During the summer, I'm one lucky gal - my teacher husband is at home most days, so we swap child care duties and work time as needed. This means that after months of mom-centric care, our three kids get to adjust to their patriarch's parenting style. It's distinctly different from mine: he instructs less, plays more and isn't nearly as productive. Which, as it turns out, is a good thing. While my own juggle-it-all parenting style works for me, I'm definitely learning a thing or three from him. Here are a few pieces of daddy parenting wisdom, courtesy of my better half.

Put your feet up

Keeping up with our active 9, 6 and 3-year-olds is no easy feat. Most days, it's downright exhausting. Instead of complaining about how tiring it is (like I would do), my husband does something more practical: he takes a break when he needs one. He doesn't neglect the kids, but he does zone out in front of ESPN for 10 minutes when he needs a breather. And get this: the kids survive. They usually take a cue from him and slow down too, snuggling up to him on the sofa or grabbing a book and reading in their room. The result is a happier, less harried parent and kids who appreciate the importance of a well-deserved break.

Lesson: Good parenting doesn't mean running yourself ragged. Let kids see you take a breather now and then.

Forget multitasking

On my days with the kids, I'm a multitasking whiz. Often, I'll start the laundry while they eat breakfast, fold clothes while they play, answer emails while their pasta boils and wipe down the counters while they eat lunch. On my husband's days with the kids, he specializes in single-tasking. He just spends time with them. At the day's end, there may be unfolded laundry on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink, but the kids are happy and centered.

Lesson: All kids really want is undivided attention. They come first; chores can wait.

Home sweet home

Like loads of other work-at-home and stay-at-home moms, my days with the kids are rarely spent at home. I go a little stir-crazy staring at my four walls, so I plan activities and playdates to get us out of the house. This also lets me squeeze in errands so I can feel marginally productive. But my spouse doesn't share my affinity for the carpool lane. Under his watch, the kids have rediscovered the joy of their own backyard. The older two catch butterflies and study spiders and the toddler digs happily in the sandbox. Everybody's happy, and we save gas and hassle. Dad for the win.

Lesson: Park the car. Sometimes the best days are lazy ones spent at home.

Screen scene

The American Academy of Pediatrics is okay with up to two hours per day of screen time for kids over two. In other words, some daily television and iPad time is doctor-sanctioned. Yet I feel myself tense up when the kids start a second episode of Wild Kratts on Netflix. It's summer, I say automatically. Get outside! Play! Of course, outdoor play is invaluable and our kids get plenty. But indoor time has value too, as a respite from the elements and a chance to unwind and slow down for a moment or two. My husband balances backyard and park time with an indoor quiet time after lunch, during which the kids curl up with books or (gasp!) catch a show. They appreciate the break and I appreciate the cute photos of my offspring curled up together, giggling at a funny cat video on YouTube. Outside, the kids tend to run in different directions; indoors, they pile on the living room rug and huddle together with their limbs intertwined. These summer memories are priceless, and they wouldn't happen without a little well-chosen screen time.

Lesson: Balance outdoor time with quiet indoor moments for summer magic.

All hail the music truck

For half a decade, whenever the ice cream truck's warbling notes drifted into our neighborhood, I'd quickly say "Hey, it's the music truck!" and hold my breath, hoping nobody would start digging through my purse for a dollar. My kids bought it, and enjoyed the jangling, jaunty notes without begging for overpriced ice cream treats. But by last summer, the ruse was wearing thin; my brood had connected the "music truck's" arrival on our street with the neighbor kids obtaining all manners of frozen treats, and they were disgruntled. So the next time the tinny tunes filled our street, my wise husband dug into his wallet and peeled off a few bills for the kids. He shot me a look that said, "They're only kids once." And he was right. Summertime should be savored. Even when it leads to an inevitable sugar coma.

Lesson: Childhood is short. Let them get ice cream.

Thanks to my husband's more laid-back, in-the-moment parenting style, our summers are more relaxed, less rushed and decidedly sweeter. It's a balance I wouldn't trade for all the music trucks in the world.


Malia Jacobson is a nationally published journalist and mom of three.