Fair Play : A system for how to divide up household tasks fairly, based on your needs.
This month’s blog is written by Certified Fair Play Facilitator, Alyssa Goodman, LMSW. As always, if you or someone you know would benefit from extra support, we are here to help.
Tired, stressed, and need more help from your partner? Looking to create more equity with your partner for dividing up the domestic labor and mental load in your household? It can feel overwhelming and hard to get started. The good news is, there is a system that can help, and the start of the school year for many families can be the perfect time to review and discuss needed shifts in their division of household labor.
Fair Play, created by Eve Rodsky, is a time- and anxiety-saving system that couples, families, and housemates can use to create more equity and develop better communication about their division of domestic labor. In heterosexual/cis-gender couples, women often take on the majority of this unpaid and invisible labor, including the anticipatory tasks like planning for what needs to happen for the family. We know that carrying the majority of this invisible labor (including the mental and emotional load) can be exhausting and lead to burnout. When this occurs, it can leave individuals (often mothers) feeling as though they’ve lost their identities, don’t have time for themselves as individuals, and with increased anxiety about needing to “do it all.”
If you are wanting to break out of this cycle and make the invisible labor more visible, here is how you can jump in with the Fair Play Method:
1. Start the conversation with your partner. This method gives couples a starting point. The invitation for this initial conversation should happen when cognition is high and emotion is low (i.e., not in the heat of an argument about who did or didn’t do something). Recently, many couples have found that watching the Fair Play Documentary together has been a great starting point.
2. Make the invisible labor visible. Using the Fair Play Cards can be a helpful first step. This process helps partners literally see what is on each other’s plate and the amount of work that goes into running a household. It’s important to remember that this isn’t about comparing how many cards each partner has, but rather to make all of the household labor more visible.
3. Choose 1 “Daily Grind” card. The Daily Grind cards are tasks that happen daily/regularly and are time sensitive – e.g., dishes, laundry, packing school lunches (look for the coffee cup image on the cards that are posted on the Fair Play website). Discuss how this one task is currently completed. Who plans for the task? Who anticipates what might be needed to complete the task? Are there any current stressors for the person completing the task? How about for the other partner? Starting with one card can have a huge impact.
4. Discuss the “Minimum Standard of Care” (MSC). Share your thoughts on why the task is important for you/your family and have your partner share the same. Additionally, you both can share what the minimum standard of care is for the task - what needs to be true for this task to be completed? You don’t need to fully agree at first, but it’s important that each partner has the opportunity to share and then together, you can reach consensus about the MSC.
5. Describe the “Conception, Planning, and Execution” (CPE) for the chosen card. As you’re beginning with Fair Play, you can complete this exercise together. You will want to discuss: the Conception (the mental load of a task, the behind-the-scenes thinking that happens before official action planning can begin), the Planning (the more detailed plan for a task – when will it happen? How will it happen? Who will complete it?), and the Execution (completing the task in its entirety).
6. Try it out for a week! Once you’ve had the initial meeting and have talked through the full MSC and CPE for a card, decide who will own this card and try it out for a week. At the end of the week, come back together to discuss the wins and challenges, discuss any shifts that may need to happen, and talk about whether you’re ready to continue with another card.
Fair Play is a system that is ever evolving for couples. It
is meant to be played regularly, with cards being “re-dealt” as necessary. Fair Play is not about dividing tasks 50/50 between couples, but rather doing it in an equitable way so that each person in the partnership has the time and space to explore their own interests and creative passions – to be a person outside of their role as a partner, parents, and professional.