The Cat’s in the Cradle

By Jason Rohlf

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away

From “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin

Fatherhood is a funny thing. I have the unbelievable fortune of being a father to a wonderful son (9) and daughter (7). From the moment they were born, I have been amazed, amused, humbled, at certain times frustrated, and mainly overjoyed by the fact that I am the man who is ultimately responsible for turning them into functioning, responsible adults capable of making positive contributions to society. If I am being completely honest, this very notion is at once the most satisfying and terrifying aspect of my life.

As I write this, I can’t help but think back on the almost 10 years that I’ve been a father, and the flashes of memory bring such joy and comfort. I was the one who yelled “It’s a BOY!” when my son was born. I remember the first time I changed his diaper, the first time he spit up on me, the first time he peed on me, and the times I was jolted awake at 3 AM because he was ready for a snack. I remember feeling like I hit the jackpot when my daughter was born. She never cried, never fussed and was speaking in full sentences by 9 months, which still freaks me out just a little bit. I have stored up an endless bank of wonderful memories—trips to the zoo, Christmas morning, bike rides, bedtime stories, family vacations, lost teeth, first days of school. I am truly a fortunate soul.

Now before you start rolling your eyes because you’ve encountered another “life is all sunshine and roses” parenting perspective, allow me to sprinkle in some honesty: not only is fatherhood not easy, it can be painfully difficult and maddening at times, at least for me. When they’re babies you have sleep deprivation and garbage cans full of diapers inside your house. When they’re toddlers, you get resistance, petulance and complete disregard for the concepts of order, ration and temperance. As school age hits, you get to hound them to get ready, pester them to do their homework, bother them to take a bath and implore them to go to bed at a reasonable hour. I am already living in complete terror of what the pre-teen and teen years hold in store for me (although one of my colleagues with children in their 20s assures me that they do eventually come back).

Case in point: At this stage in my kids’ development, their biggest issue with me is the fact that I have to work. Even more egregious than Dad leaving the house to do work is when he has to leave town to do work. As I was preparing to head to Florida for the IIA All-Star Conference, I was getting quite the earful from two particularly vocal detractors of employed fathers. “Why do you have to go? You ALWAYS leave! You NEVER stay!” As they went on (and on and on), I found myself starting to feel very bad about it. When I find myself in such situations with my kids, the jukebox in my mind instantly cues up Harry Chapin’s 1974 tear-jerking classic, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and from there I have visions of my little babies growing up and casting their old man aside, just like I did to them when they were at their most vulnerable. I can’t say for sure, but my eyes may have welled up a bit.

This is the point in time where my wife has had enough. In a tone that can best be described as stern eloquence, she informs our children that Daddy works very hard and makes many sacrifices for our family. “What’s more,” she adds, “is that he loves what he does. He loves to help people and make their lives happier.”

If this were an ideal world, I would tell you that in that moment my kids completely understood why I do what I do. But truthfully they didn’t, not yet, although I suspect their mother’s words did sink in a bit because they backed off a bit and cut me some slack. Maybe in an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to work. I wouldn’t have to travel. I wouldn’t have to sacrifice. Sadly we don’t always live in an ideal world. But as with many seemingly bad situations, there is a silver lining.

The truth is that I do love doing what I do. I love meeting people, discovering who they are and what makes them tick, and learning about the issues they are facing as part of their daily existence, if only so I can have the potential to be a small part of the solution. I love coming to conferences like the IIA All-Star Conference, because it gives me access to a whole new group of people that I can meet, learn from and potentially help. The idea that Onspring can be even a small part of something that makes the lives of these people even a tiny amount better is what gets me up in the morning, what keeps me on my feet throughout these conferences, what gets me on the plane and what makes me believe that leaving my family for periods of time is done not to punish them, but to help them thrive and be happy. It’s a paradox I wrestle with every day, but it’s one that I understand completely.

In this industry, in my line of work, it would be very tempting for me to use this forum strictly as a sales tool. Read my blog so you can see how smart I am, how I’ve figured out all of your problems before you’ve thought of them, and how buying this software will make them all magically go away. But I can’t do that. I can’t anticipate and flawlessly solve all of the issues you may be facing. But I can tell you this: at Onspring, we are singularly focused on identifying where we have the ability to help, and we sink everything we have into being part of the solution. That may sound a bit different than what you’re used to, but if there’s one thing I’m OK with being, it’s different.

The bottom line at Onspring is that we want to help great people do their best work. We’d love to hear from the great people out there who make sacrifices every day in the name of something greater than they could ever hope to be, if only so we can be a small part of the solution.

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Image Source: Jay Mantri,