Introducing Barney!

Our oaty friend

Hehe… no, Barney isn’t the baby. Barney is a bag of oats, a 25kg bag of oats to be exact. Ever since switching to a plant-based diet nearly two years ago, Tom’s and my consumption of oats (or Haferflocken for the Germans among you) has sky-rocketed. Before I give you exact numbers and you fall off your chair, let me quickly preface what I’m about to share with the fact that we’re both long-distance runners which means we need a lot of fuel. And, even though I have taken a break from running because of the pregnancy, I’m still keeping moderately active and my appetite first thing in the morning is as strong as it’s ever been (which I think is mainly down to the baby, not my 40-minute indoor bike rides!).

OK, so on to the numbers. Every morning, we measure out about 1.5 cups of oats for the two of us, which translates to roughly 125g (yes, I just measured it out now for the sake of providing accurate facts, no fake news here). Most bags of oats you find in the supermarket are 500g which means exactly four breakfasts in our household. So if you start your day with porridge most days like us, that means 875g of oats per week. Before you know it, you’re buying oats ALL THE TIME.

With my belly growing, lockdown looming and my ability to help Tom carry heavy shopping bags decreasing, it was time to find a way to buy oats in bulk. I searched the internet looking for large bags of oats but couldn’t find much—unless you’re looking for horse feed in which case there’s plenty of choice. Eventually, buried deep in some Amazon reviews I found a link to a bakery selling 25kg bags for humans. It was “a bit” more than I had in mind but hey, I have no doubt we’ll get through it.

In other news, Tom and I are trying out a new system to split up household chores, it’s called “Fair Play” and it’s based on a book of the same name. I first came across the concept in a Strong Feelings podcast about a year ago and it really resonated with me. The aim of the game is to reduce the heavy mental load that running a household and raising children bring with them (and that is often disproportionately carried by women but not always) so that both partners can free up more space in their heads and in their schedules to live their fullest lives. Who wouldn’t want that?!

It took me a year to finally finish the book. I bought it before we were expecting a baby so while the improvised system of chores we had in place wasn’t perfect, it’s not like we had that much to do around the house. When a bigger task came along like organising a house move or planning our wedding, we made it work with a combination of todo lists and a Kanban board on the dining room wall. But with the baby’s due date getting closer and the realisation that the first months of the baby’s life will probably be very hectic, I felt like if we were going to give this new system a try it was now or never. (OK, maybe not “never”, but probably not until we’d recovered from some of the sleep deprivation that caring for a newborn will inevitably bring). So we sat down yesterday to play the game for the first time.

The first session takes some time as you both need to go through all the things you do in and out of the house for your household. To make things easier you can print a deck of 100 cards representing most household tasks you can think of. The deck also includes cards that I wouldn’t necessarily label as tasks like “adult friendships” that nevertheless need time and attention if they’re to be kept alive and thriving.

Once you’ve selected the cards that apply to your household, you go through them one-by-one and decide which partner will own each one after considering your availability for the coming week and your skills and preferences. Last but not least, you discuss what it means to own a card. This last part requires both partners to agree to “minimum standards of care” for each card (similar to agreeing on a “definition of done” for a task at work).

40 out of the 100 cards are kid-related, so we threw out most of those for the time being, plus an additional 20 or so cards that don’t apply to us right now. (Discarding cards like deleting code is immensely satisfying!) Below is what our starting hands look like.

The game is a living system so the idea is to play it often, adding and removing cards from the deck as life circumstances change and re-dealing cards based on each partner’s availability and needs so we’ve already scheduled our next round for next Saturday.

That’s all for today. Quick side-note, I discovered Jameela Jamil’s podcast I Weigh a few days ago and have been working my way backwards through the episodes. Absolutely loving it! More on that next time.

Take care,