OK, dads, by now you’ve all had the epiphany that having a kid or kids also means having a free pass to carry a fabulous man bag. I see you. Some of you opt for something more rugged and nondescript, while others go full-blown for a designer tote. I’m not one to judge the exterior of your bag (at least not yet—until I design my own), but I certainly will tell you what its contents should be. I have almost seven years of experience, so I know exactly what you need in almost every situation and can tell you that these 10 items are crucial:
1. Some Sort of Wet Wipes/Napkins/Etc.
The use varies as your child(ren) gets older, but bottom line, it’s about mess management. You could mimic what my mom did and use your thumb and spit to get the crumbs off your kid’s mouth, or whip out a wet wipe and do it with finesse. Trust me, you don’t always want to touch what your kids have had their hands in. These can be lifesavers.
2. A Small Container of Purell
This goes hand-in-hand with the wet wipes, but after a soccer game, a giant glop of Purell reigns supreme. It also assists when you, yourself, are dealing with disgusting situations. Purell might be like the placebo effect of cleansers, but it certainly puts my mind at ease.
I never knew the value of having lip balm on me until my son was crying in the backseat with split-open lips during winter. I drove faster than I did to the hospital when he was being born to find the nearest gas station to relieve his pain. Don’t make my mistake. Be proactive. Chapped lips will strike when you least expect it.
4. Miniature First-Aid Kit With Band-Aids
You can buy these anywhere (airports have great small ones) and contain everything you need for a quick fix. I went the extra step and got an Epipen, even though my son doesn’t have any known allergies—you can never be too careful. Also, wouldn’t it be cool to be the hero in a scary situation and pull that thing out? Yeah, it would.
5. Noise-Canceling Headphones
Need I say more? Turn on, tune in, and drop out when you need it the most (playgrounds).
6. A Bottle of Water
How many times a day do you hear the words “I’m thirsty”? My son and I have surpassed the question—I just always have refreshments on hand. Of course kids want you to produce a can of soda or a box of juice, but water does the job the best and can also be used for emergency cleaning situations (take, for instance, vomiting in the backseat of your new car).
7. A Spare Phone Charger
We’ve all been there—awful situations that are impossible to get out of and the panic sets in as your battery drops to zero. Avoid this. If you know you’re going to be involved in an all-day endeavor (think amusement parks, zoos), charge your phone whenever and wherever you can. Nothing eats up your battery like the eight billion photos and videos you absolutely must take.
8. Tiny Bottle of Advil Liqui-Gels
These are for you. Trust me, you will need them, and often. Sometimes it’s because you’ve had a super long day and get a hunger headache. Other times, it’s because Chuck E. Cheese’s is packed to the brim and the decibel level gives you a migraine. Come prepared.
9. An iPad or Similar Device
Keep this thing full to the brim with their favorite movies, songs, and apps. YouTube Kids is an incredible app that filters content for you, and my son absolutely loves it. And a huge piece of advice: Make sure it has Wi-Fi capabilities—there is nothing like dealing with a 6-year-old losing his mind because he can’t watch Netflix.
10. A Small Toy ‘Surprise’
Make it something your kid has never seen before but would flip out about and love. By small, I mean almost pocket-sized, but go for big impact. Having a spare Minecraft Mini Figure has completely saved my butt when I’ve encountered unexpected waits. The key is to first tell them if they are good, they will get a surprise toy, hold out as long as possible, and then reward them. If they’re bad, take that shit away.
You don’t have to take any of my advice, but after you ditch your diaper bag, having a small dad bag is very useful. Mine personally never leaves my kitchen counter or my passenger seat unless I’m out for the entire day. If you don’t have one, find one that suits you, buy these 10 items, and you will always be prepared. Just wait until you see a random mom fumbling through her purse for wet wipes and you beat her to the punch. You will feel empowered, and you will never leave home without that bag again.
This post first ran on GaysWithKids.