The joke that Goku is a bad father or abandons his family is a popular one for Dragon Ball fans, yet how true is this belief to reality?
It’s a common running joke within the Dragon Ball community to make fun of Goku’s poor family skills. Whether it’s about his parenting skills or his treatment of his Chi-Chi, Goku is thought of as an oaf whose number one priority is getting stronger, even above the needs of his own wife and children.
However, this isn’t a fair representation of Goku’s character. Goku consistently demonstrates his love for his family throughout Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super. While some complain that Goku abandons his loved ones in order to focus on training or to pick an unnecessary fight, Goku has shown to stick around when he’s allowed to, and that extenuating circumstances are what keeps him away from home more often than not. Goku is a family man in the best way he knows how to be, and he deserves a little more credit for his domestic accomplishments, not just his combat achievements.
It’s (Usually) Not Goku’s Fault When He’s Not Around
Goku has a reputation for leaving his family behind, but the Dragon Ball Z timeline shows that Goku’s absences are relatively unavoidable. Goku’s first major departure is after he is killed by Piccolo during their fight with Raditz — a necessary death in order to stop his brother. He then comes back to life after a year and fights his future rival and friend Vegeta, then leaves Chi-Chi behind once again to go to Namek. However, this too was a necessary trip Goku needed to take to rescue his son Gohan and to find new Dragon Balls.
Goku then stayed on the planet Yardrat for a while and chose not to return to Earth, but only because Goku was learning instant transmission and had no need to rush back home, not knowing about the danger of the Androids or Cell. Finally, Goku decides to remain dead after Cell is defeated, but this isn’t some vacation in Other World for training purposes; instead, it’s a self-sacrifice meant to protect the planet from possible threats that would be after him.
Goku was kept away from his family by opponents and events, which interrupted his relatively stable home life. He stayed with his family and raised Gohan for the first five years of his life before Raditz showed up. In the three years between Future Trunks’ first appearance and the Androids’ arrival, Goku again spent time at home with his wife and kids. When Goku has the option in Dragon Ball Z to stay on Earth, he does so. He can’t be blamed for the fact that new, more powerful enemies show up that require intensive training to defeat, and he also can’t be blamed for dying to these enemies.
Goku Is an Alien Who Grew Up Alone
Of course, there are moments, especially in Dragon Ball Super, where Goku does act selfishly and run off to Whis for more training. However, an important fact to keep in mind is that Goku isn’t a human but rather a Saiyan who grew up in the woods for most of his childhood. While his Grandpa Gohan did teach him the basics of human life, Goku was never socialized into traditional definitions of familial responsibility or obligation. Goku’s love of fighting is in his blood, and it’s expected that an alien child who grew up alone in the woods and thought marriage was a type of food wouldn’t have the best understanding of how to be the most dependable husband.
What’s unquestionable is that despite his background, Goku truly loves his family. During his fight with Goku Black, the idea that Chi-Chi and Goten were murdered sent him into a violent rage not seen since Dragon Ball Z’s Frieza Saga. Moreover, when he is around home, Goku goes along with Chi-Chi’s demands for him to find a real, high-paying job despite not even fully understanding the concept. Goku is motivated by and cares for his family, and he goes along with their wishes despite his desire to train.
This is a dynamic that Chi-Chi and Goten understand, and they hold little resentment when Goku must go off and leave them behind. That’s just who Goku is and part of what makes him lovable. Simply because Goku may overvalue his personal journey for strength doesn’t mean he completely ignores or doesn’t prioritize the needs of his family.