Summary: For a group of four New York friends the past decade has been defined largely by marriage and motherhood, but it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, they had been told that their generation would be different. And for a while this was true. They went to good colleges, and began high-powered careers. But after marriage and babies, for a variety of reasons, they decided to stay home, temporarily, to raise their children. Now, ten years later, they are still at home, unsure how they came to inhabit lives so different from the ones they expected—until a new series of events begins to change the landscape of their lives yet again, in ways they couldn’t have predicted.
Written in Meg Wolitzer’s inimitable, glittering style, The Ten-Year Nap is wickedly observant, knowing, provocative, surprising, and always entertaining, as it explores the lives of its women with candor, wit, and generosity. -- Riverhead Books
THE TEN YEAR NAP by Meg Wolitzer is the Preschool Moms Book Club's pick for April. Since I had already received a copy of this book, I was thrilled when my good friend chose it as her selection. I have been interested in this book for awhile because I thought it related to where I'm at in my life right now. I also thought it would be very appropriate for our book club to discuss since our membership is about half stay-at-home mothers and half working mothers.
I had read many reviews about this book and quite a few of them aren't very complimentary. My one good friend read it and hated it, so I was a little concerned that I wouldn't enjoy this book. It's kind of a love/hate book for many readers. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did like this book. I love the title -- "The Ten Year Nap" and thought it was perfect for this story (and even my life right now.) My oldest daughter is turning 10 this summer and I've not worked full-time since she was born. In fact, I have been a full-time stay-at-home mommy for a little over five years. I was around the same age as many of the women in the novel, and I could totally relate to them. That's not to say that I felt like I had things in commons with all of the characters, but some of their comments were so insightful and mirrored some of my own feelings.
What I found so weird for me as I read this book is that I wanted to remember certain passages. I rarely, if ever, find myself grabbing my post-its and marking pages, but so much of this book really spoke to me. I don't know if these are going to make much sense out of context, but the author's words were so close to things that I've actually thought and/or said. Here are just a few examples:
Was education meaningless if you didn't do something with it, or was it justifiable in and of itself, bolstering you for the world that lay ahead, whatever it turned out to be? I think I asked myself this for years when I wasn't entirely sure about my decision to stay at home.
"I don't know," said Karen. "Why do you say "at least" they're trying? Does everyone always to 'do' something? Can't they just enjoy their lives? I do." I loved that Karen pointed out that you can be fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom -- you just have to choose to be happy.
But then it occurred to her that some people might in fact ask the same question about Amy: What did she do with herself all day? I think we've all asked that about other women whether we work or stay-at-home.
But mostly, though, he knew that if you longed for what you did not have, then you would be one of those unhappy people you could find anywhere in any setting, the ones who couldn't appreciate what they had as long as they saw something they did not have. How true is this statement? It's taken me years to realize the wisdom in this thought.
I know some bloggers and reviewers took a little offense to this novel and how Ms. Wolitzer portrayed stay-at-home mothers. I think that's one of the reasons that I appreciated this book so much was that it could mean so many things to so many women. I can certainly understand how they perceived some of the women's comments as an attack on staying at home and how they felt that being a stay-at-home mother isn't validated in the same way as being a working mom; however, I kind of walked away with a different message. While so many of the mothers did whine and cry about the situations in their life (to the point of annoyance), I thought it reflected on them as individuals rather than as stay-at-home mothers as a whole. I was left with the feeling that how I choose to perceive my decision to stay home with my children in entirely my own making -- I can choose to be happy and fulfilled or I can choose to feel like I'm wasting my education and skills. All I know is that when I die, no one is going to write on my tombstone that I'm a terrific worker. But I sure hope I will be remembered as a wonderful mother.
Before any of you think that I am against moms who take care of their kids and work, I want to clear that up right now. I don't believe that there is a right choice -- there is only a right choice for you and your family (and sometimes it's not even a choice if you need the money.) And, I'll admit that there are many days where I wish I could go to work, get a paycheck and talk to adults, etc. I am just so blessed that my husband has given me the choice (and option) to stay-at-home; and I feel that it's the right decision for me at this stage of my life.
One thing that I found interesting about this novel was how the author handled the concept of feminism. So many of the 40 something women had mothers who "paved the way" for their careers. It was almost as if some of their mothers felt as if they were taking a step backwards for choosing to stay at home with their children. My mother chose to stay home with my sister and me so I never felt this pressure, but I definitely don't look at staying home with your kids as a step backwards on the feminist movement. I think I see it a little bit differently -- I think that I have the choice to either work, stay home, or both is how the feminists paved the way for me and other mothers. I think this idea is fascinating and I'm excited to delve into a little deeper at our meeting.
I think THE TEN YEAR NAP is going to be an amazing discussion book, and I can't wait to talk about it with my friends next week. I think we all appreciate each other's decisions to stay at home or work, so I don't think the discussion is going to be uncomfortable at all. I'm actually looking forward to having some dissenting opinions on the book -- so often, we all agree on the book and there's not a whole lot to talk about. I don't think that will be true for this novel, and I'm pretty sure that there will be some heated discussion about the characters. There is a reading guide to get our conversation going; however, I don't think that's going to be a problem.
Thanks to Caitlyn and FSB Associates for sending me a copy of this book.