I met Rachel and Deuce at the car shop for our four-hour documentary session. Not at home, not at the park, not at the pool. At Leonard's Garage & Service Center in South Austin.
A small detail? Maybe. But also a microcosm of the difference between the life of a hard-working, ass-kicking single mom and that of an "average" two-parent Austin family? Most definitely.
The life of Rachel and Deuce could never be mistaken for boring. They're on the go all the time, and they both have an energy level that leaves most of us in the dust. Rachel runs her own business full time and supermoms Deuce full time too -- ain't no preschool raising THIS wild child...
You might be thinking: Whoa. How does she do it all, while also being unapologetically herself, and one of the kindest people I've met?
My answer to you: magic sauce. It must be, right? What else would make it possible for a single mama pull off independently raising a very spicy three-year-old, running a successful business that supports other mothers through the toughest first years, honoring the many cherished friendships in her life, all while keeping her sh** together? There's gotta be a magic sauce.
Possibly the most remarkable thing about Rachel & Deuce is not their show-stopping sense of style or high level of energy, but the balanced, healthy bond they seem to share. This mama is this kid's best friend. I don't mean that in the corny way, I mean it in the rare way. They wrestle. They make fart sounds. They play superheroes. They cuddle and read books. Rachel sets boundaries lovingly but firmly, and Deuce tests them but ultimately respects them.
In the four hours we spent together, I never heard them argue or bicker or even negotiate for more than a few passing seconds. There were no struggles or tears.
This is incredibly impressive to me and at the same time seems absolutely paramount to finding joy and calm in such a busy life. Does she make single momming look easy? Not exactly. But does she make it look joyful, rich, and content for both her and her boy? Damn straight.
And on most days, this is far more than I can say for my own parenting of my own children.
Every family photojournalism session I shoot leaves my heart full with the clear parallels that exist among ALL loving families. Despite our differences, we are all walking the same path in some ways.
Spending a few hours with Rachel and Deuce highlighted a particular theme that I've been thinking about a lot lately in my own life -- the balance of control and release between parent and child. Rachel does beautifully what I'm yet trying to master: picking your battles. When Deuce was carrying the kitten around in a way that didn't make the kitten happy, she put her foot down. But when he wanted to wear only his spiderman shoes and underpants to Whole Foods for lunch? No problem.
Thanks for sharing a slice of your life with me Rachel. We all could learn a thing or two from you, mama.