Reclaiming Your Time with Fair Play

“Society values women’s time as if it’s infinite, and values men’s time as if it’s precious like diamonds.”

– Eve Rodsky, creator of Fair Play Method

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you that the bulk of caregiving and housework still defaults to women, even in families where women earn more than men.  Beyond hours spent physically doing chores or driving kids around, you’ve probably also heard about the burden of “emotional labor” or “mental load,” which also falls primarily to women.

Did we all accidentally marry men who still hold sexist ideas about the role of women in the home?  My experience with couples in my office tells me that’s not it.

Our culture has made progress toward elevating women and empowering their leadership skills.  Despite this, a steady stream of insidious cultural messages are sent to women – especially mothers – about the value of their time, particularly when that time is spent in service of household or childcare tasks.

 Rule #1

The Fair Play Method, outlined in Eve Rodsky’s book of the same name, is a process for helping women to reclaim and value their own time.  Before even touching upon the nuts and bolts of the method, Rodksy first makes this clear:  All Time Is Created Equal.  We both get the same hours in a day, and we both deserve to have a say in how we spend our time.

This sounds lovely, but it’s a hard rule to follow in a culture that devalues most caregiving tasks.  An hour spent in a team meeting at work – we value it.  An hour spent dropping off the dry cleaning, picking up a birthday present, and planning a week of meals in your head – we don’t value it.  We even question ourselves:  Why can’t I get it all done?

So, all time is created equal.  Great, got it!  Except…

Toxic Time Messages

There’s the part of you that goes, yes, absolutely, my time is equal to his time!  Of course it is!  But there are other parts of you that have internalized many different types of Toxic Time Messages.  In the book, Rodsky outlines 10 of them.  Here’s a snapshot of just 3.  Sound familiar?

“In the time it takes me to tell my partner what to do, I might as well do it myself.” 

Sure, it makes sense in the moment.  To really sit down and talk about what goes into managing the laundry for a family of four would take so much time and effort that, in the short term, it’s faster to just do yourself.  But what about next time?  And every week after that?  Fair Play encourages you to really value your time by taking a long-term view now (and will give you the tools to do so).

“His paid hours are more valuable than my unpaid hours.”

Nope.  As we say in Fair Play, “Time is counted in minutes, not money.”  Whether you work in or outside the home, taking care of your home and family is a job that you are both responsible for.  The time that you spent taking your kid to the doctor was just as important as the time your spouse spent in a meeting, and vice versa.  Caregiving is work, and it’s important work.

“I’m a better multitasker, so I’ll just do it.”

Hold on a minute.  Your husband probably just juggled demands from his boss, navigated client and colleague relationships, attended meetings, worked on several projects…  Did he lose his competency on the drive home?  You may be underestimating his ability as a caregiver (as well as undervaluing your time).  While it may be a truly generous gesture in the moment, building up your resentment over time is no favor to him or you.  Fair Play will help each of you to understand what it means to fully take ownership of a task – and you deserve the mental freedom that comes from handing some of those tasks off.

How Fair Play Can Help

Beyond supporting you to personally combat Toxic Time Messages, the Fair Play Method also helps you and your partner to revalue your time in practical ways.  Here’s a peek at two of them:

  1. “What isn’t visible can’t be valued.”

When you engage in the Fair Play Method, you and your partner will look at every single task that it takes to run your household and family.  By finally putting this in black-and-white and talking together about what each task entails, all the work you’ve been doing can finally be seen and valued.  Fair Play will also give you language and tools to talk about “invisible load” and “emotional labor” in productive ways.

  1. Alleviating The Daily Grind

Certain household tasks are more of a grind than others – the kind that are repetitive and must get done on a regular basis at specific times.  Let’s take “Bedtime Routine” – this is a task that must get done every day, and you have little choice in when it happens.  Compare this to “Yardwork” – also an important task, but you get to decide if you do it this weekend or next, in the morning or the afternoon, etc.  You have more choice in how to spend your time.  Bedtime Routines and School Drop-Offs don’t work that way.  Fair Play encourages couples to make a concerted effort to equitably split the “daily grind” tasks in your life, so that no single person bears the weight of tasks that limit your ability to choose how you spend your time.

Your time is not limitless.  Your time is precious like diamonds.

We’d be honored for you to join us in our upcoming introductory workshop to The Fair Play Method. Learn more here.

Rebecca Freking, IMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. She received her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

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