Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Fairplay at Home - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “Fairplay at Home.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.


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I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

This episode is part of a series about care. About the value of care. And we’re going to focus mostly on care in the U.S., because that’s where we make this show and where most of our listeners live. Just FYI.

This week, we’re talking about care within our family and interpersonal relationships. And I want to say up top that even though a lot of the examples in this story are going to be hetero couples, the researcher that we’re speaking with finds that these issues apply in roommate situations and all kinds of romantic partnerships, so… I think it’ll be relevant. It’s not just for married people. Let me put it that way. 

But to start, I want everyone to think about the way you were raised. Think about the grownups who raised you, and think about what they did every single day to keep your lives on track. Who did the dishes? Who did the laundry? Who took you to doctor’s appointments and RSVP’d to birthday parties? Who wrapped the birthday gifts? Who drove you to practices? Who washed your uniform?

And if the answer is nobody, I’m sorry. 

And now I want you to think about your life today. In your romantic partnerships, who pays the bills? Who grocery shops? Who makes the bed? Who cleans the bathroom, makes plans with the extended family, remembers birthdays and buys the gifts? If you have kids, who does bedtime and bathtime and plans their schedules? Who buys their school supplies? Who takes them to the doctor? 

For many, many families, the answer is: the mom. The wife. Me.

That’s how it was for Eve Rodsky, back in 2012.


Eve: I just had my second son, Ben. I'm an analog person, so I had a client contract in my lap, and then I had a breast pump and diaper bag and gifts for the baby. I had a pen in between my legs. And I remember this because every time I would sort of brake, this pen would stab me in the vagina as I was trying to markup this contract. So I had this like, vaginal stabbing pen, this client contract, the breast pump, the diaper bag. The reason why it was stabbing me the vagina was cause I would brake so quickly, because I was sort of racing to pick up my toddler at the time at his toddler transition program. 


Here’s the thing about toddler programs in the U.S.… they are hardly ever full day programs. They’re at some weird, useless time, like 9:17-11:43, and they charge $5 per minute if you pick your kid up late. I know from experience. It’s chaos. 

This is an average day for Eve at the time. She’d previously worked at a big company in foundation management, but her career and her role as a mother hadn’t mixed. 


Eve: I will say I was actually pushed out. I was forced out of the traditional workforce into starting my own firm. 


That’s some important background, because what happens next is known as the Text That Broke the Working Woman’s back. Eve is racing to pick up her kid, editing a contract and getting stabbed in the vagina when she gets a text from her husband. She’d gone grocery shopping the day before and stocked up on the things their family needed. Her husband, Seth, was making his daily smoothie, and paused the process to send his wife a message. What did the message say?


Eve: “I'm surprised you didn't get blueberries.”


I’m surprised you didn’t get blueberries. 

Now, maybe this is just an observation. But it feels like an accusation. And Eve takes it as an indictment of her entire existence. And that makes sense, honestly. Because sometimes that’s how things feel. 


Eve: I wasn't a good enough driver to cry and to drive at the same time. So I pulled over and I... I just started crying. I was crying for my life. I was crying for my marriage, which I thought should end over something way more dramatic, right? Like my affair with an NFL player, not... fucking offseason blueberries. I'm looking at my life saying I don't have the career-marriage combo I thought I would have, wnd why did I waste all these years of education and spend all this money and have all these loans if I'm not going to do what I thought I was going to do with it. It just became like a spiral. But the most important thing I was thinking that day was Jesus Christ like, how did I become the default for literally every single household domestic task for my family? How did that happen to me? 


In 1989, sociologist Arlie Hochschild coined the term The Second Shift, referring to the extra duties that women typically ended up bearing the brunt of this work when both parents work outside of the home. 

Her book -- The Second Shift  -- brought this term into the public consciousness. It gave a name for what women have been experiencing for… forever. 


Eve: I remember in college there was a sociologist named C. Wright Mills, and he had a quote that always stuck with me, which is that “private lives are public issues.” Private lives are public issues. 


Eve was struggling with all of this PRIVATELY… and… no duh here, but she wasn’t the only one. Not long after the Blueberry Incident, Eve was at a cancer walk with some of her friends, who are truly a group of remarkable, powerful women.


Eve: They're on the PTA board. They're in government. They are using their voice as the head of stroke and trauma at Cedars Sinai and Oscar-winning movies. They're producing these beautiful movies where they're highlighting other people's voices. 

I'm on this breast cancer march. We're honoring a friend that passed away from law school and we're all in pink, and we are carrying signs that say, like, “not just a women's problem” and “courage, strength and power.” We had this moment on this Saturday morning where we had this girlfriends getaway type experience at this march, you know, pre-COVID obviously. We were going to go have lunch. I had made a reservation at dim sum, downtown in Los Angeles. And what happened was noon came, and it was like the reverse Cinderella, Nora. Right. Or it was like a Cinderella moment where literally we were all sort of turning into pumpkins. Our phones started blowing up… with our partners and substitute women that had come in to sort of help babysit our kids. With crazy messages, right? Texts and phone calls like, “What did you do with Hudson's soccer bag? What's the address to the birthday party? Where's the gift?” My favorite was my friend Kate's husband, “Do the kids need to eat lunch?”

Nora: It’s like, you've been with them all morning. You tell me. 

Eve: I'm watching this happen to these women. And I think what was sad was the reaction that all of a sudden everybody, everybody looked at me and said, you know what? We left our partners with too much to do. And they went home. They skipped dim sum and they went home to find Hudson's soccer bag. To bring a perfectly wrapped gift to a birthday party and to make their kids lunch. And that was the first day where I started thinking, and I asked those women to help me count up the phone calls and texts we received. So it was 30 phone calls and 46 texts for 10 women over 30 minutes. And I think that's really important to ruminate on for a minute: 30 phone calls, 46 texts, 10 women, 30 minutes. And so then I start to think about like, what is this? What is happening around me? Right? And that's when I started to really love to read. And that's where I was saying the term that resonated the most for me was this idea of invisible work. 


Eve’s brain starts extrapolating beyond that day at the cancer walk. Beyond the canceled dim sum.


Eve: It turns out that for a hundred years we've been talking about these issues that women do two-thirds or more of what it takes to run a home and family. You may have heard of the second shift, or the mental load, or emotional labor, or my favorite term “invisible work,” and I consider myself a feminist and I believe in these issues, but I'd never heard of any of those terms. I actually did not know these were systemic problems. And I think that's why the home presents so small. 


That’s why it felt like a personal failing! Eve wants some context. She wants to be able to quantify, to illustrate.


Eve: I'm great at spreadsheets. So what if I open an Excel spreadsheet and make visible everything that's been invisible to Seth, and the other people in my life, visible. So I called all those women from the breast cancer march, and then they connected me to other women and more women. And then I went back and started talking to women I grew up with, because I wanted not just a, you know, middle-class white experience or, you know, or middle-class African-American or Asian or, there were different... ethnicities and socio classes in that march, but all of us were in the workforce in professional class positions. So I wanted to get a bigger dataset. And so I asked lots of women, “What do you do that's invisible to your partner, or if you're a single mom that's invisible to your community that you're doing?” And I started to populate a spreadsheet, and it kept growing and growing. With things like, well, of course, making school lunches. Right. That's- if your school doesn’t have it.  That was, you know, fifteen minutes. Taking your kid to the dentist. That's an hour. But then I started getting responses from women I didn't even know, Nora. Things like “I got your spreadsheet from a friend and I really appreciate it, but I don't see Elf on the Shelf here.” That's 20 nights times one hour and I'd be like, “Okay. I'm a Jew. OK. I didn't know that. Elf on the shelf. Elf on the shelf. Right.”

Nora: Lucky you. OK. 

Eve: Right. Yes, I don't have to do all the Christmas stuff. All right. Fine, fine. Right. Ornaments, taking out that. That's an extra hour. My favorite was a woman who pointed out that I had put two minutes for sunscreen under medical and healthy living tab in the Excel sheet. And she said, “Two minutes. She's like, you need to add in the 30 minutes for the chase.” And so I write two minutes for the application, but 30 minutes for the chase. Right. So it was just this beautiful communal exercise. It took me about nine months. And eventually it became a spreadsheet that had 98 tabs. You can picture Excel, the tabs in the bottom. And 2000 items of invisible work. Yeah. Two thousand items. And I titled it “The Shit I Do” spreadsheet. I decided to send it off to Seth one day. He didn’t even know I was doing this. This 19 million megabyte spreadsheet. And I sent it to him with a subject line in this email, "Can't wait to discuss." I thought my problems were over. 


We’ll be right back to tell you if Eve’s problems were indeed over after she created a spreadsheet -- and if they are, this is a very short episode.


MIDROLL 1


We’re back, and Eve Rodsky has sent a 98-tab spreadsheet to her husband, trying to make visible the invisible work she and so many other women do for their family. 

She sends it off and waits for his reply. And he writes back! He sends her an email...


Eve: Which was just a monkey emoji that was covering its eyes like that sad, not  even the courtesy of the three fucking monkey trio. I just got sad monkey covering its eyes. 

Nora: Just the one. 

Eve: Just the one. And that was sort of the dismissal of my nine months of hard work.


This was 23 years after Hochschild’s book about The Second Shift. Twenty-three years, and this was STILL an issue. 

A 1989 New York Times article about Hochschild’s book Invisible Work said that 20 years prior to the publication of the book, by the way, and I’m quoting here:

“Ms. Hochschild, a professor of sociology at the University of California, kept her infant in a small box at her Berkeley office, so she could nurse and care for the baby during work hours. As one frustrating meeting with a student was repeatedly interrupted by the squalling baby, Ms. Hochschild recalls wondering, ‘“Where, after all, were the children of my male colleagues?’”

Reading that, I thought immediately of my own mother, who told me that in 1983, she kept me under the desk of the photo studio where she worked, because I was a good, quiet baby. And she had no other options.

I thought of myself, bringing my two-day-old baby to the studio to finish the first season of this podcast, sometimes leaving him with colleagues as he got a few weeks older so I could just DO THE WORK. 

The question isn’t why can’t Eve do it all, or why is it so hard for me or you or our friend or our cousin… but why is THIS STILL SO HARD?

When we ask why is this STILL SO HARD? The answer is often… systems. Culture. The way we value -- or rather devalue -- time and care in this society.


Eve: These are societal changes. And sometimes we have to just live in the consciousness first. Right. The consciousness raising of saying um, having it all doesn't mean doing it all. 

Nora: Well. And there's like, there's generations of conditioning around your personal life and your professional life. And one is more important than the other. Until it's not, right. And I think that I've struggled with that too, like there’s supposed to be a clear delineation. But one thing pays you and therefore it must be somehow more important or you should prioritize it, even as people are saying, like, “Oh, there's nothing more important than family.” You're also getting messages from a boss at 11:00 p.m. You're getting like these completely contradictory messages, which is like do whatever it takes, but also we live in a society where you have a baby, you get two weeks paid, two weeks. 

Eve: If you're lucky, yeah. 


The monkey emoji was not the end of the conversation with Seth. It was the beginning of Eve’s mission: to figure out how we fix this. 


Eve: I started to really realize we've been making lists for 100 years, and lists alone don't work. And so I will say one thing that was fascinating then. I had three choices. I looked at my life as three choices then, when I got that monkey emoji. I could “Eat, Pray, Love” this shit and blow up my life and start over. But I was concerned about the divorce effects on my kids because of how hard it was for me and my brother. And a lot of trauma from our divorce. Second option was to resign myself, to continue to do it all and really start losing my identity in the process. But my third option, which I wanted to try, was... I'm like that Hair Club for Men commercial. I don't know if you've ever… your listeners are maybe too young, but there was this Hair Club for Men commercial that said, “I’m not just the Hair Club for Men president, but I’m also a client.”

So I thought that was a great third option. Right. Could I get my ass in gear and start treating myself, become my own client? And that's what I did start to do. I started to say, “What if I treated my home as my most important organization? How would I do things differently?” 


What Eve finds is that a lot of these changes are not about lists and reminders and life hacks and tips and tricks. They’re about time. And these messages are relevant even outside of hetero couples. Eve identified three pervasive messages we receive and perpetuate about the value of time. She calls them Toxic Time Messages. 

The first is that Time is Money. And when we think about time that way, we do NOT imply that all time is worth the same amount of money.


Eve: The core finding of Fairplay was that we as a society, we view and we... guard men's time — and this is we, including women — as finite. And we treat it like diamonds. And we treat women's time, our own time, as infinite. As sand, like the again, I'm dating myself, but like the Days of Our Lives, like I always picture that hourglass where our time is just falling away. Right. And that's why I chose to write to women about this time issue, because we know in the workplace that women's time is not valued. We've known that for a while. That if a woman enters a male profession, the salaries go down, you know for an equal hour of work we're not getting equal pay. So we know time is devalued in the workplace. But what I was so shocked by was asking the question to women, why are you the one picking up the phone call from the school and hearing what I call these toxic time messages over how women devalue their own time. So there were three very popular ones. One was well, “Of course, I pick up from, you know, a call from the school and interrupt my day because my husband makes more money than me.” And that was really hard for me to hear because that would inherently mean that because I chose philanthropy and my husband chose private equity, even though I'm actually, I believe my job is actually more important for society, because I'm helping people give their money away, and I'm higher educated, that I would be inherently relegated to do all the invisible work of my home, to be interrupted. To have my time not valued because my husband makes more money than me, right? 

So it becomes a circular argument. And then women are paid less. And we see this with the women dropping out of the workforce. One of the reasons is because we have a wage gap. And so women lean into their partners’ job and salary. So that circular argument doesn't work. Let's just like burn Time Is Money. It will never work for women. 

A lot of female breadwinners, they fell into the two other what I call toxic time messages. So women who made less money often would say, “I do this because my husband makes more money than me.” These are hetero cisgender answers. But women who are female breadwinners, these were the other two things I heard a lot. And not female breadwinners, either, co-breadwinners or a-stay-at-home mothers. But these were the other two toxic time messages that made me have to write to women. One was mine, which was “I'm a Better Multitasker.” That was mine. I'm wired differently for care. Or I was conditioned differently. I don't need anybody. I grew up in a single mom household. I took care of my mother. I took care of my brother. I can do it all.


Eve told me that one of her favorite pieces of writing on this subject was an article from the ‘60s titled “The Politics of Housework” by Pat Mainari. In it, Pat points out her husband’s insistence that he just wasn’t GOOD at housework. That she’d have to show him. She points out that we’ve been fed a steady diet of women doing this work, so we assume it’s the work we should be doing. 

And this ties into the third Toxic Time Message that Eve uncovered in her research, one that echoes what Pat Mainari’s husband was telling her. I Should Just Do It Myself.


Eve: If you don't say to yourself, multitasking is your superpower or you don't say to yourself well my husband time is more valuable because he makes more money than me. The third thing you may be saying to yourself is in the time it takes me to tell him, her, they what to do, I should just do it myself. And so for that one, I went to Dan Ariely, who is a really beautiful behavioral economist. And he said, I said, is that a good argument? He said that's a horrific argument for women, because what that does is it’s a present value argument. It devalues all your future hours of wiping those asses and doing dishes in expense for the time you saved right now. But if you're going to devalue your time in the future for all those days you're the one taking your kids to the pediatrician's office, all the nights you're staying up and devaluing your sleep because you're the one in charge of the middle of the night comfort, all the days that you are interrupted every three minutes and forty two seconds, which is the average interruption for women. Right. That is a complete devaluing of your future time that you can invest in yourself. So time is fucking time. Women's time is diamonds and we only get 24 hours in a day, just like men do.


Eve spent eight years on this research. Eight years immersing herself in the invisible work happening in homes around the U.S. And while we are talking about hetero couples in the majority of this episode, the patterns persisted aross all kinds of families.


Eve: Blended families and different family structures are the norm in our country. We don't have to have this nuclear family mentality all the time. But in that structure of a hetero cisgender relationship being how we set norms in our society, we are often deciding what we're doing at the last minute, and we will default to a woman in those norms. 


Men in same-sex relationships were better at navigating and equally dividing these issues, but disparities were evident across the board. Because roles that were traditionally feminine stacked up and didn’t count as “real work” or “real time,” no matter who was in the relationship.

The text Eve got from Seth wasn’t actually about blueberries. Just like Eve’s client who told her he was getting divorced over a glue stick wasn’t really getting divorced over a glue stick. So when Eve asked her subjects...


Eve: Tell me about mustard. Who knows your second son Johnny, right, likes French's yellow mustard on his protein. Right. That's the conception phase. Somebody has to know that. Oh well, my wife knows that. Who is monitoring the mustard for when it's running low and putting it on a grocery list with everything else you need for the week. Oh that. My wife does that. Who goes to the store to go purchase the yellow mustard? Right. Well I do that. But then you bring home spicy dijon every fucking time, right? And I asked you for French’s yellow. Right. So then all of a sudden, don't you see that Johnny is at this table. Have you not been at the table with us for seven years? And all of a sudden we're not talking about mustard anymore. We're talking about accountability and trust.


It’s not about the mustard. Or the blueberries. It’s about accountability and trust. 

We’ll be right back.


MIDROLL 2


We’re back. And I have to come clean right now and say that the issues Eve is talking about are not a part of my life anymore. Since June 2019, I have been the proud wife of a stay-at-home dad. Our blueberry moment came in early Spring 2019. At the time, Matthew and I were both working a LOT. He worked at an architecture firm in Minneapolis as an interior designer. He was so good at it. I did what I do. And I got a call about a work opportunity that would mean several weeks of me being out of town. This summer, Matthew also had a lot going on. He had a lot of big projects he was really proud of and excited to work on. And I was so excited about this opportunity and I told him, and he said “I don’t know how we’ll do this.” 

Which to me meant, “Well, I just won’t do it.” But to him, it meant, “Something has to give.” 

What gave was Matthew’s career. 

So I live the opposite of these issues now. And what that has done for me is illuminate just how MUCH I was holding before, and how I and so many other women especially had internalized the idea that we should be easily and joyfully taking on careers and family and that it should all be easy. It is NOT easy. 

It wasn’t easy for my mom, when she brought me to work and kept me under a desk at a photo studio. It wasn’t easy for me, having a baby when my husband was sick with cancer, or bringing a 2-day-old baby into the studio to make the first season of this podcast.

It isn’t easy for anyone, and it’s a lot easier for ME to do my job because Matthew does everything at home AND also, still, I feel REALLY bad about myself. I feel bad that I’m NOT the one going to the pediatrician or making dinner. I feel bad that people have made him feel bad for doing these things for our family, that what he is doing IS perceived by some people as less important than the work he did before.


Eve: You know, talking about all the work it takes to run a home and family is actually very subversive. Inviting women out of the home, inviting men into the home. And I think that to me, that's been the last frontier of feminism. While some of these issues do come up in same sex couples, and we can talk about how that plays out, these heteronormative things, such as same sex male couples saying... learn from us. Right, my data. Learn from us. But then so many people saying to them, “Well, who's the man? Who's the woman in this relationship?” Right. As opposed to saying this is about adulting. Doing the laundry is a life skill. It's not a gender role. 

Nora: I think it's so valuable to see, like all of our, we have mostly boys in our family, but to see their dad wiping surfaces, planning our meals, going to the grocery store, doing all of these things. And I did not even realize how draining it was until I watched it take a toll on him as his primary job, where I'm like, wow, this never ends for you. There is never an ending. I can shut my laptop, you know, and it's not like I do nothing. I made the bed today, but I do very, very little. And what that has enabled me to do when people are like and I'm sure you get this too, or people are like, oh, but how did you have the time to do this? It's like, well, somebody else does other things for me. My life is possible because of Matthew. Like, my career is possible because of Matthew and I've watched him sort of struggle, too, with the way that people react to him staying home…

Eve: The number one thing stay at home dads told me was actually the same thing that that stay at home moms told me, which was that everybody wants to… because we are so conditioned to believe time is money, as we said, and we don't value care. It's always what do you want to get back to? When are you going back to work? What did you used to do? Trying to figure out a way to anchor and define somebody that's not in any concept of caring. And so that really can take a toll on your identity. And so actually, it was interesting to hear stay-at-home dads tell me that not only was there that toll in their identity, because it's so annoying for them to have to keep hearing, “What did you used to do?” or “When you're going to go back to work?” assuming it's a temporary situation. And thank you Matthew, by the way. We see your work. And the more men are in care, the more we're gonna change society. So I love Matthew. 

Nora: I love Matthew. I love Matthew. And he and he does it like joyously, truly, like this it is a passion for him. And he was doing it so well even before he exited like the traditional workforce and people could not believe it. They were like, but I mean, is she making you do this? I mean, what, you know? Blink twice if you're okay. 

Eve: Right. Right. Right. Right 


Eve made a very interesting observation, which is that we devalue care. We just don’t see it as valuable even though we KNOW it is. It’s just not as valuable to some people as it is to others. Not when you consider their billable hours or their pay rate.


Eve: And so what was interesting to me was when I would ask that question, Nora, do you believe an hour holding your child's hand at the pediatrician's office is just as valuable as an hour in the boardroom? It was white professional class men that had the hardest time saying, “I believe that those two hours are as valuable.” And so when you, if you're listening, and you're in a position of power, that was an interesting part for me. Right. The white professional class male had the hardest time believing that an hour in care was as valuable. And, you know, those are still the majority, the CEOs in our country and the world. But what I said to those men was the number one thing you could do is model care. And so change the order of who the school calls when your kid is sick. Be the one who picks up that phone call from the pharmacy that your kid’s asthma inhaler is ready. Because when your teams see you modeling that, that's that's as important as having corporate policies like paid paternity leave. 


The majority of Eve’s research was conducted before COVID, but it’s more relevant than it’s ever been. Because in September 2020, it was reported that over 860,000 women over age 20 were dropping out of the workforce. A rate that was about four times the rate of men. Many people referred to this fallout of the pressures of working from home, managing families and life as inevitable. As in, “Well yeah, it was inevitable that women would have to leave the workforce.” And on Instagram, I saw Eve say the exact opposite. 


Eve: There's been 232 articles written about coronavirus being a disaster for feminism. Eight hundred sixty five thousand women dropped out of the workforce as we said in September. And so many of those articles even written by women say, “Well, this is invariably because women hold more domestic and childcare work.” And again, back to being you know, I don't usually go into this, this naming, but we got into this interesting theme of language. We have to be very careful about how we present these issues, because there's nothing inevitable about this. This is fucking evitable. I did 75 interviews with couples, because I wanted to see what was happening. And then I did a hundred-person survey of more couples. But in the 75 couples I interviewed on Zoom, so many of them felt shame. They were like, “Well, yeah, we moved back into my parents’ house. Why are you whispering that? Shout it from the rooftops. We are meant to be in communities. We are meant to have social supports. We were never meant to do this alone, and especially not falling just on the backs of the unpaid and undervalued labor of women. So I actually wanna get really specific here, because there were 12 tasks that came up over and over again. And I want to say to your listeners: If you're a primary caretaker and you're dealing with all of these, what I call the Dirty Dozen, we want to normalize that this is not OK. And these were the ones that came up the most in my survey, Nora, since COVID. 

It was laundry, groceries, meal planning, home supplies — who’s securing the hand sanitizer, the wipes — tidying up, cleaning dishes, and garbage. Those were for people living with roommates or their parents were feeling really stressful. And then if you add kids, it was discipline and screen time, homework, which has now become homeschool watching of children, whether it's teenagers escaping quarantine or little ones putting cortisone cream all over their body, like my daughter did when she opened some random tube that I wasn't watching her. And finally, social interactions for kids. 

I was surprised that that was in the top 12 because Fairplay is 100 tasks. And I ask people to circle the ones that were causing the most consternation in their home. Social interactions even before pets came up, because it was this idea that… what does house party look like? Is social interactions just on a gaming console? Do I create a pod? It was all these really interesting questions. So, my challenge for you on this call, if you're holding all of the cognitive labor, the conception of planning for that whole Dirty Dozen list, then we are here to tell you that is not sustainable, you need to set up supports, we are here to fight for you.


Eve’s concept for balancing and rebalancing the domestic workload is called Fairplay. It’s a system she’s developed into a NYT best-selling book and an actual system, with cards that you go through with your partner, your roommate, whoever you share LIFE with, to see who is owning which tasks, from conception to execution. It’s a way to make sure your roles and responsibilities and needs are being clearly communicated and re-communicated. A way to make sure you’re not ingesting and perpetuating these toxic time messages swirling around us. Because taking care of yourself. Of your family. Of your life. That IS important work. It is time well spent. 


Nora: One of the ways that I hear other people talk about this kind of work is, “Well, I just stay home.” Oh does he just stay home? Oh, do you just stay home? And I hear primarily it is women who do this work. And I hear people say that even to me, like, “Well, I just stay home.” Like, no, no, no, no, no, you don't just stay home. You work a full-time plus job taking care of the people who are most important to you. 

Eve: And most important to our society. What's been so fascinating to me, Nora, is that somehow as a society, we've decided that we take care of our elderly, right? We have Medicare, we have Social Security. We recognize a collective responsibility at the end of life. But we think and we hear in these terrible debates, stay-at-home mom vs. working mom. Like, let's just retire those from the ‘90s. But that, you know, children are a collective responsibility, just like the elderly are. They are part of our culture. The fact that somehow, arbitrarily we decided we just take care of them as a culture starting at 5, and that they're our responsibility from zero to 5, is why it's actually very hard in our culture to be co-breadwinners. Right. And we do it, but we do it in these situations where we're all feeling that decision fatigue and burnout. And so getting to a place where we also recognize that I say like Fairplay is a two-player game because we want to invite men into caregiving. But it's actually really a three-player game and a four-player game. Right. It has to be a game you play with your corporation or corporate employer if you have it. But if not, we have to make this a four-player game that includes our federal, local and state policies. Right. Universal daycare, paid paternal leave. Only four states mandate, you know, a really good paying paid leave.

Nora: We just don't value life. If this is life, all of this is life, and if we cannot value it, we cannot say that we are a culture that values life. And I think for people who are setting policies at their at their company, people who are bosses, people who are managers, like you have to think of the subtle ways in which we tell people the value of their life, which is, oh, you know, when... first of all when can you take a kid to the doctor? It's during the traditional work day. OK. And so, like, do I have to take vacation time for that? Really? Because guess what, it's not the 10-minute appointment. It is a straight up, you know, two-hour round trip excursion to get you know, get them. Get them there. Wait. Fill out the paperwork. Have that 10-minute appointment, possibly go to the pharmacy, drop them back off at school, get back home, shove some food in my mouth, or get back to the office, and then try to, like, reacclimate. And when we're trying to get as much value out of someone as possible, you are telling them “I don't value you.” 

Eve: I mean, that is the crux of this conversation, I think. And nd everybody who's listening, you're a cultural warrior if you're still on with us, because this is a culture change. 

Nothing, no system I can give you is going to change your life. And so that's why the core operating principle of Fairplay became “all time is created equal.” That time is 24 hours, an hour holding your child's hand in the pediatrician's office is just as valuable to society as an hour in the boardroom. Because when we believe that, then men will start doing it, and we will start valuing it. We will put it in our GDP. We will believe that invisible work is real work. And that's really the societal change that I pray for and that I try to work every day for, because that “all time is created equal” is how I now live my own life. And I just wish it for other women as well. 


Next week, we’ll be continuing this conversation around the value of care with Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. In the meantime, you can check out Eve’s work at FairplayLife.com. We’ll link it in the show notes like we always do.


This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” I’m Nora McInerny. I make this show, okay? Made it up! Made it up? Okay? Not just a pretty face. I’m also a beautiful mind. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve never even seen that movie. I shouldn’t even be allowed to make references to it. Because I didn’t see it. Didn’t see that movie. Okay, now everybody knows. 

Our producer is Marcel Malekebu. We get, um… Jeyca, you’ve told me your title so many times. But other people also work on this show. What are their names? Hannah Meacock Ross, Jordan Turgeon, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, one of my personal favorites… associate producer. Got it. Jeyca’s an associate producer. Do not forget that, everybody else. Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson. We are a production of American Public Media. 

This was recorded in McInerny Studios in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a closet. I record this in a closet. You heard people sneezing on the other side of the wall. Shoddy workmanship, is all I can say. They don’t make houses like they used to.

You can check out more of Eve’s work at FairplayLife.com. Get your own set of Fairplay cards there. We’ll link it in the description. I’m sending a box to a friend to do with their husband, as an act of passive aggression, which I think is the greatest gift you can give someone, is a passive-aggressive one. My own opinion. My own opinions are not endorsed by our sponsors, my employer, and certainly not my husband. Certainly not. Or anyone associated with me. My opinions are correct, but they are mine alone.