Fair Play with Rachel Meakins: Podcast Episode #194
Kristin chats with Rachel Meakins from Zenbari about navigating household responsibilities using fair play. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello, hello! This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Rachel Meakins today. Rachel is a perinatal specialist. She is also a doula and a women’s rights activist, and she is a fair play method facilitator. So I am really excited to get into understanding fair play and how we can all utilize a balance in sharing the workload at home. Welcome, Rachel!
Rachel: Thank you, Kristin! I’m really happy to be here with you and talk about all these important things.
Kristin: Let’s get into a bit more about your background. Again, you have so many different certifications. You’re a certified health coach; you’re CPR certified; a newborn care specialist. And then your business, Zenbari. Let’s chat a bit about what led you to working with women in the perinatal phase.
Rachel: Sure. So I was raised in North Dakota on a farm, and my family was comprised of myself and my two younger siblings who were five and ten years younger. So my mom needed a lot of help with them, and I just happened to be of the age where I could help. So I grew up just being around babies, helping my mother, and then when I moved to New York City at the age of 18, I just kind of naturally fell into the role of a mother’s helper with families that I would meet because their kids would just come up to me, and I was kind of natural with them, and I loved being in the home. So I really missed being on the farm and the familial life, and I started working as a nanny. And really, it was more of a hobby, and I really just wanted to be with mothers. So I would go on trips with families or I would help out on the weekends or something, really just to play with kids and be around them. So it was kind of this sweet gig that I found. After years of working just full time around the clock in New York City, which is how it works there, I really wanted to be more intentional with my time and the people that I was spending time with and I really wanted to focus on something that I knew could translate into my future because I knew I wanted to have a family of my own. So I found doula work, and it was like a lightbulb went off. I just started researching, and at the time, I think the only thing that was out was Rikki Lake’s The Business of Being Born. And I watched it the night that I learned what a doula was for the first time and was just completely enthralled and signed up for a DONA International training with Debra Pascali-Bonaro. I trained with her. It was amazing. It just kind of catapulted from there, or snowballed, I guess you could say. I just continued to add certifications, and mothers kind of would tell me in their own private time or just spending time with them – they would tell me what they needed. And as an ambassador for Every Mother Counts, I have learned so much from them, also, about the gaps in healthcare in the United States and the rising numbers of maternal mortality, which is just so astonishing in the worst way.
Rachel: I’ve been really lucky to have met a lot of amazing people and birth workers along the way, and that’s really how I got into this work. And so now I have my company, Zenbari. I’m living in Los Angeles. I do work virtually, though. I’m also a new mom, so I’m using all these skills that I have neglected over the past, like, seven years now.
Kristin: Beautiful. So Rachel, I would love to chat about the division of labor in the household and how you got to become a fair play method facilitator. Obviously, there’s a fantastic book called Fair Play, and then that led to a film on the same topic. So I would love to hear your journey and share tips and information with our listeners around, again, the division of labor and the fair play method in general.
Rachel: Absolutely. So I actually found fair play first personally when my husband and I had moved from New York to Toronto. And, you know, when we were living in New York, we were dating and it was all fun and games, right? Before you get married and before things become really real. Every day tasks are just kind of always there and looming. So when we moved from New York to Toronto, my husband took on a role as a CEO, and he was much busier than he had been before, and it was a much more stressful time for him. He was learning, and the company was growing. And I had, after living in New York for 15 years, I was living in a completely new city and had much more time on my hands. So the domestic, like, landscape for us changed greatly, and it was really confusing. And it was a struggle for us. And we had done a lot of – during that time, we did a lot of communication work and stuff. We would take seminars whenever we did have the time and really worked on how we were going to carry out our lives in the future. And fair play was one of the books that really helped. It came into my world – I think when Reese’s Book Club originally talked about it. I think that was, like, I want to say late 2019. So we had maybe been there for about a year, and the pandemic started. So I read this just before the pandemic started. And also recognized that it was a book that kind of – it was infuriating. It was sad to me, but it was also – it gave me a sense of relief because it really put words to the feelings that I had been having. And then not only for myself, but I think really broadened my view of, like, what everyone was going through or what a large number of people are going through on a daily basis. And then I started thinking about how this could possibly help my clients in the postpartum phase because, you know, a lot of times people will set themselves up for their birth, and they’ll put together a birth preference plan, and you’ll go into parenthood thinking, okay, I’m going to do this. This seems like the really hard part. But now, luckily, I think more people are talking about postpartum life because that’s when it’s really – it’s an endurance game. And labor is absolutely an endurance sport, but then you start right away after your child is born and things really start to change in the domestic sphere at the point in time because mom inevitably is the default parent, if you will, and inevitably takes on a little bit more, unless these conversations are had beforehand, or if you can bring in a communication tool and you’re both committed to really kind of making things feel better for everyone. And I think that’s where I really saw fair play as something that I wanted to utilize for myself and for my clients. So my husband and I brought it into our lives, like, very slowly. And very truthfully, it’s usually a very slow introduction for people. Usually, one partner will bring it into the conversation, and it kind of – it’s a little bit – it can be a little bit off putting. I’ll be really frank. And we all know this, have talked about this amongst the facilitators. Eve has talked about this. The book is written to women, and the book is really like it’s a love letter to women. And it’s saying, I know how you feel. This is what’s probably happening for you, and here is a solution if you’d like to try it. And we have some support in the form of facilitators if you need to talk to anyone about it. So fair play started as a book talking about the inequities in the domestic life. So from there, Eve created a deck of cards. It’s 100 cards. Each card represents a different domestic task, and some of them are daily grinds, so things like doing the dishes or doing the laundry. Some of them are things like taking the kids to school or setting up adult social time. So being sure that you’re getting your time with your friends; that’s very important. These are things that can kind of get lost along the way, especially when you become parents and you start bringing kids into the mix. So typically, we say a couple without children with use approximately 60 of the cards in the deck, and everyone can go through the deck and create the deck that’s perfect for their household. Or not perfect; it’s never perfect, but the deck that is going to be useful for their household. You can take out cards, for example, if you don’t want to use them. Like, let’s say thank you cards. Some people might think thank you cards are obsolete at this point in time, and some people really value sending a thank you card and telling the people that have done something for them that they really enjoyed it and this is why, and they place a high value on that. That’s another conversation that we like to have in fair play. It’s really values-based also. So if you have 60 cards that you’re using as a couple without children, and then you add children to the deck, then you will probably utilize all 100 of the cards.
Kristin: That makes sense.
Rachel: Yeah. So we as facilitators will go through what your lifestyle is in your household, who’s coming to the table, really envisioning using fair play. And if you need help talking to a partner, that’s oftentimes something that people come to us and say, I really feel like this could be helpful, but I’m not really sure my partner is going to be into this yet. And we really help you kind of get there and help you invite your partner to the conversation. And it really is – it can take a while. I’ll just share from my personal experience. It took probably three or four years for us to really, I think, both see the value in using fair play. We started with three cards out of a hundred. We started by really just – I think I added three cards for my husband out of the things, and we pretty much – we went over our deck, and we were actually pretty equal. And there were three things that I thought, like, if you do these three things, I think my life would be so much easier, and it actually was. The first week, I remember thinking, I can’t believe it was only these three cards. It doesn’t seem like a lot for him to be doing this, and it’s taking so much weight off of me. And from there, we’ve really expanded upon that. But in terms of setting up for postpartum, it can be incredibly helpful because during that time, there are certain cards or certain tasks in the house that are going to be more heavily weighted, right? So thinks like doing the dishes, you can include and add on washing bottles and washing the pump parts, and things like social activities are probably not going to be as important to you and your partner during those first three months of bringing a child into your life. So we really like to talk about all of those things, and that’s really been how I’ve utilized it again, personally and then with my clients. The facilitators – we have about 75 facilitators now, I believe, and we have a range of backgrounds. A lot of people are certified therapists. We have a few doulas on the team. I’m not a certified therapist, but I’m a doula and have a few other certifications as well, all really under the perinatal umbrella. And yeah, that’s really – I could go on about fair play forever. There’s so many little intricate pieces to how we use it, also, but that’s really kind of the gist of it.
Kristin: I love it. And so this conversation is so important to have during pregnancy because in that postnatal phase, everything is overwhelming. To have these serious conversations about roles and responsibilities and what a couple is willing to hire out and who’s going to take over other chores and – I mean, it’s fortunate that we have grocery delivery. I know when I had my kids, that was not really a thing, and so even figuring out having my husband go to the grocery store where I normally did the grocery shopping. And in the recovery phase, women are not supposed to vacuum, and so – or reduce going up and down the stairs. Whether you end up hiring a postpartum doula or a housekeeper, again, figuring out what the priorities are and deciding in advance who’s going to take over some of the workload, I think is key versus seeing how it goes and then coming up with a plan after.
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Rachel: And I will say, Kristin, we also kind of solve for – if you can afford to hire people, that is wonderful, and that is so helpful, and I wish that everyone could do that. But not everyone can, either. Sometimes it’s just like the two of you. Or what if you don’t have family that can come and help you? So really, like, figuring out – I feel like that would be the hardest part of this, right? Really figuring out and looking at your deck and you figure out what needs to be done every single day and what can we let go of right now. I’ll be honest; my husband took over so much for me, and I was so thankful that we had this tool to use and we had been talking about it for a while before our baby came because we were on the same page. So he was – I decided that I wanted to try breastfeeding, which was not super easy for me. I’m a lactation counselor, and I still was – not that that means you’re going to have an easy time breastfeeding, but it was a huge learning curve for me. And I had to have people come and help, meaning I had to have a lactation counselor come and help me figure out, like – I feel like looking at all of the angles when you’re learning to breastfeed is really important. So we had that. But I think because I was also learning to breastfeed, which takes all of your time, and you’re doing it every two hours in a 24-hour period nonstop, it was really important for him to be, like, feeding me and providing the nutrition that I needed, and also, he was taking care of all of the cleaning and everything in the house, all the laundry. It was so incredibly helpful, and I cannot imagine how it would have been if we hadn’t talked about this before. So I have almost, I think, changed my priority in, I think, helping people to – birth is one thing that I think is just so incredibly amazing and magical and beautiful and just awe-inspiring, but I also feel like there are a ton of people helping with that now, and I think I’m kind of leaning my focus more into postpartum because I think if we set it up a little bit differently and we have more time to discuss these things ahead of time, hopefully women will start having an easier time with their recovery and getting the support that they need. And that’s just why I love fair play so much because I feel like it explicitly defines all of the roles. And another thing that we do is we talk about minimum standard of care. So we call it MSC. The minimum standard of care for each of these tasks. So this can oftentimes be a point of contention, actually, for couples. You might have this one thing that you always fight about or this one thing that you’re always resentful about. Where does that actually come from? So we’ve kind of taken a dive into figuring out where these ongoing conversations, if you will, or discussions or disagreements come from, and oftentimes, it’s because you have a difference in values. And I was talking about values a little bit earlier, but I’ll expand upon it now. Let’s say one partner is always really annoyed that the countertops are not wiped off, and the other partner is like, I’m so busy. I don’t have time to do this right now. Why is it such a big deal? I do it at the end of the day or something, you know. So we like to play a game called Cards for Humanity where you can sit down – this is actually a great starting point if you’re looking for a way to bring your partner into the fair play conversation. So instead of saying, you know, I really want you to dive into this extra work with me. It can feel very overwhelming to start fair play from scratch. You can set aside, like, a date time. Date morning, 30 minutes over coffee or something. I know it’s really hard to find that time, but if you can create that and put it on your schedule once every two weeks or something just to get these conversations started, it can be really helpful. It can be a really great opening. So Cards for Humanity is a card game. You sit down with your deck of cards, which you can download off of the fair play website if you don’t have them physically. And you just choose one card out of the deck, and say you chose the laundry card. The partner that chooses the card is going to ask the other partner, what has your experience been with laundry in your life? Who did it in your household growing up? Did you have any experiences with roommates or dormmates in college or in your 20s where something was, like, really helpful, something felt supportive? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it? Was there ever an instance that made you just completely dislike this chore? And you can actually learn so much about the other person. And this is where the values come in, and you can – you hear what the dynamic was in the person’s childhood. So that might frame the way that they look at their life now and the way they might think things should be done when they really just maybe haven’t thought – and none of us do this, right? Like, you really have to ask yourself to think outside the box and outside of what is kind of already ingrained in you. You can really learn so much. My husband and I did this a couple weeks ago for the first time. I am astounded by the things that I found out about him. I can’t believe I’ve known him for this long, and I learned so much, and we only did five cards.
Kristin: I bet. I need to try this.
Rachel: Yeah, it’s actually kind of just a fun date game, too, honestly. I know it doesn’t sound like it. You’re talking about laundry. But it’s actually kind of amazing. So that is where you can kind of start the conversations and where you can learn more about a person and really – you bring empathy into the relationship again. So you have these nagging points if you will about these random things all day as you’re walking through the house. Oh, my gosh, he left his underwear on the floor. Oh, my gosh, this and this and this. And it just carries on and it becomes – it can be really overwhelming. But if you take a step back, you actually learn more about the person. You set aside time to understand why someone is doing what they’re doing and why they don’t think it’s an issue, and then you can create room for empathy again, and you can kind of connect on these things versus really creating more space. And then that’s where MSC comes through, and you talk about a minimum standard of care for everything in your deck. And again, it sounds overwhelming, but you can quickly go over it and just say, this is why I want the countertops wiped off. Because when I was living with so-and-so, they were never and we had a bug problem or something, right? And it’s like, okay, no one wants that. I don’t want that for my family. Our value system is different than whatever was happening when you lived with that person, so let’s change this. And that’s kind of where you start the conversation about your minimum standard of care for your household.
Kristin: That is beautiful. So love your tips. How can our listeners work with you and begin the process of ordering the book or watching the film and starting this planning journey to, again, create some division of labor in the household, especially bringing on a new child, whether it’s baby number one or baby number four?
Rachel: Yeah, so you can first go to – if you don’t know anything about fair play, if you have the time, feel free to read the book. Again, the book is a love letter to women. I would suggest watching the documentary, which you can find if you go to the fair play website. And you can find the book, the documentary. You can download the deck of cards on the website. You can also find all of the facilitators on the website if you’re looking for someone with a specific background. They’re all up there and ready to work with you. I myself am on Zenbari, and I’m on Instagram. And I work essentially with people who are planning for parenthood. So if you are pregnant for the first time, if you’re pregnant for the second time and you would like to see how I might be able to help you, I’d be happy to help.
Kristin: I love it. Thank you so much for sharing all of your tips, and I’m going to download those cards myself.
Rachel: Awesome. I can send you some, too. Make it easier for you.
Kristin: Love it. Well, appreciate everything that you have taught us about the fair play method, and I look forward to chatting with you again in the future, Rachel.
Rachel: Thank you, Kristin!
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