Father Doesn’t Know Best
By Kimberly Palmer
Tom Stern finally realized he had a problem when his wife kicked him out of the house. His workaholic tendencies-and the fact that he treated his family members as if they were employees-had finally grown too much for her. In CEO Dad, Stern turns inward to figure out where he went wrong and soon finds he isn’t the only one struggling to balance work and family.
CHARLIE ARCHAMBAULT FOR USN&WR
The situation might not sound funny, but Stern manages to see the humor. He starts a comic strip, now nationally syndicated, in which he tells his daughter that he’ll consider promoting her to first-born after her older brother does badly on a school test. When recalling how he proposed to his wife, he says, “I got down on one knee and explained to her the long-term fiscal and short-term tax benefits of matrimony.”
Still, he doesn’t hide the fact that work-obsessed fathers, whom he dubs CEO dads, can really hurt their families. He says he learned his behavior from his own dad. “I don’t know whether my CEO father missed my first steps,” he writes. “I do know that I’ve been crawling for his approval ever since.”
On a practical note, Stern urges CEO dads to become aware of how they’re treating their families and to reach out to fellow sufferers for support. It’s never too late to change, he says, although doing so might require an intervention from concerned family members. Stern says his own transformation came only after his wife forced him to leave and he quit his job to work in a coffee shop. There, he met a fellow CEO dad, and they started a self-help group.
It’s not always easy to tell when Stern is making stuff up for laughs, but this much is true: Plenty of work-addicted fathers-and mothers-will relate to his story.
This story appears in the April 30, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.