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Book Review: Fair Play

Updated: Jan 24



What is Fair Play?

Fair Play, written by Eve Rodsky, explores inequities between married couples and their impact on wives and mothers. It is full of practical tips and methods couples can use to share the responsibilities of managing a home fairly.


Why should husbands read Fair Play?

The second shift burden refers to the workload of spouses, typically women, who work at paid jobs while also having responsibility for a significant portion of unpaid work at home, including the mental load of managing a home. Fair Play is a guide to help husbands eliminate the unfair second shift burden many women face.



Key Messages

Women often do more than their fair share of work at home, shouldering the second shift burden. Examples include grocery shopping, doctor visits, parent-teacher conferences, paying bills, and paying bills. Women also tend to take on more emotional labor than their male partners, managing a constant mental to-do list of all household management tasks to ensure things run smoothly at home. These extra tasks often go unnoticed, and it is invisible work.


The second shift takes a heavy toll on nearly every aspect of a mother’s life, leading to resentment and feeling isolated within the relationship. The second shift burden leads to higher stress levels for mothers and fails to leave enough time for the majority of mothers to take care of themselves. The pay gap between mothers and women without children is more significant than the gap between women and men. This gap is created by unfair company perceptions of working mothers and the additional disproportionate work mothers often shoulder at home.


Eve Rodsky believes that all time is equal and that spouses must fairly split household and childcare duties and value each other’s time equally. Below are some assumptions about time she believes is toxic in a relationship.


  • Time is equal to money.

  • I make her life.

  • I can save time by doing it myself.

Reclaim your right to be interesting – your Unicorn Space. Your time to focus on yourself and your self-worth, so your whole identity isn’t wrapped up in only being a mother. Pursue activities outside of family and careers. Many women give up passions and careers that are a part of who they are, which can damage relationships with their husbands. For women who find their Unicorn Space, men reported valuing and being immensely proud of their partner’s achievements and personal interests.


Eve Rodsky has devised a card game to allow partners to divide household labor fairly. There are 100 playing cards organized into five different categories, which make up the ecosystem of your domestic life:


  • Home: activities that take place in the home and need to be done daily (e.g., laundry and garbage).

  • Out: take place outside the home (e.g., taking kids to extracurricular activities and getting the car serviced).

  • Caregiving: this work traditionally falls to women (e.g., helping with homework and reading your children a bedtime story).

  • Magic: tasks that bring joy and comfort to others (e.g., birthday parties)

  • Wild: significant life events that require someone to manage all the extra activities that accompany them (e.g., moving and dealing with loss).

While playing, do not use this as an opportunity to show your partner how much more you do. Use the cards to divide up labor at home fairly. While playing, partners will often fall into a fair play personality type and communicate differently. Fair Play dives into working with these personality types and communication styles.


Husbands become frustrated when they believe their wives' perfectionist standards at home are unnecessary. Spouses must establish reasonable expectations in a home and consider what reasonable people would do when faced with a disagreement.


The author dives into the details of using the Fair Play cards. Managing a home is complicated, and miscommunication and frustration can arise when tasks are divided between partners. Eve Rodsky elaborates on the friction couples could experience as they play and makes suggestions for working through it. For example, every household task includes three aspects: conceiving, planning, and executing (CPE). These three elements of CPE should never be separated because doing so can quickly lead to disaster.


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