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 comments so far.

  1. avatar martina says:

    LW1 – I have to agree with Margo on this. Everyone is going on about how difficult and tiring it is to take care of a baby and I don’t get it. Maybe my memory has blurred over 19 years but I don’t remember it ever being that exhausting and running around and not finding time. Granted, mine slept pretty much through the night almost right away but we used to have to get up at 5 a.m. to go to work – I was fortunate enough to be able to take her with me. I was always thrilled to have my friend call and talk to me about non baby related things . LW could try and call later in the evening when the baby would be in bed and if she’s not responding – it’s a done deal.

    As for kids in restaurants – since she was a baby, we took our daughter to restaurants and we ate out often. She is well versed in restaurant etiquette and is comfortable in the better restaurants. We always made sure that she was occupied and everyone loved having her. If she became loud and unruly it was generally towards the end of the meal when she was getting bored and we then got going. Since it has been a while since I have had to deal with a screaming child, I don’t have much patience for it but keep my mouth shut and give the parents the opportunity to quiet the child down. I haven’t really had to deal with kids running around restaurants but then I don’t patronize “family” restaurants, if any, too often. Now kids in church – that’s another story…

  2. avatar Carib Island Girl says:

    Totally disagree with Margo on the unruly kids. Sorry, but parents instill some manners! It should not be up to the rest of us to have to leave. It should be you.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      In a perfect world Id agree, but if I want a nice dinner its easier to choose my venue than try to single-handedly try to stare other people into being better parents.

  3. avatar OhNo says:

    I once had a date take me to a small romantic restaurant where there was a classical guitarist for entertainment. It was late in the evening. A couple with a young child sat behind us and the kid proceeded to scream throughout the entire meal and ruined the evening for everyone–and there was no other table to move to in such a small place. They should have left, but didn’t, and we had just gotten our food, so we suffered through it and left the minute we finished it. That was over thirty years ago, and I’ll never forget how awful it was!

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      OhNo — A memory maker for sure.

      I am reminded of a time twenty five years or so ago when spouse and I took our daughter and my parents out to a steak and barbecue rib dinner place. Not Tony Roma’s but close. Toddler in a high chair nearby started throwing bones at us, and the floor was littered. We were near enough to the end of the meal that we just got up and left. Had we been mid-meal, I think we would have asked to be moved to another table.
      In retrospect, I don’t recall that we ever returned to that place. Management should have stepped in.

  4. avatar Cindy M says:

    L #1: I agree with Margo. Also, I’m surprised your (ex-) friend doesn’t seem to understand that you cannot possibly relate to her current issues (marriage and infant). She is *using you* to vent; that’s it. Margo’s 100% right; file it under “College.” She likely will not change either; your lives are now on entirely different tracks. Also: I have a hunch she’s jealous of you (single and free). If that is so, then definitely you don’t have to “take it” from her; she made her decisions, you’ve made yours.

    L #2: We’re childless, so I’m always a bit surprised to read of people who’ve been parents getting very annoyed at other peoples’. Apparently it’s a disdain/annoyance of different parenting styles (or lack thereof). You’ll just have to deal with it or seek places which are more expensive/less “family oriented.” The only deliberate avoidance I make are child-oriented pizza places with games and all that; pizza’s already trending towards heartburn.

  5. avatar OrlGal says:

    Another great place to eat without kids are at the bars of restaurants, same great meal but no kids there. Also look for wine bars and/or coffee shops that cater to the college crowd. I didn’t think about this till now, but I rarely find myself eating someplace where there are children, and I don’t even do it intentionally.

  6. avatar Dori says:

    From the very beginning my children were taught how to act in public, in addition how NOT to act in public. Subsequently, they watched other childrens’ temper tamtrums and out of control behavior, and were completely embarrassed for them. My children were taught to place their own orders with the waitstaff, and to say please and thank you to them. Many, many times my children were given a special treat by the greatful waitstaff at restaurants and were praised for their respectful behavior. They were also taught to speak directly with/apologize to those they offended or had conflicts.

    In addition, it appears that young adults now days were also never taught to dress appropriately for events such as church, weddings, funerals, or social gatherings. On one particular wedding, the bride/groom’s friend was wearing cut-off jean shorts, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt. Several of the other 20-something’s behavior was absolutely appalling, of which my kids also commented. My kids were absolutely stunned, to say the least, how disrespectful this was to the bride and groom on their special day. I couldn’t have agreed with them more.

    It is the responsibility of the parents, particularly the mothers (who generally spends the most time with her children), to teach them and insist upon proper behavior at home and in public. If not, then the mother deserves to be slapped for not teaching her children better! My kids have thanked me on numerous occasions for teaching them manners, conflict resolution, and to dress properly. After all, isn’t that part of the process of feeding, clothing, and educating them???

    • avatar Patato says:

      I agree. We always ate Sunday lunch in our dining room with the good dishes so that our children would know what to do with cutlery and cloth napkins. Before I took them into a store or restaurant, I briefed them on what I expected from them. I would offer a small reward i.e., if you are quiet and cooperative in the grocery store, I will let you pick out one box of cereal. And if they were unable to behave (it didn’t happen often) we left immediately, and they got nothing. And I made sure that I did not take them into a store or restaurant when they were exhausted or starving.

  7. avatar Jill says:

    To LW1: Oh my! I COMPLETELY understand how you feel! My best friend in college (we met 28 years ago) is the same way. When we first met, it was an equal friendship. She got married about 6 years before I did, named her first child after me too. And over time, the relationship has moved into the sounding board status you have described. I only hear from her when she wants to dump all her feelings. I’m usually allowed only about 3 minutes to say what’s going on with me (less if I’m having a problem) and then she will interrupt to tell me her stuff. It happens no matter who makes the call. It has even happened when I’ve gone through things like the death of my son, heart surgery, cancer, etc. And then the rest of it is all about her and how awful it is that I’m going through whatever it is that I’m going through since that means I’m not really available for her. It’s actually rather funny, in a sad way.

    What I’ve done is given myself permission to not answer the phone if I don’t have the energy or time to be a sounding board. I let it go to voice mail and don’t usually call her back. Friendships change over time and equal friendships — where both are treated fairly by the other — will change together. Margo is right, your friend has become “… a narcissistic housewife for whom her former best friend has become a wailing wall.” Yours has become so one-sided that it’s time to let it move to good friend status and find someone else to be your bestie. And really, it’s better if you do because right now, there IS no real friendship.

  8. avatar jerseyrose says:

    Having taken my children to restaurants since they were born, i will tell you that the problem lies with bad parenting. I have never allowed my children to act this way in public and they are extremely well behaved in restaurants.
    I do however have friends who aren’t aware of discipline and what it means to enjoy a family meal in public. Rest assured I have corrected them and their children many a time.
    I am also the type of person who if the child is acting unruly, asks the server to pack it all up and we leave.
    If the family we are dining with refuses to control their child – I HAVE LEFT AS WELL.
    And left a generous tip for the server on the way out.
    WHen? 4.13.2004
    Where? Max n Erma’s
    Plymouth MI
    Why? child of friend kept getting up and touching everyone’s food at the table.
    After I corrected her and mom just kept letting it go, I finished my appetizer and told them all see ya later.
    Had the server pack up my meal as a to go.
    Gave server a $30 tip, paid for my $30 dinner, and off me, my 6 yo son, and 2 yo daughter went. IN the car my son asked what was that all about?

  9. avatar jbm says:

    I didn’t grow up with money and we never went to expensive restaurants, but we were taught manners. Even in buger joints we were expected to behave. My son was expected to behave and if he didn’t, we left. He knew that bad behavior was not ok. Kids fussing some is age appropriate, but using the restaurant as a running track, screaming, throwing food etc is not ok.

  10. avatar Wryle says:

    After church one Sunday, my husband and I took our kids to a local restaurant for lunch. I felt like I spent the entire meal shushing and correcting the boys. At the end of the meal, a lady from a nearby table approached. I was all set to apologize when she said “May I compliment you on your children’s behavior?” I said “You can, but I may not believe you!” She continued “When the hostess seated you, I turned to my husband and said ‘There goes our pleasant, quiet lunch.’ But your children were so well behaved! We didn’t even notice you were there.” Stunned, I said “Thank you so much! It didn’t feel that way from our side of the table.” She then asked, “Are they home-schooled?” I laughed, “No, ma’am.” “Ummm, private school, then?” “No, ma’am, they attend public school.” She shook her head, “Amazing. Kudos to you and your husband!”

    I don’t mean this to brag about how well-behaved my children are (well, maybe a little, lol), but to point out that children don’t have to sit completely still and quiet to avoid disturbing or disrupting others. My kids talked, giggled, and fussed a little; but we corrected them and tried to keep it to a dull roar. Teaching our children how to behave in public is one of our most important jobs as a parent. That well-behaved children are now the exception, rather than the rule, is just sad.