Dear Margo: Changed Friendships

Margo-Howard_tall10Margo Howard’s advice

Changed Friendships

Dear Margo: I am wondering what to do about a situation with a friend. We met early on in college and quickly became besties. She was the person I could talk to about anything, and I was that for her. Though we have remained close and have kept in touch since college, our relationship has changed. She got married about three years ago and had her first child six months ago. I am happy for her, but the problem is that while she continues to call me to vent or talk, she never seems to have time for my issues. She is always the one to end the call, and it is rare that she picks up the phone when I call her.

I still consider her a close friend, but it hurts to feel that the relationship is so one-sided. I have some close friends where I live now, but I have no one “best friend,” and I really miss that. I want to have someone I can talk to about anything and everything again. Is there something I could do so I don’t feel like I’m the one putting all of the effort into the relationship? — Frustrated in the Midwest

Dear Frus: For one thing, the two of you no longer share the same life. One of you is married, with a child, and the other is not. It’s hard to imagine, though, that her circumstances have changed what kind of a friend she is, so I’m wondering whether she was a me-me-me kind of girl during college, but you somehow didn’t feel it so keenly. The one-sidedness is definitely not doing anything for you.

I think the only thing to do is recognize that your good pal has morphed into a narcissistic housewife for whom her former best friend has become a wailing wall. I would give up being the one who’s propping up the relationship and put her in your memory file under “College.” — Margo, pragmatically

Noise Abatement  

Dear Margo: My husband and I have happily raised our children and love being empty nesters. We often go out to eat. The problem is that often other diners bring their children, and they’re not all, um, restaurant-trained. It not only annoys us, but it also must annoy other people when children are running around, screaming and whining. Forget about our tolerance for noisy kids, it can’t make the job of the waitstaff any easier. Do you think it would be all right for my husband or me to approach the parents of an unruly child? — Ticked

Dear Tick: Approach them and say what? People are touchy when you criticize their children. And in the situation you are talking about, you’re really criticizing the parents. Just for the record, I am with you about being annoyed by raucous children, but you are talking about public places. And if you’re at Wendy’s, or a similar place, kids are par for the course. A loose rule of thumb is that the more expensive the restaurant the fewer young children you will encounter. If you like places that have family-friendly menus, perhaps try going at a later hour. — Margo, acceptingly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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91 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Dee Langtree says:

    Anyone who decides that they have a right to approach the parent of an unruly child in this day and age is just asking to end up on youtube. As much as it’s annoying, dreadful, and disrespectful to the other guests it is no one else’s job to police the parenting skills, or lack thereof, of another.

    The best you can do is call over a server or manager and ask for a different table, or just leave. They have as much right to be there as you do, but if you do not wish to sit through two hours of child induced mayhem I’d just think about changing a night out to a quiet night ordering in.

    • avatar Jay Gentile says:

      Most parents are raising ferel animals these days. With so many children raised in daycare warehouses, parents spend relatively little time with their own children. And then it seems like parents are more interested in being indulgent friends than parents. Their little hellion’s self esteem is all that matters. I can’t imagine ever being allowed to misbehave in public. But I had real parents who taught their children things like manners.

    • avatar JC Dill says:

      You don’t approach the parents, you approach the manager. This will result in 1 of 2 outcomes:

      1) The manager was also unhappy with the unruly child, but without another customer complaint they risked the wrath of the parents of the unruly child and risked losing their custom, without gaining support from other patrons. They will take your complaint seriously, and speak with the parents of the unruly child, and resolve the situation. This is what will happen in the majority of cases.

      2) The manager blows you off. You know that this is a restaurant that prefers unruly children to quiet diners, and you can make your future dining reservations appropriately. (This is unlikely to happen at any better dining establishment but may happen at a kid-friendly joint.)

      • avatar Helen Donovan says:

        AGREE. Some noise is one thing but that running about, banging into me and trying to touch me/my food is way beyond normal Unless I’m at a place with a playground, there is no reason that I should have to go bankrupt or dine after 8:00 to avoid kids running about like feral dogs.
        Another benefit about getting the manger (not the poor server) is that you may get a free meal or at least drink for putting up with these clueless jerks.

  2. avatar kseeley says:

    OMG i hate it when people bring their children into public places and then fail to control them. i do not go to a restaurant to entertain your kid, who feels the need to come to my table and ask me all sorts of questions, or have them peek over the back of the seat to watch me eat, or make so much noise that i can’t hear the person i’m with. i remember when i was a kid, if i didn’t behave i was removed. i sincerely wish parents could be parents, instead of insisting that just because they have kids doesn’t mean they can’t go out – it doesn’t. but it does mean your kids remain your responsibility. and yes, you CAN get them to be quiet, particularly if you actually do something other than sit there and ignore them. it’s called raising children. they do not magically learn good behavior, it must be taught. geez. parenting. try it sometime.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      “parenting. try it sometime”

      Haha, no thanks :) My partner and I are happily child-free, and since we both work 45+/week, we also tend to go out to eat all the time, because I want to spend my little free-time socializing with my partner and not standing in the kitchen cooking (he hates cooking too). If we don’t want to be bothered by screaming kids, we also choose less child-friendly and/or more upscale restaurants to eat at. Eating out after 8PM is also a good tip.

      • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

        “parenting. try it sometime” Lamest excuse ever. Yep, you chose it, now embrace the responsibility. I got snipped at 21, never regretted it. And there is no reason we should pay more because people don’t control their kids.

    • avatar Dianka93 says:

      I have two young children and I’m amazed how people let their children behave in public. We went to dinner the other evening and even my 7 year old was watching in disbelief as three boys ran around, yelling and jumping all over the place with the parents sat at a table in the corner and made out. These weren’t some teen parents, but rather in their mid to late 30’s. My 9 year old is a little more outspoken and asked why their parents weren’t paying any attention to them. The waitress just started laughing as told her it was a good question – and then thanked my kids for behaving.

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        Exactly. When I was 6, my family went to Washington DC, and we ate in the dining room of the hotel every evening. I already knew how to sit in my chair, use cutlery, not run around or scream — I’ll admit to blowing bubbles in my milk with my straw.

        I also have a vivid memory of being at a nicer-than-average burger joint — I would have been maybe 8 — and being really weirded out by how badly some kids at another table were behaving. My mom wouldn’t have put up with that nonsense for a second — we would have been summarily taken home. I found it disturbing and embarrassing to see those kids yelling, throwing food, getting up and tearing around.

    • avatar judgingamy says:

      I have a one year old. I wouldn’t let her run around the restaurant and I would take her out if she was throwing a tantrum (which she has done, and I have had to box up my meal and beat a hasty retreat), but regarding the staring- what do you want me to do, put a blindfold on my kid? Kids stare sometimes.

      • avatar Ariana says:

        Staring itself isn’t the problem. It’s when kids climb over the back of the booth seats in order to stare down at the next table – waving, talking, interrupting, etc. to get attention.

        If they are allowed to run around the restaurant, they will even stop and hang off the end of strangers’ tables doing the same thing.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Ha, I once had a kid, about two to three years old, standing on the booth seat behind me and leaning into our booth. His head was almost right next to mine. Daddy said and did nothing, so I said directly to the kid: “Please go away.” He turned around and sat down, problem solved. My friend who was with me just gaped and said, “I can’t believe you just did that.” But why? There is no reason to ever tolerate bad behavior because of age. Something that is not cute when a teen or adult does it is also not cute just because a child does it. When young kids misbehave, it is not okay or excusable; it is the opportunity to teach them otherwise.

      • avatar JC Dill says:

        It’s surprising how easy it is to tell someone else’s kid to stop misbehaving. I’ve stopped many temper tantrums in a store simply by staring at the child. (Note: I don’t have a scary face.) Once the child realizes that others – strangers – are paying attention to their tantrum it often cuts it off cold.

    • avatar bobkat says:

      Agreed 100%! I wish restaurants would get more pro-active about unruly kids.

  3. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – Short of children being physically or verbally abused in public, I am from the school of thought let them be. True, when children are out of control and unruly it does mean 100% that they have terribly parents. But, it isn’t everyone else’s responsibility to raise them as they see fit.

    Margo brings up a valid point, the more expensive the venue, the fewer the children. It’s wise to choose wisely when picking a place to eat when you don’t want rug rats running around. Parents that don’t control their children (and instill proper manners) is a major irritation for me.

    Letter #1 – Another letter from someone oblivious. How sad.

    This letter writer sounds like such a sweet person. She deserves a friend that will respect and care for her as much as she does for others. Sometimes friendships run their course and die on the vine because they weren’t cultivated and cared for. The mistake this letter writer made was not speaking up and being direct early on about cues that there was a chasm growing in how she was being treated vs. treating her friend.

    I’m not one for playing games so I wouldn’t suggest avoiding phone calls from her friend as she implies her friend does to her. But instead I would suggest the next time they speak she assert herself and say “Have you ever noticed we only speak when YOU have something to discuss?” and allow the conversation to unfold from there. She’ll be on notice to either step up and start being more equal in the relationship or decide she has been busted and move on to someone else. The bottom line is to be honest and stand in your truth, speak your truth and let the chips fall where they may.

    There are millions of women out there looking for a “bestie” why waste time with someone that doesn’t want that title. :-)

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Um LW2, just why should I pay more because you don’t control your kids? Please give me a logical response for that. Also, I don’t patronize McD’s.

  4. avatar Dianka93 says:

    LW #1 – Lighten up a little. Chances are, with a six month old, your friend hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in at least 9 months. She probably isn’t answering the phone when you call because the ringer is off so it doesn’t wake the baby. And when she calls you, you may be the only adult she’s talked to all day that isn’t as stressed out as she is. That’s not to say you can’t leave her a message saying you’d really like to talk to her about what’s going on in your life, too. But don’t expect her to read your mind. She may not realize how she’s behaving. If she does, then shame on her. But before giving her the heave ho, find out if she’s just exhausted or really self centered.

    • avatar Kathleen Hein says:

      That’s my take on it too. Maybe she doesn’t pick up the phone because she’s BUSY. Is she supposed to take your call in the middle of the baby’s bath so she can hear about the latest guy you’re dating? Really? Margo was harsh to call her a narcissistic housewife (She likely is neither of those things!) but she was correct in that friendships change- and you were incredibly naive and selfish yourself. So leave the poor frazzled new mother alone, and make some new friends. Maybe you and she will reconnect when you have a partner and children of your own, and have more in common again.

      • avatar Helen Donovan says:

        Apparently you were too busy wadding your knickers to read that the new mom still calls and vents. Sure, I’d suggest writer wait until the first year is over before giving up. And maybe the writer is a bit naive, but is it so “incredible” since she does not have a kid? That is why she is seeking advice. She certainly isn’t selfish, she is trying to keep the friendship. That was really a rude, ignorant comment, as is the “when you have a partner and children.” I have friends who don’t have a partners or children, and if this new mother, or judgmental people like you, can’t deal with people who are different from them, she should be dumped.

    • avatar animelily says:

      Same here. I think Ms. Margo forgot just how difficult it is dealing with a young child. It’s exhausting and LONELY and you can’t exactly vent to your own child or even your partner because often times they’re knee deep in the same, often literal, shit too. Give her a break. Be the sort of friend you would want if/when you have a small child of your own too.

      Speaking of kids, the second letter writer made me laugh. Before kids, I felt the same way. Now that I have a young child myself, if I go to a restaurant that has some unruly children, then I breathe a sign of relief. Yay! I can eat here without nasty looks for my vocal toddler!

      I remember a while back, John Stewart was trying to make a point about how the lives of Republicans and Democrats aren’t all that different. Just see the difference between people with kids or without kids and THERE’S the real difference! I think both letters are firm proof of that.

    • avatar misskaty says:

      Seconded. 6 months is too early to end a long friendship over. I barely get 5 mins on the phone these days since my sister popped one out. The litmus test, of course, is what your friend says when you bring it up. If you feel ignored, or patronized (or worse, get an angry defensive reaction) then just let it peter off naturally.

  5. avatar susan hiland says:

    LW1: Your friend’s life has completly changed from the way it was a year ago. She doesn’t have the time she used to have for chit chatting. She isn’t sleeping, and I bet she doesn’t even get anytime to go to the bathroom alone! Give her a break. How about next time you call, ask her when is a good time to talk with her? Maybe she has a better time to talk when things are going nuts in her house. Life with a baby is so not the same as life single.

    • avatar JC Dill says:

      Even simpler, the next time the friend calls, say “oh, I’m so glad you called, I just have to tell you about….” and start the conversation about something you want to talk about. If she’s a good friend she’s going to be happy to hear about your story, and NOW is a good time (for her) to talk, so spill it! If she cuts off your story to tell you her own woes, THEN you know that she really doesn’t want to talk about your stuff, only her stuff, and you can make your next step accordingly.

  6. avatar bobkat says:

    Margo’s answer to LW1 stinks! Her (soon-to-be-former?) best friend has a baby now, and that changes everything. A baby is a lot of work! LW’s problems probably seem trivial to the new mother now. I don’t see anything ‘narcissistic’ about not wanting to talk on the phone with an old friend about silly (to her) problems. My suggestion to LW would be to turn one of her other ‘close’ friends into a ‘bestie’, if she absolutly can’t live without one. Also, she needs to accept the fact that people just grow apart.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      I disagree. Having a baby is not an excuse to dump all your own problems on your friends and then write off their problems as silly when they want to share their lives too.

      Having a career is also hard work. I personally don’t find it trivial to have to work with impossible deadlines, stick within budget and deal with BS office politics and processes. But when I’m on the phone to my friends, I don’t just whine and moan how it’s so hard, and tell them: You have it easy! You just have to be home with the baby all day!

      What you describe is the very definition of narcissm. “Only my problems are interesting and matter to me, and everyone else’s are silly and trivial.”

      • avatar K Coldiron says:

        Right on, Ariana.

      • avatar fallinginplace says:

        Ariana – I’m guessing you don’t have kids, otherwise you’d know that it’s not narcissism as much as it is just trying to survive those early months. I have a professional career with lots of challenges, but dealing with newborns is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.

        • avatar Helen Donovan says:

          Falling – I’m guessing your are a sanctimommy. They love to start a sentence with “I guess you don’t have kids” If friend still has time to call and vent HER problem then she should reciprocate. No, they might not always understand each others situation but real friend have empathy.

  7. avatar Pat Lang says:

    On the subject of parents who don’t control their kids, Years upon years ago I was with my sister-in-law and my maybe one year old daughter at a fast food restaurant. The space between booths was wide enough for us to have my daughter’s high chair pulled up as close as it would go to the table and have ample room for anyone to pass by. Two women with four or five kids sat in the booth catty-corner, the kids in the booth opposite us. A three year old boy had to jump up and run to Mommy every minute or so, and EVERY time, coming and going, he plowed into the highchair. My daughter was beginning to get upset and I passed the annoyance stage. The fourth time, I think it was, he ran to Mommy I stood up in the aisle and asked him – nicely! – to please be careful and not run into my daughter’s highchair. Mommy jumped up to shield her precious child from this horrid monster and informed me he was ONLY three years old. I responded he’s old enough to watch where he’s going. I had a vision of kid standing before the judge being sentenced for all sorts of heinous crimes and Mommy wailing, “But Judge! He’s ONLY 16!”

    • avatar L T says:

      I think I might have had to mention that since he was “only three” and not capable of walking around without bumping into people and other things, perhaps he should be sitting with her instead of unsupervised.

  8. avatar Ariana says:

    Before you write off the friendship indefinitely, give her time to react. Many new mothers don’t realize that the majority of what comes out of their mouth is: Baby, Baby, Me Me Me, Baby Baby Baby.

    The next time your friend tries to end the call, tell her that you still have some exciting news that you didn’t get a chance to share. When you talk next time, see if she seems interested in what you have to say, or whether she even gives you a chance before launching into her own problems. Then you can mention the fact that you understand that her baby has the center stage, but that friendship is still a two-way street. Suggest catching up again in a few months or so.

    I’ve even gotten up and left after a few minutes from a planned visit with friends who have a young child because they are so unaware of how rude they are acting. More than a few times, the child kept interuppting to get attention every two seconds, and every single time my friend would turn away while I was in mid-sentence and focus her attention on kid. Of course, not remembering that I was in the middle of saying something, she would turn back and start talking about her kid again.

    I realize that child-rearing is hard, but if I feel like the person is totally focussed on themselves, then I usually let it die off naturally. After several months or in some cases years, you can give them another call and see if there is any connection work saving.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      I just wanted to add, its clear that when one of my friends has a new baby or small child that the friendship is much more likely to be 8020 about her for awhile since there is so much going on in her life. That balance should even back out at some point though when Im going thru exciting or hard times. But when new parents dont give anything back like in the LWs case, its time to pull back and check whether its worth it to pursue a dead end friendship.

  9. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    We had a rule in our family of our child or any with us couldn’t sit still and behave in a restaurant we all left and went home without our meals. The offending kid went to bed if he was ours because he was too tired to behave in public. The kids with us went home because we were not putting on a circus act for the general public. Our children learned not to be problems and our rules made them thoughtful about their choice of friends.

  10. avatar Artemesia says:

    this ‘they have as much right to be there’ ‘it is a public place’ is one of the major things wrong with our society today.

    when I was growing up we were told ‘you need to be considerate of others, because this is a public place and we are sharing it.’ now people proclaim ‘this is a public place so I can do whatever I want and F you.’ the ‘commons’ should be treated as a shared resource in which everyone should be considered. it