Friday, July 26, 2013

The Having It All Project: Rachel Dranoff

I'm so happy to feature my sister-in-law, Rachel, on The Having It All Project today (and to have the opportunity to kvell over how cute my niece and nephew are in that picture!). I've had the privilege of getting to watch Rachel's life unfold, and am proud of the great mom (and aunt!) she is. Here's how Rachel is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique. 
My life is a combination of convention and iconoclasm. I am the stay-at-home Mom of two amazing 4-year-olds and wife to an incredible guy. I am also a native New Englander raising a Jewish family in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Although I have invested a lot in my formal education, earning a J.D. in 2006, I am happy with my decision to be a full-time homemaker. My husband, Jon, is a physician and nine years older than I am. When we met I has half way through law school, and Jon was an assistant medical professor at an elite university. As I was starting my career, Jon was beginning to reap the rewards of years of dues paying. In 2010 Jon was offered an amazing position at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The best decision for our family was for me to modify my career goals and move from New England to Little Rock, Arkansas, to support Jon’s advancement in his career.

Fortunately, we love Little Rock! Our move here has allowed me to explore aspects of myself that I neglected during my pursuit of a legal career. In addition to finding enjoyment in domesticity, I also spend a lot of time volunteering in Arkansas’ small but active Jewish community, and I have a new found passion for creative arts.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos? 

I’ve recently learned to be able to go with the flow and not get too attached to my plans. After my son’s  recent two week stomach virus, I have accepted that it’s inevitable that 30-50% of our weekend plans will get canceled because one of my children has thrown up.

I also remind myself of a regular basis that taking care of children is doing something. Taking care of young children is not something that is done best passively while working on other tasks or projects. So at the end of a long day with both kids when I begin thinking about the loads of laundry I didn’t do and the volunteer activity I committed to but haven’t finished, I remind myself that the kids are fed, clean, safe and happy. I remember that I did do something. I took care of the physical, emotional and development needs of two people who are not yet capable taking care of themselves.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it. 

Disney World.  Jon had a conference in Orlando this past May. Like many other conference attendees we decided that since we had a hotel room paid for, it would be a great time for a Disney/Universal vacation. Having just turned 4 we knew all the theme parks would be a lot for the kids, but we planned everything out and my mother-in-law came to help.

Overall we had a great time and both kids loved the Dumbo ride, lunch at Cinderella’s castle and the safari at the Animal Kingdom. However, many of the rides at Disney consist of small compartments in which you sit moving, spinning and jerking on tracks through darkened tunnels with illuminated scenes from Disney movies. Noises blare as you travel through and larger than life-size villains pop out at you from the darkness. Fun for some, terrifying for my 4-yearold daughter, Evie. After going on one of these rides, she let out horrific screams at every other ride we tried. We managed to wrangle her kicking and screaming on to the Little Mermaid ride, but had no luck convincing her that both It’s a Small World and the riverboat cruise that departs from Main Street USA would not be scary.

On the second day, when I had to take her out of the live Finding Nemo show, I broke down. Disney, which is supposed to be fun, was making my daughter (and me) miserable. Overheated and thinking about the expensive entrance passes, I found myself trying to convince my daughter that something that was terrifying her was actually fun. She wasn’t buying it and neither was I.

Standing outside the Nemo theater and at a near mental break down, I surrendered. I surrendered to my circumstances and stopped trying to force a commercial-like image of an ideal family vacation onto my real life. I decided that from then on Evie would enjoy DisneyWorld at Evie speed. She happily spent the rest of our theme park time taking in the view from the stroller while one or more of the rest of us went on rides and explored the parks. Lesson learned. No matter how far you travel, how much money you’ve spent or how overheated in the Florida sun you are, your child may not enjoy, and actually be terrified of, what is supposed to be “fun.”

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you? 

My role models are my parents. They ran a dual career household without the generation before them to use as role models. Although Jon and I do not have a dual career household, my parents are my role models because they did what worked best for them in their circumstances. Sometimes their life and career decisions were made in part to fulfill personal ambitions; other times they were made out of sheer practicality. 

The one thing that would not work for me is trying to follow anyone else’s path. My life is a function of my own unique personality traits and my own unique experiences and circumstances. I can’t judge myself by the achievements of those who have lived completely different lives.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then? 
TWINS! I never imagined I would be the mother of twins. I also don’t think I could have imagined being as confident as I am now. I was quite shy and introverted as a teenager and I don’t think I could have imagined developing the contentment and self-assuredness I feel now.

Relate to what Rachel is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!


  1. Very nice post! You have perfectly put into words how I feel about parenting. Raising small human beings to be good people, while also meeting all of their physical and emotional needs, is challenging. It's also the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Nice to hear from someone who feels the same way I do.

  2. Thanks, Lisa! I appreciated the support.