“When I grow up, I will have a true partner in life.” After watching her mother raise her alone, that was the phrase Eve Rodsky repeated to herself often growing up. She was “determined to build and sustain a 50/50 partnership.”
Imagine Rodsky’s surprise, then, when she became the “she-fault parent” in her relationship—doing the “invisible work [often] unseen and unrecognized by our partners… despite the fact that it costs us real time and significant mental and physical effort with no sick time or benefits.” While working full-time, she was still “masterminding our family’s day-to-day life,” and her husband “was still not much more than a ‘helper’ rather than a collaborative partner-planner-participant in all that took place for our family.”
Rodsky became determined to fix the problem, and created “a home management system with clearly delineated roles, explicitly defined expectations, along with a measurement of accountability.”
It started with her “Sh*t I Do List,” of all the tasks she and other moms were in charge of, which led to the Fair Play card system—the basis of her new book, Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live).
A key to this system is that one person will conceptualize, plan and execute (CPE) the Cards of Contention—and that it will not bounce back to all being on one person’s shoulders.
Rodsky believed that most couples and especially families would benefit from “a practical plan of action to optimize productivity and efficiency, as well as a new consciousness and language for thinking and talking about domestic life.” Fair Play is her manual, empowering couples to strategically divide tasks equitably and give themselves time and space to grow.
“In our culture, ‘mom’ has been deemed the she-fault, de facto household manager and caretaker,” Rodsky writes. “If the school calls, Mom picks up. If a child is sick, Mom stays home. If the dry-cleaning/rent check/prescription order needs to be dropped off, Mom gets to work late, even though her workday already began many hours earlier in order to get her children out of bed, fed, dressed, and dropped at daycare…How can any of us possibly lean in if we can’t rely on consistent contributions from our partners?”
In order to pick up all of these “invisible” tasks, there is a cost to women’s health, professional goals and personal relationships. “This ‘time tax,’ where women are burdened with more than our fair share of childcare and domestic work,” Rodsky explains, “compromises every aspect of our lives—our relationships, career, sense of identity and physical and mental health. Our perception of men’s time as finite versus women’s time as infinite, or weighted differently in any way, must change if we ever want to achieve true liberation.”
This likely resonates with many of us. When I was living with my partner, our responsibilities were not transparent nor explicitly defined, and the challenges of getting things done involved nagging and foot dragging, which meant I felt resentful. Rodsky, too, saw the problem—in her own house, in her friend’s houses and around our planet. “I needed to literally change the game,” she writes, “but before I could do that, I had to create one.” Rodsky’s way help partners get set up to win, whereas women like me definitely feel we were set up to lose. (The first rule? “All time is created equal.”)
But what also resonated with me was Rodsky’s definition of “Unicorn Space”—the “rare, magical and essential” time where one partner in a relationship gets to focus inward and “reclaim the interests that make you uniquely you, stoking your passion and driving you to be the best version of yourself.” Reclaiming this space is part of Rodsky’s second rule: reclaiming our right to be interesting.
“I was pissed at myself,” Rodsky remembers. “Where was the woman I was so proud of being?” It took me back to a moment during my divorce, when a close friend asked me: “Why did you stop salsa dancing and scuba diving?” I had become the woman Rodsky wrote about: one who had “stepped into the background of her own life” and “lost her earlier identity—the vibrant and passionate woman who she’d worked so hard to become.”
Did I give up my permission to be interesting? What was I willing to do to get it back? The answer, of course, is grounded in Rodsky’s rules: I had to re-create my Unicorn Space. I wish I had the tools that she provides her readers.
Whether we’re in relationships or not, Fair Play makes one wonder what would happen if we all made “intentional choices about how to spend our time and thoughtfully create our lives.” What would life be like if women had more “time and space to reclaim, or discover and nurture, the natural gifts and interests” that make us who we are?
Rodsky’s prediction? “The real win,” of course: “a happier, healthier you.”