Eve Rodsky, the Harvard-educated lawyer turned relationship guru, now does a nightly check-in with her husband about hand sanitizer and wipes. And groceries. And homework. And meals, dishes, cleaning, friendship, and work. “The key is we don’t just jump into who is doing what,” Rodsky says. “We pause and say, why do we care about it?”
Rodsky, whose best-selling book Fair Play highlights the importance of creating organizational management systems for the home, says the lifestyle changes mandated by the coronavirus health crisis only heighten the need for such routine and purposeful check-ins with partners, spouses, or even roommates.
She’ll offer advice for families feeling overwhelmed with the merging of work and home during a special Fast Company webinar, Fair Play When You’re Working From Home, on Tuesday, April 21 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. You may register for the free session here.
Rodsky’s method encourages couples to be intentional about household tasks, rather than trying to figure everything out on the fly. (Thus the nightly check-ins.) “Explicitly defined expectations where you and your partner know your roles are crucial for harmony and efficiency especially now,” she says. “Otherwise, you and your partner will be fighting over who is setting the table and hundreds of other micro-decisions when you are already hungry and cranky.”
Sheltering in place may mean that couples are divvying up shopping and cleaning and other physical tasks. But Rodsky says household work still isn’t evenly divided between partners.
She informally polled women and men about their domestic experiences since governments started implementing social-distancing guidelines, and asked who is doing the “cognitive work,” such as conceiving and planning meals, setting up virtual playdates, and especially overseeing homework and online classes. “Over 100 women responded that they were responsible,” she say. But she also notes that men aren’t necessarily being invited into the process. One man wrote her to say his wife just “left me behind to follow marching orders.”
“It’s time to invite men into their full power as caregivers,” she says. ” I am hearing from more and more men this week [who are] doing just that.”
Rodsky, who has a content partnership with Hello Sunshine, Reese Witherspoon’s media company, advocates for keeping conception, planning, and execution of tasks together. In her household, she says, “this means that whoever is on kid duty is in charge of brainstorming the activity of the hour, getting materials ready and carrying out the plan. Think beyond, ‘how can I help?’ Rather, ‘how can I own the task from start to finish?'”
Her advice seeks to apply to households some of the some of the strategic expertise she gained as a philanthropy consultant. The key to success, she says, is to “treat our homes as our most important organizations.”