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. This trope can fail at even trying to find a balance between work and spending time with the kids.
Basically, this is a story about parents who do honestly love their kids, but are Workaholics who yammer away on 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 can even unintentionally infer that they don't care about their own children. 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 and Disneyland Dad if they try to make up for being absent by buying expensive gifts and paying for expensive outings.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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 ends up returning and staying until he lad to leave to teach his successor. 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).
- Shun of Endride is rather more proactive than most, so when his dad doesn't come home for his own birthday, Shun goes to his office to drag him back home. Ironically, the tables are turned when this leads to his getting Trapped in Another World, with his parents now probably missing him.
- Tsubomi's parents in Heartcatch Pretty Cure had this problem, being well-respected botanists and always off on business trips until Tsubomi had an emotional breakdown, forcing them to realize that they were destroying their family. They quickly quit their jobs and move to Kibogahana so they can be with Tsubomi's grandmother and be a family again, which kicks off the story.
- Tsugawa's family in Japan, Inc..
- Jewelpet Twinkle:
- Miria has parents who're famous in the music business, and so they spend the majority of time away from home, making Miria feel lonely. It was during one of these periods of angst that she met her Jewelpets.
- Sara also has scientist parents who went abroad when she was a kid. The only news she gets of them is when they send gifts.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Magic of Stella, Tamaki's father's jobs requires him to only available at home one weekend a month. This is the Freudian Excuse for Tamaki's fascination of fictional middle-aged men.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the Distant Finale of Naruto and its sequel series, Boruto Uzumaki seems to have this relationship with his father Naruto. He spends a lot of time playing pranks mostly as an effort to get his dad's attention since he's too busy being the seventh Hokage. While Naruto perhaps means well, it is shown that he barely knows anything about his son and has burned up much of Boruto's goodwill towards him, leading his eldest child to openly disrespect both him and his title of Hokage. Even when Naruto attempts to spend time with Boruto, it mostly revolves around things Naruto himself preferred as a child, such as taking Boruto out for ramen. Sadly, the man who once declared that "I never go back on my word, it's my ninja way!" seems to either be stretched too thin, or just not understand his responsibility to his children. Boruto is particularly enraged when he feels he received a promise from Naruto to be at Himawari's birthday celebration, only for Naruto to send a clone...and one that dispels while carrying Himawari's cake. Needless to say, Boruto is NOT pleased with Naruto. His younger sister Himawari doesn't have this issue and is more accepting of their father's job.
- 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.
- This idea kicks off the story in Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror, exaggerated by the fact that the main character's mother died when she was young, so she feels especially abandoned by her remaining parent. In the end, the magic mirror projects her childhood and reveals that her father was more openly affectionate and around her more, leading to a twist on this trope of the child ultimately coming to realize that the father's workaholic tendencies are out of love and are necessary to support her, and she learns to accept it and to start loving him just the way he is.
- Sorrel from Pokémon: I Choose You! has parents who works often. When he was younger, he was raised by their Luxray. The Luxray ended up freezing to death keeping him warm while they were stuck outside in a snowstorm.
- In the series proper, Lillie feels this way about her workaholic mother Lusamine. She opens up about it to Professor Burnet after losing her temper over it that morning, which starts to mend the strained relationship they had.
- In Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea the father of main character Sosuke is this, much to his mother's annoyance. 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.
- 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 '90s 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. Though in her case, Rei is perfectly happy with this arrangement - she hasn't really gotten along with her father since he couldn't be bothered to take some time off from work to be with his terminally ill wife some years before.
- 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. Subverted somewhat in that they both obviously care deeply about him, as shown by his father immediately calling him in concern after hearing from his mother that he went near the pool at night.
- 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.
- 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.
- Chiaki's father in Today's Cerberus is a globetrotter who even refers to himself as eternally traveling in letters to Chiaki.
- An episode of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS reveals that the Alpha Bitch Miyuki who frequently bullies Ririka has issues because her father is always at work and doesn't spend time with her. She becomes friends with Ririka's father however doesn't learn until the end who he is.
- Eri from School Rumble has this sort of relationship with her rich businessman father, who spends a lot of time away on business. One time she had put a lot of effort into her plans to cook nikujaga for dinner for the two of them that night, only for him to pull up right in front of her in his limousine on the way home to let her know that he has to fly out of Japan immediately and can't make it to dinner after all. She puts on a brave face and tries to be understanding, telling him she had plans to meet up with a friend anyway, but as he drives away leaving her standing in the rain it's clear she's heartbroken.
- Parental Substitute Aversion in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Kobayashi initially said she wouldn't be able to attend Parent's day (Sports Day in the anime) at Kanna's school due to it being the launch day for a project she was working on, but she then worked even more insane hours than normal to go anyway after realizing how important it was to Kanna.
- Yo-Kai Watch:
- It's revealed that Nate's friend Eddie is a Lonely Rich Kid whose parents are often too busy.
- Touma from Yo-kai Watch: Shadowside - The Return of the Oni King feels as if his existence doesn't matter because his parents are usually away at work and he's never had any friends. This resent and anger leaves him the perfect target for manipulation by the Onimaro.
- 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.
- Tim Drake's parents were often out of Gotham on business trips and visiting archeological sites, and when they were in Gotham his father was pretty much always busy and never really knew much about his son though it's clear he wanted to be a better parent and felt guilty about it.
- 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.
- Diamond Tiara gets a taste of this in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) arc where her father, Filthy Rich, becomes mayor of Ponyville. Among the things he promised was to spend more time with his daughter but with him so busy running the town, Diamond Tiara feels alone and forgotten.
- Post-Crisis, pre-New 52 Black Canary had a childhood like this. Her mother was the original Golden Age Black Canary. She was often too busy being a superhero to be around in her daughter's life. Dinah II gave her mom a "Best Mom Ever" mug ironically.
- Teen Titans Go!: Killer Moth's daughter did what she did in Issue #41 to get his attention because he's distracted with some world domination plot.
- Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: In "Future Shocked", Elroy Jetson is revealed to be the one behind the Space Age Specter. He did it because Mr. Spacely kept Elroy's Dad busy with Project X.
- Plutona's hero gets this treament. She comes home from her day job earning money they need to survive only to be immediately called back out to save lives as a superhero. Her teenage daughter begs for more time but Plutona refuses.
- In Tales of the Jedi, this winds up being the relationship between Nomi Sunrider and her daughter Vima. Although they aren't physically separated, Nomi has little time for Vima (or for Vima's training) when she becomes Grandmaster of the Jedi Order. As a result, Vima acts out and then seeks out a new teacher in the regretful fallen Jedi, Ulic Qel-Droma.
- New Mutants shows that Sunspot's mother is an archaeologist who's almost always away from home. She didn't show up to the football game where he developed his mutant powers, which he later calls her out on. Combined with his father, who is revealed to be a villain, it leaves Sunspot as a Lonely Rich Kid.
- 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.
- In In Love of Quidditch James Potter spends long hours working as an Unspeakable as a reaction to his wife's death, leaving Harry and her twin brother Alex to be raised mostly by the house elves.
- While Kensuke is growing up under far better conditions than the pilots in Neon Metathesis Evangelion, matters aren't perfect. As the side story Life During Wartime indicates, his mother is dead, and his father is well off, but basically never around, always staying late at work.
- Played straight and then resolved in Life is a Roller Coaster. Cassandra's son says his first word, prompting his father (who works in another country) to evaluate what's more important - his work or his family.
- Subverted in Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!. Hisashi Midoriya only gets to come home once or twice a month because of the rigors of his overseas job as a nuclear physicist. Despite this, he remains Happily Married to his wife Inko and his adoptive son Izuku is very happy to spend any amount of time with him.
- Played With in Croft and Son. Lara is often away at work, but she'll talk to Nero whenever she can and is always by his side when he gets sick or hurt, and delayed a work trip entirely to spend a day with him for a school activity. Nero for his part is more than happy being with her, and his only sign of resentment came about in an argument over his future because Lara had a case of Parental Hypocrisy.
- 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, however, that her parents at the start of the movie are close to an important deadline and are not workaholics. They've also just moved into a new house, which partly explains Coraline's resentment; she's also upset that her parents had her leave behind her old friends and home.
- In Jetsons: The 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.
- Click: Adam Sandler's 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 FaceHeel Turn.
- The 1998 comedy Jack Frost: Jack Frost is a workaholic singer of his self-titled rock band and he constantly puts his career over his wife Gabby and son Charlie and often breaks/forgets the promises he made to them. Jack misses Charlie's hockey game, but promises to make up for it with a trip to the mountains for Christmas. But then Jack is called in to record songs that mean he won't be home for Christmas. On his way to the gig, Jack realizes his mistake and cancels the gig and leaves to spend the holidays with his family. Unfortunately, a bad storm begins to block his vision, and he crashes his car and is killed instantly. One year later, the spirit of Jack is reincarnated inside a snowman in order put things right with Charlie before he completely disappears into the afterlife.
- The theme occurs periodically in Jersey Girl.
- 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.
- In A Diva's Christmas Carol, Bob Crachit is the manager for famed singer Ebony Scrooge. On Christmas Eve, he's working for Ebony in New York, while his wife and ill son Tim are waiting for him in Cincinnati. Tim is understanding, but Bob's wife, Kelly, is pissed off. She all but says that she's poised to divorce him. After Ebony is redeemed, she helps to set things right.
- 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.
- The protagonist of the 2006 version of The Shaggy Dog, to the point that his wifes coworkers believe shes a single mother.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (she's a suffragette). 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.
- The kids get an aesop on the subject as well; just because their parents aren't around as much as they'd like doesn't mean they don't love them. They also learn that being a grown-up and providing for a family is very hard, and you shouldn't be too hard in judging them.
- 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.
- 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 visiting 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 leads the Engineer to murder his wife and child with no one there to protect them.
- In Golden Winter, the human protagonist, Oliver, feels this way about his parents. It's part of the reason he joined a neighborhood gang.
- In Mental, the girls, and Shirley, wish that Barry were home more often, as he often stays away for days with his mistresses.
- 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 kids' 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, saying that Lirael's mother had to leave her because of something she saw.
- Barty Crouch, Sr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was this, 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.
- Kristy's biological father is an extreme example, walking out on the family when Kristy was seven and pretty much disappearing for most of a decade. When he does pop back into their lives, he's still the epitome of jerkiness, resenting Charlie for not immediately forgiving him and not even acknowledging David Michael at all.
- 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 or spending time alone together.
- 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.
- The first conversation between Harry and Maggie Dresden in The Dresden Files has shades of this - mainly because, for a variety of reasons (eight years of not knowing Maggie exists, one year of being mostly dead, and a year of being unable to leave a small island in the middle of Lake Michigan), this first-ever father-child conversation happens when the child is ten.
- Blaze's mother in Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) works double-shifts as a nurse to support the family since Blaze's father left them. She's not home a good bit of the time, forcing Blaze to take on the role of making sure that dinner gets on the table and Josh gets to soccer.
- Entirely averted by Discworld's Sam Vimes, who will read his son's favorite storybook to him every night at 6 PM, come hell, high water, or terrorist attack. The Watch get in on the act, blocking off the two busiest streets in Ankh-Morpork at rush hour solely so he can get through, and he even manages, while in a berserk fury, deep underground and possessed by a vengeance demon, to roar the story loud enough for his son to hear it from several miles away.
- 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.
- Saved by the Bell has Zack's father portrayed as this, being away on business and on his phone all the time, which becomes a plot point in one of the few episodes with him in it.
- 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 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 & 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.
- Morland Holmes, father of Sherlock Holmes in Elementary, is implied to have been like this for most of his younger son's childhood. He's an international business consultant; when Sherlock was eight, he was sent to boarding school.
- On NCIS, Tony's mother died when he was young and his father was a struggling businessman who was usually one step away from bankruptcy. DiNozzo Senior spent a lot of time traveling and would regularly neglect Tony when trying to scrounge up a new business opportunity. Tony remembers one summer when they went on vacation to Hawaii and Tony spent an entire week by himself in the hotel room because his father met some investors and was trying to hammer out a deal.
- Very common question in Supernatural flashbacks, as John would leave his young sons by themselves in seedy hotels for weeks on end while he hunted monsters. Also very popular in fan fiction, as canon establishes that Sam doesn't find out the truth about what John does until he's ten and thought his father was a traveling salesman.
- The Outer Limits (1995):
- In "Double Helix", the world's most eminent geneticist Dr. Martin Nodel is berated by his 19-year-old son Paul for never attending his Little League games.
- In "Fathers & Sons", Joe "Madman" Dell, a famous blues musician, was frequently absent during his son Hank's childhood because of his music career. This leads him to resent Joe later in life.
- In "Family Values", Jerry Miller is too busy working to be there for his children Candace and Russ, which leads to Candace getting into trouble at school.
- On Schitt's Creek, Moira and Johnny were too busy with their careers, wrapped up in each other and their busy social life to pay much attention to David and Alexis, who were raised by their nanny in a different wing of the house. The main arc of the show is the family becoming an actual family when they become destitute and are forced to live in close quarters.
- 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 to be 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 handHe's looking for his father and he doesn't understand'Cause Dad's too busy, got some deals on the wayHis son sits alone as the children play
- "I'm Already There" by Lonestar:
A little voice came on the phoneSaid "Daddy, when you coming home?"He said the first thing that came to his mind"I'm already thereTake 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-daughter 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.
- Queensrÿche'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...
- The Fort Minor 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.)
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- Irene's mother is so busy with work abroad that Irene doesn't get to see her much. She's willing to accept it since her mother is the main breadwinner of the family.
- While Jacob's father is still around, he's so busy with work that he rarely gets to see his son. This also means he's in the dark about how his wife treats Jacob.
- Ivy's father works at a software company out of town, and thus his work schedule isn't very compatible with Ivy's routine. They've had trouble connecting to each other as a result.
- Both of Melissa's parents are rarely in Oldport, being important doctors. Unbeknownst to them, this has only helped foster her sociopathic tendencies. She spends most of her time at her boyfriend's place instead, as his father is bedridden and his step-mother is out of the picture.
- Amy's mother is a shoe saleswoman, and is always travelling across the east coast. While Amy doesn't mind this too much, it does mean that she's much closer to her father than her mother.
- A non-parental version with Jae Jung, who is Hyeon's cousin and legal guardian after Hyeon's parents left. He's so busy with his work out of state that he can only check up on Hyeon when the latter is causing problems, which has put something of a strain on their relationship.
- Parodied in Tim Hawkins' piece "Short Songs", where one of the songs he abbreviates seems to be "Cat in a Cradle": "My son got mad 'cause I worked all the time; he grew up to be a jerk, just like me!"
- 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 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 the protagonist's 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 also does it, in a different way: for much of the game, Lucas' father spends most of his time up in the mountains searching for his other son that had went missing, leaving Lucas home alone.
- 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.
- The Player Character's father in Pokémon Uranium throws himself into his work after his wife dies in a nuclear reactor meltdown, and sends his child to live with his aunt rather than raise them himself.
- In the 2016 Starlight event in Final Fantasy XIV, a young and sick boy wants only one gift and that is to see his father. Because the boy's father is a merchant, he spends a lot of time away from the city and has little to no time to rest. Seeing that his father will never show up, the boy's illness grows worse because he gave up hope. You then confront the boy's father before he sets sail to another land and it turns out that he was away for so long in order to find a cure for his son and he just found it, but it requires him to go overseas in order to negotiate a deal for the medicine. In the end, the father can't return home, but the boy bounces back with confidence once he hears the truth and vows to stay strong until his father returns.
- In Resident Evil 2, William and Annette Birkin are high-ranking scientists who work for Umbrella. But because of their work, they're almost never home and barely able to spend any time with Sherry, their twelve-year-old daughter, forcing her to learn how to take care of herself. It's even worse in the remake; after she's implanted with a G-Virus embryo by her mutated father and Annette chooses stopping William from leaving the city over curing her, Sherry begins doubting if Annette even loves her, outright refusing her pendant when Claire offers it back to her, claiming it was a birthday gift from her mother... But all Sherry wanted was for her to be home more.
- 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.
- Factors into Lydia's home life in Cobweb and Stripes. Stepmother Delia is a self-absorbed artist, which is no loss, but Lydia's father Charles is genuinely kind and loving; he just works ridiculous hours, which leads to things like missing his daughter's birthday. It's part of why she's such a loner.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: One of the few mentions of Emil's father by other characters is him not being able to make it home in time for dinner because of his work. The phrasing indicates this isn't the first time it's happening.
- In The Order of the Stick, Varsuvius turns out to be one. Specifically, they have a spouse and children that they left behind to go become an adventurer and didn't contact or even think about until their lives were threatened due to an enemy V had made. After a Heel Realization, V decides that the best thing they can do for their kids is accept it when their spouse files for divorce and sign without fighting it.
- Shows up in Unstable Fables: Tortoise Vs. Hare: Murray Hare misses his son's science fair to work at his car dealership. His wife is even worse, as she's a real estate agent who never takes off her Bluetooth headset and appears to be giving motherly advice when she's actually talking to a client.
- Parodied in the Mary Poppins episode of The Simpsons, where Homer says that Shary Bobbins taught him not to be a money-driven workaholic (something Homer never was in even the tiniest way).
- Jimmy Neutron once traveled back in time and persuaded his father to invest in the show's McDonald's Expy. When he got back to his own time, his parents were millionaires, but they couldn't even bother to give him the time of day, so he went back to the past to change things back to normal.
- Rocket Power had Sam's dad be like this when he comes to visit. By the end of the episode he tosses his phone in the back of their car and ignores it as it rings.
- Wakfu: Nox, the main villain, 200 years before the actual show took place. His obsession with his work eventually drove his wife and children away from him. They died when the home they moved to was destroyed in a massive flood, and only then did Nox realize that his obsession had cost him the best part of his life. The revelation drove him insane, leading him on a 200-year quest to travel back in time to fix his mistakes, over the course of which he annihilated several countries, killed a dragon, and wiped out an entire species.
- Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper had a Lonely Rich Kid stow away with Yogi and gang, who end up getting accused of kidnapping. The trope is summed up aptly when the dad confronts them:
Dad: Why would he leave with you? What could you possibly give him that I couldn't?
- On Invader Zim, Dib and Gaz suffer from an extreme version of this, as their father Professor Membrane is always either at his laboratory or working on some odd project in the basement. He often communicates with his children through floating video monitors rather than in person. To make things worse, most of his remaining interaction with Dib is spent on lamenting his "insanity" and/or pestering him to study "real science."
- One episode of Johnny Test had Johnny and Dukey enlisted by The Men in Black Black and White to help investigate an Obviously Evil-looking man by becoming friends with his daughter. Then it turned out it was the daughter who was evil, and plotting to destroy her father's pet food factory because he was too busy with work for her.
- Parodied in The Tick with the elderly supervillain The Terror and his son Charlie. Charlie accuses Terror of never spending any time with him when he was a child. Terror says he had to work, but also because Charlie was such a goody-two shoes, Terror didn't WANT to spend any time with him. For reference, Charlie became an insurance agent instead of a supervillain.
- In Adventure Time, Jake becomes the father to a litter of dog-rainicorn pups. However, his status as an adventuring hero means he's rarely around to see them. It doesn't help that the pups have reached adulthood in weeks, so all of Jake's attempts to bond come off as hopelessly immature and childish. One of them even tried to buy out Jake's house and force him to take a more "serious" job.
- Both of Macie's parents in As Told by Ginger are quite distant and they even forget her own 13th birthday. However they are horrified when they realise it, and the episode is about them trying to make it up to her.
- On Miraculous Ladybug, Adrien's father Gabriel is always busy with work. This is on top of keeping Adrien locked into a busy schedule of modeling work and lessons. At the end of "Simon Says" Adrien passive-aggressively rips into his dad for his distance. Secretly being a supervillain doesn't help Gabriel's case, either.
- Edd's parents from Ed, Edd n Eddy are implied to be this. Although they show that they love Edd through their sticky notes and homemade meals, they are implied to have demanding jobs. This hinders their interaction with their only son.
- Mocked in BoJack Horseman with Oxnard, Mr. Peanutbutter's Beleaguered Assistant, whom Mr. Peanutbutter all-but abducts after concocting another Zany Scheme. Oxnard had wanted to listen to the trope-naming "Cat's in the Cradle" with his son, who runs into the house to listen as his father's literally getting dragged to work.
Oxnard: No! The lyrics are too relevant! Don't do it. Noooooo!
- The canonical reason why Scootaloo's parents never appear in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is because they're working all the time (which often leaves her in the custody of her two aunts). Their absence has left Scootaloo craving the attention of her Cool Big Sis figure Rainbow Dash.