I wanna be a male model in a Mothercare mag

You can spot South London’s stay-at-home dads by our single scuffed brogues. It’s like a crap middle-class gang sign. The reason, I finally figured out after weeks of Sherlockian puzzling, is simple. Many prams and buggies have their brake lever at foot level. Releasing it quickly requires a swift upwards flick of your right foot, which ensures that you look like a pro whipping the buggy off a Number 37 bus, but over time makes a real mess of your Jasper Conran uppers.

I’ve yet to strike up a conversation about teething with a stranger simply because of the state of his footwear. But since my partner and I decided to go halves on our year’s parental leave, I’ve found myself, when I’m not with my daughter, on the lookout for similar discreet tics and identifiers. Because daytime dads and other male child-carers are a shy bunch. For some reason we tend not to get chatting very naturally at playgrounds and library story sessions. There are a few dedicated dads’ playgroups (most on Saturdays, aimed at working dads), but otherwise few informal networks, no online Dadsnet (actually, I shudder at the thought of what a Dadsnet chat forum might look like). Men looking after young babies in particular, whose range of out-of-the-house activities is more limited than that of toddlers, can easily assume that we’re an exotic and endangered species.