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Survival Secrets of a Daddy Daycarer

12/18/2012 01:54 pm ET | Updated Feb 17, 2013
  • Laurence Hayes co-creator of Nanny App™ and co-author of the comedy novel "Whatever You Want"

"Trust me, it's hard. After a week, you'll be letting the dog lick your baby's face clean just so you don't have to get a cloth."

I'm about to become a Dad, and this is the sort of advice I've been getting from my male friends. A surprising number have taken the plunge and agreed to become part-time Mr. Moms. And I'm about to join them.

Across America, 17% of preschoolers are regularly looked after by their dads while mom is out at work. For many moms, it's about keeping their careers alive and their lives balanced. For others, it's all about the need for money. Whatever the causes, Daddy Daycarers are the fastest growing phenomenon in parenting. The U.S., along with the rest of the Western World, is carrying out one of the biggest experiments in the history of parenting.

Don't get Daddy Daycarers mixed up with Stay-at-home Dads. Stay-at-home Dads are an altogether different animal. Stay-at-home dads are full time professionals compared to us. Stay-at-home dads have babies in slings and baby-gear rucksacks. They've adjusted their wardrobe to be machine-washable at 60 degrees and they can multi-task. And despite movies like Mr Mom and TV's "Guys with Kids," Stay-at-home dads are still very rare. Out of 70 million American dads, only 176,000 are truly stay-at-home.

So how are the three million Daddy Daycarers coping? According to my unscientific poll, the results are mixed. They all admit to the temptations -- to bribe, cheat and treat your way to an easy life. ("After all, mom's back the next day, she can make sure the kids don't turn into sugar-crazed screen junkies"). What Daddy Daycarers all seem to have in common is one thing: They all have a dozen strategies just to survive. We make up for our lack of instincts and hormonal drive in other ways. I call the tools we use "Dad Survival Secrets." Just get together a few dads and a few beers, and the truth will come out. That's exactly what I did, and the list of Dad Survival Secrets I heard was a mile long. Here are the "Big Seven":

Dad Survival Secret 1: Get Out the House
This first rule of Daddy Daycare is get out the house every day. Go to Starbucks, the park, a gallery, visit the grandparents, anything. If you don't, you will go mad. Remember, if you get a sling or a carrier just walking becomes a workout. And besides, pretty women will smile at you in the street for the first time in years.

Dad Survival Secret 2: Make Your Baby Interesting
There's one big secret that most dads share with each other, but never with their wives. Babies are boring. Before a thousand moms tell me all men are evil, let me give you the Daddy Daycarers' solution: Treat your baby like a science project. Babies are the most powerful learning machines in the universe, you just need a book which explains what your baby is thinking: why they laugh when you play peekaboo, why they like stripes, what they hear when you talk to them. Suddenly, all those things mums do instinctively will make sense.

Dad Survival Secret 3: Get Some Apps
There's an app for everything. White noise apps to help them sleep. Baby Signing apps if you want to 'talk' to your 6-month-old. And of course, our own Nanny App if you need advice from a professional. When they are older, the temptation will be to give them your phone to keep them distracted, but it's a dangerous temptation. You can get educational, with PopMath and Bookworm. But more often, I see preschoolers zombified by Ant Smasher and Fruit Ninja. The advice is clear; if you have to distract your pre-schooler with an app, limit the time to a few minutes. And make sure your iPhone is still under warranty.

Dad Survival Secret 4: Get Some Cave Time
Put on some gentle music and give yourself a Siesta in the afternoon. Do it every afternoon. Remember, moms spend hours on parenting forums just so they feel connected. After a morning with a baby you will want to disconnect. So get at least thirty minutes shut eye when baby sleeps.

Dad Survival Secret 5: Go and Play Golf
Or tennis, or any sport really. Your baby will be mesmerized by all the activity and won't need half as much attention as if you're sitting at home. Plus, you'll get a testosterone boost if you win. And testosterone is a Daddy Daycarer's best friend.

Dad Survival Secret 6: Use Other People
In my experience, Moms are often too worried, nervous and self-doubting to use other people. But this is where Dads can really score. Women of all ages love babies. The list is endless: your mom, your wife's mom, the woman in the coffee shop, your sister, your 6-year-old daughter, even our spaniel can keep a baby amused for a while.

Dad Survival Secret 7: Don't Admit Any Of This To Your Wife
She'll only worry. Trust me, women won't understand your need for self-preservation. If you don't believe me, just take a look at the comments by women at the bottom of this article. So, do yourself a favour, commit all this to memory and then destroy the evidence. Clear the history on your browser and remove all trace that you ever visited this page.

But before you do, share some of your own Dad Survival Secrets in the comments below.

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