Today’s post is a really special one, guys! It’s written by my ex-boss at my last “real” job, Jennifer Swartley, who is now a Fair Play Facilitator & Professional Coach. What does that mean exactly? Well, she helps you implement the lessons from Fair Play (which I’ve written about many times) into your marriage or relationship. And she’s incredible at it. Anel and I have been working with her for the last few months and I am downright shocked by the updates we’ve made in dividing household tasks.
Jen is a great friend, mother, wife, and cheerleader for all of us to create more time for ourselves through Fair Play. Whether you’ve tried the Fair Play system or not, her tips are beyond helpful for any couple out there.
Take it away, Jen!
By now, you’ve probably heard of the Fair Play system created by Eve Rodsky. You may have read about Julia’s experience with it back in 2020 (or her follow up post on unicorn space), read the book, or watched the documentary that came out late last year. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a system that helps partners to divide up the domestic labor that goes into running a family and home in a way that feels more fair and equitable – truly valuing each partner’s time.
I have implemented the system in my life, recommended it to burnt out moms in my coaching business and last year worked with Eve and the Fair Play team to get certified to help couples bring it into their home. As a Fair Play coach, I had the pleasure of working with Julia and Anel to regroup on the system they had put in place a few years back and adapt it for their life now with 2 kids.
After working with and speaking to so many couples in the throes of Fair Play, I have heard plenty of complaints and excuses why it doesn’t work for a particular situation. I started to see there were some common grievances so I came up with five types of people who think the system doesn’t work for them and what can be done to fix it. See if any resonate with you.
1. The Micromanager
Do you find yourself making your partner lists for each of the tasks they own? Are you constantly checking in to see if they finished something? Have you ever said “it’s just faster to do it myself!”
I know, we’ve all been there! But the truth of the matter is micromanagement doesn’t work, in business or at home. Eventually resentment builds, you take back the task yourself or your partner grows tired of being nagged and uses it as an excuse to do less.
Get clear on what it means to own a card and if a particular task is prone for missed steps, go through the steps together in your weekly check-ins and feel free to split it into two separate cards (ensuring for each card there’s full ownership of the CPE – conception, planning and execution). Once that’s decided, allow your partner to own their tasks and if things are not getting done or steps are being missed, talk to your partner about how that makes you feel and hold them accountable to try harder.
2. The At Home Parent
When your partner works outside the home and makes the lion’s share of your household income, it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing your job is to manage all the home and childcare duties. Well that sure is a round-the-clock job and according to salary.com you could earn upwards of $162,581 for the work alone that goes into managing a household. When you acknowledge the sheer volume of work, it becomes clear it could never be a one person job.
And the truth is your time is valuable and should be treated as such. Eve often says we need to stop treating “women’s time as infinite, like sand” and viewing “men’s time as finite, like diamonds.” Get clear on what can be handled during the day in “working hours” and then see what falls outside of that time on nights and weekends. That’s the work to be divided up in partnership together.
Just because one person is working outside the home during the day, doesn’t mean they can’t be responsible for things and get creative about when they do them. For example, Anel holds the card for kids’ backpacks and gets those ready in the evening since he heads out to work early.
3. The Dismissive Partner
If your partner tends to dismiss or belittle the tasks that take up a lot of your time saying things like “why do we need to go to kids’ birthday parties anyways?” or “who cares if we send a thank you note,” it’s time to revisit your family values.
While some of this can be in jest, those little comments chip away at your willingness to ask for support from your partner and make us believe we need to handle all the things that our partners aren’t interested in. Well that’s just b.s.!
Take a moment (not in the heat of a snarky exchange) and talk about why a debated task exists in your household. Make room to listen to one another and share stories around why you care. The more you get to the heart of the matter, the more humanity you bring to these mundane tasks. Now the end result may not be them holding the card, but it should be respect for the time devoted to it.
4. The Favorite Parent
While it can feel good to be the “favorite,” I’ve found in parenting it can be exhausting. You tend to be the one that your child turns to when they’re upset or clings to in moments of transition.
Emotional labor can be some of the most invisible labor and the hardest to really articulate or quantify when it comes to various tasks. But just because you’re called upon at every turn, doesn’t mean your partner is off the hook.
Start by acknowledging when you’re feeling drained by this constant demand for your time and attention. Talk about it with your partner and think of creative ways to give them more time alone together to bond. Share solutions and tactics you’ve used to comfort your child and allow them space to try them out or create their own. And remember, it’s usually a phase so it’s not forever, but it takes intentional work to get back on fair footing.
5. The Incompetent Partner
One line I hear quite often is “my partner just doesn’t know how to do _____ like I do.” and while there are definitely strengths we each carry, I don’t think we were born with a gene that makes us better at folding laundry, washing pots and pans, or preparing our kids’ lunches.
There’s a term Eve uses called “weaponized incompetence” that speaks to this phenomenon whereby one partner calls out their inability to do a task in order to free themselves of the responsibility. Sometimes they’ll even do it, but do it poorly to make a point, like when my husband brought home jalapenos instead of cucumbers for our dinner party and declared “that’s why I shouldn’t do the shopping!”
It’s easy to just take on the task ourselves, but we need to resist the urge and hold the boundary that they complete their fair share. Give them time to learn and if it continues to happen, have honest conversations about what true partnership looks and feels like and why that matters to you.
Hopefully those scenarios help you to recognize patterns that may be taking away from successfully implementing the Fair Play method. Know that it doesn’t happen overnight and the system is meant to be optimized as life evolves and workloads change. There are plenty of resources available online at fairplaylife.com and facilitators, like myself, that help couples put it into practice.
Want to know more about how I can support your Fair Play efforts? Check out how I work with individuals and couples to help mediate these conversations and empower you to ask for more support at home. Mention Lemon Stripes and I’ll offer you a free 45-minute consultation to talk about your specific situation.