How We Value Time Needs to Shift, Fair Play Helps.


I was introduced to Eve Rodsky's book Fair Play just over a year ago and I devoured it in 3 days. Rodsky explores the gendered division of unpaid labor and provides a research backed solution that helps families create households that are truly fair and equitable. Those that utilize the method have reported feeling less anger, frustration and resentment, while increasing feelings of joy, creativity and fulfillment.

While I consumed the content, one of Eve's questions kept replaying in my head. Why do we treat men's time like diamonds, as if it is finite and women's time like sand, as if it is infinite? I personally recounted examples of how I've played into this narrative over my lifetime. I've felt guilty interrupting my dad while he's relaxing, but have had no problem barging in on my mom while she's sleeping. I haven't thought twice about asking female colleagues for help or to take on an extra unpaid project with me, but have been hesitant to do the same with my male colleagues. After some deep reflection, I realized it's because as a society we've placed women in helper roles and men as providers. We tell women both verbally and with our actions that they should always be available to jump in and help, while we have protected men's time as if it's so precious and should never be interrupted because they are busy providing and in most cases, providing meant bringing home money.

New research out of UCONN backs this statement up, "We found that the burden of interruptions was not shared equally, as women reported higher levels of all types of non-work interruptions, suggesting that women experience more fragmented time than men. Even when both partners worked from home, the woman reported more demands related to childcare and household tasks. Women reported more interruptions than men did prior to the pandemic, but this difference has only increased."

So why am I sharing this with all of you? I'm sharing it because if we as a society collectively shift the way we think about valuing time, I personally believe we will be on our way to solving many of the large issues that hold women back from reaching their full potential. If we were collectively able to remove the toxic time messages that have been ingrained into us since we were young, we would prioritize paid family leave, universal subsidized child care, mental health care, creating diverse leadership, removing toxic culture and so much more.

What do I mean by toxic time messages? Thankfully Rodsky outlines them in Fair Play for us...

  1. Time is money. She says, "Male primary breadwinners often explain: 'My time is more valuable because I get paid more. This is the 'my paid hours are worth more than your unpaid or lesser-paid, hours." Rodsky suggests we reframe this to, Time is counted in minutes, not dollars.

  2. You don't work. You have more time. This statement is untrue and we need to stop buying into it. Women that stay at home caring for their children and households do not have more time. Every human has the finite time of 24 hours in the day. The difference is how we spend that time. As a society, we need to think of time spent devoting extended waking hours to managing the home and caring for children in the same way we value time at the office. Rodsky's reframe, Hours spent working in service of the home are as time-worthy as the hours spent working outside the home.

  3. If you don't have enough time, outsource or get more help. Outsourcing and getting help is a privilege that not everyone has access to. By prescribing this as the solution, it implies that everyone has the ability to afford or ask for this type of help and they don't. On another note, those that are fortunate enough to be able to afford outsourced help still have to spend lots of time to enlist, schedule, delegate, train and pay for this help. More often than not, this responsibility falls on women. Rodsky's reframe: Hours spent researching, planning, scheduling, managing, maintaining communication and relationships, and finally handing off responsibilities to someone else and sometimes paying for "help" takes real time.

  4. You spend your time doing unnecessary things. It's incredibly important to dig deeper into what may be perceived as unnecessary and by whom. Are these things really "unnecessary" or are they things that you personally might not want to take on, but they still need to get done in order to have your household run smoothly? Rodsky's reframe, If we decide together that a household or childcare task isn't important to our lives, we'll let it go (after all, it's not necessary to do everything.) But if we agree that it holds value or is necessary to keep our family life moving forward it's not a waste of either of our time.

  5. Sure, I'll help you - when I can. This toxic time message tells the person asking for help that they'll get it, when it's convenient to the helper and no sooner. Research into the gendered division of labor shows that men are more willing to take the domestic work that they can perform on their own time. Rodsky's reframe, My time is worth as much as your time. Fairness is sharing the tasks we've decided as a family are necessary to accomplish each day. When I have more choice over how I use my time, I feel respected.

  6. I make her life. It's important to note, many people are able to be so committed to their careers and protective of their time because they have someone at home that is committed to the majority of the mental and physical load of keeping a functional home life afloat. By looking at the time spent doing the home work differently than the work in the office we are valuing it differently. Rodsky's reframe, We each spend time making our life together work for us.

  7. It's on me. Many women have unconsciously internalized this message and voluntarily take on an imbalanced share of the domestic work. For some reason, women tell themselves they are more responsible for caring for the home and children than their male partners, but why? As women, we need to be very conscious about how we are feeding into these toxic time messages ourselves. Rodsky's reframe, It's not all on me. It's on us. Our home and family are both of our responsibilities.

  8. I can do better or I can save time by doing it myself. Who has caught themselves saying either of these things? It's just easier if I do it because I'm better and faster at getting it done. In so many cases, we don't even give our partners the ability to try it themselves, we as women make assumptions that they won't be able to meet our expectations, how fair is that? We deserve the help and our partners deserve the opportunity to help. Rodsky's reframe, In order to regain some of my time, I must stop identifying with the multitasker role. So let's put our heads together to maximize efficiency & We're both time starved. Let's work toward being more thoughtful with how we each manage our valuable time.

  9. I should spend my time. Here's the harsh truth, the list of to-do's never ends. Not at home, not at work, no where. By playing into these should's with our time, we end up neglecting social outlets, mental breathers, self care and creativity. Rodsky's reframe, I should not feel guilty about how I spend my time. When the cloud of domestic encroachment threatens to trap and shorten the time I've chosen to benefit other aspects of my identity, I remind myself that guilt has been associated with "lower quality parenting." A good mother spends her time in service to herself and to her family

Reframing the way we think about time is massively important to me because it encourages respect and integrity for all whether we are caring for elderly parents, doing laundry, or running a huge work presentation. It shows our younger generation that every member of the family's contributions are valued equally and that no matter how you identify, everyone deserves uninterrupted time to care for and prioritize themselves and their creativity. Fair Play is a movement towards a more open, vulnerable, inclusive and equitable way of life - both at home and work. By valuing time equally and by minutes vs. dollars, we show the world that everyone's contributions matter whether they have monetary value attached to them or not. This is the world I want to create for future generations, a world I am extremely proud to fight for and leave behind.