Adam LaRoche's #FamilyFirst Decision Reminds Us That We Can't #HaveItAll
This week White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche abruptly retired from baseball, leaving the $13 million dollars left on his contract on the table, because Chicago White Sox team president Ken Williams asked him to stop bringing his 14-year-old son to the clubhouse so much.
Let's just repeat that and let it sink in for a second: Adam LaRoche retired from baseball and turned his back on more money than most of us will see in our lifetime because he couldn't turn every day into a "bring your kid to work day." Adam LaRoche loves playing baseball, he wants to be professionally successful, and he wants to have his kids by his side while he does it; but he can't.
This story could be titled, "Why Adam LaRoche Still Can't Have It All."
I understand that this story is intended to have people shaking their fist with righteous indignation over the White Sox's lack of #familyfirst values. When LaRoche tweeted out #familyfirst he was trying to get us to relate. However, I get the sense that more people have been left thinking that this whole set-up was pretty bizarre in the first place. Make no mistake, this is a weird story; it's a weird baseball story, and it's a weird parenting story, and ultimately, it's a story that has very little to do with any kind of reality most men are confronted with when it comes to finding a work/life balance.
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It's not that professional athletes or celebrities can't spark dialogue about issues many Americans face, it's just this story is a little too divorced from anything recognizable for most of us to do that.
While most working fathers understand the desperate desire to spend more time with their kids, few of us can, or want, to imagine that time happening at work. For example, when I'm imagining more time with my kids, Gary from accounting doesn't interrupt us to remind me about the conference call at 2 pm.
There have not been the same noisy arguments about LaRoche's decision that there were in 2011 when Colby Lewis became the first player to take advantage of the MLB's newly implemented paternity leave policy, or when Daniel Murphy decided to miss opening day in 2014 because his wife went into labor. Even though those stories were about professional athletes with million dollar salaries they generated contentious arguments about whether a man's first responsibility was to his family, or to the people cutting the paychecks that support his family. Those arguments were recognizable to most men, they had some grounding in a struggle we understand, and the internal conflicts and questions we face.
Even when, in 2010, when Cliff Lee chose to take less money to play in a city where his family felt more comfortable there was healthy online debate because many guys understood the choice between chasing a bigger payday and potential long term financial security versus keeping your family happy in the moment. Lots of guys face these kinds of decisions everyday.
No guy is facing a difficult decision about bringing his kid to work. It's not like the little guy is fighting THE MAN for his right to be able to bring his kids to work on semi-regular basis. That's not even a thing.
I understand that baseball is a grueling schedule played over six months; there are 162 games in a season, there are 81 road games, spring training, and the post-season. All that adds up to a lot of time spent away from your family. I understand that for the last twelve years LaRoche has provided for his family by living by that grueling schedule and now, at the end of his career, wanted to have his son by his side as much as possible. It's admirable, but he had to know that he couldn't just wave his magic bat and make that a reality without giving anything up in the process.
The small comfort that regular folk can take away from Adam LaRoche's story may simply be that while we can beat ourselves up over our decisions to put #familyfirst and #leanin or #optout for more financial security and professional success, no one—not even famous millionaire athletes with great beards—can #haveitall.
Aaron Traister is an accomplished writer and part time dog walker living in Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. His hobbies include boxing, antiquing, and pizza making.