The fair play method is a system of helping partners have a more equitable partnership especially as pertains to handling housework and care work in the home. It is drawn from the book Fair Play which was written by Eve Rodsky and has taken the online world at least by storm. It’s no secret that women bear the majority of the load related to housework and that it’s a source of stress for many heterosexual couples. This method helps you divide these responsibilities in a way that feels fair to both partners.
Who is fair play for?
The fair play method stands to benefit:
- The default parent or person who handles the majority of the domestic labour
- Partners who feel tension because of the distribution of housework
- Couples about to make a big change e.g. moving in together or having a baby or changing employment e.t.c.
- Co-parents living in different households
- Non-romantic partners who want to set clear expectations and have a fair split of duties
How does it work?
In the age of gamifying everything, The Fair Play Method is a deck of cards with a list of different tasks required to keep a home running. One of the benefits of having all the different tasks written is that it helps expose all the invisible work, people, more accurately women often do. The tasks range from doing the dishes to putting your children to sleep and even watering the plants.
The deck has 100 cards that you divide up between you and your partner based on the needs of your family.
- All time is created equal i.e. your time is just as valuable as mine. For example, if one partner is a stay-at-home parent and the other works outside the home, this recognizes that they both have 24 hours in a day and their time is equally valuable. Too often the tie of the stay-at-home parent is devalued.
- Do not keep score. It’s not about dividing the tasks 50-50, it is about dividing the tasks fairly.
- Collaborate and communicate. Always remember you’re on the same team, the same side.
Step 1: Build your deck together
Sit together and build your deck. You don’t need to play with all the cards, just the ones that are important for the moment in your home.
Step 2: Deal the cards
Each of you gets to deal out the cards based on your individual preference, capability, and availability. For the tasks that recur and that are unlikely to be anyone’s preference, find a way to split them up fairly. These include tasks like doing dishes, wiping butts or taking out the trash.
For the cards you hold, you hold them from beginning to end, a process the author calls CPE. You are responsible for the conception, planning and execution of the task. Say for example one of your cards is laundry. You are responsible for everything that pertains to it, from figuring out when it’s time to do everyone’s laundry, to make sure you have you have the required soap to the actual washing and drying and folding. All of it is on you.
If you hold an extracurricular sports card for your child. You are responsible for it all, from talking to the child to find out what sport they want to play, to researching leagues and planning out the season from carpooling to uniforms, ordering new supplies and making sure they and the rest of the family go to the games.
Step 2b: Agree on a minimum standard of care
Couples often have difficult expectations about different tasks. You need to agree on a minimum standard of care for each of the tasks. For example, do the dishes have to be washed after every meal or can they sleep in the sink and be washed the following day? This is likely to be a source of conflict but doesn’t mean you should lower your standards, just that you should find something that works for both of you. One way to help resolve any arising conflicts from any differences in standard of care is to talk about the why of it. Why is it important to you that the dishes be washed immediately?
Step 2c: Be flexible
You can always re-deal at any point and nobody should be holding any card in perpetuity. Holding the dishes card forever for example is likely to drive almost anyone crazy.
Step 3: Claim your unicorn space.
Deal each other a unicorn space card. This is a card that signifies a time for you to do what you want outside of your role as partner or parent. Something purely for you with the time you’ve newly freed up by fairly dividing the housework.
Step 4: Make it last
Try and make it last, focus on your why for doing this, keep communication lines open and keep making the changes necessary to make it last.
Try as much as possible not to delegate any part of your task. This often ends up becoming an extra mental load for the other person which is what we’re avoiding. Remember it’s not about 50-50, fair is not always equal and what’s equal is not always fair. The focus is on finding a fair division of tasks that works for both of you. If anyone feels like it’s unfair and they are burdened, revisit and re-deal, and be flexible.
Here’s to a more equitable partnership!
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