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A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live)
- Read in 13 minutes
- Audio & text available
- Contains 8 key ideas
Fair Play (2019) explores gender inequality in the division of domestic labor and the impact of this inequality on mothers. Packed with practical advice, these blinks also offer couples a radical approach to reallocating domestic chores so that women married to men can get a fairer deal.
Key idea 1 of 8
When it comes to looking after the family, many mothers are doing more than their fair share.
The arrival of children can drastically change the dynamic of a marriage. Before Eve Rodsky and her husband started a family, they had an equal relationship. They shared household chores and both had time to focus on their high-flying careers. But when their two sons arrived a few years later, Eve suddenly found herself doing a lot more work than her husband.
And she’s not the only one. Once couples have children, many mothers find their lives become busier and more stressful, while their husbands’ lives stay the same.
Why does this happen? For starters, mothers tend to work what is known as the second shift. This refers to all the routine and unpaid work mothers do for their families over and above their regular jobs. Eve Rodsky’s second shift involved preparing her children’s packed lunches, doing the laundry, and grocery shopping. In contrast, most husbands tend to stick to one shift: their day job.
Secondly, mothers usually take on more emotional labor than their male partners. It often falls to mothers to maintain the family’s relationships and manage people’s feelings: to telephone the in-laws, to send birthday cards to relatives, and to soothe children when they’re unhappy. This thoughtfulness is often what being a great parent is about, but it’s exhausting for women to always be the one keeping everyone happy.
Women, who carry a constant mental to-do list of all their family-related tasks, shoulder an increased mental load. Eve Rodsky found herself overwhelmed by the never-ending stream of small things she had to think about once she had children: Is there enough food in the fridge? Have I packed my son’s gym bag? Does the babysitter know where to find everything? All these considerations can add up to mental overload, making moms anxious, fatigued, and more forgetful.
Despite all the extra tasks mothers do for their families, many of their efforts go unnoticed by their partners. This is why tasks that are traditionally performed by women, like household chores and looking after the children’s schedules, are often called invisible work. Your husband may never notice or appreciate that the bathroom is always stocked with toothpaste or that your children are always wearing clean clothes.
In the next blink, you’ll learn that while your second shift might be invisible, the negative consequences of this unfair situation are clear to see.