When You Coming Home, Dad?
aka: Cats In The Cradle
"If you miss little Timmy's softball game even once he'll end up a serial killer all because of your terrible parenting."
Parenting is challenging and complicated, and most parents are doing the best they can in the world's hardest job. Hollywood knows that you're doing it wrong, though, if you spend even one second at work that you could be fishing or teaching your kid to catch a baseball.
Basically, this is a story about parents who do honestly love their kids, but are workaholics who yammer away in a cellphone constantly and don't show up to their kid's science fair or soccer game or spelling bee
. The child will feel the pain and misery of your (often ridiculously benign) neglect as he looks in the audience and sees you aren't there. It usually develops into An Aesop
about not busting your hump for the boss man and instead spending time with your family, frequently by Cutting the Electronic Leash
Subtrope of Parental Neglect
. While not quite Always Male
, has a strong tendency to be about Dad rather than Mom. Not really Parental Abandonment
, because the parents are there, and not Hands-Off Parenting
either, because they usually aren't hippies. This trope is the most usual portrait of Parents as People
, and usually part of the backstory of a Lonely Rich Kid
. Overlaps with Pulled From Your Day Off
if they try to make time but work interferes anyway.
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- In the late 1980s, Telecom New Zealand ran an advert depicting a young boy speaking on the phone to his truck driver dad, with Elvis' Are You Lonesome Tonight playing in the background.
- For the 2015 Super Bowl, Nissan had a one and a half minute ad about a racing driver and his son being separated from day one by his career, with Harry Chapin's "Cat's In The Cradle" scoring it and the dad nearly getting killed in a racing accident. It does end on a heartwarming moment however
Anime and Manga
- In Ponyo the father of main character Sosuke is this, much to his mother's annoyance. It's somewhat heart wrenching in that Hayao Miyazaki made the film at least partially as an apology to his son and wife for working so much. When the father signals I'm sorry from the ship, it's Miyazaki, talking to his family.
- 20th Century Boys: This has happened with a police detective and his daughter, to the point that she tells him if he's only one hour late to his grandson's birthday party, it'll be okay. It's a Doomed Appointment, of course. It also happened to Otcho, with similarly devastating consequences.
- Little House with an Orange Roof: This is one of the catalysts for the premise; to keep the soulless corporation from firing him, the series' "dad" spends every waking moment working. It costs him his first marriage.
- Sailor Moon: Ami's mom is a workaholic doctor, but also a pretty good person who had to raise her daughter almost on her own after her divorce. She even laments in the manga that she would really love to spend more time with her kid, but she cannot. This is to the point where she doesn't show up at all in The Nineties anime. Likewise her Disappeared Dad is a travelling artist (seemingly a wildlife painter) who communicates to her via letters and paintings but almost never actually shows up.
- Rei also suffers from this — she lives with her grandfather in a Shinto shrine and only sees her father (a famous politician) on her birthday each year.
- Cardcaptor Sakura: Sonomi Daidouji, Tomoyo's mother. Like Dr. Mizuno, Sonomi's always very busy with her business and barely has time to see Tomoyo, but is genuinely affectionate to her and her friends when she is around. Specially seen in the episode where Tomoyo temporarily becomes a Cute Mute due to a Clow Card stealing her voice.
- Sakura's father Fujitaka is a milder example, as he's an archeologist and uni professor with a very heavy schedule.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Gendo appears to be an example of this during the Journey to the Center of the Mind/Dream Sequence/who knows what in End of Evangelion, and at least one Alternate Continuity runs with the idea that this is how he'd be if his Start of Darkness hadn't taken place. It's somewhat telling that even when experiencing Instrumentality, which supposedly lets you live out your greatest wishes without limit, this is the most positive portrayal of his father that Shinji's imagination can devise.
- Lunge from Monster is this to the extent that his wife and daughter actually leave him. He doesn't particularly care at the time (that is how much he is obsessed with his work), but at the end of the story shows a desire to reconnect with his daughter.
- Tsugawa's family in Japan Inc.
- Kotetsu/Wild Tiger's relationship with his daughter and how it's become strained because of his work as a Superhero (especially the fact that he's afraid to tell her about his job because he doesn't want her to worry about him) becomes a primary focus in the second half of Tiger & Bunny. After the series' climax, he uses the gradual decline of his powers as an opportunity to retire and spend more time with his daughter... Only to have said daughter talk him into coming out of retirement in less than a year.
- This is the tragic backstory of Precia Testarossa in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st. The sad part is, she did know that this was a problem and tried her best to make time for her daughter, but unlike the other Good Parents in the series who managed to balance their work and family life, she got smacked with the double whammy of a demanding job and unreasonable higher-ups. Unsurprisingly, when her daughter died before she could make up for lost time because said higher-ups ignored her expert warnings about her project, her mind broke.
- In Sonic X both of Chris Thorndyke's parents have this problem, leaving him to depend on the company of an eccentric grandfather, and later a blue hedgehog and his friends.
- In Bokurano, Waku tells Moji that he used to play soccer, but his father never showed up for the tournament he was in, so he began to question why he was doing it, and decided to take a break from it. At his funeral, his father admits to having been burdened with work. In the manga, Aiko "Anko" Tokiosumi's father Akira is one as a news reporter, and it's revealed that she had once hoped to be an Idol Singer to see him on TV.
- May or may not be the case in Dragon Ball Z. Gohan has never shown much if any anger for his father not being there more for him. To his credit, Goku is a Saiyan (one who underwent severe mental trauma as an infant) who was raised by his grandfather until he was killed and raised more or less himself.
- Beyond that, the separations often occurs due to Goku being dead or the earth being in great peril. In fact, his longest separated time (seven years) was due to him believing that if he stayed dead, there would be no more foes (like Frieza or Cell). Despite this, he ended up returning and staying until he lad to leave to teach his successor in GT. Least to say, neither of Goku's sons are in any way resentful for this and Chichi ends up understanding (but still doesn't cease to worry).
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, we have Jotaro Kujo's father, who wasn't around often, due to being a jazz musician that was frequently on tour. Not that Jotaro seems to resent him for this, but he clearly didn't understand that most people need a dad while growing up. This affects his and Jolyne's relationship in Stone Ocean, as he just sort of assumed that his daughter would inherently know that his almost constant absence was to keep her and her mother out of the Stand-related trouble he regularly dealt with.
- In the Distant Finale of Naruto, Bolt Uzumaki seems to have this relation ship with his father, Naruto. He spends alot of time playing pranks mostly as an effort to get his dad's attention since he's too busy being the seventh hokage.
- In the Spider-Man comic that first revealed that Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin, we see Norman being this to his son Harry in a flashback. We even see him bringing Harry an expensive present and trying to tell himself that this surely makes up for never having time for him. No Norman, it doesn't.
- Thomas Wayne is sometimes portrayed as having been this kind of father to Bruce — in some versions, the fateful trip to the movies was intended to make up for this...
- Many versions detailing Dick Grayson first moving into the Wayne Mansion have shades of this trope; the little orphan desperate for some attention from his new guardian, but Bruce being caught up with "business". Once Dick finds out the truth and takes up the mantle of Robin this changes, of course.
- Green Arrow was this after he took Roy Harper in and made him his sidekick. Oliver was frequently out and about when they weren't in costume and left Roy by himself for varying periods of time. Roy's birth father died in a forest fire when Roy was three, and Roy's adopted father Brave Bow died of liver failure when Roy was twelve. Brave Bow sought Oliver out before that happened because he knew he was dying.
- The opening for issue one of Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker show Jonas and Alan's parents are often absent due to their jobs.
- In 'Nexus' this is subverted, as Jack rarely thinks about his father unless he has to.
- Naruto in Demon in the Hyuga Clan goes through this for years (turning him into a rather soft spoken, stoic yet well adjusted kid) but due to being a master of Angst? What Angst? his parents (Minato and Kushina are alive and well) don't realise he's miserable. Hinata calls them out on it (Naruto confides in her) saying they're making him feel unwanted. When they answer that he (Naruto) would've told them she basically asks: "How can he when YOU'RE NEVER HOME?" Cue Stunned Silence.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Cat's In The Cradle is basically a retelling of the trope namer in the form of Rainbow Dash's life growing up, complete with Rainbow having a kid and being unable to spend time with her dad because her kid has the flu.
- Perfect Companions: Applejack's parents had to travel to help the other Apple Families get their farms started up, and as a result weren't there that often, even missing her birthday several times. They finally made it to give her Winona to help keep her company while they were gone. Sadly they died in an accident shortly thereafter.
- In Marie D. Suesse And The Mystery New Pirate Age!, Marie's parents have a troubled marriage, and Garreth, her father, often stays at work rather than go home, causing Marie to resent him for it.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, this happens with the Bonnes' parents, who are on indefinite vacations and check in infrequently.
- Click: Adam Sandler character needs to learn that spending time with his kids and having sex with Kate Beckinsale is better than working.
- Evan Almighty: Also about spending more time with his wife.
- Hook. Peter Pan has grown up into a workaholic businessman, who misses a lot of time with his kids, Jack and Maggie. Hook uses this to get Jack to pull a Face-Heel Turn.
- This is a minor plot point in Jack Frost (the family film, not the horror film).
- The theme occurs periodically in Jersey Girl.
- Jingle All the Way
- An underlying theme early in The 6th Day is that if you work late with the excuse of getting your daughter an expensive doll to make up for it, a clone will go home on time and steal your life.
- Michelle Pfeiffer's character in I Am Sam. She and her husband are overworked and share little time with their son who has becomes estranged.
- Liar Liar: Learning to spend more time with his kid isn't Jim Carrey's main lesson, but it is one of the things he does learn.
- North: Young North feels so neglected that he actually divorces himself from his parents. This sets a rather dangerous precedent as children across the nation are now forcing their parents to wait on them hand and foot, lest they call Cat's Cradle and get their own divorce.
- Su-ryeon in The Schoolgirl's Diary bitterly resents her father for constantly working and only making brief and very infrequent visits home to his family. However, this film was made in North Korea, so the Family-Unfriendly Aesop is that her father is right to essentially abandon his family for his work, because he's serving the state and Kim Jong Il.
- Indiana Jones
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. A major source of friction between the Joneses Sr. and Jr. is that Sr. wasn't around much when Indy was a kid. The young Indy was frequently neglected as a child because his father was always off hunting relics. This also let a bad guy get away with a valuable relic that he was going to sell on the black market because he was too busy translating something to look at him. Bright side is that he reclaimed it years later.
Things had settled down in the Young Indiana Jones series when Indy was in High School, but now the physical distance had been replaced with emotional distance after the death of Mrs. Jones.
- Played with in Coraline. Upset with lack of attention from her workaholic parents, Coraline is ensnared into the seductive world of the Other Mother where Coraline gets everything she wants and her parents exist only to please her. It's later revealed to be a honey trap, as the Other Mother is actually a creature that feeds on children's souls.
It is implied that her parents at the start of the movie are close to an important deadline and are not workaholics. They also just moved into a new house, which partly explains Coraline's resentment — she was also upset that her parents had her leave behind her old friends and home.
- Both parents from Mary Poppins are period-piece examples of this trope, although in the mother's case it's her political crusades, not a job, that take up too much of her time. Moreover, in both cases, it seems as if it's not that their jobs are particularly time-consuming so much as they're mildly disinterested in the children and willing to palm their parental responsibilities off on someone else. Then again, this was completely normal for a well-off family in the Edwardian Era.
- Happens in Inception, where Dominic Cobb's young son asks his father when he would be coming home. Cobb audibly sighs and later the audience finds out that he can't return to America because his wife set up her suicide to look like he murdered her. (She believed that she was in a dream world, and wanted Cobb to "die" with her to "wake up."
- In Parenthood, Gil struggles to balance his home life and career to be able to spend time with his kids and still keep a roof over their heads.
- In The Jetsons movie, George is given a promotion and becomes a workaholic to try and maintain said rise in power. He has to be snapped out of it by his family and the fact that Spacely Sprockets is destroying a alien race's home. This all leads to his crowning moment where he finally tells Spacely off.
- This is something Tom Hanks' character does in Road to Perdition. It turns out that his reasoning for keeping distant is because he doesn't want his sons (especially Michael Jr.) to follow the same road as him and become a hitman for the mob.
- Johnny in Little Giants wants nothing more than to spend time with his father, who is always away on business. When the father makes it to the football game, Johnny plows through the opposing team and scores a touchdown as a mere side benefit of getting to his dad.
- This is one of the primary themes in Ink.
- In Hellraiser: Inferno, Detective Joseph Thorne does seem to love his daughter if not his wife anymore, but he ignores both of them by claiming he's working a case when in fact he's visting hookers. At one point his daughter cries out that she just wants him to come home as he leaves to hunt the killer. It's Joseph's absence that causes the Engineer to murder his wife and child with no one there to protect them.
- In Cats Cradle, all the children of Dr. Felix Hoenikker suffer from the fact that he neglects them in favor of his work and does not seem to understand much about emotions in general, although he genuinely cares from them. He's also the father of the atom bomb.
- In The Compound, the fabulously wealthy father had grown up in an orphanage and, during his kid's childhood realized he didn't spend enough time with them. So he faked a nuclear attack and made them live with him in an underground bunker for 6 years. He was planning to keep them there another twelve, even if that meant they'd have to eat the younger siblings who were born underground. Well, the thought was there...
- One of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books contains a poem entitled "But You Didn't," in which the narrator repeatedly asks one of his parents to play with him, ending each request with the words "but you didn't." In the end, "My country called me to war; you asked me to come home safely... but I didn't!"
- Old Kingdom series: Just before he sacrifices himself, Sabriel's father apologizes to her for not having been an "ideal parent", saying that the duties of the Abhorsen tend come before those of a father; Sabriel makes a similar speech to her son Sam later; Lirael's mother had to leave her because of something she Saw. Partially subverted, however: the kids may not like it, but they do understand, and so does the reader.
- Barty Crouch, Sr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with deadly consequences. Not that this character didn't have other problems.
Sirius: Nasty little shock for old Barty, I'd imagine. Should have spent a bit more time at home with his family, shouldn't he? Ought to have left the office early once in a while ... gotten to know his own son.
- A minor point in Animorphs. Rachel's mom is a lawyer and a single parent so there are occasional references to her not being around as much as the others' parents.
- In the New Jedi Order, Jaina Solo (Han and Leia's daughter) is this with respect to her mother as during her childhood her parents were always off saving the galaxy and were too busy for her. She oddly doesn't hold her father to the same standards, though this is partly due to the fact that she somewhat resented the fact that Leia never properly learned to be a Jedi even though she carries a lightsaber and that she otherwise shares all of her skills with her father.
- The Baby-Sitters Club:
- Stacey's dad is a workaholic who rarely spends time with her.
- Abby's mother is like this too. Possibly justified to an extent, since she's a single parent with two teenagers to support.
- Shannon Kilbourne's father is never home, either.
- One book had a subplot in which the sitters begin taking care of two kids who are constantly forced to attend extracurricular classes and sports activities because their parents are always at work.
- If you're referring to the Addisons, it's not even that. The parents are basically selfish flakes, and all they ever want is time for themselves, so they shuttle their son and daughter off to every extracurricular possible (even, at one point, practically forcing Claudia to put together an art class for neighborhood kids just so they could put their daughter in it).
- Bertram's relationship with his dad in Dinoverse starts off like this. The two are friendly but the dad never has time for Bertram, who does most of the household chores.
- Morris Rosenfeld's poem 1887 "My Boy" is about this trope from the parent's perspective. The narrator is a father who has to work so much that he never sees his little son awake.
Ere dawn my labor drives me forth;
'Tis night when I am free;
A stranger am I to my child;
And strange my child to me.
Live Action TV
- The Alpha Bitch in Camp Rock has a parent like this.
- Maya on Just Shoot Me! has a contentious relationship with her father Jack because as a child he was too busy running a fashion magazine (and being an out and out playboy) to be with her. The low point may have been when he hired someone to take his place to go trick or treat with her on Halloween. Ironically, when Jack tries to make amends, she ends up doing the same to him in order to go to a Halloween party with a handsome guy.
- In the US version of The Office, when Jim comes back to work after his daughter's birth, Dwight attempts to induce a guilt trip in him by playing Chapin's Cat's in the Cradle to get him to take more time off (so Dwight can use his desk). It almost works.
- The Wire: Detective Jimmy McNulty's bad parenting encompasses this trope, but is by no means limited to it. He is separated from his wife, and is frequently disputing the terms of the custody agreement, insisting he needs more time with both his kids. The first time we, the audience, see either of his kids is when he realizes almost too late that he has to attend his son's soccer game, and has to bring Bubbles, a police informant and drug addict, with him to the game.
The second time, he's playing soccer outside with his two kids, when suddenly he gets a page, at which point he bundles both kids into the car and takes them to the morgue (getting takeout for dinner instead of the restaurant date he'd promised them, and staying past their bedtime), in the company of a convicted felon, so said felon can identify the horribly mutilated corpse of his lover.
- Ziggy Sobotka accuses his father Frank, always preoccupied with "dock business", of never having been there for him.
- Roseanne: Roseanne tried to encourage Dan to spend more time bonding with DJ by threatening that she might have to play a Harry Chapin song for him.
- Dan's issues with his own father are all about how much time he spent on the road with his job and trying to make up for it by giving expensive gifts whenever he came back.
- Another episode had Roseanne realize just how much she and Dan ignore DJ (who, in a metafictional sense, had spent much of the series until that point being Out of Focus). They have to be told he's stopped seeing his friends and that he'd stopped playing hockey a year ago. When she finds out he's been driving their car around the neighborhood (implied to be to see if they'd notice), she decides to spend more time with him by making him work as a busboy in the diner.
- On Will and Grace, Jack, who has daddy issues of his own, despondently recites the lyrics of the song into the mirror when his biological son's mother forbids him from seeing the boy again.
- Power Rangers Turbo: Justin's dad is too busy trying to find and hold down a job to spend much time with him. Justin has a bit better luck than most on this page because this is resolved by the end, and in the meantime his fellow Rangers act as a surrogate family.
- In the TV-movie "The Christmas Shoes" Rob Lowe plays a lawyer who spends too much time away from his family, but learns his lesson because of the aforementioned shoes (it makes more sense if you know the song on which the TV-movie is based).
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Defiant", Gul Dukat laments to Ben Sisko that, rather than spending the day trying to stop the hijacked USS Defiant from attacking Cardassian space, he was supposed to be taking his son to an amusement park for his eleventh birthday.
Dukat: He always wanted to go, but I never had the time. I told him, "This year will be different, Mekor. This year I will make the time."
Sisko: I had the same experience with Jake. At that age, they never understand, do they? You just hope that, one day later, they'll look back and say, "Now I understand. Now I know why he did that."
Dukat: When my son looks back on this day, the only thing he'll remember is that a Federation officer, on a Federation ship, invaded his home, and kept his father away from him on his eleventh birthday, and he won't look back with understanding. He'll look back with hatred, and that's sad.
- This is one of The Chains of Commanding Birgitte Nyborg suffers from on Borgen.
- The Trope Namer is a line from Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle". The father never seems to have time for his kid, making empty promises to spend time with him, and despite all that, his kid continues to look up to his dad, promising that he'll grow up just like him. When the dad is retired and finally has time for his son, he finds that his son is now the workaholic that has no time for him.
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me. / My boy was just like me.
- The song was based on a poem Harry's wife wrote about her first husband's relationship with his father. And written when his child was born, while he was out touring.
- Obliquely mentioned in Franco de Vita's "No Basta".
- Jamey Johnson's "The Dollar" delivers the same Aesop as the Trope Namer, but in a heartwarming tone instead of a depressing one.
- John Anderson's "I Wish I Could Have Been There" is similar in storyline to the Trope Namer (a father who's always on the road, thus missing his daughter's birth and son's first home run). It then inverts the usual path on the last verse, where the son and daughter are now grown up, and say the same thing to their parents when they are unable to make their parents' anniversary.
- "American Dream" by Christian Rock band Casting Crowns, which compares the proverbial man-who-built-his-house-upon-sand to a workaholic father who's never there for his wife and child.
- "Slipping Through My Fingers" by ABBA tells the story of a mother that laments how work kept her away from her daughter as she grew up. Made even more of a Tear Jerker when you learn that it's based on both Björn and Agnetha's lives and how they missed their daughter's early years.
- "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens is an inversion, being more of a "Why You Leaving Home, Son?" The father has never really taken the time to get to know his son, and cannot understand the son's frustration at conveying how important leaving to become his own man is. Incidentally, "Cat's in the Cradle" is often a Misattributed Song to Cat Stevens.
- "Busy Man," Billy Ray Cyrus' only hit song between his Achy Breaky heyday and his Hannah Montana-induced comeback, explores this theme.
- Billy Ray's daughter mentions in her 2009 memoirs, Miles to Go, that she never understood why her dad had to be out on the road for so long, until she herself had to do long tours away from her family. Billy Ray's intense schedule led him to slow down his country career by the late 1990s to settle down and raise his family, which led to him living and working with them in Canada filming Doc.
- "Someday Never Comes" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, which not only invokes this trope with both the father's life and death, but states that the son ends up just like his father with the implication that his son will be the same way when he gets older.
First thing I remember was askin' Papa "Why?" / For there were many things I didn't know.
And Daddy always smiled; took me by the hand / Sayin', "Someday you'll understand."
Well, I'm here to tell you now, each and every mother's son
You'd better learn it fast, you'd better learn it young
'Cause, "Someday" never comes.
- Neil Diamond's "Shilo" uses this trope. A boy creates an imaginary friend, Shilo, because his father won't pay attention to him and he's lonely:
Papa says he'd love to be with you
If he had the time
So you turn to the only friend you can find
There in your mind
- The song "Wasted" by Cartel has a variety of fairly depressing moments in it throughout the course of a person's life, including this one.
He's seven years old, got his bat in his hand
He's looking for his father and he doesn't understand
'Cause Dad's too busy, got some deals on the way
His son sits alone as the children play
- "I'm Already There" by Lonestar:
A little voice came on the phone
Said "Daddy, when you coming home?"
He said the first thing that came to his mind
"I'm already there
Take a look around
- The song "Don't Miss Your Life" by Phil Vassar was written when the singer was on a plane missing his daughters. It's about a young man on a plane for a business trip, sitting next to an older man who tells him he's missed a lot such as his daughter's first steps, and who advises him "don't miss your life". By the end of the song, the young man decides that as soon as the plane lands, he'll buy a ticket back home so that he can be there for his daughter's eighth birthday.
I missed the first steps my daughter took
The time my son played Captain Hook
In Peter Pan, I was in New York
Said "Sorry, son, Dad has to work"
I missed the father-daugher dance
The first home run, no second chance
To be there when he crossed the plate
The moment's gone, now it's too late
Fame and fortune come with a heavy price
Son, don't miss your life.
- Queensr˙che's song "Bridge" is a particularly bitter version, made all the sadder when you learn that it was based on guitarist Chris De Garmo's relationship with his father, who died before they could make up:
You say, "Son, let's forget the past,
I want another chance, gonna make it last."
You're begging me for a brand new start
Trying to mend a bridge that's been blown apart
But you know, You never built it, dad...
- Fort Minor's song "Where'd You Go" is all about this trope from the point of view from the neglected family.
- In the video for Kelly Clarkson's song "Because of You," when her younger self proudly shows her father a picture that she drew in school, he is so busy talking on his cell phone that he absent-mindedly drops it into a sink full of water.
- Roger Waters mentioned in a 1979 interview with British DJ Tommy Vance promoting the Pink Floyd album The Wall that "Bring the Boys Back Home" is partly to do with this:
... It's partly about not letting people go off and be killed in wars, but it's partly about not allowing rock and roll, or making cars, or selling soap, or getting involved in biological research, or anything that anybody might do ... not letting that become such an important and 'jolly boy's game' that it becomes more important than friends, wives, children, or other people.
- "Come Home Billy Bird (international business traveller)" by The Divine Comedy is about a father's heroic attempts to avert this trope.
- Boogeyman sang the Harry Chapin, "Cat's in the cradle" up to "When you coming home dad?" to Vince McMahon after it was "revealed" Vince had a bastard son. (it was actually a prank by Finley but Boogeyman seemed to believe it, being crazy)
- In Trouble in Tahiti, Sam denies his wife's plea for him to attend his son's school play, because he wants to play in a handball tournament and prove he's a Born Winner.
- In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Olive saves a seat for her emotionally distant father. He never shows.
- Poor Ashley Robbins suffered this in Another Code R when her father wound up leaving her — again — after he returned to civilized life. He was aware of it enough to invite her to visit, though, which kicked off the plot of the game.
- Mass Effect:
- In Mass Effect 2, Thane Krios' relationship with his son Kolyat is this trope. It turns into a Whole Plot Reference to the song when Kolyat decides to follow in his father's footsteps and become an assassin. The achievement for completing this subplot is even titled Cat's in the Cradle.
- Tali's father was an admiral and never really close to his daughter, and Ashley's father was always out in space serving the military, while she, her sisters, and her mother stayed planetside, although the time she did spend with him sounds happy. Tali wasn't so lucky.
- In Mass Effect 3, you get the opportunity to prevent this trope from happening to Liara by convincing her to talk to her "dad" - the bartender Aethyta.
- In Persona 4, Dojima-san is always too busy solvin' crime to do anything with Nanako. She asks him the title question over the phone more than once.
- In Nanashi no Game, Ikuta was always too busy with work to spend time with his wife and daughter, which ended tragically for all involved.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, we get a dose of this with Carth's son. Part of the reason he joined the Sith was because he resented his father for always being off at war.
- The title character of NieR Gestalt spends all his time desperately searching for a cure for his sick daughter Yonah, no matter the cost, but all Yonah wants is for him to be at home with her.
- Both MOTHER and EarthBound have your father in such a situation, contactable only by phone; exaggerated in EarthBound, where in the cast roll in the credits your father is a phone. MOTHER 3 sort of does it, the same way death is sort of sleeping.
- Final Fantasy Legend II opens with a scene where your father is last seen leaving through your bedroom window. Throughout the game, the two of you bond through brief encounters as you try to convince him to stop working so damn hard.
- In The Sand Man, Richard Grundler is always busy with work, to the point that he leaves notes for his daughter letting her know that he'll be staying there for several days at a time to get things done. For her part, Sophie hides how she feels about this.
- In Labyrinthine Dreams, Beth's father has to work constantly just to make enough to support the family. He hates that he's missing so much of his daughter's childhood and this ultimately drives him to stage his own death to secure the family money from life insurance.
- In Katawa Shoujo, Hisao's parents spent most of his childhood working. He notes that this resulted in him having evenings to himself, enabling him to go out into the city.
- Theo Nero in CharCole is far too distracted being a scientist to be a father to the main character. The most egregious example was when he wished his son a happy 16th birthday. The problem? His son had just turned 18.
- Tiger from Spinnerette had a case of this in his flash-back; he often had precious little time with his wife and kids because he was working so many hours as a police officer. In truth it was because he was moonlighting as a superhero. When his family catches him, his kids aren't upset any more, in fact they're completely ecstatic! His wife... Not so much.
- In Magellan, one of the main contributing factors to Charisma's Alpha Bitch personality is the fact that her father, the famed superhero Epoch, is frequently too busy with that to be around.
- But I'm a Cat Person runs Miranda through multiple flavors of Parental Abandonment, including this one (although it's her mother, not her father, who's the workaholic).
- Chapter eight of Terra opens in a flashback of Rick MacFarlane in the last stages of getting ready to go on deployment, only to discover that his daughter (10-ish) has gone so far as to steal his ID to keep him from leaving. He was apparently supposed to help her finish a model kit of some kind. And then since it's a flashback, we know that after this his Space Fighter gets shot down and he and his pilot Alex are stranded a ways across the galaxy with no easy way home.
- In Forest Hill, Colin, a single father of two young kids, tends to be out of town on a regular basis because of work meetings.