Our Experience With The Fair Play Method
At the beginning of 2023, Finn and I declared that we were going to have a “Year of Us.” It would be 12 months spent working on our marriage and putting time into strengthening our bond. Life with two young kids can be incredibly overwhelming and we know a strong marriage can make things better for the entire family. You can read more about “The Year of Us” right here.
All of you know that there’s a lot that goes into running a household and we’ve tried various things throughout the years to divvy up duties and stay on the same page. Last year, we implemented bi-monthly family meetings, which we still do, and those have been incredibly helpful. But, we wanted to take things to the next level and that’s when we decided to try out the Fair Play method.
What Is Eve Rodsky’s Fair Play Method?
Eve Rodsky is the New York Times bestselling author of the book Fair Play and a time equality activist. She is an advocate for a society where women’s time is truly valued and is considered as precious as men’s time. She wants to help couples of all diverse backgrounds rebalance the domestic load in their relationships. There’s even an Amazon Prime documentary all about the book and the Fair Play method.
Finn and I have always been good about splitting up household tasks, but when the kids came along, more things started to fall on my plate. With a flexible job, I was often changing up my schedule so I could handle any last-minute doctor’s visits or arranging childcare. This wasn’t ideal and really added to my mental load as a mother.
And I’m not an anomaly. Research shows that women tend to do more domestic labor and have less leisure time than men, even when they have full-time jobs. This wasn’t Finn’s fault. He wanted to help, he just didn’t really know how. Delegating any tasks to him was just another thing on my already full plate.
What Should I Do First?
The Fair Play book dives deep into Rodsky’s system to divvy up domestic responsibilities. You can then buy the Fair Play deck of cards to go along with the book. This deck features 100 household tasks that you turn into a card game that you play with your partner.
I’ve shared our Fair Play cards on Instagram over the past few months and everyone always wants to know if they have to read the book too. Technically, no. However, I would urge at least one partner to read the book before you both sit down to deal the cards. I read the book and then put a date on our calendar for us to sit in the backyard, with a bottle of wine, and get down to work.
Dealing The Cards
As mentioned, there are 100 task cards in the deck, but you won’t be using all of them. Some simply won’t apply to your life. For example, “pets” and “dry cleaning” were cards we set aside right away. We went through all of the cards together and eliminated 36 of them.
You then work together to split up the remaining cards based on your skills, interests, and availability. Fair doesn’t necessarily mean splitting everything 50/50 and you’re not stuck with a card forever.
Owning A Task From Start to Finish
The hardest thing we ran into was that there were a lot of tasks that we both did already. We were both doing a bit of laundry, we were both unpacking the kids’ backpacks, etc. Rodsky advises against this and instead suggests having one person completely own that task.
And when I say “own”, I mean that that person has to handle everything from conceiving, to planning, to executing that task. She calls it “CPE”. For example, Finn holds the “grocery” card in our house. That means that he is in charge of making the grocery list, figuring out which days he needs to go, and then actually going to the store and making it happen.
In the past, we would get into little arguments because we would break up the CPE. For example, Finn would throw laundry in the washing machine and then leave it. I would then come home to mildewy clothes wet in the washing machine. Now, one person owns the laundry (me) from start to finish. I’m in charge of everything from getting the dirty clothes to the laundry room to putting the clean clothes away.
How We Split Our Household Tasks
Right now, I hold 35 cards and Finn holds 29. A bulk of each of our cards were pretty easy to deal out. For example, I am the “calendar keeper” and I do all of the scheduling for the family. Finn handles “auto” and he deals with getting gas when we’re low, oil changes, car insurance, and more. We split up a lot of those cards based on interest and strengths.
There are also some cards that we both share, specifically because we have two kids. We switch off who puts each kid to bed each night and we split up extracurricular activities with each of our kids. (I take Rory to ballet and Finn takes Ellis to sports camp.)
Finn’s Honest Fair Play Method Review
I know many of you are thinking that this sounds great, but how the heck are you going to get your husband on board? I chatted with Finn to get his honest review of the entire system. He first wanted to emphasize that it’s important to have two willing participants. He was all about it from the moment I mentioned it because we both knew that our current situation wasn’t ideal for anyone in the house. Here’s what he had to say…
If you’re both trying to always do things around the house, the Fair Play method allows you to know what’s your responsibility and what you can own fully. It also removes the guilt of not doing something because it’s your partner’s task.
If I’m walking by the kitchen and see a dirty dish, I don’t feel as guilty as I used to because “dishes” is Casey’s card. It’s been a really refreshing experience for us and it reduces duplicate work. We no longer have fights asking why something wasn’t handled.
This is an incredible system and the core principles are helpful in any relationship. Before we were both working really hard but I was always thinking, “Am I doing enough? Is she mad at me? Did you already do this? Should I be doing that?” Now we don’t have that and I can appreciate what Casey does for me and the house a lot more.
My Honest Review
So Finn gave a glowing review, but what about me? I also think it’s been a game-changer for our household and our marriage. For example, Finn now handles every single meal and the groceries in our house. That used to be a huge source of stress for me…I mean how the heck do these kids eat so much produce? Now, Finn has to handle our last-minute runs to the store for more bananas because that’s his job.
I also liked the part of the experience when we sat down and talked about the “minimum standard of care”. That’s when you talk about how you would expect a task to be handled. For example, if you have the “garbage” card in our house it means that you take out the garbage and then you have to make sure you put a new bag in the trash can. That’s the minimum standard of care. We were able to go through each task and talk about what’s important to us and what we don’t really care about.
The system is also about carving out what Rodsky calls “unicorn space”. That’s space dedicated to rediscovering your interests and finding time for yourself. You want to be able to divvy up an equal amount of unicorn space for each partner. So if Finn needs two hours on a weekend to go play basketball, I can ask for two hours for my own unicorn space.
This is one aspect that we haven’t mastered yet. I have created time in our family schedule to go to yoga three mornings a week, but I’m not sure I would classify that as unicorn space. I also keep encouraging Finn to claim his unicorn space and have some guilt-free time to himself, but he hasn’t yet taken me up on it. This is definitely one aspect of the program that we need to improve upon.
Is It Worth It If You Don’t Have Kids?
Here’s a big question I’ve received since I started talking about the Fair Play method on Instagram. Should you do it if you don’t have kids? I think it could be helpful for anyone who is living together and sharing a life. Divvying up domestic labor is always a good idea. If things are already running smoothly, then you might not need to use this method.
However, I think if you have kids it’s so incredibly helpful. Children just come with so many extra tasks and more often than not those little to-dos fall on the mom. This system sheds light on the invisible work that goes into keeping a family running smoothly.
Will We Continue Using The Fair Play Method?
Yes, absolutely. In the book, Rodsky recommends sitting down once a week to discuss your cards and re-deal any that need to change hands. We don’t re-deal very often. Of course, there are some times when the other person needs to take over a duty, but for the most part, we stick to the cards we own.
I also like that I can flip through my cards every few weeks just to make sure that I’m doing my best with all of the things that are on my plate. This keeps any small things from slipping through the cracks.
Are things perfect in our house? Hell no. But, we’re communicating and constantly working together and that is half the battle.
Have You Tried The Fair Play Method?
I’d love to hear if you’ve also read the book or tried out the cards. Let me know if this is something you’d like to hear more about as we continue to tweak our system and work together to make our household as harmonious as possible.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.