How’s That Household Chore List Working for You?

New mom Eve Rodsky started a list of the time-sucking chores that consumed her day, and the list grew into a spreadsheet. Friends and family filled the spreadsheet with hundreds of their own examples of work that women do for their families and a picture emerged of gender imbalance in household workloads. The spreadsheet grew into a book, Fair Play, offering solutions to re-balance household chores and reduce marital stress.

Rodsky, a Harvard-trained lawyer and mother of three, drew on a dawning realization that her contributions at home were invisible.

“Without any negotiation or conscious acquiescence, in my new role as CEO, task manager AND worker bee of our family’s never-ending to-do list, I performed hours of work that went unnoticed and unacknowledged by my husband,” Rodsky writes in the book.

Fair Play reveals the invisible work.

The organizational management specialist spent 7 years interviewing more than 200 couples and found alarming consequences where women were “doing it all” in an uneven division of household labor.  Women were exhausted and burnt out and the result was declining happiness in marriage. Fewer women returned to work after becoming mothers and 43 percent said their careers were derailed.

The book Fair Play sets out to reveal the invisible work and take some of the domestic load off moms. Included with the book is a card game designed to show how each partner’s time is used and give equal value to both spouses. Rodsky says the cards are value conversations because holding discussions about values and standards can be difficult. The goal of the card game is to make the conversation fun, “or else no one would be having these conversations,” she says.

Shift the conversation.

Rodsky advocates women think about changing the way they communicate their resentment about the unfair balance of domestic labor. She said she had a very hard time articulating her own resentment. “We are already communicating, whether it’s passive-aggressive jabs, eye-rolling, seething, or dumping wet clothes on your husband’s pillow,” the author told People magazine.

‘We’re already communicating, but let’s just try a different way of communicating, for two weeks. Let’s change our habits for how we communicate about domestic life.’”

Start the conversation early.

The book Fair Play calls for redefining teamwork and setting new habits, Rodsky says. Her research shows that many women can manage their career, childcare and household labor after the arrival of their first child, but resentment grows when the second is born. That’s when they expect husbands to take on more of a fair distribution of labor, but they often are disappointed.

Rodsky recommends starting a conversation about values and standards as soon as partners become serious about their partnership.

Take ownership and treat the home like a business.

Division of household labor doesn’t have to be strictly equal, but women should be able to perceive the division as fair.

Every household is different—it has to be fair for you. The good news is that data shows that perceived fairness is a better indicator of a happy marriage, over actual fairness or 50/50. So I just want women to get to a place where they perceive fairness, and that starts with ownership,” Rodsky has said.

“When you start focusing on ownership the way we do with business, and we treat our home like our most important organization and bring rigor and respect to the home, things change.”

Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live) is available on Amazon.