It would be wonderful if these quotes didn’t exist, but they do. They come from the children of great men. From Albert Einstein’s son. From Nelson Mandela’s daughter. From kids whose dads were presidents or kings or rockstars or CEOs. They go something like this: “You were there for so many people as part of your job, but you were never there for me” or “You were the best in the world at everything you did…except for fatherhood.”
It’s heartbreaking. Obviously the world needed Nelson Mandela. It needed Winston Churchill. It needed Albert Einstein. What they did was hard. It required sacrifice. It came at the expense of their families—it had to. But did it have to come at such a high cost?
Churchill had plenty of time to paint and gamble, but not to be a more present father? John F. Kennedy didn’t choose to be assassinated—that time was stolen from him and his family—but he did choose to sneak off and have those affairs. He stole that from them. There is no excuse.
Most of us are not nearly as important as any of these men, and the demands on our time are considerably less urgent—so it’s hard to judge. It makes it less excusable, however, that we would use our jobs and our careers and all the responsibilities we do have at work to justify being absent. Being important, having a calling, achieving success is important. But being important doesn’t change what your most important job is: Being a father. Being there for them. Being the best at being Dad. Because it’s the one thing no one else can do for you.