I’m happily married and tried Eve Rodsky’s Fair Play card deck with my husband — here’s what happened.

Elise Buie, Esq.
6 min readNov 20, 2022


Photo by Autri Taheri on Unsplash

I have to admit I’ve been pretty much obsessed with Eve Rodsky from the moment I read her groundbreaking book, “Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live).” As a family law attorney, one-time divorcé, and now remarried mom and stepmom to six grown kids, I have a pretty good idea of what overwhelm looks like. And what can happen when gender equity in the home becomes a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Lucky for me, my second husband and I are in sync. A retired captain in the coast guard, Doug has a military mindset; he knows it takes more than one person to make a ship run smoothly. He understands what it means to have direct responsibility and accountability. And most important, he doesn’t equate hours with dollars, as in, “My job outside the home is worth more, so I should have to do less inside the home.” It’s just not how he thinks. Instead, he understands we all have only 168 hours each week to get done what we need to and shouldn’t be miserable in the process.

But, and there’s always a but, does this mean he and I are always in sync? Like, have there been times when I pissed him off because, while he was away on a trip, for example, I forgot to feed the dogs (normally his responsibility) again? Did Doug have a stick in his craw about it? I work a lot, and after reading Rodsky’s book, I was kind of left scratching my head, wondering, “Am I pulling my weight at home?” So I bought the Fair Play Deck and put my marriage to the test.

To give you the skinny on this real-life game, the deck comes with a hundred cards. Around sixty of them can apply to any couple, including those without kids. Now, between us, Doug and I have six: my daughter and three sons and Doug’s two daughters. However, we’ve been married for over 10 years now, and we are empty nesters. So a lot of those cards, which include carpooling responsibilities and taking kids to the pediatrician, don’t apply to us anymore.

That said, becoming empty nesters was a failed experiment. It lasted about five minutes. OK, maybe it was a few weeks. But the house got too quiet, and we adopted two rambunctious puppies, a lab and a golden retriever, to liven it back up. I love my dogs and love them even better because Doug takes care of them for the most part. Except when I have to fill in and feed them, which, as Doug can tell you, is not my strong suit.

Speaking of suits, the Fair Play card deck breaks down into four: Home (i.e., dishes, garbage, dry cleaning), Out (i.e., making returns, filling out school forms, extracurricular activities), Caregiving (i.e., bathing kids, estate planning & life insurance, homework, projects & school supplies) and Magic (i.e., gifts, fun & playing, adult friendships). There are also cards for Unicorn Space (representing time devoted to finding or engaging in what makes you unique) and Wild cards (covering the unforeseen and not everyday events (i.e., new job, death, home renovation).

Among the suits, the cards cover tasks devoted solely to kids, the daily grind (denoted with a coffee cup), and the happiness trio (denoted with a smiley face) to make sure you’re taking time for yourself in the way of adult friendships, self-care, and that unicorn space I just mentioned. Rodsky has a new book to address this latter concept, too, called “Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World,” which I’ve been trying on for size. But, for now, let’s get back to the cards because, without equity in the home, you can’t have unicorn space.

As Rodsky explains in this helpful YouTube video about how to use the card deck effectively, not every card will apply to every family, and certainly not every card applies to ours, especially with the kids out of the house most of the time. Of course, as any parent of older children knows, parenting never ends. But the responsibilities do lessen, while other responsibilities, such as pet care, can increase. And they did for us when we brought two new dogs into the mix. That made Doug’s pet card carry a heavier weight, which was an important acknowledgment and adjustment I needed to make.

One of my superpowers, and, therefore, one of the cards I hold in our family, is the one for daily disruption. Given that my law firm is fully remote, and I’m not, say, a school teacher, who’s more likely to be inaccessible to put out fires because I’m in a classroom all day, it’s a card I can hold with relative ease. In addition, I happen to like problem-solving in a crisis.

Fortunately for me, crises don’t come all that often, so during some weeks, my card may not require much time or mindshare from me. That means I can pick up another card or, rather, another responsibility elsewhere. That could be dealing with our household finances while my husband manages the never-ending renovations in our house, both cards that carry a lot of weight.

This is why Rodsky says it’s better not to dole out the cards equally. Some cards, some of the time, represent more labor. A perfect example is being the parent of a kid who plays a sport, such as soccer. As a parent, this card represents much more than driving to and from practices and games. It represents finding the right league, learning more about it, signing the child up, getting the physical, filling out endless forms, buying and maintaining equipment, picking out the coaches’ gifts, etc., etc., etc. I’m getting tired just remembering back to it all.

This brings me to my next point: priorities change, just like they did for the dogs. Or when we our youngest went out on his own, and he didn’t require as much hands-on parenting. This is why Rodsky also says it’s good to reshuffle the cards, along with our household jobs, every so often and do regular check-ins to ask each other, “Is the current system working for us?”, “What can we do better?”, and “How can I help?”

With these questions in mind, dinner belongs to both of us. So does the clean-up after it. Whoever cooks, the other does the dishes. And no, I’m not micromanaging how Doug loads the dishwasher, nor is he managing me, despite the differences in our loading “philosophies.” The goal is to get the job done happily, even if it’s not exactly how I would have done it, or, dare I say, could have done it better.

I learned that lesson years ago, when my kids were younger, and I wasn’t able to get to every doctor’s appointment with them. If I sent a babysitter, my children’s dad, or, once I was married, Doug, with one of my kids, I had to get used to the fact that whoever was with that child that day may not ask all of the questions I would have if I were there.

The point was the person acting in my stead was providing a reasonable standard of care (sorry, it’s the lawyer in me), but that’s the truth. I had to learn to hold my tongue and, the next time, think about providing a checklist about what the particular responsibility entailed — in my eyes. It’s something I now try to do with Doug when we draw a new card or switch roles, even if it’s just temporarily. He does the same for me. It’s a good habit to get into.

So I tell my clients all the time, especially when a parent has a different idea from their child’s other parent about what it means to eat healthily. One parent’s concept of dinner could be boxed mac ’n cheese, while the other’s is free-range chicken and organic steamed vegetables. But guess what? Regardless of which the kids eat, they’ve been fed regardless. So I ask: Is organic broccoli the hill you want to die on, or would you rather co-parent and live a peaceful existence?

Doug and I chose the latter with both of our respective exes and each other in our existing relationship, and we’re living proof it works. And now, thanks to the cards, we can make sure it continues to work.

Elise Buie is a Seattle divorce and family lawyer and founder of Elise Buie Family Law Group, a law firm devoted to divorce and family law. A champion for maintaining civility throughout the divorce process, Elise advocates for her clients and the best interests of their children, helping them move forward with dignity and from a position of strength.



Elise Buie, Esq.

Elise Buie is a Seattle-based family and divorce lawyer and founder of the ​Elise Buie Family Law Group​.