Ms. Rodsky recruited a dozen more people to start playing with their own index cards. As people came up with questions, she came up with rules. Do you have to hold a card forever? No. What do I do if he has the laundry card but isn’t doing it frequently enough? Determine a minimum standard of care, such as: Sheets and towels must be washed once a week, hampers emptied whenever they are full. What if my partner’s not, um, getting it? Discuss it at a mandatory weekly check-in.
The book has a distinctly girlfriend-to-girlfriend voice, featuring lingo like “she-fault” for default and “unicorn space” for passion projects. The cards are more prosaic, delineating tasks from the obvious (dry cleaning, lawn care, weekday dinners) to the hidden (birth control, holiday cards, social plans). There’s even a “magical beings” card for whoever’s charged with making the tooth fairy, etc. come to life.
Over the past two years, Bryn Martinez Zavras, a psychologist and certified Fair Play facilitator in Cincinnati, said she has seen an uptick in clients asking about Fair Play, a majority of them women.
Dr. Zavras, who also uses Fair Play at home, said she appreciates the physical nature of the cards. “For a lot of clients, just seeing the cards has been really mind boggling and eye opening,” she said.
That was the case with Jenny Reitmeier, an electrical engineer who spoke to The Times while pumping from her office in Denver. After her first baby was born, Ms. Reitmeier noticed that, in addition to breastfeeding, many tasks were defaulting to her, from calling the pediatrician to paying day care. So she posted in her company’s channel for working moms, asking how her colleagues balanced household duties. One suggested Fair Play; Ms. Reitmeier read the book, as did her husband.
When they later divided the Fair Play cards, Ms. Reitmeier wasn’t surprised to see that she was carrying most of the invisible tasks. But she was surprised by how many of the traditional chores — home maintenance, garbage, cleaning — her husband had been managing. “That was really good to get out in the open,” she said. “He felt like he wasn’t being seen either.”