Fair Play | Eve Rodsky

Summary of: Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live)
By: Eve Rodsky


Welcome to the summary of ‘Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live)’, a book by Eve Rodsky that sheds light on the commonly unbalanced division of labor between spouses, particularly after the arrival of children. This summary will discuss the reasons many mothers end up taking on the ‘second shift’ – the routine, unpaid work that comes with household and childcare responsibilities. We will also cover the toll that invisible work takes on women’s mental health, relationships, and careers, and the factors that contribute to the undervaluation of their time. Finally, the summary introduces the ‘Fair Play’ card game designed to help couples reassess and redistribute family-related tasks more fairly and effectively.

Navigating Parenthood’s Invisible Work

With the arrival of children, a marriage’s dynamics shift, often leaving mothers handling the majority of household chores and emotional labor. This invisible work includes both the second shift, the unpaid work in addition to regular jobs, and managing the family’s emotional well-being. Mothers are expected to keep up with the enormous mental load this creates, resulting in anxiety, fatigue, and forgetfulness. Despite these added responsibilities, their efforts generally go unnoticed by their partners, potentially leading to negative consequences within the relationship.

Parenthood adds a new dimension to marriage, usually leading to an imbalance in the division of labor. In the beginning, couples often evenly distribute work and are able to focus on their careers. However, when children come along, the balance shifts, and mothers typically find themselves taking on more tasks.

The arrival of children introduces the concept of the “second shift” for mothers. This term refers to the unpaid work they do for their families, such as packing lunches, doing laundry, or grocery shopping in addition to their paid jobs. Fathers, on the other hand, typically remain focused on their day jobs.

Another burden that mothers carry is emotional labor. They are responsible for maintaining family relationships and ensuring everyone’s emotional well-being. This includes calling in-laws, sending birthday cards to relatives, and comforting children in distress. While emotional labor can be an essential aspect of good parenting, it becomes draining when the responsibility falls solely on the mother’s shoulders.

To manage these added responsibilities, mothers develop a mental to-do list, encompassing several family-related tasks. This constant juggling act leads to mental overload, contributing to anxiety, fatigue, and forgetfulness.

Despite the substantial amount of invisible work mothers undertake, their efforts frequently go unacknowledged by their partners. The unnoticed tasks, such as keeping the household running smoothly or managing children’s schedules, are known as invisible work. This imbalance and lack of recognition may have significant negative effects on marriage.

In the forthcoming sections, the consequences of this unequal division of labor will be further examined, shedding light on its impact on relationships.

The Hidden Cost of Motherhood

Eve Rodsky’s discovery of the impact of the “second shift” on mothers reveals how the extra workload at home significantly affects their relationships, mental health, and career growth. From declining marital satisfaction and overwhelming stress to the unfair setbacks in their professional life, mothers face daunting challenges that ultimately put them at a massive economic disadvantage.

Eve Rodsky, a loving mother, found herself drowning in responsibilities and questioned the impact on her personal well-being. After research, she unveiled the detrimental effects of the “second shift”—the work women do at home after their day jobs—on mothers everywhere.

Let’s examine how the second shift wreaks havoc on a mother’s marriage. Despite sharing the parenting role, women still shoulder more housework and childcare responsibilities than men, creating a space for resentment and isolation within the relationship. Studies show that women burdened with more invisible work report lower marital satisfaction.

The weight of the second shift doesn’t stop at relationships. It invades a mother’s mental health too, causing stress and exhaustion. A survey reveals that out of 7,000 American moms, most rated their stress levels at 8.5 on a 10-point scale. With 80% of moms being too preoccupied with family care to attend to themselves, it’s not surprising that women are diagnosed with anxiety disorders twice as much as men.

Furthermore, the second shift hinders a woman’s career. Mothers face a wider pay gap than their childless counterparts, as they struggle to fit the traditional image of a dedicated worker. Consequently, they’re often perceived as less competent by their employers.

This mindset results in a “mother tax”: a 5-10% income reduction per child, fewer salary raises, and missed career development opportunities. The stark reality is that when women become mothers, they take on a substantial economic risk. The second shift not only costs them their well-being but also their future potential.

Valuing Time Equally

Eve Rodsky’s experience highlights the problem of unequal perception of men and women’s time. This can be overcome by redefining the importance of unpaid work and household chores, as well as allocating duties fairly between partners. Time should be measured in hours, not dollars, emphasizing that both partners have limited time and equal responsibility at home.

Long days are not uncommon for many, but for Eve Rodsky, one particular day stands out. Upon returning home after an exhausting day, she discovered trash left in her garden, much to her dismay. Seth, her husband, had been home for hours but had left it there, expecting Eve to deal with it. This situation begs the question: why was it deemed acceptable for him to leave it for her?

The truth is rooted in the way society perceives men and women’s time. Generally, men’s time is seen as a precious, finite resource, comparable to a diamond. In contrast, women’s time is viewed as sand, something infinite, and easily dispersed for tasks like cleaning up garbage. This mindset inevitably leads to an uneven distribution of responsibilities.

To evaluate if you and your partner possess similar attitudes, ask yourself these questions: Is your partner’s professional time more valuable than the time you spend on parental duties? Are your unpaid, unacknowledged tasks less significant than your partner’s paid and highly visible work? A resounding “no” should be the answer.

Breaking free from this damaging mindset requires a fair division of household and childcare duties between you and your partner. However, addressing and overcoming ingrained, toxic assumptions remains necessary.

One such belief is the misguided equation of time and money. Primary breadwinning men often consider their time more valuable because they receive higher compensation at work. Eve’s husband, for instance, deemed his working hours too precious to interrupt for urgent family needs.

To achieve a fairer domestic arrangement, it’s crucial to reassess the concept of time. Time should only be measured in hours, never dollars. Like your partner, you too have a limited number of hours each day, indicating that it is equally the responsibility of both partners to attend to family matters and chores—regardless of whether it means ending a work call early. By redefining the significance of unpaid work and fairly allocating responsibilities, mutual respect and understanding can be fostered within partnerships.

Rediscover Passion Amidst Motherhood

Motherhood often causes women to give up their passions and interests, leading to a loss of personal identity. It’s essential for mothers to continue pursuing their interests if they hope to maintain a sense of self, engage in engaging conversations, and create a fairer division of labor within their household. By reconnecting with the passions that defined them before becoming a mother, women can inspire their partners to share the domestic load and reignite their self-worth.

Becoming a mother brings immense joy and growth but can also lead to dramatic changes in a woman’s identity. Take Ellen, for example. She was a successful interior designer who started her own company, but after starting a family, she sold her business and focused solely on her children and household. In doing so, she lost the passionate and driven woman she once was.

It’s a common struggle for mothers, as additional responsibilities often mean sacrificing personal interests. Many women, like Ellen, feel too exhausted to engage in activities outside of family life and work commitments. Worryingly, some believe they no longer have permission to prioritize their interests – from themselves or their partners.

Unfortunately, this results in many mothers feeling uninteresting to others and even themselves. After Ellen traded her passion for interior design for her family, she found herself with nothing to discuss at social events except for her children, home, and pets. Eventually, this loss of identity contributed to the breakdown of her marriage.

Retaining personal interests isn’t solely about staying “interesting.” It’s crucial for maintaining a sense of self and achieving a more equal division of labor at home. Researcher Eve’s interviews with parents revealed that men are more likely to share domestic responsibilities if it enables their partner to pursue her passions. Interestingly, men reported valuing and feeling proud of their partner’s achievements and interests.

In conclusion, to lighten the burden and rediscover oneself, mothers should prioritize reconnecting with the passions that defined them before motherhood. Doing so not only benefits their self-worth but can also inspire their spouse to contribute more to household duties.

Fair Play: Balance Domestic Life

Eve Rodsky’s card game, “Fair Play,” helps couples become more aware of their domestic responsibilities and balance the load. The game consists of 100 cards in five categories: Home, Out, Caregiving, Magic, and Wild. Each card represents a task typically performed by one partner. By delegating cards and taking turns completing the tasks, both partners can better understand their roles and work towards a more balanced domestic life.

Imagine a card game that lets you and your partner analyze and distribute domestic tasks, revealing how much each of you contributes to your family. Eve Rodsky’s “Fair Play” is precisely that game. Here’s how it works:

Start by creating 100 cards, dividing them into five categories, reflecting the various aspects of your domestic life. The first category, Home, consists of daily tasks like doing laundry, taking out the trash, writing shopping lists, and preparing kids’ lunches. These activities typically occur within the household.

The Out category represents tasks performed outside your home, such as driving children to school, dropping them off at extracurricular activities, or taking the family car for servicing. These tasks involve errands and transportation.

Caregiving is the third category and includes caring activities that primarily fall on women, like toilet training children, walking the dog, helping with homework, and reading bedtime stories. These tasks focus on nurturing and supporting family members.

The fourth category, Magic, is all about going the extra mile to create special moments for your loved ones. These tasks might include organizing birthday parties or comforting a child after a nightmare. Magic tasks are rewarding but often go unnoticed as “invisible work.”

Lastly, the Wild category covers significant, challenging life events such as moving house or coping with loss. These tasks can be overwhelming, and it’s encouraged to ask your partner for help when dealing with a Wild card.

To begin playing “Fair Play,” assign each card to the partner who usually handles that task. This process sheds light on the division of responsibilities in your relationship, motivating you both to work towards a more balanced domestic life. By being aware of your partner’s efforts and collaborating on daunting tasks, the game fosters communication and understanding in your relationship, making your home life more harmonious and enjoyable. So, deal the cards and start playing!

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