How working parents can reach equality in the household

Apr 3, 2024

It’s a tale as old as time—one partner, oftentimes a mom, feels like they’re taking on the bulk of domestic duties, regardless of whether they work outside the home. 

Women shoulder about two-thirds of the work required to run a home and raise a family, and they do more even if they earn more than their spouses.

It doesn’t help that the U.S. still lacks the policies to support families with universal paid leave and affordable childcare, which could at least help level the playing ground for working families. Several studies show that paid parental leave tends to reduce conflict over domestic tasks, particularly when fathers take it. 

To tackle how couples can create an equal domestic workload at home, we interviewed Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play, backed by Reese Witherspoon’s media company Hello Sunshine, and Find Your Unicorn Space

Eve applied her Harvard-trained background in organizational management to probe what would happen if we all treated our homes as our most important “organization.”

Here are three key takeaways.


“Fair” doesn’t always mean perfectly equal

Fair doesn’t necessarily mean couples need to split the workload 50/50 so long as there’s perceived fairness between both parties involved:

“One of the interesting findings I saw was that this idea of perceived fairness was almost actually more important than actual fairness,” Eve said.

This was the concept behind her “Fair Play” system, which offers couples a new way to divide domestic responsibilities to make the house more equitable. 

Through this movement, Eve’s method helps families prioritize what’s important and who should take the lead on each task to help create a sense of unity and support in the household. 

Fair Play encourages structured decision-making around boundaries, how we perceive each other's time and communication while we await stronger government and corporate programs and policies that support families.

“And so what Fair Play says is that you can take agency in your own home while we wait for these other things [with government support] to happen,” Eve said. 

It's not at all about money

Couples often need help with who does what in the home due to the perception that the partner who makes less money should do more domestic duties.

This is a massively misguided mindset, Eve said, because men will continue to make more money than women for now because of the gender pay gap and the assumptions that women do more in the home:

“I like to say that we have to look at time and how you want to live and act in your home organization,” she said. “And I fundamentally believe, regardless of who makes more money, that we have to look at our time as equal.” 

This means that both partners must honor each other’s right to use the 24 hours they have in a day as they wish. That's the fundamental premise of fair play—something Eve said she and her husband applied to their marriage–which made all the difference in their partnership.

When in doubt, outsource (if you can)

We asked Eve about the best and worst tasks to outsource. According to surveys she conducted, 50 out of her 100 Fair Play cards are actually not outsourceable:

“So the worst cards to outsource, I would say, would be medical and healthy living,” she says. “As much as you love Alexia, your nanny, she's probably not deciding whether or not your child's adenoids are being taken out.”

But for those who can afford it, several card tasks can be outsourced, which Eve refers to as the daily grinds. These include cleaning, dishes, laundry, and meal planning. 

Getting outside help with these time-consuming but necessary responsibilities to run a household frees up time (and mental capacity) for both parties to tackle the rest—and, ideally, with time to spare for personal time.

Like any organization needs, Fair Play gives families the tools to solve their real-world problems—in this case, the unpaid, invisible work women shoulder in the home.

To hear more from Eve Rodsky on her Fair Play movement and how to implement it in your household, listen to this episode of The False Tradeoff!