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Marketing Me! The 3 Hour Parent

I have three children and consider them my greatest accomplishment. They are more important than the big deal I closed last week, my job title or the promotion I want next year. The investment I make in my children pays off with greater dividends than any "job" ever will. With that in mind and with a great number of anecdotal incidents for reference, I came to know the the 3 Hour Parent.

Of all the social demographics, the greatest increase in population comes from the 3 Hour Parent. Now, you may have never heard this term before, but this person lives in your community, attends your church, has children in your school and may live in your own home today.

The 3 Hour Parent works part-time at the hardest full-time job created; the role of parent. I call them the 3 Hour Parent because this is the average amount of daily time they are exposed to the children.

The 3 Hour Parent can be the mother or the father or both. Besides full time employment outside the home, the 3 Hour Parent fill their waking time with activities such as socializing, sports, leisure activities, travel or shopping.

To the 3 Hour Parent, self-fulfillment is more important than the actual care and raising of their children.

Consider the following activities of a normal 3 Hour Parent. You may recognize someone you know..

- The 3 Hour Parent awakes early. Sometimes as early as 5 or 6 o'clock. They may exersize, then bathe, dress, grab something quick to eat or drink, head for the bus or car and never pause for the children they brought into this world. Other 3 Hour Parents may sleep late and rise only after their child has left for school.

- The 3 Hour Parent works with fervor and commitment at their place of employment or at personal activities. They hold the best positions, always make the wining team and receive high fives and slaps on the back for a job well done. They may be the chairperson of a charity or social event planning committee. Or perhaps they have the best tennis or golf score at the club. Yet the 3 Hour Parent rarely makes an appearance at their child's school whether that be for volunteer work, teacher-parent conferences, fund-raisers or sometimes, even just to drop off or pick up their children.

- The 3 Hour Parent returns home in the evening, complains about how tough their day was, expresses their need to "decompress" and demands "down time" for cocktails, television or quiet reflection all without the noise or interuption of children.

- The 3 Hour Parent takes dinner, if they eat dinner, either alone or with their spouse, only. They desire adult interaction and become annoyed if they have to eat with children and deal with the their spills and rambunctiousness at the table.

- The 3 Hour Parent becomes cranky early in the evening and alerts all in the home that they need their rest because of "a tough week ahead" in the office, or because the demands of house and shopping have become too much for them. Children are sent to bed or to placed in front of the television and ordered to be still and quiet.

- The 3 Hour Parent's weekends are devoted to personal activities such as golfing and shopping on weekends. Saturday night is spent at social functions or with friends. Sunday mornings are for "sleeping in" while the rest of the day is scheduled for watching television or sports. Somewhere along the way, the children and their activities have a lower priority or no priority at all. The children's bicycles, balls, and games collect dust in the garage or closet because their simply isn't time.

- The 3 Hour Parent advocates television and video games for children's unscheduled time because it is more convenient for the parent's schedule.

- The 3 Hour Parent, (who ironically follows fad diets and restrictive eating zealously for themselves), are oblivious to the poor diet and junk food consumption of their own children. "How did the children put on so much weight?" they wonder out loud.

- The 3 Hour Parent often forgets the date of their children's birthday or even their exact age. They rarely witness important childhood occasions such as the loss of a first tooth or first steps. They miss soccer and Little League games, ballet and piano recitals and graduations.

- The 3 Hour Parent heavily depends upon the services of baby sitters, housekeepers and nannies. They also think nothing of leaving the supervision and responsibility of their children to friends, neighbors or relatives.

- When confronted with the actual chore of direct child care, the 3 Hour Parent frantically makes phone calls to grandparents, friends and neighbors for assistance. They stare dumb faced at the little people in front of them, become quickly annoyed and demand immediate relief from any and all available. After all, the 3 Hour Parent's personal life is too consuming or demanding for the trivial care of children.

- And when a crisis occurs with the children, the 3 Hour Parent waves their finger at their spouse, sitter or nanny and places the blame firmly and squarely on them for failing to do their duty.

I know dozens of 3 Hour Parents. In many ways, I think I know more of them than not.

I understand the demands placed upon us in our professional lives. I know the rigors of unreasonable bosses, customers and financial obligations.

I understand the need for relaxation for improved mental concentration and physical health.

But I don't understand parents who have children they don't want.

How can anyone look at the excited, open face of their own child, the child who desperately wants and needs their parent's approval and love and disregard them so easily?

How can any parent feel good about missing nearly every landmark event in their child's life and be able to justify it with tee times, department store sales and meetings?

How can any parent, after investing so little time in their child's life, be so surprised when delinquency, poor grades, disciplinary problems and abuse occur with the same child?

So what can we do?

Whenever I feel the short term anxiousness of the 3 Hour Parent calling, I take a deep breath, close my eyes and imagine the first time I held each of my children after they were born.

I remember the first time they came to me, tottering along, holding a book or toy, wanting my immediate undivided attention.

I remember the first time my child pointed at every person, place or thing and called it a "Ball" "Dog" or "Cat".

I remember the first time they fell asleep in my arms and carrying them to their bed at the end of a long day.

I remember the first time they stood in a soccer field or on a baseball diamond or on a stage searching for me in the crowd just to make sure I was there.

I remember them running to my arms in an airport, after school or when I first walk in the house after work.

I remember the sloppy kisses, the peanut butter on my best suit, the art projects of glue and pop sickle sticks and the finger painted distorted caricatures labeled "DADDY" hanging on the refrigerator door.

I remember the fear on their faces melting into joy when I let go of the bicycle and watched them pedal furiously to stay upright.

I remember the birthdays' Christmases, Halloweens, car trips, Father's Days, kindergarten graduations, pageants and recitals and all the normal days in between.

Then I realize how everyday I received the greatest gift not from my own accomplishments, but from the little lives I created and raised. How can I have been so fortunate and blessed by their presence and how can I repay them?

If you are the 24 Hour Parent - congratulations and welcome to the fight. We now know we are going to win.

If you are a 3 Hour Parent, read this again. It will be our secret I won't tell anyone at the club or office.

But let's make a change today. Let's take off early, get out of that mall and go spend some time with your child today. You won't be disappointed. And you will make a huge difference in the life of the best people you have ever met in your life. Your children.

Happy hunting!

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