Jim and Joan are nice. You'd like them if you met them. Jim's the boss of the big advertising company down the street, and Joan's a physics teacher at the nearby high school. They were High School Sweethearts, and are still clearly in love. They play tennis together on a Saturday, but on Sunday Jim goes fishing while Joan goes white water rafting. They're always busy, but always friendly. Nice folks.
Oh, and they have a son. When they remember they have a son, they're Doting Parents... it's just that they keep forgetting he exists.
Unlike the all-powerful but under-characterised Parent Ex Machina, the reader/viewer knows about The Protagonist's parents. They have friends outside the home, hobbies that take them out of the house and full time jobs. The audience will also be able to discern what kind of relationship the two have as a couple — whether they're still as starry-eyed over each other as they were when they started dating, or on the brink of divorce. They will have quirks, character strengths and character failings.
They'll also be hopeless as parents.
This couple are not usually nasty — or, if they are, we'll be told all about their Freudian Excuse. They're probably at least sympathetic, if not downright likable. We'd probably like to have them as friends, but definitely wouldn't want them as parents.
If you're a protagonist, and your parents are given lots of witty one liners, lots of characterisation and inhabit the Competence Zone to some degree, expect to suffer Parental Abandonment as they pursue their hobbies and relationships at your expense. If mum and dad are still together, you'll be a living example of the phrase "the children of lovers are orphans," as the parental units will be too wrapped up in each other to spend much time with you. On the other hand, if they're fighting constantly, they'll be too busy yelling at each other to notice that you haven't eaten in three days.
One particular type of this parent is one, usually-single parent that is firmly in the Competence Zone, and probably a part of their child's zany schemes. Their friends will think these parents are "cool" and they will probably agree... he just wishes his dad would occasionally show up to parents' night, and that mum remembered to cook dinner every so often.
The "golfing dad" is an old trope, and if dad's the only absent parent the child probably won't suffer too badly (until the plot calls for it). However, if mum has a hobby that takes her out of the house, works at a demanding job or has a problem that makes her borderline unfit as a parent, parental neglect will almost certainly be a plot point. How it's approached varies from show to show, from the mother realising she'd go mad without her career, to an enormous guilt trip about abandoning her child.
If this happens in a family of sufficiently high social standing, particularly in a medieval setting (being a king requires a lot of work, you know), there is a chance that the protagonist and/or one or more of his siblings may become Royally Screwed Up as a result.
Unlike Parent Ex Machina, these parents aren't infallible, and they can't solve all of their kids' problems because they can barely handle their own. Their son or daughter can't blithely assume that "dad will take care of it," because he won't. Or he'll try to and fail spectacularly.
To compensate, there's usually an alternative mentor who fills in for the absent or ineffective parent. If not, the child will be an adult long before his time as being the Only Sane Man in a crazy family will force them to take care of themselves. If they're the oldest sibling, they'll probably be the "alternative parent."
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Anime & Manga
The Hirasawa parents in K-On are usually away on romantic hijinks, leaving younger sister Ui to serve as a surrogate parent for Cloudcuckoolander Yui. In the manga, the rest of the main cast finally meet them on the day of Yui's entrance exam to college, and only because they came over because they were worried she might sleep too late.
Prof. Yumi from Mazinger Z sincerely loved and cared for his daughter Sayaka, but he was too Married to the Job and busy trying to save the world to take care of her properly, and often Sayaka missed her father.
Momomiya Ichigo's parents in Tokyo Mew Mew are completely wrapped up in each other. Her mother is quick to squeal over whichever boy she's seen her daughter with, and her father is overprotective and goes off on a Rant Inducing Slight. However, they're shuffled off to Parental Abandonment-land when she has to save the world, only to come back and punish her for being late to get home. They're seen as good people, they just... don't get it.
Part of the Deconstruction in Neon Genesis Evangelion revolves around this trope. Many Super Robot shows have a teenage mecha pilot and a long-absent father who designed the mecha, so Evangelion shows how traumatizing it would be for a real teen to fight in a giant robot — and what kind of father would be long-absent to design the robot.
If one were to account parental guardians in this, Misato definitely counts. She tries as hard as she can to be nurturing and protective to Shinji and Asuka, but due to her own pressing emotional baggage, she has trouble getting close to them.
In fact Super Robot series very, very often show the teenagers being traumatized due to the absence of their parents. Mazinger Z? Dr. Kabuto was a Mad Scientist in the original manga, Sayaka missed her father constantly and it took a long while for Shiro to forgive his and Kouji's father for letting them believe he was dead FOR YEARS. Great Mazinger? Tetsuya Tsurugi is EXACTLY the same character Asuka is (but createdtwenty years before) due to being an orphan and his adoptive father Kenzou being more concerned with saving humanity than being a good father and helping him with his inferiority complex, lack of self-steem and jealousy (since Kenzou is coincidentally Kouji and Shiro's father, as mentioned above). Kotetsu Jeeg? Hiroshi Shiba stated in the FIRST episode his father could not care less about his family and therefore he could not care less about him (and later it was shown that, no matter what his father's computer-mind told him, Hiroshi was still hurt). Zambot3? His father being missing right when he needed him was one of the many traumas Kappei Jin was forced to endure throughout the series. Mobile Suit Gundam? Amuro's father hardly had time for his family, and was killed off ignominiously, while his mother chose to stay behind on Earth and is heavily implied to have been having an affair. And so on.
Ken Ichijouji's parents ignored him in favor of his genius older brother, Osamu. When Osamu was hit by a car and died, they were too grieved to pay any attention to him and missed a lot of things that could have prevented his Start of Darkness, such as the creepy e-mails he was getting from one of Mr. Ichijouji's coworkers. They did not seem to give their younger child the time of day until he started showing signs of genius tendencies and it was like Osamu reborn. They were suitably repentant when Ken, to all appearances, ran away from home and came back with Easy Amnesia, culminating in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when he aknowledges them as his parents again, and ever since then their relationship is more normal.
Also Ruki's mother Rumiko, who cares for her kid but due to having her when she was 17, takes quite a while to really assume her motherly role.
What about Mr. Lee? The man has a good heart and does try to help, but he completely neglects to inform Jian that Terriermon would be used to defeat the D-Reaper at the cost of all the kids losing their Digimon. And boy, does it hurt not just Jian, but everyone.
Note that he did not tell them deliberately, since there was the very real risk of the kids refusing to go through with the plan And allowing the D-Reaper to fuse Mother D-Reaper and Cable Reaper to complete it's plan, i.e, the end of all life. In a way, it's also part of a deconstruction of what it would mean for the parents to have to rely on their children to fight.
Touma Norstein's father Franz, who couldn't stand up to his mother when she told his half-Japanese son that he wasn't good enough to be a Norstein, days after his mother's funeral and being transplanted to Austria, and nearly sold out the planet to a Mad Scientist because he promised to cure his Ill Girl daughter by fusing her with a Digimon. Touma, logically, was PISSED at that.
Yamato Ishida's dad Hiroaki is the "one foot in the Competence Zone" variety—he's probably the fourth most plot-involved parent in the franchise (losing to guys who significantly influenced the back stories of their canons) and basically treats his son like a House Wife sometimes. His ex-wife Natsuko fares somewhat better in regards to Takeru, but she's still unable to drive him to school on his first day there.
Koushirou's parents, Masami and Yoshie. They're technically Good Parents, genuinely loving and even doting a little on him... but didn't tell Koushirou that he was actually their nephew, and they adopted him after his parents died in a car crash as a baby. Which also coincided with the death of their own child. Koushirou learned this "little secret" while overhearing a talk between them, and it caused him lots of angst. But then, they talk about it openly and get better.
Try Kouji and Kouichi's parents in Digimon Frontier. Both boys were raised on the story that their Disappeared Dad (Kouichi)/Missing Mom (Kouji) was dead and until the death of their maternal grandmother, neither knew the other existed. On the other hand, Kouichi's mother is technically a good mother if a bit of an adult Ill Girl from the two flashbacks we see of her and Kouji's father at least seems to be a decent enough dad.
Nazuna's parents in Hidamari Sketch. When they first appear to help Nazuna moving in, the other Hidamari residents instantly like them, since they're friendly and apparently doting. However, a few comics later it's clear that they have basically abandoned their child, as Nazuna's dad was transferred and her mother decided that her teenage daughter was better suited to living alone than her husband, a grown man. So she decided to go with him, and left Nazuna to fend for herself. Good thing the Hidamari residents are so close-knit.
To a lesser extent, Yuno's parents. They can be a little oddball and embarrassing, but did at least worry about their daughter's decision to live alone. Her dad is also the classic Overprotective Dad, so they haven't completely abandoned their parental roles, even if they do like to recapture their youth by visiting amusement parks.
From Eroica with Love briefly examined the repercussions of this - an unusually serious take for a comedy manga. Dorian's dad was a gay aristocrat, who was presumably pressured into marrying. After three daughters (who he doesn't seem to have concerned himself with), he is delighted with his son, who he sees as "an ally in a house full of women." He no longer bothers pretending to be respectable, and fills the house with his assorted friends, including thieves and criminals of various types, introducing his son into this social sphere. Dorian takes to thievery like a duck to water, and his father encourages this. That's the last straw for Dorian's mother, who packs up her daughters and leaves the family home, which eventually has to be sold to pay for the divorce settlement.
In Sakende Yaruze!, meeting for the first time at the ages of 17 and 33 respectively, Nakaya and Shino both have trouble sorting out their father-son relationship precisely because at this point in their lives they are inclined to see each other as people first and don't know where to draw lines or how they should act once Nakaya comes to live with Shino. Ultimately, Shino does fail as an ideal parent and chooses not centre his life around Nakaya, but Nakaya also chooses not to ask him to.
If the Sohma parents don't abuse their cursed children, they're likely to end up as this. I.e., Ritsu's mom Meshou is a Fragile Flower who Apologises a Lot, and Kisa's mother almost gives up raising her because she's too stressed and sad upon not being able to help Kisa with her school troubles.
While Kenji and Ikuko Tsukino are Good Parents and Minako's dad and mom are also hinted to be that way, Ami's mother falls into this squarely. She has good intentions, yes, but is simply too absorbed by her job as a doctor to spend time with Ami, and for worse she's also a single mom since her ex-husband is an artist who lives and works abroads.
Natsue from Prétear, specially in the anime. Though she does care for her family, she simply doesn't seem to be cut out for motherhood, and at times she and Kaoru are just too wrapped up in each other to notice the problems between Himeno, Mayune and Mawata. Specially in the case of Mawata.
Kaoru, too. It's clear he loves Himeno, but he himself is a very irresponsible Man Child until almost the end of the story.
In Gundam Wing, Relena is shown to be somewhat resentful of her father's job keeping him away from his family; in fact, one of her first lines of dialog has her admonishing him to take some more time for himself. This isn't helped by the fact that he brings her along on business trips so they can spend time together but keeps getting called away. However, there's no question that her father loves her, and that she loves him and understands that he's a very important man (being the Vice Foreign Minister to the entire planet). Later in the series, she admits that she was selfish for not seeing just how important his work was. Even the revelation that she's adopted does nothing to change how she feels, and in The Movie she takes up the Darlian surname once more.
Hamtaro mostly has Good Parents, but Mimi's family falls squarely into this. It's understandable if we consider that the Iwata family is very large by Japanese standards (four children, including their newborn baby), and they do try to aid her, but one can't help feeling bad for poor Mimi when she spends a lot of her time alone at home.
Kotetsu from Tiger & Bunny is a single father who struggles with the fact that his dream job as a superhero means that he can't really spend much time with his daughter, Kaede, who lives with her grandmother and uncle.
Satoshi and Eriko Oginome from Mawaru-Penguindrum. They do love their daughter Ringo, but the death of their eldest daughter Momoka in a strange incident completely trashed the family dynamics, since Satoshi insisted that they should move on and Eriko couldn't let go. Now they're divorced and the teenaged Ringo lives with Eriko, while Satoshi takes her out in periodic outings. But Satoshi neglects to tell Ringo that he is dating again...which unintentionally makes Ringo despair and speed up her "Project M", causing the infamous Attempted Rape incident of episode 8 and all that came up next.
Mariko Shinobu's parents in Oniisama e.... They're not bad persons per se, but they have very serious issues, which really don't contribute to Mariko's convoluted emotional state.
Ed and Al's dad in Fullmetal Alchemist is a Disappeared Dad for most of their lives, but when he lived with them while their mother was alive, he's implied to have been this trope - spending most of his time holed up in his study working on his alchemy researches. He was mainly researching a way to cure his near-immortality so he wouldn't outlive his wiffe and children, but discovered the sinister plot his former friend had with the entire country.
Spirit Alburn in Soul Eater tries to be a loving father but is a terrible husband, as evident by his wife divorcing him due to his womanizing, which in turn, causes tension between his daughter who loses her respect for him.
Maka's mother could be considered one. In the manga, next to nothing is known about her and even her name was a result of a mistranslation. While she did leave Spirit, we don't even see her return to try and stop Asura with driving the whole world mad. There appears to be no confirmation on her even beign dead and alive (albeit since she's such a strong meister, we'd hear if she was dead.)
In One Piece, Bellemere is this to her adopted daughters Nojiko and Nami. She tries to care for them, but does not make much money from her tangerines, and occasional immaturity (for example, Nami claiming that Nojiko's not her sister because they're not related is a Berserk Button for her). However, she cares for them more than anything and when Arlong attacks the island, she pays their fee instead of her own, dying for them.
In Saki Shinohayu Dawn Of Age, Kousuke, Shino's uncle, is this after he takes her in following the disappearance of her mother, who is his sister. He does his best to care for her, but is also busy with his job and searching for his sister. As a result, he makes the mistake of thinking that mahjong does nothing but remind Shino of her Missing Mom, and tries to sell it, much to Shino's displeasure. Thankfully, he was unable to sell it due to missing a tile, and after he sees her having fun at a tournament (partly in hopes of getting her mother to find her), he apologizes and returns the set.
In ''Death Note, Teru Mikami's mother cares for her son, and when he gets himself beaten up while trying to protect others from bullies, she tells him that he should not try to take on the impossible task of protecting everyone. While the third person omniscient narrator for his flashbacks in the manga supports that she said what she did for his sake, Teru himself narrates in the anime that his mother was not just, and sees her death along with several bullies as proof of a god that punishes evildoers.
Hana's mother, Yuri, in Girls und Panzer. While she orders Hana out of the house after learning that she's doing tankery, it's implied that she's otherwise warm and caring for Hana, and her initial reaction to hearing that Hana is doing tankery is to worry that something is bothering her, and to respond to her belief that flower arrangement is no longer enough for her by saying that she's done well so far. She also eventually reconciles with her daughter.
Naruto: Gaara had every right to hate his father, the Fourth Kazekage. The man pretty much killed his mother to make him the Jinchuriki for Shukaku, and then drove him to his insanity by making him believe that he was never loved and that no one would ever love him. Ultimately, however, he came to understand that his cruelty was in the name of the village they both held dear, through his own burdens as the Fifth Kazekage. When the Fourth, resurrected by the Edo Tensei, is finally sealed, he has already made his peace with his son and leaves the village in his hands.
Menma's mother Irene in Ano Hana had neglected her remaining child in her grief over her daughter's death to the point she refused to leave the house and see others. Thankfully, she got better by the end of the series.
In the Blue Devil comics, Kid Devil aka Eddie Bloomberg's parents were this to him, with his aunt Marla Bloom being the alternative parent and Blue Devil being a kind of surrogate uncle. His parents' neglect ended up having some effects on Eddie later in life when he joined the Teen Titans, making him very desperate to have a family.
General Ross has been presented chiefly as this sort of parent since the mid-80s in Hulk comics (as he is in the films, below). He loves Betty, but he's not equipped to get emotionally close to her, particularly not since the death of his wife, and his obsessions have often gotten between them. He's trying to reconnect with her these days, but it's not proving easy.
It's shown to be generational, as Ross's own father was a career officer who was rarely around.
A major recurring theme of the Alexandra Quick series. None of the parents in the story have been shown to be outright Abusive Parents yet, but they all have significant flaws. The only parental figure that is close to ideal is Thalia King.
In the Katawa Shoujo fic Weekend at Hisao's, Shizune's father and Hisao's parents are seen in this light. Shizune is frustrated with her father's persistent attempts to get her to speak (in the fic, it's indicated that she can speak but sounds terrible), but sees that he wants her to succeed and appreciates that he doesn't treat her any differently from her non-disabled brother. Hisao says he didn't like his parents' frequent absences from his life due to working, but realizes that they worked so hard so that he could grow up in a nice house that they never had in their childhoods, and were willing to sell that house if it was necessary to cure his condition.
In the Mega CrossoverUltimate Re Imaginings, Tony Stark is portrayed like this, even though Blair thinks he's neglectful and has made it more than clear if it wasn't for her adoptive mother she wouldn't have anything to do with him despite him trying to be a father; he's just not very good at it.
In Marie D Suesse And The Mystery New Pirate Age, Mar's parents have a troubled marriage at the start, before the Suesse family falls into the One Piece world. Her father, Garreth, often spends time at work to avoid having to come home, and Mar, at one point, believes that he has no serious desire to rescue her mother. Mar's mother, Blake, is strict with her, putting expectations on her that are difficult for her to meet. And yet, when Mar is separated from both of them after falling into the One Piece world, she can't help but miss them, in spite of their flaws.
The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Twilight Child depicts Twilight Sparkle, of all people, as this. While she does care about her daughter, she also frequently fails to understand her interests and desires are different from Twilight's, causing the two to become increasingly distant as time goes on, eventually resulting in a very nasty argument between them. It doesn't help that Discord has caused some Laser-Guided Amnesia behind the scenes.
Mary's parents, in an adaptation of The Secret Garden, are hopelessly self-absorbed people who accidentally abandon their daughter during an earthquake because they forgot about her.
For that matter, Uncle Archibald would also count. He loves his son and sees to it that he has the best care, but is so driven to grief over his wife Lillias's death and the fear that Colin inherited his hunchback condition that he is almost never home at all. This is also the case when he becomes Mary's guardian. He sees her exactly once before the end of the story, but when he meets her, he makes sure that she has everything she needs to be well looked after.
Juno uses this Trope to a degree. The title character's parents are divorced, leaving her with her Dad, step-mom, and half-sister. She hasn't seen her mom in years, only communicating through letters, and her Dad and stepmom don't exactly react too horrified or shocked when they hear she's pregnant, aside from Dad proclaiming an intent to punch the boy who did it in the balls. At the same time, Juno's stepmom sticks up for her in the doctor's office when an x-ray tech makes a passing insult, and when she's feeling doubtful about a potentially serious relationship, her Dad is there to offer some good advice (albeit admitting that as a divorcee, he isn't the best person to give it).
Coraline's parents are too busy trying to move into a new house and meet a publishing deadline to cater to their bored daughter - as her mother points out, she is old enough to entertain herself. What she finds when she goes exploring is more than enough to make her appreciate her lovingly boring parents. The book has a similar vibe, but Coraline's mother is harsh and unsympathetic, while her father is loving, but too distracted to pay much attention.
The reason Cobb in Inception took Saito's job was so he could return to America to see his children. Mal was like this too, but after being unable to tell reality from dreaming, she committed suicide, believing herself in a dream, so she could be with her children again, not realizing she was already in the real world. Or was she?
In the stupid Mexican kids' movie Santa Claus, presented as a Christmas episode of MST3K, one of the children Santa visits is a little boy whose socialite parents literally needed Santa to drug them in order for them to remember that they have a kid.
General Ross from The Incredible Hulk has a few moments where he seems to care about his daughter Betty but most of his life and time is devoted to capturing the Hulk. In fact, in his determination to subdue the Hulk, his actions nearly got Betty killed at one point. Psychiatrist Dr Samson points out to him how he was lying when he said Betty's safety was his main concern.
Dr Samson: "I never knew why she never talked about you...I do now."
They had this problem in the earlier Hulk film as well. General Ross wanted to be a part of Betty's life but couldn't because of his work. He also disapproved of her relationship with Bruce, but only because he knew about Bruce's abusive parents and wanted to keep her safe. By the end of the film, Betty's house, phone, and computer are being monitored in case Bruce ever attempts to contact her, but the two of them make an effort to stay on good terms.
Regina's stepmother in Mean Girls. She is so desperate to be the "cool mom" to her stepdaughter that she effectively spoils Regina rotten, letting her get away with anything, and contributes heavily to Regina's lack of respect to other people.
King George V in The King's Speech is strict and harsh to his younger son Albert who has a speech impediment, especially when he was younger where George was a bit of a Jerk Ass towards him. But because his oldest son is shirking his duties, he knows that Albert may eventually have to take over his duties as a king (whether Albert wants it or not) and he is trying, in his own way, to fix Albert's stuttering. On his deathbed, he does approve of Albert as king but he never actually told Albert.
In Before Midnight, Jesse and Celine are shown as parents who try very hard and love their kids to bits but ultimately are flawed and imperfect at being parents. Celine later confesses how ashamed she was of being clueless as the mom of their daughters and making mistakes and how she felt she was supposed to be instinctual and a natural at this parenting thing. Also, Jesse totally steals a half-eaten apple from his sleeping daughter!
Herc Hansen from Pacific Rim is a good man and is trying hard to be a good father but he and his son Chuck suffer from poor communication and trauma from when Herc had the Sadistic Choice of either saving his son or wife when the Kaiju attacked. Chuck is implied to have Survivors Guilt in regards to his father saving him over his mother and resents his father for not saving her.
James Reid from The Green Hornet is a very good example. He was a well renowed publisher, a strong believer in a free press which costs him his life at the hands of the corrupt DA Scanlon , and beloved by his employees. He was also a widower with a young son who had problems in school. Mr. Reid's response was to treat him with contempt, even in a case of self-defense. The result was a young, lazy playboy with no respect for any of the values James preaches. Over the course of the movie, however, Britt comes to learn about more about what his father believed in, and while still thinking he was a lousy dad, he was still a respectable human being, enough to put the head back on his statue.
In Frozen, the King and Queen meant well but understandably did not know how to handle a daughter with vast magical powers. Their attempts to keep her isolated from everyone and telling Elsa to "conceal, not feel" prevented disaster in the short-term but they also strained the once close bond between their children and left them both with issues. Worse, the psychological toll this had on Elsa ensured that when she did eventually lose control she would lose it to such a degree that the entire kingdom was threatened.
This trope probably originated with modern teenage literature, which often features family breakdowns and relationships. In order to really understand the plot, readers needed to understand the parents. However, since these families are "officially" rather than "accidentally" dysfunctional, this is arguably a Justified Trope.
Jacqueline Wilson is diligent in depicting her Parents as People. Often likable, these characters don't fall into stereotypes...but the reader still wouldn't want to be related to them. In The Illustrated Mum, Marigold, a manic-depressive single mother, adores her two children, but feeds them cake rather than cooking them a proper dinner. In The Suitcase Kid, Andy's divorced parents marry new partners who already have families of their own. Her parents are so involved with their new lives that they don't realize they're using Andy as a pawn to "get back" at each other. In The Diamond Girls, the heroine and her sisters have lived in continual disorder all their lives, with their mother frequently changing boyfriends and moving her family to new homes. Amber, an early novel, was about a girl who rebels against her traveller mother and struggles to live a normal life.
In Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., the religious issues affecting Margaret affect her parents too — her mother was raised Christian, her dad raised Jewish. They're good parents for most of the book, until Margaret's maternal grandparents show up...whereupon they cancel Margaret's holiday in order to meet them, only to spend the entire visit using her to placate or annoy her grandparents.
Another one from Judy Blume is Tiger Eyes, about a teenaged girl named Davey whose father, a convenience store clerk, was shot during a robbery and, it is eventually revealed, died in her arms. Davey's mother turns into pretty much a space cadet for most of the novel, unable to function, and transplants Davey and her brother Jason to the opposite side of the country. The three live for most of the story with the dad's sister and her husband, who try to act as substitute parents for the kids, but do so in the most ham-fisted manner possible.
There's also the stories about Peter Hatcher (the Fudge series). His parents are nice, but often butt heads with their sons over various things (moving temporarily to Princeton, having a third child, etc).
A Patch of Blue has the mother and grandfather of the blind protagonist Selina: Rosanne, the villain, and Ole Pa, a sympathetic failure of a man, respectively. They both work most of the day in bathrooms, and Rosanne moonlights as a prostitute. Ole Pa is a stone-dead-drunk most of the time, but tends to be more humane to Selina, whereas Rosanne frequently beats her.
This is key to the mystery of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime - it turns out that being an adult does not automatically make you capable of coping with an autistic son. Nor does it make you capable of facing up to that in a mature and constructive way.
Jodi Picoult's parents are often good parents to one child with exceptional needs, but pretty terrible parents to all of their other children. The story will detail the parent's private and legal struggles on the behalf of their child, while the rest of the family falls apart due to neglect. A classic case is in Handle with Care, where the mother sacrifices her best friend, her husband and her oldest daughter supposedly on behalf of her youngest daughter, only to realize that the real issue was not her invalid daughter, but herself.
Jon and Thayet are Royals Who Actually Do Something in the Tortall Universe books, but according to Word of God, being king usually takes precedence over being a daddy in Jon's book (he blackmailed his daughter out of becoming a knight in case that endangered her marriage prospects), and Thayet is often busy with the Queen's Riders military group.
In They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney, Murielle's parents are like this, eventually abandoning her to escape charges of embezzlement.
Annabeth's human father in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, who is a brilliant man and cares deeply for his children, though he is a bit absent-minded at times.
Diana Wynne Jones, as noted below, wrote her nearest thing to an autobiographical novel and called it The Time of the Ghost; it is about this sort of family. The father is a towering professor known to his children as Himself, who runs a boys' school, where the lead and her three sisters live, and the mother spends all her time keeping the school in order, and all four girls are really shockingly neglected. Getting food regularly involves raiding the school kitchens and doing their bet to get away with it. Both parents, however, despite fairly limited page time due to their disinterest in their children, are highly realized characters with internal lives of whose shape we get a sense.
Dresden Files: Maggie LeFay, having the best intentions, skirted the bounds between white and black magic, falling in with what one might call "the wrong crowd", one of whom murders her in childbirth. Her son inherits one hell of a legacy.
Mr and Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Mrs Bennet is a shallow airhead who is an Amazingly Embarassing Parent attempting to match-make her daughters off in unsubtle and humiliating methods. When Elizabeth calls her out on her behaviour, she reveals her real fear that she and her daughters will be utterly destitute if they don't marry well. Also, Mr Bennet copes with his ill-matched marriage by finding refuge in his books and sarcasm. He could care less that he exposes his wife and younger daughters to the ridicule of the world. By the end of the novel, he accepts responsibility for his daughter's mistake and takes measures to instill some sense into his two unmarried daughters.
An Old Republic survey team, well before Galaxy of Fear, crash landed on Dagobah and couldn't get off. They couldn't find enough food to support themselves, but a few years into this some still paired off and had children. This meant there were more mouths to feed, and not enough food for any of them, especially as more and more of the adults died from animal attacks and fevers. The remaining adults started to feed the bodies to their children, a practice which the kids adopted when the last parent died, when the oldest child was seven. Malnourished and uneducated, the Children felt cannibalism was an expression of love - and they're forced to confront the truth that in fact it was filled with desperation and horror.
Lampshaded by Poirot at Five Little Pigs: He finds strange that every witness of a case seems to forget that the murder victim has a baby daughter: Discussed when Miss Williams as a governess explains Poirot that middle class children know that his parents love them, but they are busy providing for them to pay them attention, but the affluent murder victim and his wife’s lives were so intense that the baby will never be their first concern.
Fanny Hatter in Howl's Moving Castle, while having good intentions, sends off her daughters to their new placements without really considering their own thoughts on the matter. She also used her eldest step-daughter Sophie to run her hat store without pay and has implied to have an It's All About Me mentality.
All four of The Ultra Violets's mothers, who are all brilliant scientists and consumed with work. The only time they ever do get involved with their daughters is when they unintentionally impede on their plans to save Sync City.
With the introduction of child viewpoint characters in Edenborn, several of the characters from the first book get this characterization.
Vashti and Champagne see maintaining humanity as their highest goal. Thus they raise many children but don't spend too much energy on any one of them, which leads to tensions between Penny and her siblings. Vashti spends most of her time researching; Champagne spends hers on studying and composing artwork.
Isaac sees the spirituality of humanity as a key component of its revival and does not accept rebellion against his fundamentalist principles. This drives a wedge between him and his teenage son, as well as between his fundamentalist oldest child and the younger siblings.
Halloween teaches his son all the skills that Halloween needed to survive. He does not adapt to the circumstances around them, nor does he train Deuce to address novel situations.
Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls clearly didn't enjoy being a mother, mainly due to her vanity and It's All About Me personality, basically leaving childcare to nannies and even admitting that as they got older she would tell people they were her husband's from a much earlier marriage. It all comes back to haunt her as she gets older and none of them want anything to do with her. An interesting perspective flip, as this is told from the view of the "bad" parent rather than the child. (Also, in a show known for its Negative Continuity, this is one of the few details portrayed consistently).
Supernatural: John Winchester is a good-hearted man who had something awful happen to his family but no matter how much he tries or how much he loves his sons, he's just incapable of being a good father. Before he dies, he gives Dean an extra-horrible order to kill Sam if he can't save him, treats Sam like a child and Dean like a blunt weapon, and an awful lot of their issues that are still going on today can solely lay the blame at his feet.
In general terms, this is a popular trope in drama series like The Bill or Holby City when the children of characters in high-pressure or high profile jobs (such as doctors, teachers, political figures or rescue services) are involved. Often the child will have a scene where they berate their parent for being a hero to everyone else but their child (i.e. a successful doctor who's never home because she refuses to abandon her patients, or a teacher who goes the extra mile for her pupils while completely forgetting her own son's graduation).
Rumplestiltskin in Once Upon a Time is a Doting Parent towards his son Baelfire but to save his son from being drafted into the Ogre Wars, he becomes the Dark One to get power, becoming increasingly ruthless and would even kill people in front of Baelfire as a massive overreaction to any injury done to his son. When offered the chance to live with Baelfire in a world without magic, he was unable to let go of his power and ended up losing his son.
Rumplestiltskin's wife, Milah, may also count since when she was around before Rumplestiltskin became the Dark One, she was often at the village's tavern and seems to not think about her son. Not to mention running away on Captain Hook's ship and letting her family believe she was dead.
That series runs on enough Big Screwed-Up Family to power a whole season of Jerry Springer; Charming and Snow didn't get to be parents due to the curse, and are starting from scratch when dealing with Emma (who is now thirty and was raised by the Department of Child Disservices). Regina (aka Snow White's stepmother) is the adopted mother of Henry (Emma's biological kid from a Teen Pregnancy), but neglected the boy for hours on end because bullying the townsfolk into submission and batshit crazy revenge schemes against her old enemy Snow White were a more "worthwhile" use of her time. Regina's own mother, Cora, was weapons-grade sociopathy, and Regina's birth was nothing more than part of the plan to have the whole universe bowing to her in revenge for the royals making fun of Cora's low birth as a miller's daughter...It's bad when the boy who hasn't yet hit his teens is a good candidate for Only Sane Man.
In Flashpoint, Ed Lane struggles to be a good father and husband but his job often comes first, causing strain between his wife and son.
Parker's alcoholism had caused his wife to divorce him and his son to refuse to see or speak to him. But since then, he has cleaned up his act, resulting in reuniting with his son for the first time in ten years and eventually, his son Dean decided that his father is a good man and came to live with him.
Lily's father Mickey in How I Met Your Mother loves his daughter and can occasionally be a Doting Parent for her but he was emotionally apathetic towards her during most of her life and his gambling and money problems hurt his relationship with Lily who has difficulty trusting him.
The Ur Example would have to be Mom and Dad from Calvin and Hobbes. Dad routinely complains about having children, exclaiming that what he really wanted was a dog, and has given up on education or instilling respect in his delinquent son; quite the contrary, Dad's favorite pastime is filling his son's head with complete nonsense about how science works. (This may actually stem from Calvin criticizing Dad's ignorance in this field in a past strip.) Mom generally keeps her game face on, but even she has her limits. Artist Bill Watterson said in response to angry complaints about the cruel parents, 'They do a better job than I would.'
Tidus' father Ject and Tidus' mom from Final Fantasy X. From the one scene we see of them together the two are Sickening Sweethearts. When it comes to their son, Ject is an emotionally abusive jerkass (and a drunk to boot). Tidus' mom actually cares for her son, but outright ignores him whenever Ject is around and when he disappears, she dies of a broken heart, essentially abandoning poor Tidus.
Despite the Heartwarming Moment at the end of the first game, poor Ashley Robbins suffered this between the first and second Another Code games. While it's forgivable in that Richard still had a ton of issues to sort out after coming back into his daughter's life and his social skills probably atrophied during ten years of self-imposed isolation, the two flubbed the initial bonding effort and had to work through another game to patch things up.
Parents in The Sims do very little to raise their children. Babies and toddlers will need constant attention, but older children only really need homework help and food cooked for them and teenagers can live in total independence.
Magni Bronzebeard was quite disappointed that he was unable to get a male heir, leading to some distance between him and Moira. Anduin has great respect for Magni, but notes that it was partly his fault that Moira turned out the way she did, joining the Dark Irons out of love for their emperor, Dagran Thaurissan.
Varian Wrynn toward his son, Anduin. Varian's Lo'gosh side and his more warlike ways cause a rift between him and his pacifistic son Anduin, leading him to send Anduin to stay in Ironforge while he works through his issues. Later on, Anduin goes to study under Velen, rather than Archbishop Benedictus as Varian suggests, but Benedictus brings the two together to help them reconcile. Varian openly admits on a few occasions that he is a less than perfect father.
Persona 4 has Ryotaro Dojima, the protagonist's uncle and guardian for the events of the game. While he's a hardworking, honest cop and genuinely loves his daughter Nanako, he often neglects her thanks to lingering issues regarding his wife's unsolved hit-and-run death and his fear that he alone is inadequate as a parent, which he hides from by avoiding Nanako and burying himself in his work. Fortunately, it's possible to help parent and child overcome their problems and become a true family again.
The game also has Eri Minami, a young woman who has become a stepmother to a young boy and has difficulty bonding with him. Her social link allows you to help the two bond as well.
Crusader Kings: If you've played this game the Empress Maria Theresa example in the real life section may just come across as eerily familiar. You might really love your charitable, brave, gregarious daughter who happens to be a genius, but that won't stop you from setting up an Arranged Marriage to a man she hardly knows in order to help secure your borders from invasion.
Averted in CLANNAD with Nagisa Furukawa's parents. Her father Akio has the phases of the tough guy and an Overprotective Dad, while her mother Sanae has the sensitive and loving personality as The Ditz and Moe Moe. They are willing to do everything to protect and help Nagisa whilst trying to maintain a healthy, loving relationship between their own selves. It was eventually revealed that the two indeed followed this trope earlier in their lives, as they were constantly busy pursuing their dream careers in acting (Akio) and teaching (Sanae) and little Nagisa was left alone home constantly. After an incident where Nagisa fell seriously ill while they were working and they just managed to save her before she nearly died, they find out she was born sickly and have decided to both quit their jobs to pursue the goal of protecting Nagisa instead. This explains the bakery, and why Sanae is so horrible at baking to begin with. Poor Nagisa doesn't know this, and falls into an Heroic BSOD after she finds out, but eventually recovers when her parents tell her directly during an important play she was doing that she shouldn't blame herself.
Arguably occurs in Friendly Hostility. Padma and Nefertari Maharassa are still besotted with each other, and they aren't conventional parents — especially since "conventional parents" generally don't have a pet Satanist (Rafi) occupying the spare room. They're not bad parents though; the Maharassa kids have a interesting/fun childhood, it's just prone to some...drama. Such as the parents leaving Rafi to babysit only to find he'd lost their daughter to cannibals. Fatima, their oldest child, has a strange love-hate relationship with her family, but then again she's an extremely cynical Deadpan Snarker. Their younger son, Fox, just adores them. Padma and Nefertari are always there for their now grown-up children, but they're still prone to some rather eccentric behaviour.
In comparison to Collin's ultra-conventional, narrow minded family, however, the Maharassas are model parents. "Different is good" is a bit of a mantra for this webcomic.
We don't see them, but The Nostalgia Critic's parents. Abusive, scary, implied to have expected way too much of him and apparently raised him as a girl for a short time, but took him out for a meal when he got an A- and his mum sorted things out when he was getting bullied as a child. That last bit more than likely induced Stockholm Syndrome, as he's still living with her and calls her his world.
Jobe in the Whateley Universe has parents like this. His parents are still together, but his father is a megalomaniacal supervillain who now runs his own country, and his mother is The Ditz. They seem proud of the fact that they have managed to raise a sociopath. The biggest area of friction before this year was that Jobe prefers bio-devising while his father is a robots-and-power-armor kind of inventor.
Timmy Turner's parents, in The Fairly OddParents, exemplify this trope. They're silly, affectionate, devoted to each other...and leave Timmy in the care of a psychotic babysitter while they're off pursuing their hobby-of-the-week. They do make earnest attempts at being good parents (and are always quick to declare You Are Grounded), but the fact is that Wanda provides the more traditional "motherly" role. In the pilot, they were unaware it was possible to hire someone to look after your children and were just sickeningly devoted to giving Timmy all their attention.
Ray Rocket, Reggie and Otto's dad in Rocket Power, is a "cool" dad with one foot firmly in the Competence Zone...so he falls victim to this trope occasionally. One examples is in Race Across New Zealand, where he lets his own macho pride turn into Parental Favoritism, to Reggie's dismay.
Arnold, from Hey Arnold!, is the "old before his time" result of this trope, despite living with his grandparents rather than his parents. His grandma and grandpa are of the loving-but-eccentric variety, (though his grandpa can step up to the plate pretty well when called upon) which means Arnold spends a lot of time alone or with his friends.
In sharp contrast to Arnold's absent-minded but loving family set-up, Helga lives in the purely dysfunctional version of a family whose parents have both personalities and serious issues. If anything, the extensive characterization given to her parents, particularly her disillusioned and possibly-alcoholic mother, make her and her sister's situation seem even more tragic: Helga is cynical, bitchy, Tsundere and disenchanted because they pay so little attention to her, whereas Olga is a deluded Shrinking Violet and Stepford Smiler because they give her too much attention.
Ickis, one of the main characters in Aaaah! Real Monsters is often described as the son of the Great Slickis. Many characters, particularly Oblina and the Gromble gush about how talented Slickis is (in stark contrast to Ickis' struggles to successfully complete his assignments.) Slickis is shown to be a very friendly, laid-back monster who is often traveling the world while he son attends a boarding school, so consequently they don't talk to each other much. The first time they try to reconnect, Slickis honestly cannot remember whether or not his son likes certain activities and Ickis gets mad because everybody else wants to hang out with Slickis, and he wants to spend the day with just his Dad. They end up going to the surface world together in an attempt to scare the humans. Ickis messes up, Slickis saves him, and then decides NOT to humiliate his son by revealing what happened after they return to the Academy. Ickis is puzzled but pleased, and the episode ends with the two monsters finally having a nice conversation. Later seasons mention Slickis, who Ickis still wants to impress, and he actually does come to watch his son win a Sewerball game (the monster version of baseball) but mostly he remains too busy with his own career to help Ickis.
The parents of the characters on South Park, especially Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, have received a surprising amount of development, even to the point of directly impacting the episodes' plots. Similarly, Kyle's mom Sheila often ends up causing more problems than she solves, both for her son and the town in general, when she starts off on one of her social crusades.
Ron's parents in Kim Possible could be said to fit this trope. His parents — particularly his dad — are relatively pleasant people, but show little interest in their son. They barely even include him in decisions they make which affect his life, such as moving to Norway in The Movie or adopting a second child. The fourth season did, however, see them become a little more involved in his life, such as the episode in which Mr. Stoppable, who is an actuary, helped bring down a villain whose power was his ability to do math.
Averted in the same show by Kim's parents. Her mother is a brain surgeon and her father is a rocket scientist, so it's pretty understandable that they have a lot going on in their lives. Even so, they are genuinely affectionate parents who take great pride in their children and involve themselves in their lives as much as they can.
They take Kim's heroics pretty well in stride (admonishing her to be home by dinner when she's stepping out to thwart Dr. Dementor, that sort of thing). They even get in on the day-saving occasionally. Kim's father actually manages to essentially take down Dr. Drakken by humiliating him. It turns out, much to everyone's surprise, that Kim's archnemesis used to be her father's college roommate. The blue skin is new, but, yup, that's Drew Lipski all right.
Both Daria and Jane's parents are portrayed as people who have good hearts but whose self interests and issues, be they with work, emotional needs, or personal concerns tend to vastly overshadow their interest in their own children. Daria's mom Helen is a huge Workaholic, her dad Jake is a clownish Man Child, and Jane's parents Vincent and Amanda... well...
The Rugrats parents were funny and developed, and their subplots were an important part of what made the show entertaining for adults as well as kids. However, the entire premise of the show relies on them being completely oblivious to their toddlers wandering off on dangerous adventures.
Professor Membrane on Invader Zim is a generally-affable and utterly brilliant Bunny Ears Scientist who is entirely too wrapped up in fixing every problem in the world to pay much attention to his children. His relationship with his son Dib is particularly strained because Dib won't get involved in "REAL Science" (he's an eleven-year-old paranormal investigator), while his daughter Gaz's desire to spend time with him is arguably the only time in the series she shows a desire to be around anybody.
Jack and Maddie on Danny Phantom are sometimes more obsessed with their latest ghost-hunting activities to pay attention to their children—like, for example, to notice their son is the half-ghost kid they're hunting. Their older daughter Jasmine actually Lampshades this, though her diagnosis is a bit of an exaggeration—-when not distracted they can show plenty of interest in their kids, often to the point of clinginess.
Doctor Doofensmirtz, resident Mad Scientist from Phineas and Ferb would probably fit into this trope. After having a Hilariously Abusive Childhood, he's very dedicated to being a wonderful dad to his daughter Vanessa...except he isn't very good at it. When he isn't making the usual 'embarrassing parent' mistakes, conflicts result from the fact that he's sometimes too obsessed with his job of causing evil to care for his daughter. However, he's still over-all presented as being one of the Good Parents.
Vanessa: I can't believe you brought work with you!
Dr. Doof: What do you mean?
Vanessa: Dad, you've got some guy tied up here.
Dr. Doof: No, Vanessa. We've got some guy tied up here.
Tenzin is mostly a good father to his kids. However, when it becomes clear that his daughter Jinora is much more spiritually talented than him, he ignores that due to both pride and to avoid feeling inadequate as a spiritual mentor. He gets better after a pep talk from his student.
Tenzin's own father Aang spent more time with Tenzin than he did with Kya or Bumi since Tenzin was the only airbender (and thus the only one who could help revive the Air Nomad culture). Kya and Bumi resent Aang and Tenzin for this even in the present day.
Toph was very "hands-off" with her daughters due to her resentment of her own parents' opposite methods. Her younger daughter Su-yin resented the perceived lack of attention and left home to find her own place in the world, something her older sister Lin took very badly. Su-yin in turn tried to keep her own daughter Opal from seeing the world though she relents in the end, in a manner eerily remniscient of her grandparents' treatment of Toph. The Bei Fong family in general seem to be prone to making mistakes in parenting despite the best of intentions.
The Simpsons has Homer, who does admit he's a terrible parent, and he does try to rectify this (usually), but he and Bart don't usually get along, he and Lisa are too different, and with Maggie, Homer sometimes forgets she even exists, or what her name is. At one point he even tries to be a better and attentive father, only for Bart and Lisa to tell him they prefer him being a "half-assed under-parent".
Many children of successful professionals and academics are familiar with this trope.
She put this to a direct use in The Time of the Ghost, a rather good novel in which the main character is a ghost and which happens to be her nearest thing to an autobiographical work.
Austrian Empress Maria Theresa is described as such by history, media and The Other Wiki. She was affectionate to them (showing some favoritism towards her fifth child Maria Christina, both for being born in Maria Theresa's 25th birthday and for being classy, talented and cute), but also used them as pawns via Arranged Marriages like pretty much every Habsburg and non-Habsburg monarch; she wrote to them frequently to keep close contact with each son or daughter, while not being above of trying to use her motherly authority to influence their lives. And you know how... well that worked in a certain case.