Working parents are caught in a constant tug-of-war between meetings and their kid’s track meets.

Golf pro Phil Mickelson scored a hole-in-one with many moms and dads this week by announcing he’s skipping the U.S. Open to go to his daughter’s graduation. “As I look back on life, this is a moment I’ll always cherish and be glad I was present,” Mickelson, 46, told the New York Times.

He’s not the only famous father putting family first. Usher missed Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert on Sunday because it was his 9-year-old son’s first day at a special summer camp for children living with diabetes.

But for many non-celeb parents, the juggle is real. One survey found one in four mothers have missed out on key moments in their child’s life because they were at work. Yet another saw almost two-thirds of working dads had missed a parent-teacher conference, and one in five had missed their kid’s last sports game.


“The decisions to miss work or your child’s event is never easy, and usually causes tremendous guilt either way,” Deborah Munster, the mother of two teen daughters and executive director of Diversity Best Practices, told Moneyish.

She’s constantly compromising. “When my daughter had her Sweet 16, my team was in India,” she said. “I was supposed to be with them, but I joined them two days later so I wouldn’t miss the big event.”

Parenting experts like Meredith Bodgas, mother and editor-in-chief of Working Mother, agree you should try to put once-in-a-lifetime events ahead of job duties, like a milestone birthday, graduation or special award ceremony. Or if there’s a special parent-kid component to an activity, you don’t want to make your child the odd one out.

“When it’s an event where there’s significant one-on-one time — say, a Mother’s Day event for which the students have written poems and will read them aloud — other students will notice if you’re not there, which can make your child feel self-conscious and down on herself,” Bodgas told Moneyish.

Every parent has his or her own criteria to what makes a must-see kiddie or career function.

Phil Mickelson is skipping the US Open this month for his daughter’s graduation. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

“I would never miss my daughter’s ballet recitals!” said mother of three and Diva Moms CEO Lyss Stern, nor something specific that’s very important to her sons. “My oldest son asked me to go to one of his end-of-the-year baseball games for his middle school team. You better believe I rearranged my afternoon so I could be there!”

But what happens when you can’t change your schedule? Now that assistant professor Noah Potvin, 34, is working toward tenure at a new university, he’s feeling the tension between putting his 5-year-old daughter first, and not derailing his life’s work.

“I have to get all my ducks in a row within six years,” he told Moneyish, “so to miss an annual national conference would be a significant missed opportunity.”

Plus, some parents consider their work their baby. In fact, recent research found that brain scans of fathers and entrepreneurs show that the emotional bond a business owner feels toward his own company is similar to the emotional bond a dad feels for his own child.

“Being a teacher, I also have a responsibility to my students,” said Robert Rose, 35, a father of two from Staten Island. “If we have a special event [like graduation or prom] or a big test coming up, I can’t let my students down. This means that I have to save my time off for the truly special [family] events, and if my kids get sick.”

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Some parents split the games and talent shows so that one of them is there while the other one works, like Stern and her husband. “We are texting throughout the day, talking through who needs to be where at what time. If he can’t be at one of the kids’ big events because of work, I will do my best to be there, and vice versa,” she said.

And if neither parent can make it, send grandma and grandpa, or another close family member. “Your child doesn’t need mom there for every game or performance,” Bodgas assured. “But she needs someone there in the stands or audience, a representative for the family, cheering her on to show that what she’s doing is important.”

Plus modern technology can been a lifesaver, because someone can livestream a performance, or Skype with their child before the main event. “If I were at a conference and my daughter had something come up, I’d have somebody put their phone on a tripod and stream it to me,” Potvin said.

So if you can’t miss a business trip or conference out of town that overlaps with a kid’s recital or game – especially if you’ve been to previous performances or matches, and there’s opportunities to catch future ones – Bodgas says to cut yourself some slack. “Anything that can be filmed and celebrated together later can be skipped if necessary,” she said.

You can cushion the blow by making a special event around the viewing session later. “Have her favorite food or drink, decorate together, put on fancy outfits — so she knows you’re​ excited to watch,” said Bodgas. “And watching together will be as much of a wonderful memory as it would have been if you’d been there.”