Dear Margo: You Do Not Have To Answer Every Question That Is Asked

My husband’s family wants us to have more children. How do I tell them it’s none of their business? Margo Howard’s advice

You Do Not Have To Answer Every Question That Is Asked

Dear Margo: Like many women, I don’t exactly see eye to eye with my husband’s family. He is from a large family where everyone (except him) still lives in the same zip code. Each “branch” of the family has at least four kids, even when there isn’t the financial wherewithal to support them. My husband left at 18 and vowed not to live there.

We will be returning to the “nest” for his youngest brother’s wedding, and I know (from previous experience) that I will be hounded about why we have only one child, because only children are spoiled and we are harming our son by not providing a sibling. The comments range from passive-aggressive snark to direct attacks. It is emotionally exhausting. I resent knowing I’m going to have to explain and justify our decision, because it’s personal and, quite frankly, none of their business. I’m hoping you can give me one or two sentences with which to respond to the judgmental busybodies. — Already Dreading the Trip

Dear Al: What you are calling “passing aggressive” is to me just “aggressive.” Here are your sentences: “I am surprised you would ask such a personal question. Why don’t we talk about your sex life, instead?” Should any of these clods persist, simply stare at them, silently. — Margo, fittingly

“Breaking Up” with a Parent

Dear Margo: I left for college at 17 and had a falling out with my folks, who, in retaliation, withdrew my school funding to get me to return home “where I belonged.” Fortunately, my best friend’s family welcomed me with open arms and got me back on my feet.

Fast-forward 20 years. I am done with my BA and am working on the law degree I always wanted. My frustration is that both parents were mentally and physically abusive during my years at home. (One threat was to send me to “the home for wayward teens” if the dishes weren’t done to Mom’s satisfaction.) My dad and I have been able to talk about my formative years and put the pain behind us. The problem is my mother, who is still trying to raise the 17-year-old who is no longer and is refusing to deal with the 40-something I am. Phone calls with my mother become a barrage of “Why aren’t you married?” and “God wants you to have children!” and “Why can’t you be more like your perfect brother?” (This brother, by the way, can’t hold a job but has five children.)

I recently moved and did not supply my new address or phone number; neither do I answer emails from her, because I wish to have nothing to do with that woman for the rest of my life. I love my dad, but they only have one email address between them. They are so enmeshed that there’s no distinction between where one ends and the other begins. Any letters, phone calls or emails will be read by both and answered by Mom. I know my dad would be hurt if I called to say, “Hey, I like talking to you, but I can’t stand Mom and won’t email or call if she’s around.” What is the best way to break up with a parent? — In a Bind

Dear In: I salute your choice and suggest you phone your father, risk his being hurt and tell him you have, with much thought, chosen to be estranged from your mother. Tell him you’d love to be in touch with him if he understands the boundaries — and that the ones you’ve set do not include your mom. Then the ball’s in his court. My guess is that your father won’t be able to break the pattern of decades and will remain loyal to your crazy mother, which is perhaps as it should be. — Margo, assuredly

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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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55 comments so far.

  1. avatar Beloved says:

    LW1 Tell them you were born a man and science has only found a way for you to have one child!

  2. avatar Briana Baran says:

    I just have to say it: the comments from readers including their husbands in their child count is just…too…sad. Even if they’re all “tongue in cheek”. Right. Either you all are living with losers…or your husbands are some unfortunate males. I had two husbands like that…walked out on the first, and kicked the second all the way back to his Mama’s house. She treated him like a baby in diapers…so I figured she could change them for him and put up with his s**t too, while she was at it. 
    It’s just a sad commentary on the way some things never change.

  3. avatar wyrdotter says:

    For LW1, as a childless-by-choice adult female, I’ve found that looking mildly at the person inquiring about my child-bearing plans, tilting my head just a bit to the side, like an inquisitive pug puppy, and pleasantly asking, “Why do you need to know?” then just maintaining eye contact usually suffices. You haven’t said anything rude, you haven’t raised your voice, called names or flung poo; you’ve just asked a perfectly legitimate question in response.

  4. avatar wendykh says:

    Tell them you’ve had your tubes tied on medical advice. Boom. Conversation over, never repeated.