to-heart talk with them. You've been taken advantage of in a big way, and I suggest you put a stop to it.

Blowing off fatherhood

Dear Ann Landers: This is in response to "Lauren in Toronto," who said motherhood isn't for everybody. I agree, but I would like to add that fatherhood isn't for everybody, either.

My ex-husband and I tried for years to have a child. We finally saw a fertility expert and had triplets. My ex was too selfish to accommodate the changes in our lives. He never did anything with the children and yelled at them for every little thing. When he came home from work, he went into his study and stayed there until I put the children to bed. When one of my son's friends asked him, "Why is your dad angry at you all the time?" I realized we had had enough and filed for divorce.

Now we are all happier -- including my ex-husband. The day-to-day responsibility of taking care of the children was too much for him. Now that he is not living with them, he enjoys their company a lot more. Being a single mother is difficult, but I wouldn't trade my life for anything.

-- Happily Divorced in Denver
Dear Denver: Let me get this straight. You have triplets. Your husband used to lock himself in the study because the children got on his nerves. (Apparently, he wasn't much concerned about YOUR nerves.) You divorced him. Now, your husband enjoys the company of the triplets a lot more, and he has never been happier. Of course he's happier. You are carrying the whole load.

Your husband was nowhere around when you needed him. A lot of ex-wives would say he doesn't deserve to enjoy the pleasures of fatherhood because he refused to accept the responsibilities that went with it. Your ex is fortunate that you are a forgiving and compassionate woman, and your children should be thankful that you understand the importance of keeping their father in their lives -- even if he is a jerk. I hope he is making it up to them now. Meanwhile, don't give him any more pictures for his wallet. Make him take his own.

Gem of the Day:

People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy, and they miss a lot of fun in life. (credit Bob Hope)

Problems? Dump on Ann. Write her at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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