How to Split Household Tasks More Fairly Using Fair Play

Before my partner Nick and I got married we had many conversations about our values. Conversations covered how we’d like to show up for each other, how we view domestic and childcare responsibilities and parenting styles. I felt prepared to conquer anything together, we had it covered. You can imagine my surprise when I was introduced to Eve Rodsky’s book, Fair Play and realized the opportunity to create an even more equitable, collaborative and trusting partnership. This article helps address how to split household tasks more fairly using Fair Play.
The question that changed it all for me, was who would ever walk into their bosses office and ask, “So what should we be doing today?”

If we did not have clearly defined roles in our professional settings, responsibilities, process and systems, business would not function. Why do we have none of these things clearly defined in our homes?

As couples, we tell ourselves that because we love each other, we’ll figure it out. However, the research and data paint a different story. by simply “figuring it out” women end up taking on the majority of domestic and childcare responsibilities at home. They assume the default, or as Rodsky calls it “She-fault” role for anything and everything childcare or household task related. I started to gain a deep understanding around why so many of my girlfriends and family members with young children felt burnt out and expressed resentment towards their partners. This is a topic other Seacoast Moms contributors have explored, Parental Burnout: Four Tips to Unplug This Summer
This simple question fueled a whole new passion and desire inside of me to learn more. I’ve now become obsessed with helping families recognize that their home is their most important organization. As a Fair Play Certified Facilitator I can share this introduction to splitting household chores more fairly.

Let’s start by laying the foundation, what is Fair Play? It’s a game you play with your partner to rebalance home life to make it feel more fair and connected.

The game consists of 100 playing cards that represent the tasks that to run a household. When you start playing, the first step is to identify which cards are important to your family and why. This presents an opportunity to identify tasks that aren’t necessary to hold onto and those that you can outsource. Task distribution happens in alignment with family values. No player should hold any card by default. Task responsibilities are transparent and expectations around the conception, plan and execution is explicitly defined.  
Set up to play the game takes time, work and patience. You are not going to be perfect at this, there will be many mistakes and likely a few arguments. These are new concepts and new concepts take time to adopt. The goal is to establish a new way of thinking about sharing domestic work so that everyone feels like they are living in a fair environment.
Before you dive in and invite your partner to play it’s important that we proactively explore three ways many of us identify: As a partner, parent and professional. Eve articulates it beautifully,
“After having children, many of us feel that we’re no longer seen, or no longer see ourselves, for the vibrant individuals we are. Instead, we take on the corresponding identity for the various roles we now play: Spouse, caretaker, parent, household manager, list maker, Brayden or Hazel’s mom. According to the 2018 State of Motherhood survey by Motherly, 59% of moms report being “most strongly” defined by motherhood. I get it. I’m so proud of the time i’ve been able to care for and get to know my children, but outside of school, playdates, and kid’s birthday celebrations, can’t my non-work identity include something of what made me a good friend, a fun dinner companion, a talented (fill in the blank)? Consider what you were once known for among friends and loved ones, and how often do you identify yourself with that special something now?”
Our identities are ever changing and evolving and that’s wonderful. They can also make it hard for us to give up control and share the unpaid labor task load.

Ask yourself this, do I give myself permission to engage in activities that make me happy beyond my role as a partner, partner and professional?

If the answer is no, what’s getting in your way? Below are some of the most common toxic time messages that Rodsky identifies as holding women back from being able to share the domestic labor/childcare load.
  • Paid hours are worth more than unpaid or lesser paid hours
  • It’s on me, it’s my responsibility
  • I can do it better. I’m an expert multitasker. I can do it all.
  • I can save time by doing it myself
Have you found yourself expressing any of these messages? Do any of these narratives rob you of time you may otherwise spend on yourself? A less stressful and more fulfilling life is yours when you reframe how you value time. Let’s reframe each message from above.
  • Measurement of time is in minutes, not dollars. 
  • It’s not on me, it’s on us. Our home and family are both of our responsibilities
  • In order to regain some of my time, I must stop identifying with the multitasker role. This role does not serve me. (The most recent research shows no difference between sexes in terms of executive brain function.)
  • We’re both time starved, so let’s work toward being more thoughtful with how we each manage our valuable time.
In my next article we’ll explore crafting the invitation to play for your partner. In the meantime, I’d high suggest picking up the Fair Play book or watching the documentary.