What Tara Wood Do? This Is Not Your Mother’s Advice Column

by Tara Wood
Tara Wood

Vanessa from Kentucky asks:

How do you explain the difference between a stay-at-home mom and someone who, like myself, is a work-from-home mom? I feel like I constantly have to clarify to friends and family that, no, I can’t just up and go to the zoo all day. No, I can’t go get a babysitter and chug margaritas for lunch. Then there’s the “Well, what do you do all day?” question. Uh, EVERYTHING?! Including wiping butts while I’m invoicing.

Darling Vanessa,

I feel you, sister.

I was a stay-at-home mother (SAHM) for several years and that in itself is definitely work. It’s a super-tough fucking job. Like, of course we love our children, but the constant talking, whining, shitting, feeding, snot wiping, making sure they’re not eating turdsicles out of the litter box is arduous and one of the most stressful tasks — mentally, physically, and emotionally — there is. For me, it was fantastically rewarding and sucked the very life out of me in equal measure.

Oftentimes, though, SAHMs have playgroups or other SAHM friends they can hook up with. They have the opportunity to plan picnics and trips to the park and plant organic gardens with their kiddos and shit like that. They can pretty much schedule their own days, right?

Don’t get me wrong here: SAHMs are badasses, and I realize all that not every outing (or most even) with their children ends up being an Instagram-worthy, tantrum-free adventure of bliss and rapture. Also, finding like-minded moms to hang out with can be ultra-challenging, so it’s not unusual that you end up hanging out with women who you don’t even like to get the hell out of the house that much. Sometimes it’s easier to just keep your ass firmly planted at home, but then there’s the whole risk of isolation which is a whole other big-ass can of worms.

The thing is, though, SAHMs aren’t beholden to bosses, managers, time-sensitive material, Powerpoint presentations, and pie charts. They typically don’t have deadlines — other than maybe a designated nap time — or a higher-up sending peeved emails wondering when they’re going to have those profit margin numbers they asked for yesterday.

You, as a work-from-home mom, must be in mom and employee mode all day — pleading with one kid to just eat his baby carrots for the love of all things good, while also trying to remove a broken piece of crayon stuck in another kid’s nose, and then there’s the other spawn yelling at you from the bathroom to come see the letter S she just formed with her poop, all the while you’re looking for your glasses (which are right there on top of your head) so you can see your computer monitor well enough to work on at least four of four hundred invoices due by 2 p.m.

Jesus. I’m exhausted just writing that.

I certainly understand how you feel resentful and aggravated when people don’t seem to understand these two very different hats you wear under the same roof.

Here’s what Tara Wood Do:

Firstly, people clearly dig you and want to spend time with you. Try to feel appreciation for that even if your initial reaction is to scream “I’m working asshat!” into the phone and block their number.

I would say “You know, I’m grateful for your invitation to the trampoline park/that you want me to go get hammered with you in the middle of the day/that you would like me to go have a picnic at the edge of a babbling brook watching our precious children splash in the crisp, cool water while we speculate what direction Taylor Swift’s new album is going to go in, but you see, I have a mortgage payment and those kids playing in the water over there have to eat and wear shoes to school, so thank you, but I’ll have to pass. Maybe we can hook up on a weekend WHEN I’M NOT WORKING FROM HOME.”

And then if they call again because they still don’t seem to get it, I’d be all “Hell. Yes. The kids and I will come to your house. My kids can play with your kids, you can feed them, play with them, wipe noses and asses, and keep them feeling well-loved and adored and alive. I’ll bring my laptop and find a quiet spot in your house so I can catch up on these emails and business reports, and proposals I’m behind on because I’ve been playing, feeding, wiping asses and noses, and keeping my kids alive while still trying my best to stay gainfully employed up in this bitch. Thanks for understanding how difficult it is to play two roles simultaneously — you’re a real pal!”

I’m rooting for you! Let me know how it goes.

–Tara Wood