This was a book I was born to write. I grew up on the lower east side of New York City with my mother Terry and my brother Josh. I saw my mother struggle as a single mom trying to do it all. I vowed that when I grew up, I would have an equal partner in life . . . and I did! I marked up his operating agreements as he grew a new business and he help me secure my dream job in philanthropy. We took turns making dinner and doing laundry. It felt great and fair. Cut to two kids later and I found myself sobbing on the side of the road because of a text my husband sent me: “I’m surprised you didn’t get blueberries.” As I sat in my car, I thought to myself: I’m so overwhelmed I can’t even manage a grocery list (when I used to manage a team of employees)—and more importantly, when did I become the default for every single household and childcare task . . . including apparently being the fulfiller of my husband’s smoothie needs? This was not how I envisioned my life. I knew something had to change. So I embarked on a quest to find a solution for domestic rebalance not only for my marriage but for couples everywhere. I started my journey into the “gendered division of labor” (and other related phrases like “emotional labor” and the “second shift”) by reading every book and article I could get my hands on. I was aware that women shoulder about two-thirds of the work required to run a home and raise a family but I wasn’t sure why. Early on in my research, I came across an article titled “Invisible Work,” written in 1987 by sociologist Arlene Kaplan Daniels. In it she argues that women’s unpaid “invisible” work in the home is often not seen as “work” at all and is significantly devalued. The article had a real impact on me and informed my initial quest—which was to make the invisible domestic tasks I did visible to my husband. My thinking was that it is impossible to value what’s invisible and I believed visibility would equal value. So I created a “Sh*t I Do” spreadsheet. With the help of women across the country, I catalogued every single action I took in service of my family that had a quantifiable time component. But here’s the thing—while the “Shit I Do” list illuminated how much invisible work women were doing for their families, the list also seemed to provoke more rage (and scorekeeping!) than change. I soon realized that my expertise in family mediation, law, and organizational management could be applied to this problem—to create a system to promote sustainable change and get past the resentment and rage. Fair Play is a system tested by couples from all walks of life. At its core is a card game—where couples each hold domestic task cards representing all that it takes to run a home and raise a family. I advise highly complex family organizations. For more than a decade I have worked to bring solutions for family harmony and efficiency to high-net-worth family foundations by setting up systems customized for each family (sort of like the show Succession). My lightbulb moment was that the same systems I create for these highly complex organizations could also work for any home. In terms of my research, I wanted to make sure I was well versed in the subject area. I started by reading hundreds of articles, studies, and books. I did not want to rely on third-party sources like newspaper articles, so I worked with a research assistant to comb through actual studies and original research. Where possible, I interviewed experts firsthand in psychology, sociology, social work, neuroscience, clergy, behavioral economics, and law. I took a deeper dive with two experts in particular—Professor Darby Saxbe, a clinical psychology professor who is an expert in the gendered division of labor and read the manuscript through that lens, and Professor Alexis Jemal, a social work professor who is an expert in critical consciousness theory and who read the manuscript through that lens. Second, as the author of this book representing majority social identities, I wanted to ensure that I had a representative sample of the U.S. population to interview in order to make sure my findings were applicable to a wide range of couples with other social identities. I ended up interviewing more than five hundred men and women for this book. The sample was diverse in age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, marital status, educational attainment, employment status, geographical location, and dyadic gender composition. While the majority of couples were heterosexual, same-sex couples were also included in my research. The research was done in a three-stage process. The first stage was the creation of the “Sh*t I Do” list, where domestic tasks were sourced from family, friends, colleagues, and strangers and subsequently organized into “suits.” The second stage involved more in-depth conversations and interviews using open-ended questions. Data and insights from each interview were used (a) to adjust questions for successive interviews, (b) to explore the causes and consequences of inequitable division of domestic labor, and (c) to inform the development of the Fair Play System. Finally, after the Fair Play System was created, couples were chosen for beta testing Fair Play concepts. I conducted follow-up interviews to troubleshoot, assess, and modify the Fair Play System accordingly. All this work culminates in my favorite chapter—“The Top 13 Mistakes Couples Make—and the Fair Play Fix.”Read more Read less
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