We Cannot Abdicate Our Responsibilities

We’ve talked before about F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was a great writer who wrestled with many demons. He was spoiled by his parents. He inherited alcoholism. He struggled valiantly at the end of his life to be a good father, but it was an uphill battle. Even the times were against him—society tolerated selfish, immature fathers. Especially high-achieving ones. 

In her fascinating book Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby, Sarah Churchwell writes about the nights that Ring Lardner and Fitzgerald would spend together in the 1920s, when they both had young kids. Lardner would come up and they would stay up drinking and talking and having fun. Then in the morning, they’d have breakfast together and after they finished, Lardner would get up and say, “Well, I guess the children have left for school by now—I might as well go home.” 


Imagine deliberately missing breakfast with your kids. Or maybe you don’t have to imagine—maybe your secret wish is to avoid the chaos of the morning rush to school, kids who won’t wake up, kids who won’t get dressed, sullen car rides, mad dashes to finish homework. It’s not the craziest wish in the world. You certainly wouldn’t be alone.

There is an army of dads out there who, if they were being completely honest, would admit that they’d rather be at work in those moments. They’d rather be working out, sleeping in, taking a long hot shower. On those particularly difficult days, it becomes very easy to imagine the days before kids—out with friends, in a hotel room emptying the minibar, on the road chasing your dream. The Fitzgerald life. 

But guess what? We signed up for this. And if we don’t do it—if we don’t do the daily dirty work of being a dad—you know who has to? Somebody else. Spouses. Grandparents. Hired help. God forbid, the state. 

Not being there makes it harder on our kids.

That’s actually the message of The Great Gatsby. When careless people go through life without thinking about other people, it’s the innocent who get stuck with the consequences. They are the collateral damage. 

Don’t be selfish. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Don’t live in denial. Don’t neglect your responsibilities.

Be the man you signed up to be.

P.S. This was originally sent on February 19, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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