The COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift the dynamics of work, parenting, and the home. With these changes comes new (or amplified) sources of stress, especially for women, who regardless of whether they work outside the home, bear two-thirds of the work it takes to run a household and a family. That’s where Fair Play comes in — a system created by organizational management expert Eve Rodsky that helps couples rebalance domestic responsibilities so that both people in the relationship can thrive. In this series, Rodsky will draw on her knowledge from creating Fair Play, and offer tips to empower you and your partner to share the load while navigating this new normal together.
During this time of stress, transition, and uncertainty, the most effective way to avoid an imbalance in your relationship is to check in with each other daily. Based on conversations I’ve had with couples all over the country, the nightly check-in is the ideal time to connect, align on shared values, and create a game plan.
“Given the fluidity of our current global situation that’s impacting all of us very directly in our neighborhoods and homes, couples will be able to cope better when they plan ahead,” Darby Saxbe, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, says.
So after dinner, when the dishes are done and the kids are in bed, take a moment to sit down together. It’s a perfect time to connect because emotions are low and cognition is high. Talk about what went well that day and what needs improvement tomorrow. Make a plan for how you will fairly divide and conquer all essential household and childcare tasks the next day. And remember: It’s up to you and your partner to decide what’s essential for your household.
If you are struggling to discuss your feelings, you can use a prompt to help you communicate. Try: “Building time into our daily schedule for [exercise, meal planning, playing with the kids, checking in with extended family, etc.] is valuable to me because [FILL IN THE BLANK].
Here’s a sample schedule showing how one couple divides the workload. Use this as an example, and discuss it during your nightly check-in.
7 a.m.: Everyone wakes up
7-7:30 a.m.: Parent 1 in charge of morning routine makes sure kids are dressed, teeth brushed, beds made, etc. Parents re-align on the day’s schedule and revisit established minimum standards of care.
7:30-8 a.m.: Parent makes breakfast and handles morning dishes.
8-8:30 a.m.: Kids watch cartoons, parents get dressed
8:30-9 a.m.: Parents go over the game plan with the kids
9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Parent 1 works while Parent 2 watches kids, helps them with homework/home schools, and preps lunch.
1 p.m.-5 p.m.: Parent 2 works while Parent 1 watches kids, helps them with homework/home schools
5-7 p.m.: Parent 2 leads family cooking while Parent 1 does dishes and garbage
7-7:30 p.m.: Parent 1 takes lead on bathing and grooming, and Parent 2 takes lead on bedtime routine (kids winding down/reading before bed)
7:30 p.m.: Kids go to bed
7:30-8 p.m.: Nightly check-in for parents when emotion is low and cognition is high; define the schedule for tomorrow. Add some fun!
8-10 p.m.: Parent party (read, make calls, etc.) and/or wrap up any work needs
This schedule won’t work for everyone, and that’s the point. Determine with your partner what works best in your home, and remember that you can revise the schedule again at nightly check-in. Keep refining it until you achieve what feels equitable and fair.