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"I guess I'm just trying to say... my parents aren't perfect, but they tried their best. I guess that just makes them human, in the end."
Hisao, Weekend at Hisao's

Jim and Joan are nice. You'd like them if you met them. Jim's the boss of the big advertising company down the street, and Joan's a physics teacher at the nearby high school. They were High School Sweethearts, and are still clearly in love. They play tennis together on a Saturday, but on Sunday, Jim goes fishing while Joan goes white water rafting. They're always busy, but always friendly. Nice folks.

Oh, and they have a son. When they remember they have a son, they're Doting Parents... it's just that they keep forgetting he exists.

This trope seems to be a fairly recent development. Unlike the all-powerful but under-characterised Parent Ex Machina, the reader/viewer knows quite a bit about the hero or heroine's parents. They have friends outside the home, hobbies that take them out of the house and full time jobs. The audience will also be able to discern what kind of relationship the two have as a couple — whether they're still as starry-eyed over each other as they were when they started dating, or on the brink of divorce. They will have quirks, character strengths and character failings.

They'll also be pretty hopeless as parents.

This couple are not usually nasty — or, if they are, we'll be told all about their Freudian Excuse. They're probably at least sympathetic, if not downright likable. We'd probably like to have them as friends, but definitely wouldn't want them as parents.

If you're a protagonist, and your parents are given lots of witty one liners, lots of characterisation and inhabit the Competence Zone to some degree, expect to suffer Parental Abandonment as they pursue their hobbies and relationships at your expense. If mum and dad are still together, you'll be a living example of the phrase "the children of lovers are orphans," as the parental units will be too wrapped up in each other to spend much time with you. On the other hand, if they're fighting constantly, they'll be too busy yelling at each other to notice that you haven't eaten in three days.

One particular type of this parent is one, usually-single parent that is firmly in the Competence Zone, and probably a part of their child's Zany Schemes. The hero's friends will think these parents are "cool." The hero will probably agree... he just wishes his dad would occasionally show up to parents' night, and that mum remembered to cook dinner every so often.

The "golfing dad" is an old trope, and if dad's the only absent parent the child probably won't suffer too badly (until the plot calls for it). However, if mum has a hobby that takes her out of the house, works at a demanding job or has a problem that makes her borderline unfit as a parent, parental neglect will almost certainly be a plot point. How it's approached varies from show to show, from the mother realising she'd go mad without her career, to an enormous guilt trip about abandoning her child.

If this happens in a family of sufficiently high social standing, particularly in a medieval or fantasy setting (being a king requires a lot of work, you know), there is a chance that the protagonist and/or one or more of his siblings may become Royally Screwed-Up as a result.

Unlike Parent Ex Machina, these parents aren't infallible, and they can't solve all of their kids' problems because they can barely handle their own. Their son or daughter can't blithely assume that "dad will take care of it," because he won't. Or he'll try to, and fail spectacularly.

To compensate, there's usually an alternative mentor who fills in for the absent or ineffective parent. If not, the child will be an adult long before his time, as being the Only Sane Man in a crazy family will force them to take care of themselves. If they're the oldest sibling, they'll probably be the "alternative parent."

Examples of Parents as People include:

Anime & Manga

  • The Hirasawa parents in K-On! are usually away on romantic hijinks, leaving younger sister Ui to serve as a surrogate parent for Cloudcuckoolander Yui. In the manga, the rest of the main cast finally meet them on the day of Yui's entrance exam to college, and only because they came over because they were worried she might sleep too late.
  • Prof. Gennosuke Yumi from Mazinger Z sincerely loved and cared for his daughter Sayaka (plus his wards Kouji and Shiro), but he was too Married to the Job and busy trying to save the world to take care of them properly. Sayaka often lampshaded the trope via mentioning how much missed her father, and more than once Gennosuke is seen rather forlorn about it.
  • Momomiya Ichigo's parents in Tokyo Mew Mew are completely wrapped up in each other, her mother is quick to squeal over whichever boy she's seen her daughter with, and her father is overprotective and goes off on a Rant-Inducing Slight. However, they're shuffled off to Parental Abandonment-land when she has to save the world, only to come back and punish her for being late to get home. They're seen as good people, they just... don't get it.
  • Part of the Deconstruction in Neon Genesis Evangelion revolves around this trope. Many Super Robot shows have a teenage mecha pilot and a long-absent father who designed the mecha, so Evangelion shows how traumatizing it would be for a real teen to fight in a giant robot — and what kind of father would be long-absent to design the robot.
    • If one were to account parental guardians in this, Misato definitely counts as this Trope. She tries as hard as she can to be nurturing and protective to Shinji and Asuka, but due to her own rather pressing emotional baggage, she has trouble getting close to them.
    • In fact Super Robot series very, very often show the teenagers being traumatized due to the absence of their parents. Mazinger Z? Dr. Kabuto was a Mad Scientist in the original manga, Sayaka was missing her father constantly and it took a long while for Shiro forgiving the fact of his father let they believed he was dead FOR YEARS. Great Mazinger? Tetsuya Tsurugi is EXACTLY the same character Asuka is (but created twenty years before) due to being an orphan and his adoptive father, despite loving him, being more concerned with saving the humanity what with being a good father and helping him with his inferiority complex, lacking of self-steem and jealousy. Kotetsu Jeeg? Hiroshi Shiba stated in the FIRST episode his father could not care less about his family and therefore he could not care less about him (and later it was seen what, not matter what he told, Hiroshi was hurt cause it, plus he had to bite his words when his dad died in front of him). Zambot 3? His father being missing right when he needed him was one of the many traumas Kappei Jin was forced to endure throughout the series. Mobile Suit Gundam? Amuro's father hardly had time for his troubled son. And so on.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni is one of the most radical examples of this trope. The parents aren't just people, they're full-fledged main characters. All of the mothers got some great development, and the fathers have quite a bit as well. (Except Hideyoshi, who despite being really nice we don't know much about, to the disappointment of the fanbase.) They also have one of the Biggest, Most Screwed Up Families you're ever going to meet.
  • Averted in Clannad with Nagisa Furukawa's parents. Her father Akio has the phases of the tough guy and an Overprotective Dad, while her mother Sanae has the sensitive and loving personality as The Ditz and Moe Moe. They are willing to do everything to protect and help Nagisa whilst trying to maintain a healthy, loving relationship between their own selves. It was eventually revealed that the two indeed followed this trope earlier in their lives as they were constantly busy pursuing their dream careers in acting (Akio) and teaching (Sanae) and little Nagisa was left alone home constantly. After an incident where Nagisa fell seriously ill while they were working and they just managed to save her before she nearly died, they find out she was born sickly and have decided to both quit their jobs to pursue the goal of protecting Nagisa instead. This explains the bakery, and why Sanae is so horrible at baking to begin with. Poor Nagisa doesn't know this, and suffers a serious Heroic BSOD for a few episodes after she finds out, but eventually recovers when her parents tell her directly during an important play she was doing that she shouldn't blame herself.
  • Digimon loves this trope:
    • Ken Ichijouji's parents ignored him in favor of his genius older brother, Osamu. When Osamu was hit by a car and died, they were too grieved to pay any attention to him and missed a lot of things that could have prevented his Start of Darkness, such as the creepy e-mails he was getting from one of Mr. Ichijouji's coworkers. They did not seem to give their younger child the time of day until he started showing signs of genius tendencies and it was like Osamu reborn. They were understandably horrified and repentant when Ken, to all appearances, ran away from home and came back with Easy Amnesia, culminating in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when he acknowledges them as his parents again, and ever since then their relationship is more normal. Mrs. Ichijouji is even seen crying Tears of Joy when she talks through the phone about Ken having friends
    • Juri Katou's father was simply not prepared to deal with his wife's early death and was a serious believer in Tough Love, and so he inadvertently warped his little girl into a Stepford Smiler who believed it's her destiny to be unhappy. When he realized his mistake, it was almost too late.
      • Also Ruki's Hot Mom Rumiko, who cares for her kid but due to having her when she was very young, takes quite a while to really assume her motherly role.
    • What about Mr. Lee? The man has a good heart and does try to help, but he completely neglects to inform Jian that Terriermon would be used to defeat the D-Reaper at the cost of all the kids losing their Digimon. And boy, does it hurt not just Jian, but everyone. (Including himself, since he felt terrible about it)
      • Note that he did not tell them deliberately, since there was the very real risk of the kids refusing to go through with the plan And allowing the D-Reaper to fuse Mother D-Reaper and Cable Reaper to complete it's plan, i.e, the end of all life. In a way, it's also part of a deconstruction of what it would mean for the parents to have to rely on their children to fight.
    • Touma Norstein's father Franz, who couldn't stand up to his mother when she told his half-Japanese son that he wasn't good enough to be a Norstein, days after his mother's funeral and being transplanted to Austria, and nearly sold out the planet to a Mad Scientist because he promised to cure his Ill Girl daughter by fusing her with a Digimon. Touma, logically, was PISSED at that.
    • Yamato Ishida's dad Hiroaki is the "one foot in the Competence Zone" variety--he's probably the fourth most plot-involved parent in the franchise (losing to guys who significantly influenced the back stories of their canons) and basically treats his son like a housewife sometimes. His ex-wife Natsuko fares somewhat better in regards to Takeru, but she's still unable to drive him to school on his first day there.
      • And Sora's parents, Toshiko and Haruhiko. Toshiko was a very traditional Yamato Nadeshiko who tended to be bossy and disapprove of Sora's more hotheaded nature (she scolds young Sora for talking to her when not properly seated once, and barring her from going to a soccer match when she was injured), whereas Haruhiko was too absorbed in his work outside of Tokyo. They're doing much better in the second season, though.
      • Koushirou's parents, Masami and Yoshie, are technically Good Parents, genuinely loving and even doting a little on him... but didn't tell Koushirou that he was actually their nephew, and they adopted him after his parents died in a car crash as a baby. Which also coincided with the death of their own child. Koushirou learned this "little secret" while overhearing a talk between them, and it caused him lots of angst. But then, they talk about it openly and get better.
    • Try Kouji and Kouichi's parents in Digimon Frontier. Both boys were raised on the story that their Disappeared Dad (Kouichi)/MissingMom (Kouji) was dead and until the death of their maternal grandmother, neither knew the other existed. On the other hand, Tomoko is technically a good mother if a bit of an adult Ill Girl and Kousei at least seems to be a decent enough dad.
  • Nazuna's parents in Hidamari Sketch. When they first appear to help Nazuna moving in, the other Hidamari residents instantly like them, since they're friendly and apparently doting. However, a few comics later it's clear that they have basically abandoned their child, as Nazuna's dad was transferred and her mother decided that her teenage daughter was better suited to living alone than her husband, a grown man. So she decided to go with him, and left Nazuna to fend for herself. Good thing the Hidamari residents are so close-knit.
    • To a lesser extent, Yuno's parents. They can be a little oddball and embarrassing, but did at least worry about their daughter's decision to live alone. Her dad is also the classic Overprotective Dad, so they haven't completely abandoned their parental roles, even if they do like to recapture their youth by visiting amusement parks.
  • From Eroica with Love briefly examined the repercussions of this - an unusually serious take for a comedy manga. Dorian's dad was a gay aristocrat, who was presumably pressured into marrying. After three daughters (who he doesn't seem to have concerned himself with), he is delighted with his son, who he sees as "an ally in a house full of women." He no longer bothers pretending to be respectable, and fills the house with his assorted friends, including thieves and criminals of various types, introducing his son into this social sphere. Dorian takes to thievery like a duck to water, and his father encourages this. That's the last straw for Dorian's mother, who packs up her daughters and leaves the family home, which eventually has to be sold to pay for the divorce settlement.
  • In Sakende Yaruze, meeting for the first time at the ages of 17 and 33 respectively, Nakaya and Shino both have trouble sorting out their father-son relationship precisely because at this point in their lives they are inclined to see each other as people first and don't know where to draw lines or how they should act once Nakaya comes to live with Shino. Ultimately, Shino does fail as an ideal parent and chooses not centre his life around Nakaya, but Nakaya also chooses not to ask him to.
  • If the Sohma parents don't abuse their cursed children, they're likely to end up as this. I.e., Ritsu's mom Meshou is a Fragile Flower who Apologises a Lot, Kisa's Hot Mom almost gives up raising her because she's too stressed and sad upon not being able to help Kisa with her school troubles, and Momiji's father clearly cares for him but has him living on his own due to how unstable his mother is.
  • While Kenji and Ikuko Tsukino are Good Parents and Minako's dad and mom are also hinted to be that way, Ami's mother falls into this squarely. Dr. Saeko Mizuno has good intentions, yes, but is simply too absorbed by her job as a doctor to spend time with Ami, and for worse she's also a single mom since her ex-husband is an artist who lives and works abroads.
  • Natsue from Prétear, especially in the anime. Though she does care for her family, she simply doesn't seem to be cut out for motherhood, and at times she and Kaoru are just too wrapped up in each other to notice the problems between Himeno, Mayune and Mawata. Specially in the case of Mawata.
    • Kaoru, too. It's clear he loves Himeno, but he himself is a irresponsible Man Child until almost the end of the story.
  • In Gundam Wing, Relena is shown to be somewhat resentful of her father's job keeping him away from his family; in fact, one of her first lines of dialog has her admonishing him to take some more time for himself. This isn't helped by the fact that he brings her along on business trips so they can spend time together but keeps getting called away. However, there's no question that her father loves her, and that she loves him and understands that he's a very important man (being the Vice Foreign Minister to the entire planet). Later in the series, she admits that she was selfish for not seeing just how important his work was. Even the revelation that she's adopted does nothing to change how she feels, and in The Movie she takes up the Darlian surname once more.
  • Hamtaro mostly has Good Parents, but Mimi's family falls squarely into this. It's understandable if we consider that the Iwata family is very large by Japanese standards (four children, including their newborn baby), and they do try to aid her, but one can't help feeling bad for poor Mimi when she spends a lot of her time alone at home.
  • Kotetsu from Tiger and Bunny is a single father who struggles with the fact that his dream job as a superhero means that he can't really spend much time with his daughter, Kaede, who lives with her grandmother and uncle.
  • Satoshi and Eriko Oginome from Mawaru Penguindrum. They do love their daughter Ringo, but the death of their eldest daughter Momoka in a strange incident completely trashed the family dynamics, since Satoshi insisted that they should move on and Eriko couldn't let go. Now they're divorced and the teenaged Ringo lives with Eriko, while Satoshi takes her out in periodic outings. But Satoshi neglects to tell Ringo that he is dating again...which unintentionally makes Ringo despair and speed up her "Project M", causing the infamous Attempted Rape incident of episode 8 and all that came up next.
  • Mariko Shinobu's parents, Hikawa and Hisako, in Oniisama e.... They're not bad persons per se, but they have very serious issues, which really don't contribute to Mariko's convoluted emotional state.
  • Ed and Al's dad in Fullmetal Alchemist is a Disappeared Dad for most of their lives, but when he lived with them while their mother was alive, he's implied to have been this trope - spending most of his time holed up in his study working on his alchemy researches.
  • Yuuki and Ringo Sabai in To Love Ru. It's an extraordinary gift on Lala's part to basically kidnap these two from their work so they can spend Christmas with their teenage son and preteen daughter. Rito and Mikan see far more of their dad than their world-traveling mother, but generally have to visit his workplace to do so. Nonetheless, they're both quite fond of their children on those occasions that they do see them.

Comic Books

  • In the Blue Devil comics, Kid Devil aka Eddie Bloomberg's parents were this to him, with his aunt Marla Bloom being the alternative parent and Blue Devil being a kind of surrogate uncle. His parents' neglect ended up having some effects on Eddie later in life when he joined the Teen Titans, making him very desperate to have a family.
  • General Ross has been presented chiefly as this sort of parent since the mid-80s in Hulk comics (as he is in the films, below). He loves Betty, but he's not equipped to get emotionally close to her, particularly not since the death of his wife, and his obsessions have often gotten between them. He's trying to reconnect with her these days, but it's not proving easy.
    • It's shown to be generational, as Ross's own father was a career officer who was rarely around.

Fan Fiction

  • In the Katawa Shoujo fic Weekend at Hisao's, Shizune's father and Hisao's parents are seen in this light. Shizune is frustrated with her father's persistent attempts to get her to speak (in the fic, it's indicated that she can speak but sounds terrible), but sees that he wants her to succeed and appreciates that he doesn't treat her any differently from her non-disabled brother. Hisao says he didn't like his parents' frequent absences from his life due to working, but realizes that they worked so hard so that he could grow up in a nice house that they never had in their childhoods, and were willing to sell that house if it was necessary to cure his condition.


  • Mary's parents, in an adaptation of The Secret Garden, are hopelessly self-absorbed people who accidentally abandon their daughter during an earthquake because they forgot about her.
    • For that matter, Uncle Archibald would also count. He loves his son Colin and sees to it that he has the best care, but is so driven to grief over his wife Lillias's death and the fear that Colin inherited his hunchback condition that he is almost never home at all. This is also the case when he becomes Mary's guardian. He sees her exactly once before the end of the story, but when he meets her, he makes sure that she has everything she needs to be well looked after.
  • Juno uses this Trope to a degree. The title character's parents are divorced, leaving her with her Dad, step-mom, and half-sister. She hasn't seen her mom in years, only communicating through letters, and her Dad and stepmom don't exactly react too horrified or shocked when they hear she's pregnant, aside from Dad proclaiming an intent to punch the boy who did it in the balls. At the same time, Juno's stepmom sticks up for her in the doctor's office when a nurse makes a passing insult, and when she's feeling doubtful about a potentially serious relationship, her Dad is there to offer some good advice (albeit admitting that as a divorcee, he isn't the best person to give it).
    • Her parents' lack of reaction could also be interpreted as them staying calm for her sake, as the last thing a pregnant teen needs is for her parents to freak out when she tells them.
  • Coraline's parents are too busy trying to move into a new house and meet a publishing deadline to cater to their bored daughter - as her mother points out, she is old enough to entertain herself. What she finds when she goes exploring is more than enough to make her appreciate her lovingly boring parents. The book has a similar vibe, but Coraline's mother is harsh and unsympathetic, while her father is loving, but too distracted to pay much attention.
  • The reason Cobb in Inception took Saito's job was so he could return to America to see his children. Mal was like this too, but after being unable to tell reality from dreaming, she committed suicide, believing herself in a dream, so she could be with her children again, not realizing she was already in the real world. Or was she?
  • In the stupid Mexican kids' movie Santa Claus, presented as a Christmas episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, one of the children Santa visits is a little boy whose socialite parents literally needed Santa to drug them in order for them to remember that they have a kid.
  • General Ross from The Incredible Hulk has a few moments where he seems to care about his daughter Betty but most of his life and time is devoted to capturing the Hulk. In fact, in his determination to subdue the Hulk, his actions nearly got poor Betty killed at one point. Psychiatrist Dr Samson points out to him how he was lying when he said Betty's safety was his main concern.

  Dr Samson: "I never knew why she never talked about you...I do now."

    • They had this problem in the earlier Hulk film as well. General Ross wanted to be a part of Betty's life but couldn't because of his work. He also disapproved of her relationship with Bruce, but only because he knew about Bruce's abusive parents and wanted to keep her safe. By the end of the film, Betty's house, phone, and computer are being monitored in case Bruce ever attempts to contact her, but the two of them make an effort to stay on good terms.
  • Odin from the Thor films. As much as he loves his kids, Odin was never very adept at interpreting what his youngest son Loki needed and failed to appreciate how his penchant for keeping secrets would impact his offspring. When Loki and Hela realized that Odin was not everything they thought him to be, they instantly renounced him. Thor, even if he's angry at Odin for his lies and disappointed in some of his father's policies, acknowledges that Odin was, at the end of the day, just as fallible as any other Asgardian and retains his Undying Loyalty to him, despite viewing his dad as a Broken Pedestal.


  • This trope probably originated with modern teenage literature, which often features family breakdowns and relationships. In order to really understand the plot, readers needed to understand the parents. However, since these families are "officially" rather than "accidentally" dysfunctional, this is arguably a Justified Trope.
    • Jacqueline Wilson is diligent in depicting her Parents as People. Often likable, these characters don't fall into stereotypes...but the reader still wouldn't want to be related to them. In The Illustrated Mum, Marigold, a manic-depressive single mother, adores her two children, but feeds them cake rather than cooking them a proper dinner. In The Suitcase Kid, Andy's divorced parents marry new partners who already have families of their own. Her parents are so involved with their new lives that they don't realize they're using Andy as a pawn to "get back" at each other. In The Diamond Girls, the heroine and her sisters have lived in continual disorder all their lives, with their mother frequently changing boyfriends and moving her family to new homes. Amber, an early novel, was about a girl who rebels against her traveller mother and struggles to live a normal life.
  • Judy Blume uses the trope as well.
    • In Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., the religious issues affecting Margaret affect her parents too — her mother was raised Christian, her dad raised Jewish. They're good parents for most of the book, until Margaret's maternal grandparents show up...whereupon they cancel Margaret's holiday in order to meet them, only to spend the entire visit using her to placate or annoy her grandparents.
    • Another one from Judy Blume is Tiger Eyes, about a teenaged girl named Davey whose father, a convenience store clerk, was shot during a robbery and, it is eventually revealed, died in her arms. Davey's mother turns into pretty much a space cadet for most of the novel, unable to function, and transplants Davey and her brother Jason to the opposite side of the country. The three live for most of the story with the dad's sister and her husband, who try to act as substitute parents for the kids, but do so in the most ham-fisted manner possible.
    • There's also the stories about Peter Hatcher (the Fudge series). His parents are nice, but often butt heads with their sons over various things (moving temporarily to Princeton, having a third child, etc).
  • A Patch of Blue has the mother and grandfather of the blind protagonist Selina: Rosanne, the villain, and Ole Pa, a sympathetic failure of a man, respectively. They both work most of the day in bathrooms, and Rosanne moonlights as a prostitute. Ole Pa is a stone-dead-drunk most of the time, but tends to be more humane to Selina, whereas Rosanne frequently beats her.
  • This is key to the mystery of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - it turns out that being an adult does not automatically make you capable of coping with an autistic son. Nor does it make you capable of facing up to that in a mature and constructive way.
  • Jodi Picoult's parents are often good parents to one child with exceptional needs, but pretty terrible parents to all of their other children. The story will detail the parent's private and legal struggles on the behalf of their child, while the rest of the family falls apart due to neglect. A classic case is in Handle With Care, where the mother sacrifices her best friend, her husband and her oldest daughter supposedly on behalf of her youngest daughter, only to realize that the real issue was not her invalid daughter, but herself.
  • Jon and Thayet are Royals Who Actually Do Something in the Tortall Universe books, but according to Word of God, being king usually takes precedence over being a daddy in Jon's book (he blackmailed his daughter out of becoming a knight in case that endangered her marriage prospects), and Thayet is often busy with the Queen's Riders military group.
  • In They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney, Murielle's parents are like this, eventually abandoning her to escape charges of embezzlement.
  • Annabeth's human father in Percy Jackson & the Olympians, who is a brilliant man and cares deeply for his children, though he is a bit absent-minded at times. As he says, he was totally unprepared to have a daughter and his relative youth meant he had little time for Annabeth in her early years. After maturing and becoming ready for kids, he's a much better father to Annabeth's half-brothers and seeks to make amends with his daughter.
  • Diana Wynne Jones, as noted below, wrote her nearest thing to an autobiographical novel and called it The Time of the Ghost; it is about this sort of family. The father is a towering professor known to his children as Himself, who runs a boys' school, where the lead and her three sisters live, and the mother spends all her time keeping the school in order, and all four girls are really shockingly neglected. Getting food regularly involves raiding the school kitchens and doing their bet to get away with it. Both parents, however, despite fairly limited page time due to their disinterest in their children, are highly realized characters with internal lives of whose shape we get a sense.
  • Dresden Files: Maggie LeFay, having the best intentions, skirted the bounds between white and black magic, falling in with what one might call "the wrong crowd", one of whom murders her in childbirth. Her son inherits one hell of a legacy.

Live-Action TV

  • Supernatural: John Winchester is a good-hearted man who had something awful happen to his family but no matter how much he tries or how much he loves his sons, he's just incapable of being a good father. Before he dies, he gives Dean an extra-horrible order to kill Sam if he can't save him, treats Sam like a child and Dean like a blunt weapon, and an awful lot of their issues that are still going on today can solely lay the blame at his feet.
  • In general terms, this is a popular trope in drama series like The Bill or Holby City when the children of characters in high-pressure or high profile jobs (such as doctors, teachers, political figures or rescue services) are involved. Often the child will have a scene where they berate their parent for being a hero to everyone else but their child (i.e. a successful doctor who's never home because she refuses to abandon her patients, or a teacher who goes the extra mile for her pupils while completely forgetting her own son's graduation).
  • Any parent on Shameless.
  • Marshall and Lily in How I Met Your Mother. As much as they love Marvin, they're often flying blind and have separately admitted to their friends that there are times when they mourn how easier it was before they had Marvin.
    • Lily's own father, Mickey. He clearly loves his daughter but his apathy towards many things led to her having difficulty in forming meaningful relationships. He was a Doting Parent once upon a time but when Lily went to kindergarten and he had eight free hours a day, he went to the horse track to pass the time.
  • Step by Step is pretty much a Parents as People version of The Brady Bunch. The widowed stylist Carol Foster and the divorcée contratist Frank Lambert impulsively get married in Jamaica and then gather their kids (Frank's two sons John Thomas/JT and Brendan, plus daughter Alicia/Al and his nephew Cody; Carol's daughters Dana and Karen plus son Mark) to live together, and while the kids don't hate their new parental figures, the transition is at times rough.
  • Lindsay and Tobias take the "as People" part of this trope and run with it in Arrested Development. Their subplots follow their escapades as they try to make it big, recapture old glory, come to terms with their messed up relationship and deal with their ever changing family dynamic and situation. So focused are the two on this that they often forget that they have a daughter, her existence barely factoring into their plans. Maeby was so starved for attention that she repeated her last year of high school five times to try and get her parents to notice her. They didn't.
    • George Sr. to a lesser degree. It's clear that he does love his children (bar GOB) and grandchildren but also that he's a greedy and pathetically insecure It's All About Me Dirty Coward. He does try to bond with them, but only so he can get something out of it. Usually them being the legman of whatever dubiously legal scheme he's up to.

Video Games

  • Despite the Heartwarming Moment at the end of the first game, poor Ashley Robbins suffered this between the first and second Another Code games. While it's forgivable in that Richard still had a ton of issues to sort out after coming back into his daughter's life and his social skills probably atrophied during ten years of self-imposed isolation, the two flubbed the initial bonding effort and had to work through another game to patch things up.
  • Parents in The Sims do very little to raise their children. Babies and toddlers will need constant attention, but older children only really need homework help and food cooked for them and teenagers can live in total independence.
  • A few cases in World of Warcraft.
    • Magni Bronzebeard was quite disappointed that he was unable to get a male heir, leading to some distance between him and Moira. Anduin has great respect for Magni, but notes that it was partly his fault that Moira turned out the way she did, joining the Dark Irons out of love for their emperor, Dagran Thaurissan.
    • Varian Wrynn toward his son, Anduin. Varian's Lo'gosh side and his more warlike ways cause a rift between him and his pacifistic son Anduin, leading him to send Anduin to stay in Ironforge while he works through his issues. Later on, Anduin goes to study under Velen, rather than Archbishop Benedictus as Varian suggests, but Benedictus brings the two together to help them reconcile. Varian openly admits on a few occasions that he is a less than perfect father.
  • The most sympathetic parental figures in the Persona series tend to get this treatment. ie., Ryotaro Doujima from Persona 4 cares greatly for his daughter Nanako and his nephew the Player Character, but as a recently widowed man who also must work hard as the experienced cop he is and also is dealing with quite the guilt over his lady's death, he cannot take care of the kids as well as he should and wants to.
  • A common portrayal of parents in Fire Emblem. ie., in Fire Emblem Fates the first generation units can marry and have kids, but must sent these kids away to Pocket Dimensions to protect them from the enemy. In said dimensions time flows faster than in the game itself, so they ended up missing how their kids grew from babies to pre-teen and even older teens; so while they love their children, they can't deal perfectly with them and the parents-children supports are all about them reaching diverse degrees of mutual understanding. (It doesn't help that the younger first gens are actually about their kids' ages, if not even younger)
  • In season 2 of The Walking Dead, both of AJ's parents die and everyone else dies or leaves the group for one reason or another, forcing Clem to become a foster parent for AJ. Since she was only eleven, she had difficulty and she can admit in season 4 that she was never taught how to be a parent. AJ's lack of experience around people and his violent tendencies make parenting difficult in season 4.


  • Arguably occurs in Friendly Hostility. Padma and Nefertari Maharassa are still besotted with each other, and they aren't conventional parents — especially since "conventional parents" generally don't have a pet Satanist (Rafi) occupying the spare room. They're not bad parents though; the Maharassa kids have a interesting/fun childhood, it's just prone to some...drama. Such as the parents leaving Rafi to babysit only to find he'd lost their daughter to cannibals. Fatima, their oldest child, has a strange love-hate relationship with her family, but then again she's an extremely cynical Deadpan Snarker. Their younger son, Fox, just adores them. Padma and Nefertari are always there for their now grown-up children, but they're still prone to some rather eccentric behaviour.
    • In comparison to Collin's ultra-conventional, narrow minded family, however, the Maharassas are model parents. "Different is good" is a bit of a mantra for this webcomic.

Web Originals

  • We don't see them, but The Nostalgia Critic's parents. Abusive, scary, implied to have expected way too much of him and apparently raised him as a girl for a short time, but took him out for a meal when he got an A- and his mum sorted things out when he was getting bullied as a child. That last bit more than likely induced Stockholm Syndrome, as he's still living with her and calls her his world.

Western Animation

  • Timmy Turner's parents, in The Fairly Odd Parents, exemplify this trope. They're silly, affectionate, devoted to each other...and leave Timmy in the care of a psychotic babysitter while they're off pursuing their hobby-of-the-week. They do make earnest attempts at being good parents (and are always quick to declare You Are Grounded), but the fact is that Wanda provides the more traditional "motherly" role.
    • The Turners really are this to a T; in the pilot, they were unaware it was possible to hire someone to look after your children and were just sickeningly devoted to giving Timmy all their attention.
  • Ray Rocket, Reggie and Otto's dad in Rocket Power, is a "cool" dad with one foot firmly in the Competence he falls victim to this trope occasionally. One examples is in Race Across New Zealand, where he lets his own macho pride turn into Parental Favoritism, to Reggie's dismay.
  • Arnold, from Hey Arnold, is the "old before his time" result of this trope, despite living with his grandparents rather than his parents. His grandma and grandpa are of the loving-but-eccentric variety, (though his grandpa can step up to the plate pretty well when called upon) which means Arnold spends a lot of time alone or with his friends.
    • In sharp contrast to Arnold's absent-minded but loving family set-up, Helga lives in the purely dysfunctional version of a family whose parents have both personalities and serious issues. If anything, the extensive characterization given to her parents Bob and Miriam, particularly her disillusioned and possibly-alcoholic mother, make her and her sister's situation seem even more tragic: Helga is cynical, bitchy, Tsundere and disenchanted because they pay so little attention to her, whereas Olga is a deluded Shrinking Violet and Stepford Smiler because they give her too much attention.
  • The parents of the characters on South Park, especially Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, have received a surprising amount of development, even to the point of directly impacting the episodes' plots. Similarly, Kyle's mom Sheila often ends up causing more problems than she solves, both for her son and the town in general, when she starts off on one of her social crusades.
  • Ron's parents in Kim Possible could be said to fit this trope. His parents — particularly his dad — are relatively pleasant people, but show little interest in their son. They barely even include him in decisions they make which affect his life, such as moving to Norway in The Movie or adopting a second child. The fourth season did, however, see them become a little more involved in his life, such as the episode in which Mr. Stoppable, who is an actuary, helped bring down a villain whose power was his ability to do math.
    • Averted in the same show by Kim's parents. Her mother is a brain surgeon and her father is a rocket scientist, so it's pretty understandable that they have a lot going on in their lives. Even so, they are genuinely affectionate parents who take great pride in their children and involve themselves in their lives as much as they can.
      • They take Kim's heroics pretty well in stride (admonishing her to be home by dinner when she's stepping out to thwart Dr. Dementor, that sort of thing). They even get in on the day-saving occasionally. Kim's father actually manages to essentially take down Dr. Drakken by humiliating him. It turns out, much to everyone's surprise, that Kim's archnemesis used to be her father's college roommate. The blue skin is new, but, yup, that's Drew Lipski all right.
  • Both Daria and Jane's parents are portrayed as people who have good hearts but whose self interests and issues, be they with work, emotional needs, or personal concerns tend to vastly overshadow their interest in their own children. Daria's mom Helen is a huge Workaholic, her dad Jake is a clownish Adult Child, and Jane's parents Vincent and Amanda... well...
    • In defense of the Lanes (or at least, Amanda), the rest of the family (including Vincent) is scattered far and wide across the globe, and only returns home on rare occasions for visits, which are kept short because they can't stand one another; that she sticks around to provide some kind of home for her kids is impressive all on its own, even if that home isn't really a stellar one. And at least she loves her children even if she's shitty at raising them.
  • The Rugrats parents were funny and developed, and their subplots were an important part of what made the show entertaining for adults as well as kids. However, the entire premise of the show relies on them being completely oblivious to their toddlers wandering off on dangerous adventures.
  • Professor Membrane on Invader Zim is a generally-affable and utterly brilliant Bunny Ears Scientist who is entirely too wrapped up in fixing every problem in the world to pay much attention to his children. His relationship with his son Dib is particularly strained because Dib won't get involved in "REAL Science" (he's an eleven-year-old paranormal investigator), while his daughter Gaz's desire to spend time with him is arguably the only time in the series she shows a desire to be around anybody.
  • Jack and Maddie on Danny Phantom are sometimes more obsessed with their latest ghost-hunting activities to pay attention to their children--like, for example, to notice their son is the half-ghost kid they're hunting. Their older daughter Jasmine actually Lampshades this, though her diagnosis is a bit of an exaggeration---when not distracted they can show plenty of interest in their kids, often to the point of clinginess.
  • Harold and Honey Buttowski from Kick Buttowski.
  • Doctor Doofensmirtz, resident Mad Scientist from Phineas and Ferb would probably fit into this trope. After having a Hilariously Abusive Childhood, he's very dedicated to being a wonderful dad to his daughter Vanessa...except he isn't very good at it. When he isn't making the usual 'embarrassing parent' mistakes, conflicts result from the fact that he's sometimes too obsessed with his job of causing evil to care for his daughter. However, he's still over-all presented as being one of the Good Parents.

 Vanessa: I can't believe you brought work with you!

Dr. Doof: What do you mean?

Vanessa: Dad, you've got some guy tied up here.

Dr. Doof: No, Vanessa. We've got some guy tied up here.

  • A major theme in Steven Universe. The Crystal Gems adore Steven but they're also mourning Rose Quartz and have no idea how to raise a human child. They also have tones of Dark Secrets that they're keeping from him on the basis that he's not ready for them. Even Greg has his moments, such as prolonging an injury so he can spend more time with Steven.
  • In the early seasons, before Flanderization, both Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. Idiots they may have been, they were good blue collar men who did their best to set a moral example for their children and provide for their family. Homer still does try (and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't), but as for Peter...
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Aang was this to his and Katara's children, since he focused mostly on the youngest one (Tenzin) than the two eldest (Kya and Bumi, a Waterbender and a Muggle Born of Mages, respectively) due to him being the only one who inherited Airbending. As a result Tenzin became seriously insecure about his own worth, while Bumi and Kya heavily resented him until adulthood. (Though on the flip side, neither of them showed any interest in Aang's attempts to teach them about the Air Nomads.)
    • Toph Beifong wanted her two daughters, Lin and Suyin, to have the freedom she lacked until she escaped her home and became a member of the Gaang. Thing is, the lady went the other way round and at times barely paid attention to her two girls, with both of them desperately trying to get her attention in different ways: Lin became a Metalbender and policewoman, while Suyin was a borderline teen criminal. This eventually and literally blew up on the three, and the consequences all but shattered their bonds for decades.

Real Life

  • Many children of professionals, academics and blue collar-workers are familiar with this trope.
  • Diana Wynne Jones' childhood, as she tells it, was this to a T. She put this to a direct use in The Time of the Ghost, a rather good novel in which the main character is a ghost and which happens to be her nearest thing to an autobiographical work.
  • Austrian Empress Maria Theresa is described as such by history, media and The Other Wiki. She was affectionate to them (showing some favoritism towards her fifth child Maria Christina, both for being born in Maria Theresa's 25th birthday and for being classy, talented and cute), but also used them as pawns via Altar Diplomacy like pretty much every Habsburg and non-Habsburg monarch; she wrote to them frequently to keep close contact with each son or daughter, while not being above of trying to use her motherly authority to influence their lives. And everyone knows how... well that worked in a certain case.
  • Empress Elisabeth of Austria aka Sissi had... unstable relationships with her and Emperor Franz Josef's four kids, since she wasn't allowed to raise them save for their youngest daughter Valerie. Sophie's early death of illness broke her, she and Gisela grew super distant (though Gisela was very close to her dad), same went to Rudolf until few before his and his mistress' Murder-Suicide (which also broke her, apparently making her cross the Despair Event Horizon), and while Valerie loved her quite a bit she also was embarrassed by Sissi's eccentricities and blatant favoritism.