If you feel like you’re drowning under the mental load of running your household on top of, well, everything else, this post is for you.
I’m reviewing Fair Play by Eve Rodsky and teaching you exactly how to go about dividing domestic tasks more equitably with your spouse so you have time to take care of yourself, maintain friendships, and do the things that (used to) light you up.
This book is a game changing solution for when you have too much to do, and more life to live. If you’ve been struggling to find the time and energy to care for yourself and your wellness the way you want to, keep reading and listen to the podcast for even more tips!
There is a lot of mental and emotional labor that goes into keeping a home and family running smoothly. When things are going smoothly, you hardly notice them, but the work is still happening.
Women tend to take on a lion’s share of this domestic load. In fact, a UN report showed that women do three times the unpaid domestic labor as men. Even when women cut back on paid work, that time gets filled up with more household tasks.
The mental load of a never ending to-do list takes its toll. It’s like a soundtrack that’s always playing in the back of your mind.
In fact, 78% of moms say that they are so busy maintaining family stability that they’re not taking care of themselves.
And the costs of this mental load are extensive. Our physical health and wellness suffer. Resentment creeps into our marriages and partnerships. We’re tired, disconnected from the things that used to give us purpose, and we feel like we’ve lost who we are.
While society and culture have pushed this role onto women for generations, we’ve also played a role in losing sight of ourselves. We think we “should” do certain things or that it’s easier to just do it ourselves. We also might feel guilty about asking for help.
A change starts with personal responsibility, and individual change creates more demand for social, political and economic change.
When you find yourself spread too thin, feeling resentful, overweight, unhealthy, tired and lonely, it’s time to figure out another way. That’s where Fair Play comes in.
What Is Fair Play?
Your spouse is probably more than willing to help you, but they don’t realize how much you’ve been taking on and the load you’re carrying.
In her book, Rodsky created a game called Fair Play in which all of the day-to-day tasks that are required to run a home have a card.
The average household has about 60 of these tasks – and add 40 more if you have kids! You sit down with your partner and divvy up the task cards, and whoever has the card is responsible for the entire task from planning to completion.
Most of the legwork is in the conception and planning stages. So, if one person is doing the planning and another is doing the execution, that second person gets off easy. The person executing the plan might also not have all the context or details for their task.
Taking responsibility for the entire task helps to avoid arguments, resentment and frustration for both partners.
4 Rules of Fair Play
Rule #1: All time is created equal
Men’s time isn’t more valuable than women’s, even if that man is the breadwinner.
A woman’s time isn’t less valuable because she isn’t earning money (or as much money as her spouse). She’s spending her time in service of her home and family, and that time is just as worthy as time spent outside the home.
Rule #2: Reclaim your ability to be interesting
You have the right to be interesting and pursue things that help you have depth and joy. Rodsky calls this your “unicorn space”. She believes that the pursuit of meaning is the true path to happiness and joy…which lead to other amazing benefits for your health and relationships.
Women tend to fade into the background of their lives and lose their passion and their interests. Other stuff takes precedence. You’re taking care of your kids and trying to be present with them, while also maintaining a career and trying to appear like you’re not trying to do both things.
All the stuff that made you you, pre-kids and pre-career, falls to the wayside. When there’s nothing in your life that you’re passionate about, you become a shell of yourself.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What used to light me up that I’ve been missing?
- How is my life now different from what I thought it would be or what I want it to be?
- What would I like more time for?
- Besides being a mom and wife, what am I proud of? When did I do that thing?
Rule #3: Start where you are now
This applies to literally everything you want to change with your lifestyle or your health.
Only one person has to initiate a change, but without someone taking that step, you’ll stay stuck. You have to be the catalyst.
You’re already communicating your resentment or displeasure with the way things are, maybe just not verbally or clearly. So why not communicate more directly, openly and vulnerably so that you can improve your situation?
Rule #4: Establish family values and standards
Your family values serve as a guide to the life you are trying to create. They help you determine where your time and energy are best spent, so you can create a plan that works for you and your family.
If you decide, for example, that living an active lifestyle or eating more healthily as a family are important to you, you can tailor the tasks to point you toward those goals. Maybe some tasks take a back seat to allow time for daily workouts or you allocate a bit more time to intentional meal planning or preparation.
You don’t have to do the things on every single card in the deck. If you don’t have kids, pets or a car, remove those cards. Maybe there are some tasks that just aren’t that important to you as a family. Throw those out, too. Trim the deck as much as you can. The fewer cards you have, the easier it is to divide them up and the less you each have to do.
Forget peer pressure and societal expectations. Be intentional about how you, as a family. want to spend your time and how you want to create your lives and use these tasks to meet a shared vision and goal.
Next, decide on a minimum standard of care. What is considered reasonable in your home with regard to the tasks in your deck? Getting on the same page now will help avoid arguments down the line.
Playing the Game
It seems that male/female hetero relationships tend to have the most imbalanced division of labor, but the Fair Play game can apply to any relationship.
First, go through the deck and pull out the cards that are currently your responsibility.
Rodsky lays out some common tendencies that both men and women fall under, especially if the woman starts out holding more than 60 task cards. These tendencies are meant to give you a better understanding of your relationship dynamic so that you know how to approach the conversation.
Depending on your current division of labor, getting to a 50/50 division might be a big leap. It’s okay for your spouse to start taking one or two new cards at a time.
Based on Rodsky’s research, many couples found that 21 cards felt fair to the husband while also letting the wife feel supported and no longer drained. Your number will depend on your unique situation, and it’s okay if it changes over time.
Think about how to bring up the conversation. What approach feels natural to you and is likely to be well received by your spouse? Think about what he values or how he might benefit from a shift. It’s not you vs. him. You are partners.
Make the first conversation short and sweet. Then, set a time for a longer conversation where you go through the rest of the steps. Here is where you’ll trim your deck together, divide up cards and talk about reasonable expectations for each task. Make sure no cards are left unassigned.
After a week, have a follow-up to share feedback with each other, starting with the positive before moving into constructive criticism.
Continue with regular check-ins. These are so important because they keep the lines of communication open and allow for adjustments over time. They fit in really well with any other life admin tasks you’re checking in on weekly.
The end game of Fair Play is for both of you to be happy as individuals and as a couple, and to serve as healthy role models for your kids.
I hope you’ll check out Fair Play, have some conversations with your spouse and create your own unicorn space. Through Fair Play, you’ll teach kids what it means to have an equitable and collaborative partnership where individual time is respected and valued, household work is shared and everyone in the family is encouraged to find their unicorn.
When the load is shared more fairly, individual time is respected and valued, and energy is freed up to care for yourself again.
The Gone for Good framework was created for busy women who want to lose weight without rigid diets or extreme exercise plans.
And just like the Fair Play game outlines clear responsibilities that match your values, we give you a customized exercise and nutrition plan that suits your lifestyle, personalized mindset and lifestyle tools and a team of experts to support you and hold you accountable.
Your coach becomes your partner in creating and maintaining sustainable weight loss and the lifestyle you want. Learn more and book a call with us here.