The Plight of Working Dads

Career Blog

A few years ago I was at a pitch dinner with the proverbial steak and scotch crowd. If you haven’t been, just picture a bunch of guys (mostly guys) trying to convince potential investors that the company they recently rescued was worth taking to “the next level”.

Half the group had flown in for the meeting and during our conversation one of the money men mentioned that he had missed his son’s game (again) to be there.

He tried to play-off the sacrifice by with a half-hearted joke. “I guess I won’t win Father of the Year this time around, he said. “But that’s what it takes, right?”  

No one answered his rhetorical question and by the look on his face, he already knew the verdict.

Failing Father of the Year came up again later that evening, this time in relation to a missed dance recital. From there I began to notice how often “successful” men uttered similar statements with a haunting echo of regret in their voices.   

For generations men have faced an unshakable burden framed as a binary choice. Time is money. If you want enough of the latter to ensure financial security for your family, you must sacrifice the time. That means missing the most meaningful moments: the soccer games, the school plays. 

Lately the “have-it-all” gurus and “#best life” pundits will assert otherwise, but the equation is real and wrapped in a sense of duty that is hard to comprehend unless you’ve been there…unless you truly understand the need to climb from your current situation to the better one you want for your children.  

So where is balance?

To me that comes from the realization that the height of the mountain doesn’t matter as much as the ability to climb it with the people you love. Sure, money is important, but kids remember experiences, the moments they spend with you.

Free time is the new status symbol. Beach houses are nice I suppose. And maybe a Porsche is more fun to drive than a Miata, but to me it’s always been about who is along for the ride.

Sure, there’s a perverse peace of mind that comes from accumulating F-you money. But true comfort comes from designing a balanced life where the urge to say, “F-you world” never actually arises. 

Tim Toterhi is a CHRO, Coach, and Author. Learn more at

Photo by Lisa Fotios

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